Packing: the past and the future


I spent last week packing up the dye studio for my friend Sheila and a group of her friends in Sandpoint Idaho.

Packing these materials put a period onto one kind of art that I loved to engage in but reluctantly admit I’m finished with. Dyeing fabric was a passion and a joy with me for many years. I learned more about color through dyeing fabric than I ever could have through mixing pigment.  Dyes demand a keen eye for mixing, as different dye hues strike the fabric (i.e. move into it) at different rates; finding the “pure” dyes and working with the less pure ones called for research.. I grew to curse fuchsia, a particularly stubborn (and fast striking) dye; I thought of it as the rattlesnake of the dye world.

It took me a week to dismantle the studio, which mostly sat on shelves in the basement, and consisted not merely of dyes (something like 35 or 40 different hues) and the accompanying necessary fixatives, etc., but also a bunch of accoutrements: an air brush, stamps, stencils, and wax resist materials such as bees-wax, an electric frying pan, tjanting and tjaps. The last two are specialized tools for working with the hot wax to dye batiks; the tjaps (pronounced chops)  are especially precious.


A photo of a sampling of the boxes into which the stuff was packed.

I could not, however, give it all away. I did part with my John Marshall/ Japanese-inspired stencils; I only did a few and they were precious, but I decided I had to part with them. However, I could not part with some of my crow stamps and stencils:



They all have special meaning for me, including the little birds, which I’ll admit are not crows and were not designed and drawn by me. But they are doubly precious.

Of course, in dealing with the shelves of “stuff”, I ended up throwing out a lot of it. Shelves in basements can accumulate amazing amounts of useless items. I’m just grateful for Portland’s recycling services.


That’s a small sampling of what had to go into the trash.

Speaking of recycling, when I get back from Playa I’m going to put the bin of empty solution containers and plastic sheets that I used to protect surfaces by the curb with a “free” sign on them; we’ll see how many other crazy people live in the neighborhood.

And what is Playa, you ask. Oh, that’s what I’m packing to go to in a few days. It’s an  artist’s residency compound in the Oregon outback: Route 31 between La Pine and Lakeview, for those of you who know that northern bit of the range and basin country. It’s east of Crater Lake and west of Frenchglen for the tourists among us. I’ll have two weeks without my significant other, who, along with children and dogs, is not allowed to stay overnight. So I’m packing food as well as art supplies — oh and my tooth brush and deodorant too.

I am taking my laptop (although there is no electronic access out there), and I hope to upload a set of travel tales when I return. That is, if I return. Chances are I will, though,  given that my significant other is pretty significant. Our 50th anniversary happens in October, and probably I should be around to celebrate. –June


Playa, taken from their website

This entry was posted in Art residency, dyeing, eastern Oregon, Playa, Portland, textile and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Packing: the past and the future

  1. Pingback: Corvidea within WP « bearspawprint

  2. margaret says:

    The bird stamps are works of art, just as they are, even in the photo – and must be even ore so in reality – the word “auratic” comes to mind – irreproducible in themselves, even though they were used for (re)producing images.
    Your major clearout is inspiring for those of us who want to let go of things. Now the big decision is – *which* things…


    • june says:

      Margaret — that’s always the question, isn’t it? — which things must go? Luckily, by the time I’m answering your comment (3–4 weeks later) I’m feeling lighter, which is some kind of miracle. And the person to whom the things went got them all in her car and drove off with them, presumably to have a good time.

      You are right about the crow/bird stamps. The funny little birds (which don’t show up very well in the photos) were copies of ones done by my grandson when he was something like 7 years old. I still find them enchanting. I’m not sure I have the originals (or where they are if I have them). He did a large batch of them and then went on to other things. But when I look at birds, I see those little round funny figures. I just read a review of a James Turrell exhibit at the Gugenheim, in which the reviewer says he learned to look at nature by looking at art. I like that.

