Dyeing for winter
Snowfall can evoke a lot of different kinds of emotion. Dread for those who have to drive to work in it, delight for children who want to make snowmen instead of going to school and excitement for the snow bunnies who were born to hit the slopes.
For Bartow artist Marcia Laska, snowfall evokes creativity. Laska uses snow in her art work of dyeing scarves.
“About six or seven years ago, I started working with it because we had those long winters with all of that snow,” Laska said. “I’d taken some classes on dyeing and color, and I love color and what it does. In talking with some of the folks in the classes, they were talking about how the color would separate [with snow]. We all learn in school how you put yellow and blue together and you get green. You can also do the opposite, and snow will let you do that.”
Laska learned to utilize the separation of dyes to create new colors on the scarves she dyes.
“By putting the dye on top of the snow and the slow melting, it allows the time for that dye to separate out its component colors,” she said. “We think of constructing colors by putting our primaries together, but this is like deconstruction the color.”
The process is seemingly simple and leaves all the work for the snow and dye.
“I use plastic shoeboxes and I place the scarf in and cover it with about an inch to two inches of snow,” Laska explained. “There’s a whole science in itself, whether the snow is dry and icy, icy cold or whether it’s gotten a little slushy because then that’s going to determine how all this melts. I’ll put my dyes on there and then I’ll bring them in to my basement near the heat on some shelves and just let it melt. It can take overnight for that to go down, and it’s good also in this particular dye method because the heat and time help to set your dye.”
The dye is set into the fabric with the assistance of the heat and six machine washes.
“The color is absolutely set and people don’t need to worry,” Laska said. “They can put this in a laundry bag and put it in their wash on a gentle cycle. The color is not going to run.”
Laska has been dyeing with snow for so long, she can tell by looking at a scarf what type of snow was used according to the way the dye set into the fabric. A scarf with distinctive lines was dyed with wetter snow which melted faster and lowered the dye into the scarf quicker.
The end product is a vibrant piece of fabric with a kaleidoscope of colors that came from a few simple dyes.
“You can really get some amazing color variations. For instance, who would think all this pink would come out of purple?” Laska said displaying a scarf. “It’s very hard to describe how it looks. It gives you all this motion.”
Laska began her art after moving to Pocahontas County with her husband, Rich, in 1996. While he set about planting trees and planting a garden, she was looking for something to occupy her time that, at the same time, utilized her creativity.
“My career was in design. I worked in manufacturing and design in women’s accessories for twenty years, so I had a wonderful community of artists working in that field,” Laska said. “I missed putting my hands into creating something. Because I had some experience in working with this professionally on a completely different level, now I had the chance, so that’s kind of how it started.”
The Laskas generate their own electricity, so Marsha had to find something that didn’t require a lot of materials.
“I had to find something that didn’t use an awful lot of resources, so the snow dyeing was great because that was one of my first resources, it was right out there,” she said. “That’s partly why I do this, but also, the real short answer as to why I do scarves is – because I love color.”
Laska’s scarves and accessories are available at the Green Bank Gallery.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com