Copper Flutes and Hand Dyed Hemp

March 2, 2012

Copper Flutes

These two copper flutes were based on D (small) and Bb (large) 6-hole English tin whistles that I bought years ago.  I played the whistles quite a bit when I was in high school, but quit in college when my asthma became too severe.  The new copper flutes have a larger bore than the tin whistles and a shorter mouthpiece, so the higher notes are easier to blow, and all the notes are quieter and sweeter than a tin whistle.  After some experimenting with hole positions on the old instruments, I added two holes, one at the top and one at the back, so these flutes are fingered like a recorder and are a bit more versatile than a tin whistle.  Unlike the rimblown flute that I posted here a year ago, these are “fipple flutes” and are easier to play (though making them was a lot more work!).  The blocks are carved from manzanita that I collected in the Santa Rita Mountains a couple of years ago.

Flute Mouthpieces

Flute Mouthpieces

The beads on the larger flute are handcarved from local pebbles.  The bluish-green copper ore is from a local abandoned mine dump, the two striped black dolomite beads are from the Empire Mountains, and the pink and grey rhyolite is from the Santa Rita Mountains.

Today I prepared some fabric for an embroidered wall hanging.  This is a sturdy hemp/cotton plainweave left over from a dress that I made several years ago.  At the top of the photo is the natural undyed fabric which is a warm white.  Below that is the same fabric dyed straw yellow with pomegranate hulls (they are rich in tannin, which provides the color; the dried hulls were crushed and the fabric immersed with them in cold water for several days).  I dyed this fabric a few years ago and have used it for a few jewelry bags etc.  At the bottom is some of the pomegranate-dyed fabric that has been “overdyed” with local clay from my yard (once used for making adobe bricks) mixed with powdered red ochre (hematite).  Of course the clay/iron oxide coating isn’t really “dye” since it doesn’t penetrate the fibers – it just sits on top of them.  But the hemp traps it pretty well and the color is quite even and does not rub off.  The fabric was scrubbed in the wet clay/ochre mixture, left to dry while still covered in it, then washed and dried again.  This process was repeated three times.  I was only working with a quarter yard, so it didn’t take long, and now I have a nice piece of warm, earthy-looking adobe-colored fabric for my project.

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3 Responses to “Copper Flutes and Hand Dyed Hemp”

  1. judithornot said

    I love the way you make beautiful things by working so directly with nature.

  2. Debbie said

    The flutes are really beautiful. Would love to hear their sound!

    • ironwing said

      I’ll try to get a little video made. The larger one is about a year old and the wood seems to have dried out enough that it plays consistently and sounds good. The smaller one is new, so it’s still a bit squeaky and becomes unplayable very quickly when the wood block gets damp. It will settle down eventually. Neither one is perfect and I have no idea what they’d sound like with other instruments, since they’re tuned by ear. I just wanted something to play in my studio or to carry in my pack on a hike.

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