It was a dismal, dreary winter’s day in Baltimore as we, Claire Fredrick and Ashton J. Page, the Co-Founders of Wax & Wane Fiber, trudged through the frigid Chesapeake Bay winds to the Howard Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Within the warm, inviting embrace of this 19th century Victorian greenhouse, we found solace and healing during the cold months. Both of us, originally painters turned textile makers, envisioned swaths of cloth hanging between the lush landscapes of birds of paradise, barrel cacti, and heavily scented rosemary bushes. Sadly, this idea seemed only a daydream for us.
The dream, however, solidified to reality when then we met Gloria Azucena, a curator and H. P. Rawlings Conservatory volunteer. Azucena had just recently accomplished her own exhibition at the Conservatory, Nature Indoors, and was eager to begin dialogue with us about a future show centering on the concept of using botanicals in art.
The Conservatory offered a unique opportunity to blend both community-focused and personal work into a series of workshops and exhibitions. Both of us came out of a rigorous MFA program at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), specializing in Community Arts. Our already rich backgrounds in community-based projects have become inseparably intertwined with our artistic and business practices. As a business Wax & Wane Fiber focuses on not just its own interests, but on the interests of the greater Baltimore community. Now, with the help of Azucena, these interests have manifested as hands-on workshop experiences taught and facilitated by us in conjunction with different community organizations.
We as Wax & Wane Fiber, along with Azucena, led the neighborhood locals through the storied histories and uses of five different natural dyes and various techniques of fabric surface design. These dyes included indigo and sappanwood, while the techniques included shibori and batiking. Participants created a small take-home souvenir piece and added their own bit of personalized magic to collaborative tapestries using that day’s techniques. These communal tapestries will be hung in the Festival of Fabrics exhibition at the Conservatory this autumn.
Working with natural colors from the earth is very important to us at Wax & Wane Fiber for both ecological stewardship and also the artistry inherent in the process. Never knowing exactly what a bath of plant-derived dyes will reveal is always a great joy to us and to others when we are teaching these techniques. There is a childlike sense of wonder when people see for the first time how pH changes alter the colors of sappanwood or when the neon green of indigo breathes its way into deep midnight. It’s those moments we live for. We are excited to continue this journey in the natural world and to see all the places it can take us.
See more of the work we here at Wax & Wane Fiber are doing by checking out our website and reading our blog at http://waxandwanefiber.com. Our first exhibition for this series called Festival of Fabrics opens October 2nd.