Forays Into Neutral Territory
Studio Artist, Kimber O’brien shares her experiences at Carol Soderland’s dye workshop held at the Crow Timber Frame Barn. Kimber’s mission: to bring back the knowledge to expand the depth and breadth of the Blue Fish color palette with complex and evocative neutrals.
Traveling to Nancy Crow’s barn for Carol Soderlund’s dye workshop, “Neutral Territories,” was a phenomenal experience. Upon first arriving at the farmhouse I’d be staying at in Ohio, I felt a sense of great calm. Rhythms seemed dictated by the “moo” of cows and the lazily shifting clouds. Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night.
The following day was a bit different! Onward to Nancy Crow’s property, with my new friend, Stefani, an architect enrolled in a rigorous studio class with Nancy. We headed out early in the morning and wouldn’t be home to the cows until a bit after 9pm. This was to be an intense exploration into the nature of color and how to achieve a neutral color palette via dyeing techniques.
The barn turned out to be an absolute art haven- surrounded by woods, and internally lined in art from all over the world- African, Australian, Mexican, you name it. It was essentially a museum for all the artifacts Nancy and her husband John, collected over their lifelong travels. For an entire workweek, this would essentially be my second home, and I felt the influences of all the various cultures seeping into my subconscious art mind. I began to ponder how these new visions might impact our upcoming designs over at Blue Fish.
I headed downstairs, into our art studio, and met my official teacher for the week, Carol Soderlund, an epic color magician, capable of dyeing any of the infinite hues imaginable to the human eye. The week’s focus? “Neutral Territory”- an expedition into the discovery of all the glorious hues sandwiched in between our beloved primary colors.
This is a task easier said than done, as one can never quite anticipate the behavior of pigment once you begin to break it down and assess its nature. Pigment, as it turns out, is a rather complex entity, with a mind of its own. For those 5 days, we were all scientists. I sat there with actual scientists- a retired geophysicist, an architect, a retired biologist. We worked together to “dye in between the cracks,” as Carol calls the process of unveiling hidden neutral hues. It was a lofty pursuit, but we were well prepared for late nights with beakers and calculators in hand.
After much work, we came out of our art lair with a rich lexicon of purple-grays, blue-greys, green-greys, toasty sienna hues, an array of blacks- some cool, some warm. Not only had we come up with an incredibly extensive catalogue of neutral colors, I’d also been introduced to some new screen printing and fabric dyeing techniques! Woohoo! This could be a big gamechanger for Blue Fish!
I feel overjoyed to start putting all this new knowledge into effect here at Blue Fish!