      Thanks for checking in. I should have known you’d like the repetitions a lot:-)


  3. birdingbesty says:

    June..a friend from a distance for at least 10 years now I have delighted in hearing about and following your process of letting go, releasing from your personal journey the tools gathered as you worked with, designed, stitched, dyed, manipulated and created textile art…wonderful and inspirational to me through the years. When you went to Basin for retreat time and then to the Painted Hills and I watched your painting begin to find the “loudest voice” in the studio you have amazed me with your diligence in moving forward with the change making process. My current journey is about letting go of three generations of textile materials that no longer serve my muse…and truly your “leading by example” called me onto the trail of shifting to the new purpose that calls me. I, too, would hold on to those magnificent bird and crow stamps…for one major passion in my journey is “my birds”…living on the flyway of the Clark Fork River I am treated to myriad birds throughout the seasons…your stamps are wonderful.
    This new retreat to create venture should be grand…the photo from their website is inviting and the landscape looks to be a magnificent visual treasure…and fall is such a fine time to explore color…now with your paints, the dye shop materials and tools passed on well to a new studio.
    Looking forward to your writing and sharing when you return to the world of connectivity.
    Be well and enjoy the explorations in this Playa…you so inspire my muse…..Kristin


    • june says:

      Oh Kristin, it’s always good to hear from you — our mutual admiration society goes strong. Playa is also a fairly good bird sanctuary, something I’m looking forward to exploring. And the colors will be whole new world for me too. I think I do best when I working with new scenes — they capture my imagination and linger there long after the actual experience disapears.

      So I will be blogging (I hope) to be uploaded when I return, and when winter hits along the Clark Fork, you’ll be able to muse on the fall landscape in the Oregon desert as you watch the snow fly. That sounds just right to me.

      I’ll be eager to see where you go with your new paths.

      Take care — june


  4. Tani says:

    I wish I had the motivation to clean my basement! It’s rather amazing when one considers how much stuff people accumulate over the years.


    • june says:

      You have time yet, Tani. And the next time you move (!!) you’ll have no choice. Our problem is that we haven’t moved in 20 years, which is longer than we’ve ever stayed in a single place. So the pile got higher and higher. But it could have been worse. Once in a while I’d dig out some dye and color a small piece of fabric and that meant that I had to have everything accessible and somewhat organized. This helps a lot when packing time comes. And Sheila’s agreeing to take and distribute the materials among her friends was a god-send. I couldn’t bear to think of trying to give it away one bit at a time. Nor did I think any of our recycling places would be interested, no matter how much in love with the stuff I was. Thanks for checking in. But no, I don’t think I’ll fly to PA to help you pack and clean –snort–.


  5. Olga says:

    It’s great that you have someone to use all your previously precious workstuffs – and I’ve always found that a clearout is good medicine! The glimpse of Playa looks enticing – I look forward to seeing your response to it all.


    • june says:

      Thanks, Olga. You go to museums and the rough seacoast. I go to the outback. Not so many museums there, alas. But the scenery and what it does for my painting mind works very well. And now I’ll have to write all those evening “blogs” — it will be good for me, I’m sure.


  6. Jean de Maiffe says:

    Moving right along, as they say. You’ve always been an inspiration to me, June – one of the most remarkable women I know.


    • june says:

      Ah shucks, Jean. It’s great to be an inspiration to at least one person in the world. I’ll remember that when my ship comes in (instead of me chasing it:-) ) “Preciate your weighing in with comments. I thought of you and your summer trip when making preperations for this one.


  7. june says:

    Sheila, I hate to admit it but in the interests of narrative flow I might have exaggerated a bit. You are probably oK using the photo as your guide. Have fun unpacking. And I have some advice about the air brush which I can pass along. Some of the stuff in the box may puzzle whoever works with it.


  8. Sheila says:

    I don’t blame you for hanging on to those crow stamps – they are quite special. And now I’m mentally arranging those bins in my car the way one mentally arranges furniture before you move into a new house…


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