Moving to the desert land of New Mexico has presented me with a wonderful opportunity to study the local windfall and learn to use them in the dyepot. There is a rich tradition in this state from the Native American dyers, the Navajo in particular who use the colors from the land, wild walnut, prickly pear cactus, sagebrush, chokecherry, ironweed, juniper, pinion, etc. As we drove from Tennessee to New Mexico, I paid close attention to the landscape, moving from the greens of the hills to the browns of the desert. Takes a close eye to see the myriad colors in a desert landscape.
we got settled , I was gifted with an abundance of thrift store cotton
cloth from a dear friend. Our rental house came with a little garden,
filled with Spanish broom, lilac bushes, chile peppers, corn and a
grape arbor; all extra gifts to be put in the dye pot. Right behind
our home, a dusty sandy trail filled with sagebrush, chamisa, desert
willow, wild aster and more plants and wildflowers that I will come to
know. The smells of the sagebrush, an incredibly expansive sky that
changed hourly, wind that welcomed and at times, fiercely so. Across
the street, fallen blossoms from more desert willow trees would fly
across the street as if they knew I wanted them.
drove about 60 miles from my home and the land abruptly changes, deeper
canyons, the dark green of pinion trees, brown, tan, clay, burnt
umber, red, mauve all found in the cliffs along the way.
dabbling in the dye pots, it has been my custom to stitch a piece of
recycled cloth with the local windfall or from what I could glean from
my garden. Here it seemed especially important to honor this vast and
so very different landscape that I have come to love for its ever
changing gifts. In thinking of the difference in just 60 miles, I have
made a cloth that I call Tierra Arriba, Tierra Abajo, the Spanish words
for land above, land below. Finding myself in this place continues to
be a gift with long echoes, all the way back to my own roots as an
immigrants daughter whose parents came to the United States from Spain.