If you want help with an event that doesn’t cost the earth, literally, cat can act to organise, supply, decorate and commemorate any special day. With my extensive know-how and knowledge on all things eco,… More
1a Inverness Place, Roath
AiR Catherine Lewis
Catherine will be in 1a to make a wellspace for slow making and recovery; it will also house her urban ink making lab, using local well water and materials found and gifted whilst working and walking between well sites and the space.
Catherine’s artwork combines a range of media and processes but its making is always driven by a passion to create without burden, to seek a simple and sympathetic purity of process. Using traditional skills that could easily be lost if not perpetuated, she works with found and discarded objects, such as rusted hinges, paint scraps, conkers and berries, to make and sell her own natural inks, batch bottled and in the form of drawings, prints and functional textiles. Through residencies and exhibitions, she makes work that is site-specific, temporary and ephemeral.
She has previously contributed to work around the closure of Whitchurch Hospital and last year was the first artist in residence for the Llandough hospital Orchard project. Alongside her own making, she facilitates workshops where participants make dyes, inks, drawings and botanical prints. She explores and documents habitats, mapping the experience, making and engaging with nature and wildlife in both urban and rural settings.
Whilst at 1a Inverness Place she will be making work in this way, whilst also exploring her current recovery from breast cancer. She is now a regular patient at Llandough hospital.
“I see the residency as being about making a sanctuary, a safe space, a community of wellness, a place of growth, inspiration and transformation. In making a well-space I hope to promote a personal therapeutic process, improving well-being through the combination of meaningful activity and connection with a place and the people. I’ll offer a place to gather, grow, learn, share and be inspired; a place where people gain a new connection to the urban landscape, to work in harmony with it, slowly embracing the natural and creating a sense of personal peace and well-being within the community”.
The weekend before the residency Catherine hopes to perform a tree dressing at the sites of Ffynnon Bren on Albany Road and St. Dene’s Well at the top of Roath Park,with friends who have helped in her current recovery.
The spring at Roath Park is also known as Ffynnon Llandennis, was one of a number of wells in Cardiff which were considered to be holy and endowed with powers of healing.
‘Within the northernmost area of Roath Park is a beautiful well. It rises out of the soil with great force, and immediately forms a pool of considerable size, which is overhung with trees, and teems with aquatic growths of various kinds. The scene is one of wild and romantic beauty…’ (John Hobson Mathews, 19C city archivist).
The well-tree dressing echoes the clootie wells that are places of pilgrimage in Celtic areas. Strips of white cloth or rags are tied to the branches of the tree as part of a healing ritual. The pieces of cloth are dipped in the water of the well and then tied to a branch while a prayer or intention is said to a goddess or nature spirit. The tradition is to wash the affected part of the body with the wet rag and then tie the washing-rag on the branch; as the rag disintegrates over time, the ailment is supposed to fade away as well.
She invites visitors to bring ink ingredients to her and also donations of old bottles to store ingredients and the inks.
- Anyone affected by breast cancer is invited to the +wellspace+ on Tuesday 11th December, to share conversations and join in with the making.
- On Friday 21stmid-winter eve, there will be a gathering to hear about the +wellspace+ and the making process that will evolve from time and collaborations within and without the space. This will also be a chance to share, feast, write, play and draw with the inks.
- Other days open tbc – follow Instagram, the Made in Roath blog or email Catherine if you plan to visit: email@example.com
This is my favourite time of year because not only is it my birthday month but it’s harvest time: nuts, corn, berries, turning leaves: all so vital to my work and also a reminder of the changing seasons and that it’s time to prepare for the coming winter.
The acorn is a favourite of mine – such a pretty little thing that’s so full of magic.
A fairy hat or cup, a potential tree, a source of food and it’s also full of colour… go for a walk and gather.
I love to dye with acorns – they are full of tannin so using them on cotton is easy and it’s colourfast. You can also dye first in acorn and then colour with another plant dye to achieve a stronger faster shade. An acorn dye bath is not that exciting – it turns out a kind of stripy-beige. BUT, the moment your acorn-dyed cloth comes in contact with rusted iron, magic happens! That dull off-brown changes into a pale blue-grey and then a deep inky blue black… it’s amazing to watch.
Acorn colour – neat and with iron
An iron solution sounds complicated- but it’s not. All you need is a few old rusty objects, white or apple vinegar, water and a week or so. That’s it! I have a big jar always on the go that i just top up routinely.
On to the dye…
Acorn Dye with Iron
*500g acorns per 100g fabric
*Natural fibre cloth: ie cotton, silk or wool that has been washed without any fabric softener
*Pre-made rusted iron solution
Fill a large pot with water and acorns. You will want enough water to cover your fabric and allow it to move freely. Heat the water and acorns on a light simmer for 1-2 hours to extract the tannin colour. Leave overnight if you can. Strain.
Fill another pot with iron solution and enough water to cover fabric. This will be what you dip your cloth in after dyeing.
Wet your fabric and squeeze out excess. Add to the dye vat. Lower the temperature and heat for 20-45 minutes. Remove, allow it to drip and then add it gently to the iron solution pot. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove from the iron solution and see if the shade is to your liking. At this point, you can alternate between the acorn dye and iron in 5 minutes intervals to deepen the colour to black.
Once the fabric is dyed, squeeze excess dye out and hang dry for 1 hour. Then, wash in cool water with natural soap to remove any lingering dye and dry. All done!
I have an exhibition on at the Hearth Gallery, University Hospital Llandough. It’s a sharing of my time, views and experiences at the lovely Ourorchard-Einberllan project that is happening on land adjacent to the hospital. The work is up until the 15th November and I’ll be on site 7th & 14th 12.30 – 4pm. Come and make a postcard and chat.
‘Our new exhibition, Art, Nature and Wellbeing with Textile artist, Printmaker and Natural Ink and Dye-Maker, Catherine Lewis, opens in the Hearth Gallery today.
Catherine was commissioned to explore a beautiful area of semi- rural pastureland and natural woodland on the University Hospital Llandough estate which will become the site of Ein Berllan : Our Orchard, alongside a series of innovative art workshops with patients, staff and visitors at UHL. The result is a wonderful exhibition which aims to raise awareness of our unique orchard project, and explores the relationship between our environment and sustainable art practice.
Come along to the gallery to meet Catherine and discuss her art processes and practice :
12:30pm – 4pm on Tuesday 7th November and again on Tuesday 14th November.’
For more information on Ein Berllan : Our Orchard at University Hospital Llandough, please visit : my Orchard blog or
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If you have recently bought one of my scarves or are lucky enough to have been given one as a gift, here’s a few extra thoughts on caring for it:
The more you wear it, the more it softens and becomes you. Many of my scarves have a frayed edge – don’t be afraid to pull off any loose threads, it will add to the pretty, distressed, natural look.
Ideally just air your scarf after wearing it by hanging it up. We over wash our clothes these days and scarves aren’t likely to get very dirty! That said, silk, linen and nylon are pretty tough fabrics and so it’s fine to wash them, but please do it gently, on a hand wash setting, with a gentle, non-bio powder. Then use a little eco fabric softner in the final rinse.
They may be ironed, but the parachute silk nylon needs extra care and a very low setting.
I hope you enjoy wearing for many years and feel good that it was made without causing any environmental damage.
So I can now reveal … last week I spent two days with a lovely BBC Bristol crew and presenter Anita Rani, filming for the Countryfile Autumn special on 23rd October. I had such a lovely day at Sharpham Park Estate, the home of Roger Saul, founder of Mulberry and Kilver Court. And best of all…. loads of wonderful walnuts for me to use in our winter collection of beautiful, sustainable textile products!