Video From LIVE FEEDBACK FRIDAY: Natalie Stopka

This week’s FEEDBACK FRIDAY was with natural dye artist and educator Natalie Stopka.

Watch the video recording here:

From Natalie (chat box questions answered and more!)
>Clothlet Resources:

  • The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting by Daniel V. Thompson, 1956.
  • An Anonymous 14th Century Treatise De Arte Illuminandi, The Technique of Manuscript Illumination translated by Daniel Varney Thompson, Jr, and George Heard Hamilton, 1933. (full text online)
Looking back over my notes, I did pre-mordant my linen clothlets before applying the stain. Because of the weak attraction between linen and alum, it acts primarily to stabilize the botanical colorant rather than bind it to the linen. This is in line with the practice of the medieval European illuminators, who apparently had a real fondness for clothlets and made them in all colors.
Workshops are all listed here! Click the class title for registration.
Pigment Value can be lightened in two ways:
  • Add more alum (and enough alkali to neutralize it) to increase the amount of aluminum hydroxide. This is the colorless, translucent mineral base the dye attaches to
  • Add an opaque extender such as calcium carbonate
Pigment Saturation is controlled during the dye extraction and with the optional addition of mineral modifiers, just as in dyeing textiles.
For the most saturated and intense color, follow the guidelines for a particular plant’s extraction. For example, we know to extract madder at a low temperature with a little calcium carbonate to achieve the rosiest hues. After filtering the dye extraction, be careful not to add too much alum in laking. This will stretch out the amount of color on the translucent aluminum hydroxide base, and give a paler shade. It’s best to add the alum and alkali in stages, until the supernatant is close to clear.
Washing lake pigments removes any excess dissolved dye or minerals lurking in the precipitate. You can either decant or pipette the liquid from above the pigment, or filter and return the wet pigment to a container. Add fresh water (distilled is best, but tap is ok too) equaling about twice the volume of the pigment, stir, and rest for an hour. Rinse in this way twice, or until the liquid looks nice and clear.
If you have dry pigment which you’re concerned isn’t washed, you can grind it finely and wash it in the same way. You’ll have to grind it again when it dries. If you see crystals forming on and around your lakes as they dry, they have not been thoroughly washed and the excess minerals might affect the paints you make.
Earth pigments and indigo do not need to be subjected to the laking process; they are already insoluble pigments! You can use them along with lake pigments for painting with a soy binder on fabric, or any other artistic application where we use pigments.
Ground Bright monthly wild pigment subscription: I imagine viewers are already familiar with the Wild Pigment Project from Tilke’s Feedback Friday presentation!
Safety information on grinding dry pigments is here; scroll down to Extended Health and Safety Guidelines (after enjoying the Reciprocal Foraging information!)
Carrageenan (chondrus crispus) is the seaweed-derived thickener I float marbling paints upon. It’s available from Dharma and Talas in the US.
Rita Buchanan’s A Dyer’s Garden has a guide to the spacing and yield of dye plants.

Natalie Stopka is an artist and educator focused on creative processes rooted in the materials and forces of the natural world. Her pursuit of historical surface patterning techniques includes natural dyeing, lake pigment extraction, marbling, and printmaking. These meticulous, layered processes incorporate materials grown in her studio garden in Yonkers, NY, creating a seasonally evolving vocabulary of texture and color. Her botanical palette of lake pigments and indigo is inspired by the recipes of 14th-18th century artists and marblers.

Her upcoming (virtual) Lake Pigment workshop with the Textile Arts Center, introduces participants to lake pigments made from natural dyes. Lake pigments are a great way use every drop of natural color by converting it to a shelf-stable powder. These pigments can be used for making natural paints or pastels, or for split lake dyeing. Students can join in dye extraction and laking in our first remote studio session, then continue to process their pigments over 1-2 hours of independent work during the week. Our second session will focus on sharing our experiments, paint making, and Q+A. Garden and kitchen-foraged colorants are encouraged, or students can opt to purchase a kit of materials at the time of registration.

NEXT WEEK we’ll be talking with Plant Workshop’s Milisa Moses, Botanical Colors’ President Kathy Hattori and Botanical Colors’ Sustainability Director Amy DuFault to review the basics of growing, harvesting and dyeing with your own dye plants. We’ll feature a few of the varieties that we love to grow and show you what colors come from them. Milisa will reprise her guidance for starting your own seeds now and Kathy and Amy will have dye flowers and bundle and immersion dye techniques. We’ll leave lots of time for questions!

RSVP here.


If you are not familiar with FEEDBACK FRIDAY, every week, we speak with dyers, artists, scientists and scholars about our favorite topic, natural dyeing and color. Curated by Amy DuFault, Botanical Colors’ Sustainability Director and presented by Botanical Colors’ Founder Kathy Hattori.

We even have our own theme song thanks to musician (and Amy’s husband) Jimmie Snider!