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  • Writer's pictureKaren Selk


I do feel like I am surfacing - not from Covid or depression, but from the intensity of writing a book. My last blog was November 2020, eight months ago! Since that time, I put the peddle to the metal or fingers flying on the keyboard to finish my book: In Search of Wild Silk - Indigenous People Growing Their Heritage. I was at it seven days a week, ten hours a day. After two and a half years, it was time to get it out of my life and into the hands of the publisher. We are still going through the nearly year-long process of edits, layout, advertising and all the other processes I was not aware of. Writing a book is definitely a journey.

After I hit the send button with manuscript, photos, captions and four other attachments, I expected to be dancing, singing and running to the garden and studio which I so longed for. But I felt empty, a bit lost for a few days. I kept sitting down at the computer, just habit. I roamed the garden that my partner, Terry, who caringly tended everything while I was in the home stretch - a bit overwhelmed. I sat and stared at all the tantalizing "ingredients" in the studio - how do I begin.

We call our garden organized chaos. It is brimming with three kinds of berries, many varieties of apples, quinoa, lots and lots of veggies, flowers to attract and feed the bees, humming birds and butterflies as well as dye plants. There are raised beds with nasturtiums spilling over the sides; trellises with sweet peas, clematis, roses and climbing beans; rock gardens with lavender and cosmos tumbling out; and flat areas for potatoes, squashes and cucumbers to roam. It is lush, productive and feeds us year round in our Pacific Northwest region. Anyone who grows their own organic food knows it is a labour of love. There are springs that are too cold, summers too hot, wind too strong, weevils too plenty, racoons in the cherries, juvenile robins in the berries, and bunnies pushing at the fencing. Each morning starts with a wander to see what requires immediate attention, then on to the tasks at hand - composting, planting and weeding in the spring, watering, harvesting, putting food by and saving seed in the summer, more harvesting and finally tidying and tucking the garden under a bed of cozy straw for the winter. It was not long before I settled into the familiar rhythm of the season. The garden is a vibrant, living entity that provides food, beauty and something I have no words for. Watching and listening to the diversity of bees in the lavender; the violet-green swallow coming to her house in the clematis with bugs for her three hungry babies; catching the scent of sweet peas, lavender, and roses; and trying to imprint all the colours, textures, and patterns in my mind's eye is my tonic.

I needed a kick start in the studio. Thankfully two living treasures in the textile world lent a hand. I belong to many textile organizations. One advertised a class with Jane Dunnewold using a heat press to make prints on paper and cloth using plants from the garden. What could be better than combining my two passions.? I have been having lots of fun "auditioning" plants and recording all my experiments, some successful, some not so much, but it is all part of the excitement of learning something new.

I am trying to use mostly natural things in my art and life as part of my commitment to contributing to a healthy Mother Earth. Our garden has numerous plants that give stable dyes: weld, coreopsis, marigolds and indigo. Just recently, Long Thread Media sent a sneak peak of their new book, Nature's Colorways, conjuring the chemistry and culture of natural dyes. Master dyer and indigo guru, John Marshall, wrote an introduction to dying with fresh indigo leaves in that sneak preview. I could see bright colours in my future. I organized my thoughts and prepared for the next day's adventure with fresh indigo leaf dye on silk fabric, a finer white (Bombyx) and a wild tasar (tussah) silk. Later in the day, I used the heat press to print coreopsis flowers onto the indigo fabric. I am giddy with the possibilities of this new relationship.

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