In the spirit of chasing lines of enquiring long considered, a few experiments with Madder are taking place at The Outside. Firstly to get an idea of the range of colours which can be produced from a change in pH. Many different shades of red, orange and pink can be produced, all different but all recognisably Madder.
We also hope to soon test other parts of the Madder plant, such as the berries, for their dyeing properties.
We are very pleased to have been asked to contribute some naturally dyed wool to Jorvik Viking Centre, York. This is part of their redevelopment after the devastating floods in 2015.
Basing some of these on funds from the Coppergate excavations, we have experimented with mordanting with Lycopodium clubmosses. Below is a photo of a range of colours dyed over lycopodium mordanted wool.
The single bright yellow is Alum mordanted as comparison.
The use of woad to tattoo / paint / stain skin has long been disputed. Caeser (The Conquest Of Gaul) recorded: “Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum efficit colorem.” – “All the Britons dye their bodies with woad [or glass] , which produces a blue colour…” Pliny backed him up by saying that the colour resembled “…that of Ethiopians.” But is this really woad?
Woad makes a poor paint as it has to be mixed with something else and tends to flake off flexible skin. It makes a worse tattooing ink!
So here it is, a woad dyed foot. Designs made with beeswax resist, in a similar way to batik. Who knows if anyone was doing this in 50 BC, but it’s certainly something to add to the possibilities!
We shall see how it fades or wears off over the next few hours and days, watch this space! (and these toes…)
UPDATE: The morning after…
No wear overnight and looking bluer in daylight:
UPDATE: Blue feet on the BBC
We’re 2500 years ago, on the banks of the Thames near Reading…
Cut to 16.50 for woad dyeing.
“Making History” BBC Radio 4, 23/08/2016
Salisbury Archaeology Festival
Salisbury Museum held an Archaeology festival around their new Wessex Gallery. We were demonstrating wool crafts next to our good friends Ancient Music.
It was a very hot event, and many people were realising some of the drawbacks of what we imagine as traditional historical costume. It got us thinking about what people would have worn when the weather was so hot. It’s certainly possible that they only had a few light coverings of linen, to prevent sunburn while keeping as cool as possible.
We greatly enjoyed this event, there were very many interested people there, and many experts in their respective fields. We certainly enjoyed watching the other expert craftspeople plying their trades.
We were also featured on BBC Radio Wiltshire, while we were combing some wool. Listen below:
We have made a range of items for museum handling collections. These have been made to show ancient crafts and creative techniques. Being able to hold and use something can really bring archaeological artefacts to life for students. They can also represent the mass of organic objects which haven’t survived, to supplement museum objects. The objects are resiliant enough to be used and handled by groups, and being modern, are easily replaceable.
For Wallingford Museum we have supplied hand-made ceramic-weighted spindles. These will be a part of their handling collection for school visits and other groups. The spindles are very similar to some archaeological examples which the museum has on display.
For the Ashmolean Museum we have suppied a range of items for their new Bronze Age education sessions.
For their handling collection: Birch bark containers, lime bark cordage and nettle cordage.
For an activity or demonstration: the base plate and willow withys for wattle weaving.
For the Pitt Rivers Museum, we have supplied a range of natural dyestuffs and dyed cloth for a matching game, part of an education session on light and colour. This is part of the Need Make Use / VERVE project at the Pitt Rivers.
Dyes and Pigments matching game for the Pitt Rivers Museum.
It was an honour to be invited to the last Silchester excavation open days. This Roman and Prehistoric excavation is a fantastic place for us to show some of the textile production techniques available to those people. We brought back the warp-weighted loom which we built for this event last year, and the students were very appreciative of an example of how the archaeology they were finding would have been used. We also modelled our new loom weights on finds from Silchester and Salisbury Museum.
It was very exciting to see the current work being done in a more academic area of experimental archaeology. Meeting people and disscussing a wide variety of practical work was interesting and enlightening.