John C. Campbell Folk School

Week long mycology & color workshop.

Sally preparing Cortinarius ominosus (Surprise Web-Cap) mushroom ink.

Sally preparing Cortinarius ominosus (Surprise Web-Cap) mushroom ink.

It was amazing to spend a week at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. I was lucky to be invited by Martha Owens to come teach a week long course in mycology and color and what a week it was! The setting is spectacular, the hardwood forests of the Appalachian Mountains are incredible and each of the participants brought with them a tremendous amount of knowledge and curiosity about the fungi kingdom. Plus we all got to meet people from all over the country who were participating in a diverse array of workshops, visiting other studios and having students visit our studio. 

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In this week long workshop we were able to do a deep dive into preparing and mordanting fibers for mushroom dyes, going on two different foraging field trips, spending a few days dyeing a range of fibers and a few days making lakes to mix and mull into watercolor paints and inks. We even got to experiment with extracting melanin from Stombilomyces floccosus (Old Man of the Woods) to make a richly saturated and deeply textured blackish grey-brown.

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Our time in the forests was delightful as students adjusted their mushrooms eyes to find the treasures of the forest floor, bringing many dye mushrooms back to the studio. We found Hypomyces lactifluorum (Lobster) mushrooms on the campus which was a really treat! We had tables full of specimens that kept us all busy at identification and it was a treat for me to encounter and learn about species unique to North Carolina and the East Coast.

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We spent a day experimenting with different approaches to working with mushroom pigment for paints and inks. The students were able to mull their own pigment into paint to take home samples as well as swatch them on both paper and fabric, using different binders. Anna did a beautiful illustration of Boletopsis grisea (Gray False Bolete) on a piece of linen fiber using an embroidery hoop as a stretcher to make the fiber nice and taught.

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Students took home dyed embroidery thread, a diverse array of dyed fibers and a dyed wool infinity scarf that they could embellish with threads and fibers. All in all it was an action packed week of exploring the chromatic universe of the fungi kingdom together.

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