Pay attention to the weeds
What’s growing inside you? What will you cultivate? Weeds push through cracks and take over. Look at them. Study them. Why uproot something that is flourishing?
A weed by definition is wild, uninvited, in competition with cultivated plants. But weeds produce flowers too. A flower is not prejudiced, does not discriminate.
Water your weeds, your obsessions. Show them the light. Let them grow. Flash is a tiny garden, a complete ecosystem where everything is in place and functioning in relation to its surroundings. Flash requires precise attention but also the freedom to run wild.
Do your words bite?
In natural dyeing, mordanting is a vital step in the process. A mordant binds color to fiber. It makes things stick; from the Latin mordere, to bite. Certain plants, like onions, have tannins that act as mordants and you don’t need to add anything else. Other dyes require a mordant. Alum, a spice you can find in the supermarket, is a common one.
Mordant is a noun, also a verb: to mordant your fabric.
Writing is mordanting, making words stick — thoughts to words, words to thoughts. Is there a formula? Yes, and no. There are percentages but no guarantees. Experiment. Try things out, adjust, change, add, start over, be anxious, be patient.
Give your words teeth and let them bite.
Writing flash as natural dyeing: a step-by-step how-to
1. Choose your material. Weigh your ideas.
2. Gather your dyestuffs. What are you going to use to color your writing?
3. Scour your words. Remove the dirt and impurities thoroughly, but gently so as to not felt your thoughts. Scouring is not as abrasive as it sounds. Soaking, heat, time — these transform, like Archimedes’ bath.
4. Rinse until your words run clear.
5. Mordant your words. You want them to stick to fibers in the reader’s mind. To keep their color. To stay. There are formulas, recipes to follow but it is a science of imprecision.
7. Throw your words in the dye pot. A pot of water on the stove, a jar in sunlight. Let them simmer. Give them time to absorb hues and shades. Wait.
8. Like the color? Rinse. Let it dry. Put something else in the pot, lighter and lighter shades, like ghost prints. Exhaust the dye.
9. Don’t like the color? Overdye it. Cut it up. Collage, sew, mend with other scraps. Weave it anew.
10. Make new dyes. Mix dyes. Experiment.
11. Dye, and dye again.
12. Delight in the surprises. Let disappointment lead you to new places, not despair.
13. Rinse and repeat.
Georgia Bellas is a writer, artist, and filmmaker whose current obsession is plants. She and Dan Nielsen are the Wisconsin-based duo Sugar Whiskey (https://sugarwhiskey.com/), a post-minimalist art band. You can follow her teddy bear, host of the award-winning weekly Internet radio show “Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon,” on Twitter @MrBearStumpy.