Sometime back before the sun was baking hot and when indigo-dyeing replaced jam-making in the community and art world, I attended an indigo-dyeing workshop not knowing I’d be amongst textile students and young women coveting great-granny’s vintage cardis. I went because I do love dyeing clothes and doing wax batik (the only time I ever use an iron) and because the workshop was at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, a place I’ve dipped into since its opening by the mural, opposite the station where I’d get the train down to lovely Wapping where outsiders ain’t that welcome.
The workshop was free and we were small in number. It was just another artist doin’ her thing, preparing an exhibition outwith London. Of course there was the obligatory nod to enterprises world-wide and how Britain invented nothing after all as we stirred the sludge and politely pushed each other out of the way to dip our bits and pieces. I remember now the wood fire was on in the lean-to studio so it was in Spring.
Today our dyed articles were returned to us and such care had been taken by the artist. There was even a magazine enclosed in the package explaining the deep of the project.
Moving on now. Plaster moulding may be today’s thing. Such a 1950 hobby. My dad taught us girls everything; plaster moulding, basketry, ragging, fret-working while mum cooked the dinner and knitted matinee coats in her sit-down time to get some pin money. He never taught us how to change a plug though, or use a drill, saw tree trunks for firewood or light a Senior Service fag.
I am just about enjoying the merry go round as C21st artists introduce their own peers to skills of yesteryear. Up Your Street finds those workshops. Women and men of my age and older whose youth was spent polishing wooden floors in islands, or sibling-sitting while their parents ran businesses in cyclone zones, or learning cow-milking on farms as evacuees now get the chance to find out what was going on in some homes in Imperial Britain in the fifties. It’s not all bad.