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There’s hope yet . . . another mushroom season begins

July 1, 2015

Like the rest of North America’s West Coast, we’ve had an exceptionally dry spring and early summer. Flowers, birds, berries—they’ve all been a few weeks early this year, and everything is scarily dry.

I’ve been away for three weeks and on my return was hesitant to go out into my Back 40, knowing the moss would be crunchy and the ground dry. But I needed my forest therapy (after a glorious but noisy and crowded holiday in Sicily), so out I went with Rica, my fantastic flying puppy.

And what should I find, in a spot where I’ve never found this mushroom before:

Velvet Pax - first of the year

Tapinella atrotomentosa – first of the year

Drying already

Velvet Pax – drying already

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I did find a few of these Velvet Pax at this time last year, but we’d had a cool, rainy June. I certainly didn’t expect to find it in our current conditions. Usually they appear in late July through September.)

This was on its own in open sun (growing out of wood under the moss), already getting parched. Down the hill, at the base of a shady stump where I’ve found these mushrooms in previous years, was another clump that still looked as if they had some growing to do, so I’ll keep an eye on them for now. My other usual spots haven’t revealed anything yet.

Along the trail, farther along, is my nurse log for Pycnoporellus fulgens. Even though I don’t get a striking colour from these, and I usually need two years’ worth of collecting to make one dyepot, I’m always happy to see them, as they are (usually) the first harbingers of mushroom season.

Pycnoporellus fulgens

Pycnoporellus fulgens

 

Pycnoporellus fulgens

Pycnoporellus from above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never seen this fungus in such a huge cluster before—this one is about four inches wide. Usually it appears as a single fan, perhaps in tiers (see my post from 2009 when I first realized what it was). As always, I’ll leave this to dry over the summer and start a new stash until I have enough for another pastel dyepot.

Peach from Pycnoporellus fulgens

Peach from Pycnoporellus fulgens

I feel mushroom fever creeping into my brain!

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Maiwa Textile Symposium, 2015

April 3, 2015

 

Maiwa Calendar 2015

Maiwa Calendar 2015

I feel honoured and privileged to have been invited to teach a workshop on mushroom dyeing at Maiwa this year.

Maiwa (pronounced MAY-wah) supports traditional craft, through an ethical business model, in the trade of embroidered, block-printed, handwoven, and naturally dyed textiles (mainly with India, but also with several other areas). Their dedicated staff seek out quality workmanship, and they do what they can to educate the purchasing public about the cultures, co-operatives, and lives of the artisans.

Every year, beginning in September and carrying on into November, Maiwa holds its Textile Symposium, with lectures, exhibitions, seminars, and workshops covering all manner of topics related to the fibre arts. Their teaching facilities are first-rate (Classroom space! Dyepots of all sizes! Heated drying racks! Extractors to remove smelly fumes! Assistants!) and their staff exceptionally helpful and efficient.

If you get a chance, visit one of their locations in Vancouver: their main store and Maiwa Supply, both on Granville Island, and Maiwa East at 1310 Odlum. Not only will you find garments, fabrics, and accessories, it’s also the go-to place for dyeing supplies and information. The shop at Maiwa East is filled with furniture unlike anything you’ll find in a big box. You can purchase documentary DVDs through their website and download podcasts of many of their symposium presentations.

Registrations opens June 22 at 10:00 am. I’ll be teaching a two-day workshop November 2 and 3.

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Eco-dyeing with mushrooms

February 28, 2015

My dear friend and wonderfully creative fibre artist behind the Ruby Slippers blog has made some beautiful fabric pieces by eco-dyeing—rolling flowers and leaves into little bundles, then steaming them. She has to leave these bundles alone for several weeks to ensure that the colours are imprinted, and when she can finally open them, the results are marvelous.

Eco-dyeing with mushrooms presents its own challenges, but when I noticed a layer of “dust” in the bottom of a box holding a bunch of dried Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii), a tiny light bulb sparked an idea. I dyed some silk scarves in a Phaeolus dyepot and removed them before the colour became too intense. Then I put them immediately into a pot of simmering water—a stop bath—to set the colour. Then I got to play, and here’s what happened.

Phaeolus dust

Phaeolus dust

I scooped up a few handfuls of Phaeolus bits—as the fungus dries, it seems to shed its layer of pores, which have turned dark brown, but I reasoned these bits would still contain pigment.

My stencil

My stencil

My search for something handy to use as a “stencil” took me to the kitchen utensil drawer. My dearest, who does all the cooking, probably wouldn’t have condoned my taking this up to my studio to be covered in inedible fungus dust, but in matters of mushroom dyeing, it’s always safer to follow the “ask forgiveness” rule. I sprinkled the bits into the slots with a liberal hand, then gave the whole thing a good spritz of water to keep everything in place. With care, I lifted the slotted spoon off the fabric, pleased to see that the design had stayed in place. I soon discovered, though, that the mushroom bits had minds of their own and were scattering themselves outside the design area. So I went along and sprinkled bits over the scarf’s surface, hoping for a speckled background.

The first try

The first try

It's working!

It’s working!

I’d laid the scarf out on a long piece of plastic (cut from one of those ubiquitous shopping bags that I swear procreate under the kitchen sink) and began rolling, taking care not to disturb my designs.

Rolling the bundle

Rolling the bundle

The tied bundle

Then it was a simple matter of tying the scarf tightly in three places . . .

Steaming the bundle

. . . and putting it into a bamboo steamer where it steamed for thirty minutes one day and thirty minutes the next. (I did that because of timing—ordinarily I would have steamed it for an hour the first time.)

