Coriopsis and the Secret Handshake

Should you be driving around the Blue Mountains, on the outskirts of Sydney, and you notice women along side the road picking happy little yellow flowers called Coriopsis do go up and say hello.  You will have encountered some of the group of women I had the pleasure of doing a 5 day natural dyeing (no jokes please, I’ve heard them all) workshop lead by the enigmatic India Flint.

India has pioneered a way of natural dyeing which is dramatic and a blessing for the environment as there are no polluting chemicals. Her work and techniques touch that part of your soul which clamours for an uncluttered simple life in harmony with the world. No more gushing from me, you can see her work here: .

Hands don’t lie – India’s have been in many pots in many different lands.

The first day began in a scout hall, with tables in a circle and in the middle an amazing array of flowers, leaves, bark, seeds and weeds all collected locally.  After a short talk byIndia plants were collected and put in pots to boil and it was down to the business of dyeing.

Over the next few days we fell into a pleasurable routine of opening the previous day’s bundles; more bundling. Plants were taken and added to our circle, pots boiled away with heavenly aromas of eucalyptus and other plants. There was always time for food and copious amounts tea and coffee were consumed.

A bundle before it's rolled up tightly

A pot full of promise

Pots and bundles in a rowBark on the boil

The grand unrolling

More than the dyeing, these 5 days gave me something which is lacking in my life at the moment.  Bein part of a group of women working together with their hands, whilst speaking about their lives. A spirit of creativity and camaraderie with encouragement and praise, a comforting look when you weren’t happy with the outcome; always ready to lend equipment to the non-sewer (that’s me) and a peaceful, gentle atmosphere with which to dream and create.  I think it was Claudia who summed it up best when she said “I feel as if I’ve been on a retreat”.

India in class

At the end of the 5 days I took home many beautiful swatches of dyed silk and cotton/linen; dyed silk thread (thank you India, Pam and Jane) with which to sew together all my pieces. More importantly, I went home with a big smile of my face at having made new friends and a peaceful heart.

Jane L's sampler (lovely)

Thank you ladies for organising such a special workshop. Thank you India for being so generous with your knowledge and teaching us some special little tricks. I will never forget that the invention of string was what propelled mankind to greatness.

Blessed are the string makers....

To all the ladies that attended, I hope to meet you again over a bubbling pot very soon.


About Elisa Bartels

A ceramic artist/designer and sporadic botanical dyer chatting and photographing the trials, tribulations and celebrations of being an artist who doesn't want to starve.
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10 Responses to Coriopsis and the Secret Handshake

  1. india says:

    blessed be the stringmakers…and especially Nalda Searles, who kindly taught me and instructed me to pass the gift on!

  2. deanna7trees says:

    how grand. thanks for sharing.

  3. Jane Lethbridge says:

    What a wonderful piece – it said it all – I was back there again in a second. It was a beautiful 5 days, and like you, I hope to be part of more women meeting together and boiling pots! Creating and sharing, sharing and creating . . . .

  4. sammiam says:

    You’ve summed up a week with India and your group of women perfectly… I’ve been lucky enough to attend two of India’s workshops and both experiences hold extremely special places in my heart and soul.
    Should I pass a collector of coreopsis, I will definately stop and say hi!!!

  5. And I can thoroughly recommend the practice of continuing to meet up for (Ir)regular dye days. Here in Nelson (NZ) our group has been in existence for a couple of years now and its wonderful to come together for dye days where we eat, drink, share and have fun around our bubbling dye pots.

  6. velma says:

    you’ve captured your workshop beautifully, i love the handshots, and the mention of retrteat. i think that’s one of india’s gifts.

  7. Sweetpea says:

    Such a lovely recount of dyeing time with like-minded comrades! I too, love the hand shots…they tell the story so well. Many thanks for the wonderful post :>}}

  8. sharon says:

    This has made me smile and remember being part of an India class… I’m addicted to the smell of boiling leaves and the hope of some magic on my cloth……now to find some coreopsis

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