Everywhere I look these days, I see rust dyed fabric. It's been around awhile, but it seems to have reached critical mass in the fiber world. I decided to find out what's up from Lois Jarvis who has created an entire company devoted to rust dyeing on fabric, Rust-Tex.com.
Lois, what got you started in rust dyeing?
In 2003 I saw an online video that showed a pair of young Japanese women visiting a scrap yard. They laid yards of white fabric across the junk, sprayed it with a garden hose, and returned a few days later to retrieve the fabric. It had marks on it transferred from the rusty items. They were selling the fabric at a shi shi gallery for thousands of dollars, which made me think, "I could do that”.
Why did you create a business called Rust-Tex?
Wow, that is a complex question. First the name comes from rust and textile, as in rust dyed cloth. The second thing you need to know is that rust dyeing is FUN, so much fun that I made more than I could use in my lifetime. So I started selling it to art quilters. And third when I figured out 4 repeatable techniques I wrote the Rust-Tex Instructional CD. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Why do you think rust dyeing is currently so popular?
Because it is so versatile. The surprises you get with rust dyeing are unique no matter what you start with. It's a fairly inexpensive way to dye fabric. All you need are a few rusty cans. And it is just FUN! And easy I call it passive dyeing because you don't have to stir dye pot just lay it out and come back a day later and rinse it out!
When I have asked other artists what makes rust dyeing their favorite method, here are some of the replies I have received:
-I like the versatility and surprises you get with rust dyeing. It's always unique no matter what you start with.
-It is natural and environmentally sensitive, thus appealing to our desire to live as "greenly" as possible.
-It re-purposes discarded, unwanted items in a new way, creating art from trash.
-It doesn't use scary chemicals, like regular dyeing does, nor does it require any equally scary chemical recipes, like regular "natural" dyeing does.
-No steaming, no stirring, no pouring precisely.
- No weighing of powders or potions necessary!
-It's pretty, it's fun, and unique! And it can be funny, too-- as my fiber friend found out when she ran out of rusty objects and used a gopher trap to finish off dyeing a shirt.
I see you sponsored a juried competition for contemporary quilts using rust dyed fabrics that will premier at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago this year. What's that all about?
The Rust-Tex Collection is a display of juried international entries dedicated to promoting using rust dyed fabrics in contemporary quilts less than 45” wide. Jurors will select works that represent a variety of techniques using rust dyed fabric and fibers, good design, and excellent craftsmanship. There were 112 quilts by 80 people entered into the Rust-Tex Collection. I am glad I am not one of the judges because they will have a hard time narrowing it down to 24.
What is your #1 tip for newbie rust dyers?
If you have a piece of rusted iron will not make an image the first time you use it, do not give up. It might take several times before the rust begins to appear on the cloth. The reason for this is that iron objects often acquire a stable rust layer from past exposure to high levels of moisture that slows down the corrosion of the underlying metal.
What's next for you and rust dyeing?
Lots of things!
First, I will be taking the Rust-Tex Collection to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England August 20-23, 2010. Second, I am working on the next Rust-Tex Instructional CD that will introduce four new techniques. Finally, I live in Wisconsin (USA), where I can only rust dye from April through Oct because it needs hot and humid conditions. I am building a rust dyeing kiln in my basement so I can continue rust dyeing in the winter. Because rust dyeing is so messy I am building it in the basement bathroom as far away as I can get from the laundry room.
Thanks so much for your time, Lois. With over 80 quilts to show, I encourage all of our readers to visit your site and take a look!
This article was written by Valley Fiber Life contributor, Virginia Spiegel. Visit the following links to learn more about Virginia’s work, new book, and especially her upcoming Tote Tuesday auction!
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Tuesday, February 2
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