An earthly garden of artistic delights
The Stamps School of Art & Design recently took an important step toward achieving campuswide carbon neutrality with the opening of its Sustainable Materials & Color Garden just steps from the Stamps building. The garden, conceived and built by Stamps faculty, staff, and students, allows creatives to source ingredients for making paper, creating dyes, and other artistic activities. Plants include muraski, hibiscus, flax, tango cosmos, marigold, Japanese indigo, chamomile, and more. (Text: Jamie Sherman. Images: Michigan Photography.) Read more.
Seeds of an idea
“When the pandemic hit (in 2020), a lot of students were creating their own dyes at home and were asking what it would take to start our own garden here,” says Kit Parks, Stamps fiber and 2D foundations studio coordinator (far left). In 2021, Stamps connected with the team at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and planted some beds. Today the garden lives on the school grounds.
Students led the research of plants they were interested in having access to, including how to plant and grow them and how to process them into usable materials and dyes. Stamps classes will engage with the garden on many levels and will have the opportunity to propose ways of using materials for coursework, suggest workshops that can take place in the garden, and participate in the actual harvesting of materials.
Calling all makers
The plants can be used for making pigment, watercolors, paints, food coloring, bio materials, and dye, as well as paper and yarn, says Carlos Francisco Jackson, dean of the Stamps School.
Take a seat
Stamps faculty seek to teach developing artists how to source quality materials while establishing a rubric for what is good and what is right. The space is furnished with benches, stools, and a table built from the historic Tappan Oak. Students milled the oak and utilized indigo harvested from the garden itself to dye the stools blue.
Supply chain management
Artists need to prepare for the fact that resources and timelines, and the cost of shipping and receiving materials from a global supply chain will be changing, and in some cases suddenly. The Sustainable Materials & Color Garden will inform aspiring artists like current student Suha Asadulla how best to respond to climate change going forward.
A different kind of carbon story
Imagine a student using a synthetic yellow dye that’s manufactured with some petrochemical in a faraway place compared to that same student taking a few steps outdoors to clip goldenrod heads, complete with pollinator benefits, honeybee benefits, and beauty benefits. Nicholas Dowgwillo, Stamps 2D media studio coordinator, “demonstrates” just how easy the latter can be.
The full story
“People gravitate toward beautiful things; having nature as part of that is important,” says Stamps professor Joe Trumpey. And if it’s a didactic space where students can pull up an indigo stool to realize they are making beautiful things out of beautiful things, “then they really understand the full story,” he says.