Friday, May 20, 2016

A Week With Dorothy Caldwell: "In Place"

I've been more than slightly negligent of my blog posts recently, and for that I sincerely apologize.  It is not for lack of things to write about, believe me!  More than anything I think it is from a sense of having so much happening!  Travel, loads of teaching early this year, several things that I am not yet able to make public.  But one thing I experience this spring has been simmering and I am now ready to write and post images about it.  The truth is that this workshop was so different, so esoteric, so profound in its beauty, that I have been at a loss for words to describe it.   Fortunately for me, one of my sister workshop attendees wrote such a rich description about it that I will only need to add some of my own anecdotes!

Dorothy Caldwell is unique.  Her way of looking at and experiencing the world is so different than any artist I have encountered that it created a new sense of wonder and sensory experience to be with her for a week.  Originally set to spend two weeks at the Crow Barn studying Human Marks with her, a family event prevented me from staying for the second.  I do hope to study with her again in the future.

Dorothy describes her work as a "map of land and memory".  She is interested in the sense of place, and how humans mark and visualize the land.

Dorothy Caldwell, wearing her "gathering apron" created by India Flint and gifted to her.
It should be noted that Dorothy and India often travel together....

Here are a set of small papers with ochre , or earth pigment, rubbings

many of her cards contain plant rubbings...

or sometimes the plant or seed itself

Students were required to bring 100 objects to create an installation in the classroom,
and it was truly magnificent to see it spread across 2 tables!

Here is my contribution:  100 pressed flowers, grasses, and other plants from my home garden

there were stones....


cross-cuts of branches

here is a panoramic photo of one table

Here are some of the papers generated during the first part of the week....

We also experimented a bit with natural dyes using plants and rust 

Here are several of my "bundles" prior to being immersed in the dye baths, one using rust as a mordant

Dorothy demonstrating how to make the dye bundles and showing samples of cloth dyed with osage orange.

Dye bundles with cloth and paper

My paper signature, foreground, showing the rust marks.  Cloth bundles in background, cooling off.
I opted to travel home with them still wrapped in their bundles.

Insect marks inside tree bark.

Osage orange dye powder.

I find it hard to summarize this experience.  I will say that I came away with an elevated understanding of several things that I may have, on some level, been thinking about but not very consciously.  I learned to really stop and pay attention to a wider variety of sensory experiences:  sounds that become part of our everyday fabric become more interesting when we truly focus on them.  Things like how often we notice human noise versus animal & natural sounds.  What rhythm does these sounds make, especially when combined together as a sort of symphonic music?  
How does it feel to sit still (and I mean REALLY still!) for more than a few moments?  What happens when I sit in one place for 20-30 minutes, and I repeat that action multiple times?  What do I notice?  What changes?  What remains a constant?  

I came away from all this with something new,(but something that has always been there but I wasn't paying attention to it so I feel it is new, if that makes any sense).  I don't need to know how this fits into my life and I'm not going to concern myself with it too much.  I am, however, finding myself thinking about it.  I am interested to see how it affects me over the arc of time. 


  1. Wonderful post about Dorothy Caldwell. Always wondered what it would be like to attend one of her workshops. Her focus on the natural world's sounds and senses speaks to me. Paying attention. Love that. Thanks for posting!

    1. I would recommend this workshop to anyone! It was a truly unique experience. I hope you have the opportunity to do it someday.

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