Following the thread of a thought


page one ~ from, The Illustrated Glossary of Dye Plants

page two ~ from, The Illustrated Glossary of Dye Plants

page three ~ from, The Illustrated Glossary of Dye Plants

In retrospect, I probably should have named this playful compendium
The Imaginary Illustrated Glossary of Dye Plants
The Illustrated Imaginarium of Dye Plants
for I don't believe this will ever be anything but a little book
that lives solely in my mind, produced for a bit of fun on Instagram.
But I suppose it's been good practice should I decide at some juncture
to try my hand at the real thing ...

Along another line of thought, the title of this post is not original to me.
I'm sure I gleaned it from jude at Spirit Cloth at some point and
I sincerely hope she is given fair credit & attribution from others
for all she offers there.

This is a sore subject with me at the moment ...
the *borrowing* - no, let me speak plain - the stealing
 that I read and see running rampant on the internet amongst
artists, creatives, workshop organizers
and a whole host of wannabes, coat tail riders and ladder climbers.
It's a double-edged sword out here on the web; the need & desire to share work
counterbalanced by all those who are watching, researching,
and will so blatantly 
rip others off

Is it really so hard to come up with one's own original words or works?

Is it that difficult to ask permission first?

Or to put some dedicated energy
into coming up with personal work that is truly authentic
and not just a blatant copy of someone else's work?

I've seen this rampant in the world of photography for years
and now sadly, I see it running rampant amongst the cloth dyers
[eco-dyers, eco-printers, contact printers, natural dyers, and many stitchers],
a tribe I am somewhat new to and a little on edge about of late ...
it's incredibly disheartening.
And I'm feeling the need to take care.


I have no intention of getting into arguments with folks over this subject
and I'm half inclined to close the comments section because of it,
but there are some friends who visit here who I don't want to silence
so I'll leave it open.
Talk to me.


  1. Ah yes....on the one hand, a tutor borrowing 90% of the text of someone else's workshop description to use as their own...or on the other, teaching a technique that was learned in a day or two (or from a book) and cleverly given a new name. Or teaching a technique that isn't the main focus of your practice (as a sideline to your own work) because it will bring in a quick buck.

    But for all the disheartening things that happen in the whirled, I stick with teaching and writing and making because most of it brings me such joy. The friendships forged over the years, the joyful emails from former students when they discover something new or have an unexpected and glorious result; the glimpse of a leafprinted skirt across an airport...and the literal explosion of plant derived colour (particularly in the form of ecoprints) that has happened since I first published the technique in a paper given at the White Nights Textile Symposium in StPetersburg, Russia, in the summer of 1999

    It's a wonderful whirled. And I'm glad to be in it.

    1. Beautifully stated, indi, and I thank you so much for taking the time to write it all out here.

      That is exactly what I need to do - to concentrate more fully on the joy. I need to give the good bits safe harbor and let the rest float away. Practice at anything generally leads to improvement ... at this time, clearly I need to practice the joyful part more.

  2. Great post ! I am so inspired by jude & India . I guess because of the passion that they put into their work . I always say that the teacher is about her story , how do you copy that ? What they have is a gift . These 2 teachers have taught me to slow down and the results in my life have been wonderful . I have never wanted to be anyone else so I do not understand the people that copy .
    Kathy Dorfer

    1. Passion. Now that is a very critical word in this context! Because I think that if an individual has enough passion for their own form of expression then that passion can only lead them to their own quite individual - and authentic - expression of it. They will have no need to take from others when they are so filled by their own. Excellent point, Kathy.

  3. Great post, I do glean ideas and inspiration (and mention their names) from other artists work but copying never. I don't teach so thats not a problem. I did read an article the other day that annoyed me, someone said that they had taken India's work and IMPROVED it, bad wording in my opinion they may have developed their own work from it but improved no.
    My teachers are also India and Jude and in India's case face to face, she is an inspiration, I have met other eco dyeing/printing teachers but none has her serenity and warmth, teaching is not just about taking in facts it is with a good teacher an experience.

    1. Thank you Debbie, you just made my heart smile.

    2. Debbie, thank you so much for the reply. It is nothing short of startling what has been popping up of late. I recently stumbled across an announcement for an ecoprinting workshop to be given by a young woman who actually HOSTED India for a workshop years ago. This woman not only used a title for this upcoming workshop that India had used for years, but in writing her class description all I could "hear" was India's words .... and that was because they were. Just one more instance of blatant theft, imho.

