Plant Dyes for Batik & Wood Block Printing (1, 2, or 3 days)

Plant Dyes for Batik & Wood Block Printing (1, 2, or 3 days)


Sign up for 1, 2, or all 3 days. Learn to make plant dyes and pastes for printing. Learn the ancient art of batik, using Cape Breton beeswax and organic plant dyes. Carve your own wood block and learn to print beautiful all-over designs using all-natural resists and plant dyes.

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~ About The Instructors ~

Mel Sweetnam is an ecological fibre artist, with particular expertise in botanical dyes. She is the founder of Mamie’s Schoolhouse, as well as the Cape Breton Fibre Trail, and is well-known for a range of botanical dye techniques, particularly her eco-print work. She is a juried member of the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design, the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild, and the South Haven Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. (day 1 intro to plant dyes for printing; day 3 wood block printing with plant dyes)

Mervi Haapakoski is a multi-media artist based in Cape Breton. Originally from Finland, Mervi trained as a ceramic and glass artist. Since then she has become well-known across Canada for her hand-blown glass, jewellery, whimsical wood work, and a range of fibre works. Mervi is a juried member of the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design, and her work can be seen there, at Baddeck’s Victoria County Creates, and at Glass Artisans on the Cabot Trail. (day 2 batik with plant dyes; day 3 wood block printing with plant dyes)

When: July 19, 20, 21; 10 am to 4 pm each day (you may register for 1, 2, or all 3 sessions)

Where: Mamie’s Schoolhouse, 97 Rooster Hill Road, Goose Cove, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Class Size: max 14 to ensure support and feedback for each student

Age & Experience: 18 years or older; suitable for beginners

Registration Fee:

<please note: at checkout, this web platform only calculates tax for customers with a Canadian billing address; those with billing addresses in other countries, will be sent a separate invoice for Nova Scotia’s 15% harmonized sales tax>

$120 + tax per day, which includes

  • full instruction (see outline below)

  • catered vegetarian lunch each day

  • all materials and supplies


~ Workshop Outline: Students Will Learn ~

Day 1: plant dyes for printing

  • dye studio safety practices

  • how to craft plant dyes and print pastes using all-natural, organic methods

  • about growing and/or ethically/sustainably foraging plants with natural mordant and/or dye properties

  • mordant treatments for protein and cellulose based fibres (a mordant is a natural substance that forms a molecular connection between natural fibres and natural dyes)

  • proper fabric/paper preparation for working with plant dyes/pastes, and about all natural substances that can be used to modify results to expand your colour palette

  • to prepare containers of plant dyes/pastes for use in days 2 and 3

Day 2: batik with plant dyes

  • to create beautiful batik designs on fabric using local, organic beeswax and the plant dyes prepared on day 1

  • to draw on your fabric using hot wax and a special tool called a ‘canting or tjanting’ and/or brushes

  • to dye your fabric with plant dyes from day 1

  • how to build up wax and/or dyes in various areas to achieve richer, more textured effects

  • how to remove the wax to reveal your beautiful finished piece

Day 3: wood block printing with plant dyes

  • to create beautiful repeat designs on paper or fabric using natural mordants and the print pastes and dyes prepared on day 1

  • to carve a simple wood block for use in the class (yours to take home)

  • to apply mordants using your wood block (to create areas that will resist dye uptake), and to over-dye your work

  • to use print pastes with your wood block (to create coloured prints against a white background)

    ~ About Registration ~

Payment Terms:

  • Payment is due at time of registration via this web site. At this time, we can not take registrations in person, by phone, email, etc.

  • Cancellations on or before February 28 will be charged a $100 + tax administration fee.

  • Cancellations on or after April 30 receive a 50% refund.

  • Cancellations on or after May 31 receive no refund.

  • With permission of Mamie’s Schoolhouse, registration is transferrable to someone else nominated by the registered student.

  • Anyone registering for someone else is responsible for that registration, and will continue to be the point of contact on all related matters.

The Registration Fee Does Not Include The Following, Which Are The Student's Responsibility:

  • Accommodation

  • Transportation to/from Cape Breton, to/from the workshop each day, and all other local travel

  • Travel insurance

  • Meals (other than the catered lunches noted aboe)

~ About The Venue ~

  • 25 minutes north-east of Baddeck (the nearest full service community), and one hour from Sydney (the island’s largest community and location of the nearest airport), Mamie’s Schoolhouse is located on 70 peaceful, organic acres stretching west from the North River and the world famous Cabot Trail, in the small, beautiful community of Goose Cove.

  • The studio is fully accessible, and there is plenty of parking.

  • There is plenty of nearby accommodation, including an ever growing number of Airbnb options.

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With the exception of the Google Map, images © Mervi Haapakoski or © Mamie’s Schoolhouse.