Literally. Up/down the Downs, near Ditchling in Sussex. Three times recently. The first outing was on a glorious English summer afternoon. The ‘hedge’ in the top small picture is interesting – it is the outer flank of the right hand side of a giant V, planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 (some sources say the Diamond Jubilee, 1897). Over 3,000 trees were put in – larch, birch, scots pine, sycamore, beech…. Still spectacular, over 130 (or possibly 120!) years later. The picture below was taken (with some difficulty) towards the inside bottom of the V. The most dramatic photos, of course, are to be taken from the road below – but, except as the crow flies, or the human tumbles, that was miles away!
The original blueprints. One of the fun things I get up to in France. It’s more of a photographic process than actual dyeing. You need some scary-sounding chemicals (Potassium Ferricyanide and Ammonium Ferric Citrate) which turn out to be harmless if you are sensible (i.e. you don’t start inhaling or eating the stuff). I treat the fabric then add whatever plant material I have collected – oak and bracken seem to work well. I make a sandwich with an old window pane we had lying around (I’m sure some people would get glass specially cut to size) The fun part is, all this has to be done in the dark. My dining room in France has no proper windows, so it is perfect if you have the place to yourself. If there are children around, though, it’s not so great – the dining room is also a sort of corridor with doors each end and a certain amount of yelling might be necessary to prevent disaster. The last stage is simply to get the glass sandwich outside and leave it to develop in the light – this can be very quick – the French sun has real power! The plant material must be firmly kept in place – it acts as a resist. Then everything is washed and dried.
I used to be concerned that the cushions would fade – they don’t! The examples in the picture were my first attempts (hence the photographs) over five years ago. I wondered about adding cyanoprints to my Etsy shop because they are a bit different, but I’ve decided I’d rather be free to keep experimenting and not have to worry about a professional finish!