      I don't know if these copyists & thieves realize how disrespectful this makes them look in the eyes of those of us who have been at it for awhile. Perhaps they don't care (if it gets them ahead or entices participants) because otherwise, wouldn't they have come up with something original?? But I will never be able to regard this woman in a favorable light again. And her work, which includes some quite beautiful photography, now no longer looks appealing at all. Maybe that is all copying and stealing, too. Trust. A word worth its weight in gold.

    3. correction: ... should read "out here for awhile" - not "at it awhile."

  4. "It's a wonderful whirled." oh, I love that phrase.......what a picture it gives me.
    Great topic btw.

    1. Dang fine phrase, agreed.
      And a mighty deep & murky topic, from the looks of it......

  5. First ... "Illustrated Imaginarium" is absolutely inspired. I hope it becomes itself someday.

    Second ... I am fortunate in not having to make a living from my creative endeavors. And as a librarian (retired), I find giving credit comes naturally. So Jude Hill and Judy Martin get mentioned often in my world. My only hesitation comes when I realize how humble my stitches are when held up to their examples.

    1. Hello Liz ~ gives me pause for thought, this, "...I find giving credit comes naturally." I wonder - what is it that is instilled in some to do so, and not in others? These days, all of us are so much more *exposed* in the glowing light of our internet devices (almost) universal access to what is posted here. When I was growing up, I remember a case of poetic plagiarism that was brought to light several years after it was written because then, it was merely paper trails. Now the trails are lightning speed and infinitely more far-reaching. Bottom line for me is that if a person can't get somewhere without riding on the coat tails of someone perceived as more successful/creative/talented than them, then perhaps they should examine more closely what the consequences may be.

      Phew. Thank you for the conversation. Any more thoughts?

    2. P.S. yes, am liking Illustrated Imaginarium more n'more myself ;>))

  6. Well there is so much to say about this. More than I can write here. Mostly though, I now focus on myself as a teacher and not an artist and that has allowed me to flow more smoothly through the quagmire of thoughtlessness and competition. As I move forward this year, I think I'll be sharing more openly the about the personal struggles I have with sharing and how I have come to grips with it all. Thank you for reopening the conversation and of course for the kind mention.

    1. Ohh, and isn't it a quagmire, jude. I want to hear all you wish to say about it. Because it's a conversation that needs to stay in plain view, really, for otherwise, doesn't it become a kind of unspoken encouragement to those lacking more backbone in the first place?

      I've bandied around a lot of strong words with this post & said a few things that maybe I would have only said to close friends before. But this abuse is very, VERY real and so disturbing on any number of levels. Like I said in my earlier response to India, holding on to the joyous bits in all this is something I need to practice more. Which is probably one of greatest saving graces for those of you who teach - that so much joy comes from that alone ... and in many instances, is returned tenfold.

      Thank you for joining in here. Let's keep going (your words!).

  7. From a students point of view ~ I haven't been able to attend a class of India's, and I have seen on offer classes by others here in Melbourne. These classes seem to offer the same sort of look/technique as India's wonderful creations. But if I was to take one of these classes, I would be horrified, if I was to find out that the teacher had used/stolen class notes/techniques from India. How can one be sure that the teacher is offering original teachings & thoughts on a subject, that as a student, one is coming into the class as a novice?

    1. Hello Jenny ~ what a heartfelt question and there is an easy answer ... you can just ask India herself. I believe her to be very amenable to such queries and it is simple to make contact directly thru her website via the 'drop me a line' link. Fairly certain that she's well aware of the teachings of others, some of whom do practice the same sustainable methods & do so honestly, from their own perspectives.

      Thank you so much for offering your point of view.

  8. ***ADDENDUM:
    David duChemin is a photographer whose work I greatly admire and just this afternoon he has written a blog post that is very timely to the subject here ... that of authenticity. I'll quote a part of it here & the rest can viewed on his website if you wish,
    Note: the word "photographer" can be replaced with any art form.

    "The real work of making photographs is not exposing and focusing your image well. That stuff is the price of admission. It is assumed. That’s just learning to use a camera and it’s not mastery, just a necessary first step. High school photography students nail that in one semester.

    The real work, the labour of years, is in learning to tell a story, learning to cram a heart-full of emotion or a brain full ideas into our impossibly limited little frames. It’s in learning not to focus a lens but to focus attention. Learning to expose our souls, not just a negative ....

    Add to that the ability to create a body of work, to make a great print, to wrestle with your creative process daily, and having the humility and determination to do it over and over again. It is learning to speak with a very specific kind of language to the people that read our images, and say things that matter.

    It is connecting and engaging and worrying more about inspiring than being inspired. It is in understanding emotional range more than dynamic range. It is being open and receptive and patient. It’s not about the camera or the settings; it’s about the photographer. The most powerful tool of your craft is not your gear [OR WHO YOU COPY OR STEAL FROM*]. It’s you."

