Notes from a longer file: [creating an organic dye compound or technique from blood, a by-product of the meat industry]
Experiment Five - Pure and Undiluted Ram Blood in a Bowl of Steel. To the Music of Sam Amidon.
It is 11 45, Sunday November 1. Experiment in dying fabric with blood continues in its fifth incarnation.
Lengths of fabric [300 cm long/50 cm width, incurved at centre] are again soaked in water and sodium bicarbonate to further soften the already soft Icelandic water and increase the absorption of the blood to the cotton. Fabric removed from solution after five minutes and wrung. Fabric hand kneaded directly into large container of ram’s blood and weighted down. Sodium Chloride added.
Tuesday 3 November 18 30- Removed from putrefied blood and rolled out on black plastic to dry flat. I am wearing a full zip up suit with mask. It is hard to breathe. My body reacts in a way I have never experienced before -this smell... has awakened an ancient reflex action of fear primeval. I jerk at a hot instinct to turn and run. But this brief white panic subsides as I remember it is a container of blood put there by my own hand... not the remains of some other soul. An intense and unique moment.
On another note Paula E. Burch, Ph.D. has replied. I wrote of the success from cooking the blood into the fabric. She had thought that heat would denature the proteins in the blood and as they lost their shape they would tangle around the other molecules of denatured protein already in the fabric.
It is Thursday at 20 00 and the lengths are still not dry enough... The moisture in the blood won’t evaporate in these close quarters. So I proceed to drape them over a water oven. note: Air drying is the best solution still as laying it on the ground inhibits drying and affects the blood stain on the downside of the material.
With the fabric ready to be heat-cured I am preheating the oven to 50°C and placing the dried and rolled material therein. It is 16 50, Friday 7th. Now increasing the heat to 70°C at 18 00. Removing material at 19 00 to test, then returning to heat. Left till 20 00.
It is 08 11 08 - 10 30, a Saturday,but no day of rest. Numerous days of test. The first lengths are quoined and washed by hand to the music of Françoiz Breut. A solution of ice water is prepared with the previous units of sodium bicarbonate.The fabric is weighted down and soaking occurs for 10 minutes, with little movement of textile in process. Slight kneading to remove excess protein. It is very cold. The lengths are taken to the basement drying room to dry flat.
Experiment Five Continuation - Second Dying with Blood
It is Monday 15th December. There is snow. I repeat the same process of pre-soaking the lengths in the sodium bicarbonate and water solution. Placing them in the blood,weighting, and leaving.
17 12 08 - It has been two days. After removing the scarves from the blood they are taken to dry flat in cold room for the day. The blood has putrefied. It is a titanic and powerful funk. The five floors of the building have evacuated while it airs out. Apologies are presented.
20 12 08 -Again the material is not drying completely in the cold. The fabric is moved to dry in a warmer room for two days. I have to tread lightly after disrupting the lives of the other tenants. It has been days and the communal doors are still open. The women and children have returned. The men are not angry, just disappointed.
22 12 08 - The material is rolled up and taken up to the ovens to be re-baked for three hours at 90°C. I am tired.
29 12 08 -Solution prepared: A. one tub of water. B. added soda ashe [sodium-bicarbonate], sodium chloride, and quaternary ammonium compound for antibacterial and softening. The lengths are left for 25 minutes to soak and clean. At the 15 minute interval the fabric is unravelled,turned and slightly kneaded and left again for 10 minutes. At this time a good softness and handle are achieved with no trace of odour. Material once more left in dry room on black plastic to dry. It appears I am coming to the end of my experiment.
31 12 08 -The colour has remained in the textile, now dry, though it has adopted a greenish hue vastly different to the deep orange tone of the fresh blood. It seems almost tie-dyed in its variation. It is very unique. Visceral.
Having dried fully, the lengths of fabric are now measured at 253 cm x 45 cm
It has been two and a half months. Today is February 15. The lengths of fabric, now scarves, have cured for some time and are ready to be finished. The lengths of fabric are taken to the studio to be bound by hand with the golden satin that we bought from the quartermaster. This is old fabric, dead-stock left from the 2nd world war when it was used for the lining of the soldiers jackets. Beautiful. The mitred corners are special. The fringes, having undergone the same process as the fabric, are now tied to each of the four corners and knotted 613 times.
The completed scarves are set aside to cure for a total of 10 and half months.