oxidation reaction

accomplished today

A small piece, 5×7″
center section indigo and rust dyed
ripped and stitched borders
stretched and framed
for sale: $85

Both of the colors on the central piece of fabric here are oxidation reactions – rust and indigo – when oxygen combines with another element to change the chemical composition, and also color. Rust forms on iron in the presence of oxygen and water. Indigo requires a reduced (oxygen poor) solution to dissolve. When something is dipped into an indigo vat and removed, you can watch the dye react with oxygen in the air, turning from yellow-green to deep blue (as close as I’ll ever get to alchemy, I think!).

While I am interested in the chemical processes in an abstract way, I am really smitten with the combination of blue and orange colors that show up on fabric. I have a spectacular collection of strange rusty things Alice has brought home for me, and I pile them on top of fabric, or wrap fabric around them, salt liberally, and leave out in the weather on the back porch. I check on them, intermittently, and bring in pieces when something interesting has happened.

Indigo is much easier right now. Instead of maintaining an indigo vat, and fretting over stability, smell and dye intensity, I have a packet of pre-reduced indigo crystals. Mix them in water, and I can dye any small thing blue, from lightest to darkest. It feels like cheating, a little, but it also feels like a much easier answer for the size and quantity of pieces I am working on.