    *my words

  9. I, too, vote for the Imaginarum.
    As for the other? Completely ambivalent. When we were in the Web biz back in the day and folks would get all up in their grill about having their photos possibly taken, our ... MY ... response and still is, if you're afraid ofor something getting stolen? Don't put it on the Internets. I'm a firm believer in karma. It'll getcha in the end. And that's all I have to say about that.

    1. I suppose that's true - the not putting it up part - and I have learned I may not want to reveal too much about the beginnings of a project (or sometimes, even show it finished) for that exact reason.

      That karma thing .... well, I do see it in action from time to time ;>))

  10. Well this subject is all over the internet now...again. Since I became active in the cyber world perhaps 10 years ago it rears it's head every now and then. I have known so many artists in the bead world especially that had to deal with this kind of theft. I am a follower with a small amount of talent. I gladly buy books and patterns. I am grateful to designers and teachers that share their techniques and tutorials. I accept what they offer. Mostly I love to see what an artist shares. To hear the story of the process of and thought process in the creation.

    Design theft is everywhere in every industry. Before I retired I managed several departments in a factory. One of our customers was receiving defective parts returned by their customers. Some of the defective parts were manufactured by a company in China that stole the design. They spent thousands of dollars in litigation against the Chinese company. I am personally familiar with at least 3 of these situations in Elkhart Indiana.

    It doesn't matter the size of the theft whether an industrial company or an artist's work it's criminal, disheartening and maddening.

    1. I haven't noticed its all over the internet again, but I am glad for that!

      Yes, I think theft is rampant all across the board, too, and it may be taking tiny steps to blog about it here. I'm certain though that some folks are not thinking things through ... are not examining what they are actually doing. It has happened within my own local Dye Group; thoughtlessness, selfishness, all in the aim to 'get ahead.' Not criminal - certainly maddening.

  11. thanks for your post & discussion. I love this name: "The Illustrated Imaginarium of Dye Plants" - it reminds me of an offline version of the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer in 'the diamond age' (which turned out to be an ipad in today's world equivalent)

    I love both Jude's and India's teachings - I read Jude's emails every day and they bring a state of peace for the day, no matter what else has happened (even if I don't comment on her site often anymore). same for India's in-person class I attended, and her blog/fb. I think for both of these teachers, for me, it's not only the technical skills & processes to be learned from them, it's the way of life and thinking process behind it all as it's all tied in with their lives - it can't be separated out as a single topic to be added to a teaching list. not sure if I'm describing this properly. it's more about learning to live a life in a peaceful, generous way. I'm still a student (was textiles, changed to fine art for a while) in these matters of art (which are opposite to my technical job). I try to learn from them though I couldn't imagine stealing their ideas to teach others. plus even if I could, my work never turns out as theirs does - my hand is different.

    I hope those who are stealing their ideas/workshop teachings etc stop it and find their own way.

    1. I must say though, that when I do manage to get some stitching done and am thinking of Jude or Junko Oki's or India's (from the dress we made - I loved the mending stitches on the dress she wore) work and something manages to go right, I am happy and think, these stitches are starting to share the same spirit as theirs. (even if they look different) which I think is a compliment to my teachers & I'm grateful to them for sharing

    2. The brilliant thing, when you learn from a number of different people (creating your own ongoing post-grad program) is that as you bring techniques into your practice, and tell your own authentic story, so your work reflects You. It makes me very happy to think of you out there somewhere, stitching into your dresses!!

    3. Thank you so much for adding your story and hope, kath / AliaK.

  12. I agree that it is sad when someone copies ideas and publishes or teaches them as their own. They should be called on that.
    The creative process is about " story" --your story. i have taken 2 classes from India and find that her inspiration ---her story-- is inspiring. I think that many people don't take the time to really delve into their own story and then put that into their own work. Maybe the "net" has encouraged that "instant" process rather than a thoughtful centered approach. Hooray for people like India and Jude!!!

    1. YES, absolutely, people should be called on the carpet for such actions. I honestly believe that if MORE people would speak up - openly - about these infractions, it might have an impact. Maybe not. And we all have to choose our battles, of course.....

      Your notion about 'story' is spot on in my books!! The photographer I quoted above talks about that frequently on his blog, encouraging shooters to sort of dig deep within and put what they find into their work to truly make it theirs and authentic. Those who steal, or heavily copy others, are certainly NOT doing that. Maybe they're afraid to find out what's underneath? I dunno. Certainly stealing someone else's course description is the "instant" easy route rather than having to design one yourself. But would I ever want to study with such a so-called teacher? Wouldn't waste my dimes.

      Thanks Janet, for your contribution ... much appreciated.