France and ISEND2011 ~ My Thoughts

My travels through France from Paris to Brive, the Dordogne Region, Bordeaux, St. Emilion, Rocamadour, Sarlat and La Rochelle with my friend Ramona were nothing short of fabulous. We traveled quite nicely together! We navigated, shlepped, spoke French at least 70% of the time, laughed til tears rolled on countless occasions, always made our trains even in the early AM hours, imbibed on balconies across the countryside and ate with pleasure, just taking each day for what it offered, feeling fortunate as heck to be there. It was just a great trip.
A moment in France, frozen. One Bloody Mary for Ramona and a rum and pear juice for me…on a street, mid-afternoon, no stress, no schedule, no problem.

The second week we landed in La Rochelle for ISEND2011. From a perspective of how to host a symposium where 524 attended from 56 countries, it was nothing short of flawless. The center known as Espace Encan, a renovated fish market on a pier

was the perfect environment under one roof for such an event. Each day was completely organized with morning lecture sessions, a three course sit down lunch, including red and white wine, more afternoon lecture sessions, here with a round table discussion about natural indigos.

followed in the late afternoon by simultaneous exhibitions, films, dyeing workshops, poster presentations and a vendor market. There was an amazing Art and Fashion Exhibition ongoing through the week with numerous pieces created by natural dye artists from around the world.

I was pleased to have a small part in one artists work as he bought his dyes from me!

All parts make a whole.

Wednesday there were four possible field trips to sign up for. Buses picked us up at 9AM and in some pre-determined fashion each group (3-4 buses per group) floated to our chosen venue. Some visited the seashore in search of purple dye from molluscs, some to the countryside to a dye plant farm, others to to an extraction and application laboratory plant collection and some visited Old La Rochelle from the natural dye point of view.

The week wrapped up with a gala dinner and dancing to two incredible live bands and an amazing feast. Many times through the week I thought how awesome it was that our globally small and diverse group was able to co-exist for five full days together with such joy, color and shared pleasure. Fabulous group, we were!

During the lecture sessions there was much discussion on the classification, standardization, industrialization and labeling of natural dyes. Although the concepts are laudable they are lost to me. Natural dyes come from nature and each dye is only as strong as it’s future as a living organism. Similar to my breed of sheep, the CVM/Romeldale, which is the most rare and endangered breed of sheep in North America today, if the breed vanishes, it’s gone forever. Rather, like our sheep, for dye plants, I would like to see the concept of nurturing and careful management always respecting “their” environment, not our needs. Not all living things are in abundance and no matter how much we try to bring the concept to the forefront, the species still need to survive and we need to be the stewards of their future. To this end, I don’t support standardizing and general labeling of natural dyes. Stay conscious, stay concerned and never assume longevity.

One afternoon, Ramona and I rented bicycles and rode around La Rochelle…we stopped at a beautiful beach where I was compelled to place my feet in the other side of the Atlantic…it felt marvelous! I still have a love affair with France and always for natural dyes.

To see some great video links about the ISEND conference click here

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