It’s a very intricate process. And it’s one that involves patience, skill and know-how.
Kipp Inglis, a local artist, would like to educate community members about fiber dyeing, as she just opened Spring Creek Art Works, an up-and-coming teaching studio at D Squared Studios Aug. 4.
She’s been interested in sewing, quilting and costume design ever since she was a 5-year-old girl living in Washington D.C. She even went on to study Fine Arts as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“I did nothing with what I learned, other than incorporate it into the rest of my life,” Inglis said. “I’ve spent most of my life working in offices – the legal and software fields, but I’ve done most of my creative stuff on the side.”
Inglis always enjoyed teaching people as well. She said she taught software when she was in that field and has always been able to connect easily with students. It eventually occurred to Inglis that she could enlighten fellow art-lovers about botanical fiber dying.
“There’s not enough [art] left in the school systems,” Inglis said. “I think in our economic downturn that we’re going through, people would much rather accumulate knowledge than goods and make it themselves.”
She has worked primarily with wool and silk, and sold fibers commercially for a while. The competition ended up being too steep however. It is then that Inglis considered the benefits of botanical dying.
“About three years ago, I started taking courses in it,” Inglis said. “I’ve been several places in this country and learning from different people how to do it.”
And about a year ago, during the Threaded Streams Fiber Arts Trail, Inglis got involved with the D Squared Studios through Dean Allen and Dana Slowiak, the owners. She had been an artist participating in the tour.
“They knew that I wanted to have a space to teach,” Inglis said.
Inglis presented a couple of workshops at the local studio, and she said they were well-received in the community. It was only a matter of time before she was to make her dream of teaching art a reality.
Inglis said she will be teaching mostly fiber-related courses, and some involving stitching. More specifically she will teach sashiko, shibori and boro. Sashiko is a form of Japanese embroidery, boro is the repair of old work clothes and shibori is the process by which a non-chemical resistance is created in the pigment to make patterns.
On Aug. 4, Inglis showed visitors how to dye fabrics with indigo. They brought their own white shirts, and she showed them how to create patterns and properly set the pigment into the fabric.
According to Inglis, there are several varieties of the indigo plant. The species doesn’t grow easily in Wisconsin, so her pigment is imported from tropical areas.
“It goes through a fermentation process, then it’s dried and put into a powder,” Inglis said.
She said she uses three ingredients to synthesize the optimal indigo color. A container for immersion dying or dye pot is used for mixing all the ingredients together for larger dye quantities. The three ingredients are the indigo pigment, fructose and potassium hydroxide.
“The pH has to be correct in order for it to work right,” Ingis said. “I taste it to check.”
More fructose has to be added if the mixture is too sour. If it is sweet, however, it is ready for usage. It’s just safe enough for Inglis to check.
The entire process takes a few days, but that’s just for indigo, which is one of the easiest colors to make, according to Inglis.
While Inglis will be one of the main teachers at her studio, she will also invite other artists to instruct community members about painting, jewelry-making and more. She will also host open studio nights every Thursday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., where all are invited to stop and chat or work on a project.
“It’s kind of a new wave of how we try to help the planet stay a little greener,” Inglis said. “People are looking at ways of making clothing and fiber that doesn’t pollute as much.”