This week my CCA Craft Lab class had the pleasure of visiting and, more importantly, playing in the studio my old friend and esteemed artisan and designer Gabriel Russo.
Gabriel is an incredibly talented and experienced clothing pattern-maker and designer with decades of industry experience in New York, LA and the Bayarea. He produces his own clothing lines in his densely packed studio in Richmond. You can read his tales of a life lived in the rag trade on his blog. Scott Constable wrote about Gabriel on his Deep Craft blog a few months ago – you can read that post here. The folks at Artidocs are compiling a great video that captures a hint of his humor and style – here’s a preview.
We were at Gabriel’s to tap his knowledge and love for Indigo – that mysterious and spectacular dyestuff that is so much a part of Indian, Japanese, and West African culture. Craft Lab is developing a performance dyeing event for CCA’s Craft Forward conference to be held at CCA over the forthcoming first weekend of April. I plan to post about both the conference and our event over the weekend.
Gabriel revealed some of the strange properties of natural indigo dye and then let us loose is in his studio where we experimented with dyeing paper, wood, wool, porcelain, threads and all sorts of woven fabrics. We want to entrap text on either paper or fabric at our event so we tried a variety of resist techniques including, tying, selective dipping, wax and sewing as well as writing directly onto fabric with the dye. We did everything we could think of – all at once. Gabriel was very tolerant as we went berserk in his space.
In the moments between we wandered around his densely layered studio and enjoyed his tools, artifacts, clothing, assemblages and good taste in music.
Gabriel with indigo dyed hands and matching jacket with pocket pattern stitch resist.
Healthy bloom on the dyepot - ready for action
Let's see what's in the pot? Carol Koffel and Johanna Friedman look on.
Gabriel and Johanna talking shop
Some of Gabriel's men's clothing racked and ready for his next sale.
Tools of the trade - huge pelican shears on the gramophone
Dyed thread at that moment when the fresh green dye oxidizes to blue
Samples drying in the sun
Its hard not to wax poetic
Paper loves indigo
Stitch resist samples
Its always such a pleasure being in another artisan’s studio, learning new techniques and talking story.
Thank you Gabriel for opening the doors!