There’s lots I could blog about this week … my lack of blogging has not been from lack of activity, but from too much going on. We bought a new van this week, which took lots of time and mental energy, and I have to preach at church tomorrow and we are hoping to head out of town for a camping trip afterwards, plus we went shopping for back to school supplies and … yeah. Deep breath.
Instead, I thought I’d tell you about one of the more unusual things I’ve done this week, all for the love of writing and the desire to pursue some authenticity in my work. You may remember that I’ve got another Biblical novel coming out called Philippi, all about the early Christian church in Philippi. A central character in this novel is Lydia, described in Acts 16 as “a seller of purple,” which scholars think probably means she sold the extremely rare and valuable Tyrean purple dye.
So quite a bit of the novel’s action takes place in and around Lydia’s home and business; her son and one of her slaves are also major characters, so there are a lot of scenes where things are being dyed. And since I can’t go back in time and visit a first-century dye-works, I decided to take a workshop in Natural Dyeing, offered by Susan Furneaux, who’s a local expert in the art.
Nobody has done much with Tyrean purple for several hundred years, as the snails that produced it got harvested pretty much to the point of extinction, and what there is available costs several thousand dollars a gram, so I wasn’t able to get any hands-on experience with that. But Susan did take a group of us out into the streets of downtown St. John’s, pointing out local plants — well, weeds really — that are good sources of natural dye. We cut a whole bunch of pearly everlasting, brought it back to the studio and boiled it up in a pot, threw in a little iron as a mordant and some white silk scarves and … voila! I dyed a scarf!!
It was pretty, and fun, and I made a contact with someone who knows a lot about dyeing and told Susan that I intend to pester her with questions. And, I have this scarf. Life, especially the writing life, takes you down such unexpected paths. I have to admit I’m glad I don’t write murder mysteries and have to hang around morgues examining bodies for bullet wounds. This kind of dyeing is much more fun.