Fiber artist offering free workshops in Scottsdale as part of socially engaged practice to connect people to surroundings
Erika Lynne Hanson plucked some tiny bugs off of a prickly pear paddle and squished them, releasing a brilliant reddish-purple stain onto a fold of white silk.
The insects, called cochineal, have been used as a natural dye for centuries, dating back to the Aztecs. Hanson used them as part of a free workshop in Scottsdale earlier this week.
“We see them all over here in Phoenix, which is really fun because in the rest of the world, people order their cochineal from places like this,” said Hanson, an assistant professor of fiber arts and socially engaged practices in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. “This is so much better than when you order it online — it’s a connection to the land.”
Hanson is leading a series of free community arts workshops as part of her Scottsdale Creates residency for Scottsdale Public Art. The events will focus on different aspects of fiber arts, including natural dyeing, crocheting and embroidery.
Hanson has been a fiber artist for years and has created installations, sometimes incorporating video, all over the country. Her work frequently meditates on the concept of landscape.
“I’ve always dyed things, usually using chemical dyes,” she said. “But in the last eight years, since I started teaching, I’ve been doing a lot of research on natural dyes because it’s far more interesting and it’s really specific, depending on what landscape you’re in, what you can find and harvest.
“I really like it as a teaching mechanism and also as a way to get people out and walking around in their surroundings to pay attention to what’s there.”