Local Colours at Algoma Trad Center

This August I had the opportunity to experiment with natural dyes and local fibres at the Algoma Trad Family Camp 2020. I joined Thinking Rock Community Arts Artistic Director Miranda Bouchard to lead back-to-back workshops over 4 days offering how-to demonstrations preparing local wool fibres for dyeing, responsible dye-plant foraging from the Community Colours dye garden, fields and forests of the region, and dye plant recipes with beautiful results. We also explored making art centring place and community including paper-quilt blocks, collaborative poem-writing and recital, and virtual zoom backgrounds with our group of participants!


Flowers grown from seed for the Community Colours Dye Garden at Algoma Trad Centre. The Local Colour Lab on-site team: Áine Schryer-O'Gorman, Miranda Bouchard, Tuija Hansen.


Our first day of zoom sessions included introductions and fibre preparation, as well as zoom background drawings, prompted storytelling about where we are zooming in from / where we live, and collaborative poem recital describing our appreciation for Algoma Trad Family Camp.

Locally raised and processed sheep wool from Valleyfield Farm, Birchgrove Farm, Masters Fibre Mill and Willowcreek Farm, the outdoor pavillion turned dye-studio at Algoma Trad Centre.


Our 2nd day continued with further fibre preparations, foraging in the Community Colours Dye Garden and fields surrounding Algoma Trad Centre, as well as creating imagery inspired by Day 1’s words and making a quilt-block collage using materials at home with plans for socially-distanced quilt creation this Autumn.


Foraged Goldenrod, Saint John's Wort, Coreopsis, and Marigold.


On day 3 we prepared dye baths with our foraged plant materials, observed a foraging walk through the Algoma region forests with Miranda and Tuija, and began dyeing our local wool fibres. Our coreopsis and marigold dye baths were exciting to behold from simmering the flowers to dyeing our wool and hanging on the line to dry that evening!

We also talked about garments and symbolism, mummers and mummers outfits, and participants started work on their zoom parade costume.


Dyeing with Marigold and Coreopsis. Results from Bracken fern, Coreopsis, and Rudbeckia.


On our final (bittersweet) day together we shared all of the dye results, including dye pots still simmering, finished our zoom parade costuming, and brought it all together talking about the successes of the week, planning for the future, and, concluding with a zoom gallery parade featuring Pat O’Gorman on the bagpipes!


Silk and local wool dyed with Coreopsis, Saint John's Wort, Bracken Fern, Goldenrod, Marigold, Elm bark, Applewood bark, Calendula and Rudbeckia.


I learned so much from this experience both as a local colour and community arts facilitator and as a zoom-instructor and participant. Many thanks to Pat and Julie and the Algoma Trad Centre for including me in their OAC funded Community Colours Dye Garden, Miranda Bouchard and the Thinking Rock Community Arts summer crew for their hard work and support connecting me to this project and offering their thoughts and feedback throughout the process!

Colours from the Algoma Trad Community Colours Dye Garden and nearby fields and forests.


Many new connections and friendships were made during this Covid-responsive virtual camp, continuing to show me the importance of staying connected and innovative during our new and unusual times. I’m looking forward to the opportunities to continue this work from across Ontario through our growing Local Colour Lab, and Community Colours initiatives.


This project was supported with thank to the Ontario Arts Council | Conseil Des Arts De L'Ontario