poetry and prose about place

harvesting colour

with 17 comments

Recently I was awarded an artsnb (New Brunswick Arts Board) Creations grant.  My six month project will be to write a book-length poetry manuscript about the experience of using plant dyes for colouring textiles.

The poems will find their inspiration in the activities of collecting plants, extracting their dyes and using them to colour woven fabric.



one of the plants I will be using is Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) – it grows throughout New Brunswick and can be used to make yellow and olive dyes


Writing these poems, in many ways, should echo my previous project ‘growing and gathering’.  I will do some research about a particular plant, then go forth and find it.  For the ‘growing and gathering’ project I had a lot of fun exploring various areas of the province for the plants I needed, so I know I will love this part of the experience.  It will be when I get the plant material home that the differences between the two projects will become clear.  With ‘growing and gathering’,  writing poems about picking berries seemed second nature to me since I’ve spent a lot of my life in berry fields.



some of the ingredients for a ‘growing and gathering’ salad


With ‘harvesting colour’, I will be learning a craft new to me.  I’ll be trying to manage the complex alchemy of “pot type plus source water plus plant material plus mordent plus receiving material”.  Lots of chemistry and a few colour tragedies, I’m certain.  And discovery, as purple plants become yellow dye.  I hope to combine making plant dyes with my weaving, an activity I find totally relaxing and steadying.


various projects

some of my weaving results over the years … it will be fun to see what colours my project will bring to my weaving


So where will the poems come from and what will they say?  I’ll be looking for metaphors for human experience and emotion.  I’ll try to embed ideas about reconnection with nature and about cultural expression through decorating fabric. I’ll use words from botany and chemistry, and a rich colour dictionary.  I can hardly wait to explore all the words for yellow, and green, and red.

I want to write poems about ‘saddening’ the colour by adding a pinch of salt, and ruining a dye lot by forgetting to tend it well.   I’ll write about oak leaf imprints on cloth, and the different yellows created with apple bark and poplar leaf. I’d also like to write poems about the ordinary life experience of plant dyes – grass stains on knees, the grey Choke-cherry jelly bag, the Cranberry stain on the tablecloth.

I’ll be presenting at least some of my poems here and I’ll certainly be sharing my experiences.  I’ll continue to present my virtual travel, novel writing and watercolour posts, but I plan to devote Friday’s post each week to ‘harvesting colour’.  Hope you visit regularly to follow me in my project!


Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 7, 2014 at 7:00 am

17 Responses

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  1. Good morning, Jane. Congratulations on the grant! I am looking forward to this new project. There is something that fascinates me about weaving and dying, but I know little about them.



    February 17, 2014 at 8:49 am

    • Hi. The weaving is a very relaxing activity. Having the dyed fabrics/yarns to add to the project will make it even more fun. jane


      jane tims

      February 17, 2014 at 2:08 pm

  2. Hi Jane, you never cease to amaze and inspire me with what you manage to accomplish and create in this life! Congrats and thanks for sharing your inspiring work and ideas with the rest of us. and ps: Happy nearly early early spring!! Leigh



    February 13, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    • Hi Leigh. Thanks for your encouragement. Sometimes I just shake my head at how busy I am … a busy-ness of my own making. However, I love all the learning and will always be this way. Spring seems a long way away this evening as we are expecting a big snowstorm. The highest snowbanks I ever saw (over the roof of a cabin) were in Fort Collins near you. Jane


      jane tims

      February 13, 2014 at 6:38 pm

  3. Congratulations Jane- sounds a great project!



    February 12, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    • Hi Diana. Thanks! I am getting some reference books together and that is always fun. Jane


      jane tims

      February 13, 2014 at 2:40 pm

  4. I like the way you phrased it: harvesting color. That’s the historical way of doing it.


    Steve Schwartzman

    February 8, 2014 at 9:25 am

  5. Congratulations Jane! That sounds so interesting. Such beautiful colours. I’ve never heard of ‘saddening’ a colour. It reminds me of music played in a minor key- adding a hint of melancholy.
    Looking forward to reading your new poems.



    February 7, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    • Hi Stephanie. Thanks for the suggested metaphor … it may just make it into a poem!!!!!!!!!! Jane


      jane tims

      February 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm

  6. Hi Jane,
    First: congrats on the grant.
    Second: how come I never get one? I’ve been making application every year since 1984.
    So disappointing!
    I will say one thing, though. At least the board is good enough to write back and give me some helpful advice.
    I’ve got their letter right here. Just came last week. ‘Go sell cars,’ they told me. Not quite what I wanted to hear, but, still, … was nice of them, though, don’t you think? Yeah. Short, pithy, direct – I can write like that.
    Now there’s an idea.
    Forget the grant!
    Why don’t I send in an application to be installed as a member of the board that decides who gets the grants? That’s what I’ll do!

    Thanks, Jane.
    Ya got their number there?



    February 7, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    • Hi Neil. Joking aside (!) you should apply. A book-length of your very short stories would be great! jane


      jane tims

      February 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm

  7. Congratulations on your grant and on the new path of discovery ahead of you! I’ll be very excited to hear what you learn.



    February 7, 2014 at 4:21 pm

  8. Absolutely. And I hadn’t even discovered that you weave! Just diving into that myself…



    February 7, 2014 at 7:20 am

    • Hi Pia. I have lots of reading and practicing to do. And a warp to wind and install. Tons to do, not to mention the writing. Jane


      jane tims

      February 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm

  9. Congratulations on the grant. The project sounds intriguing. I look forward to reading your work once it is published, and while it is in the works.


    Carol Steel

    February 7, 2014 at 7:16 am

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