I decided not to wait three weeks to see the results. I figured the bits of  Phaeolus would impart their colour quickly and permanently . . .

The finished scarf

The finished scarf

. . . and they did!

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Frozen . . . the Mushroom

February 9, 2015
Ramaria flavigelatinosa

Ramaria largentii

Last year I wrote about an exciting discovery with the orange coral mushroom, Ramaria largentii, when I obtained a nice purple from a little bag that had been left outside during a frost. The mountain of coral that had dried inside proved to be unusable, giving a blah beige.

This year’s harvest of coral wasn’t outstanding, but I do have enough in my freezer now to do a few dyepots. First I wanted to make sure that several months of freezing wouldn’t affect the colour. And indeed it didn’t! This purple is on wool roving mordanted with iron.

Ramaria after Freezing

Ramaria after Freezing

I’ve been away from my studio more than I wanted (although the January trip to Costa Rica was a legitimate reason to be away), but the dyepots are heating up again, with some interesting results. More to come . . .

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ShroomWorks is now on Etsy!

December 4, 2014

I have to give the Etsy people credit—they walk prospective shop owners through the entire listing process, with tutorials and encouraging words aplenty. Still, it’s taken more hours than I care to acknowledge to reach the point where I can announce my official opening:

ShroomWorks is open for business!

Check out my shop here.

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Ann and Rica’s Excellent Adventure

November 28, 2014

We’re expecting a bit of snow tonight (a dusting, really), and temperatures are set to drop, so I decided to go out for my annual foray on a nearby moss bluff—several tiers of bluff, actually—where I usually find a few of my Cortinarius dyers. This is part the “arbutus belt,” a narrow area at a consistent elevation where the conditions are right for the arbutus tree (Arbutus menziesii, also known as madrone). Arbutus wood is iron-hard, and it sheds its paper-like bark each year. These trees resist domestication and are quite picky about where they’ll take root, so I consider myself fortunate to be living among them.

Arbutus bluff

Knowing this hike would involve a bit of a climb, I left Silas, our 12-year-old Golden, behind, as it would have been too much for him. Instead, I invited Rica, our Border Collie mutt, to join me—nothing is too much for her!

I could hear the dermocybes calling, and sure enough, it wasn’t long before I found these little guys camouflaged among the dried leaves.

Cortinarius smithii

We clambered over moss-covered rocks, sweeping back and forth across the bluffs, and it wasn’t long before my little brown paper bag was full, of both the yellow-gilled and red-gilled beauties, and I had to start on another bag.

Yellow-gilled DermocybeCortinarius smithii

Along the way I found a few clumps of orange coral, Ramaria largentii, which only added to the excitement.

Ramaria largentii

It’s probably just as well Silas wasn’t along with us, as he would have been unable to tear himself away from these two discoveries: bones cleaned down to the bone (probably by coyotes) and a nice pile of elk poo (recognized by its large size and the distinctive “thumbprint” in each nugget).

Bones

 After two hours of foraging, it was time to return home. But wait—Rica found some excitement of her own! The squirrel teased and chattered and eventually made its way down the other side of the tree. Rica’s doggy brain forgot about it immediately, happy to move on to other discoveries.

Rica trees a squirrel

A perfect afternoon, evidenced by this view of Mixal Lake on our way down to the road and back home.

On the way home

And look what’s in the dehydrator at this very moment:

Ready for drying

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Sole mates

November 21, 2014

 

Mushroom paper shoes

Mushroom paper shoes

My dyepots have been cool for several months now—fall is the time for collecting dye mushrooms, and it was a fairly good season, all in all—so here’s a photo of something else I made in the summer. These were in response to a call for entries for an exhibit, “Under My Feet,” put on by my fibre mentor and textile artist extraordinaire, Yvonne Stowell, in her lovely space, FibreWorks Gallery, in Madeira Park.

Papermaking takes second place to dyeing and spinning, but occasionally I get the urge to mix up a vat of mushroom pulp, pull out the molds and deckles, and make a right good mucky mess. Yvonne’s call for entry came at a time when I decided I needed some slip-on shoes specifically for my studio (the bright orange Crocs just don’t do it for me), so I used a pair of almost-falling-apart house slippers as molds.

I first made the soles (using pulp made from red-belted conk, or Fomitopsis pinicola), cutting several layers of paper around an outline of the slipper soles and pressing them together—”laminating” sounds more sophisticated, doesn’t it? Then I draped more cut-to-shape pieces over the tops, again pressing several layers together. I hadn’t planned how to secure the various parts to the soles, but my hands naturally went into piecrust mode, and that seemed to work, so for continuity, I continued that pattern around the backs of the soles. The shoes needed some embellishment, and I had lots of leftover Dyer’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) pulp on hand, and I used that to make some brown diagonal bands. Phaeolus pulp is quite crumbly, and I had to be careful to keep it from falling apart.

I covered everything loosely with plastic wrap, to keep the shoes from warping, but after a few weeks I noticed bits of white mold were taking root. I removed the slippers and stuffed the openings with crumpled newspaper, placed them on a mesh screen to encourage the bottoms to dry, and left them under a very loose tent of plastic.  When everything had dried, the dark brown bands were still crumbly, so I gave everything a waterproofing coating.

Mushroom paper being what it is, I didn’t expect to come up with anything dainty or delicate; “robust” is probably a better word to describe these (although they weigh almost nothing). However, they’ll end up being for display only—these thick soles have absolutely no capacity to bend, and stomping around flat-footed is a bit ungainly!

Don’t expect me to create a line of fashionable paper shoes—not in the immediate future, anyway.

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