OCTOBER 26, 2023

Preparing for my exhibition at RBSA – it all begins with colour

It all begins with my love of colour and combinations of colours. In fact, the first thing that registers with me when I look at anything is ‘That’s an interesting colour, or that is an interesting colour combination’…….’ Or not!’

It takes many, many months to get an exhibition together for any artist or maker, but particularly if one starts with growing the plants to dye from and we only shear the alpacas once a year in early summer.

So, for my exhibition at RBSA that starts on 31st October 2023, I began to grow the plants for dyeing as far back as 2021 and 2022. Throughout the summer of these two years (and this year), I grew from seed, Japanese Indigo, a little patch of Woad, a good amount of Dyers’ Coreopsis and harvested when ready. The flowers of Coreopsis needed to be picked each day throughout a four or five month period and carefully laid out to dry until I had enough to use – a very slow process, but a lovely one – I collected them every morning at the end of my round of feeding the alpacas, hens and our cat. The leaves of Japanese Indigo and Woad can be harvested in larger quantities in one go. Also, the same with my foraged acorns, ivy, comfrey and nettles. It still takes quite a lot of time, but it is a joy to observe everything around you so much more if you work slowly.

Harvesting my own raw materials for dyeing is a real joy
Natural dyed rovings

The alpacas get sheared around June time. Then I take their fleeces to East Anglia Alpaca Mill to be cleaned, carded and made into yarn or rovings or leave just in its washed and carded state. We discuss the difference in the fleeces and process each according to its quality. They are very busy and I often don’t get the processed alpaca back till February/March the following year.

Once I have my alpaca ready to use and the natural dye material, I can start having fun dyeing. This is one of my favourite parts of my studio work, or I could even say, my life! I’m making colours and it is often like alchemy. Often very subtle, sometimes bright, and I’m thinking about how each colour works with others. Autumn colours I am particularly drawn to. I just love it. COLOUR IS CENTRAL TO MY WORK. I don’t think I will ever tire from exploring the colours one can make from natural dyeing and as for the magic of making blue from Indigo – it is so special, and what a colour!

Rising Sap detail
Full Spring detail
Flow detail
Earth, Light, Hope detail
Rising Sap wall hanging

The whole time when I am going through all the above processes day in day out, I am thinking about what I am going to make, why and observing everything around me to help me create new ideas. I am first and foremost intuitive in my approach, so once I have filtered all my thoughts, sketches and ideas, it is almost as if the work makes itself through my hands.

So, I hope you can see that all the processes are often slow and meditative. Not only is it a lovely way to work, but slowing down is so good for me. The work in this exhibition has taken a few years to create.

And of course, much time has been put in by Sue and me to organise the display boards we are having in the show which share a bit about our processes, materials, ethos and work; the Private View cards and other publicity alongside the gallery’s efforts and for me framing and labelling my work. I’m sure there is more… Yes, one being hanging the work!

I do hope you can come and see the show!

Sue Kirk & Rosalind Stoddart


This exhibition celebrates the lives and creative work of two women, Sue Kirk and Rosalind Stoddart, who weave with materials grown sustainably on their land.



4 Brook Street, Birmingham B3 1SA | 0121 236 4353