Winter is a pretty season, but I yearn for color in my life, so I was happy to see that the Finnish American Folk School at Finlandia was offering a snow dyeing course taught by Professor Emeritus Phyllis Fredendall and instructor Hannah Smith-Granis. You may have seen the cute pictures of flowers painted in food coloring on the sides of snow banks, meant to usher in spring, but this is completely different. It is a fabric dyeing technique particularly suited to our winters.
There were four of us in the class and we each had a few yards of cotton. A student brought linen, which was good because both cotton and linen are derived from plants. The first step was to soak the fabric in a solution of soda ash and water, which is alkaline. Dyeing with protein-based fabrics like silk and wool requires an acid bath.
The wet cloth was then folded, crumpled or twisted and placed on a screen over an area like a sink that could get really wet and messy. While Phyllis was preparing the dyes, we went out to get some fresh snow. It was really easy since the course was held on Wednesday February 23, just after a massive snowfall.
We each piled three inches of snow on our fabric and then got together to check the dyes. We learned that some dyes, like fuchsia and turquoise, are solid colors and will stay true to that color through this procedure. However, some colorants, notably black, will separate into their component colors and “hit the fabric differently when cooled” (prochemicalanddye.net). This makes them especially great for snow dyeing, since black is made up of several different colors. This art form is not like painting, where you mostly apply paint to very specific places and expect it to stay there.
Rather, it’s a collaboration between the artist who chooses the colors and placement, and Heikki Lunta, the Finnish snow god, who decides the rest.
Intentionally and unintentionally, we dripped colors onto our mounds of snow and marveled at their beauty. Then we toured the cool weaving projects going on in the studio and headed home.
On Monday, we returned to the studio for the big “reveal.” Hannah helped us wash the fabric, then into the studio washing machine for a spin. We took it out and hung it on the classroom clothesline.
The fabric was gorgeous; swirls of color with bursts of flowers everywhere, and the black was completely shattered. I would love to make mine into a dress, but I would have to cut it and it would break my heart.
Finlandia University Gallery of the Finnish American Heritage Center presents the 2022 Alumni Exhibition. Twenty-one graduates of the International School of Art and Design have their recent works on display. The show is spectacular; such a beautiful diversity of works! Abigail Tembreull, Paige Lewandowski and William Thompson all have ceramic works on display. Thompson has a large display of intricately sculpted vessels that he creates and sells from his studio on 5th Street in Calumet. Tembreull, who currently lives upstate, opened a business called Gailea Design, where she creates and markets art prints with sustainability in mind. Also working in ceramics, she created a ceramic snowflake that was selected by the renowned Pewabic Studio downstate as one of three 2021 snowflake ornaments for this company. Lewandowski teaches art at Jeffers High School and is well known locally for her highly painterly ceramics depicting fantastic images of nature.
Every year there is a purchase price, and Lewandowski’s collection was selected for this, to now be part of Finlandia’s permanent collection. The exhibition includes paintings, photographs, videos, fabrics and more; well worth the visit. I was so happy with the exhibition, but also with the wonderful gathering of supporters and friends of the arts. This exhibition will run until March 16, and the gallery, located at 435 Quincy St. in Hancock, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Another exhibit I’m looking forward to is the upcoming exhibit at the Copper Country Community Arts Center in Hancock. March is Youth Art Month, and the Kerredge and Youth Galleries will be full of wonderful works by local children. Their winter hours are Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Check out this show, and while you’re at it, check out the new slate of class offerings, including an Indigo & Shibori Natural Dye Class with Mavis Farr, scheduled for Saturday, April 16, from 1-3 p.m., so you can experience your own fabric dyeing adventure.