New Caitlin Ffrench Book on Wildcrafting Pigments Earns Emphatic Praise

Gathering Colour cover

Gathering Colour: Foraging Magic & Making Art from the World Around You details a quarter century of Caitlin’s hands-on research into making making natural inks, dyes, paints and other materials. (Image courtesy Nine Ten Publications / Caitlin Ffrench)

By Perrin Grauer

Posted on March 19, 2024 | Updated March 20, 2024, 4:17pm

A launch for the impressive volume, which details hands-on artistic methods drawn from more than two decades of research by the artist and Emily Carr MFA student, will take place at Emily Carr University on March 21, 2024.

A new book by artist and MFA student Caitlin Ffrench (MFA 2024) on wildcrafting pigments is receiving extraordinary praise as it approaches its official release.

Titled Gathering Colour: Foraging Magic & Making Art from the World Around You, the book details a quarter century of Caitlin’s hands-on research into making inks, paints and dyes from natural pigments found in plants and other organic and earth-based materials.

Gathering Colour is rooted in intentional and vulnerable connection to land, plants and community,” writes author Anna Hunter. “Caitlin encourages readers to experience the natural world around them with openness, respect and celebration of colour. Every page is a beautiful and honest expression of Caitlin and her experience with natural dyes while calling others to explore the world around them through art, ritual and reverence.”

Slated for release on March 19, the book is the second title from fledgling publishing house Nine Ten Publications. It was recently picked up for distribution by University of Toronto Press, meaning it will be available for order in bookstores across North America as well as internationally.

Gathering Colour Long Way Shawl mockup

Caitlin's book calls others to “explore the world around them through art, ritual and reverence,” writes author Anna Hunter. (Image courtesy Nine Ten Publications / Caitlin Ffrench)

Caitlin, who undertook the process of writing, collating and editing the book while also writing her Master’s thesis, says she feels, “Very happy, very grateful and very tired.” She adds that glowing feedback from fellow authors and artists regularly brings tears to her eyes.

She also credits her partner, Arlin, for the enduring support he continues to provide.

Foraged pigments and ritual practice are woven throughout Caitlin’s multidisciplinary practice, which explores connections between disappearing landscapes, solastalgia (defined as grief for the dying world) and her own personal battle with concurrent autoimmune disorders.

Caitlin notes that, too often, specialist practitioners like herself engage in information hoarding. Rather than share their hard-earned expertise, they become “knowledge gatekeepers,” effectively closing off their practice from community.

Overturning this tendency is part of why Caitlin wrote the book.

“Knowledge should be shared and given freely,” she says from her studio at Emily Carr University. “None of what I know is special. I’ve learned all of it through 25 years of research — by trying and failing and then trying again. And I’m not the only person who works in these mediums. These are ideas that have been around for all of human history. They should be accessible to everyone.”

Gathering Colour Chalk Pastels mockup

“Knowledge should be shared and given freely,” says Caitlin of her motivations for writing the book. (Image courtesy Nine Ten Publications / Caitlin Ffrench)

The book was sparked by a conversation five years ago when friend and fellow artist Penny Coupland encouraged her to begin sharing her ideas via her Patreon. Until then, Caitlin — a fashion instructor at Vancouver Community College — had viewed her teaching practice as her primary method for knowledge-sharing.

“Penny said, ‘Once a month, just do a recipe, put it out there. By the end of it, you’ll have a book,’” Caitlin recounts. “And that’s basically what happened.”

Caitlin and Nine Ten later launched a Kickstarter campaign in the hopes of raising funds for publishing. The campaign almost doubled its fundraising goal.

“It came from supporters all over the world,” she says with genuine reverence. “It was wild.”

Caitlin continues to share tips, tricks and exercises through her Patreon account. These monthly messages include ways to develop rituals, methods for wildcrafting pigments and other exercises to help artists “get back into their practice and shake the cobwebs off.”

Ultimately, Caitlin aims to teach at the post-secondary level. Her book was partly created as a future “teaching aid” for that endeavour.

Gathering Colour TOC mockup

Gathering Colour was partly created as a “teaching aid” for Caitlin's current and future endeavours as an educator. (Image courtesy Nine Ten Publications / Caitlin Ffrench)

So, with all she’s learned, is another book on the horizon?

“It’s a secret,” she says.

The official book launch for Gathering Colour takes place in Rennie Hall at Emily Carr University at 6 P.M. on March 21. The gorgeous volume will be available for purchase at the event courtesy of Iron Dog Books. Caitlin will be in attendance to give a live reading. Admission is free and open to the public.

Follow Caitlin on Instagram and TikTok to keep up with her exceptional practice.

Visit ECU online to learn more about studying in the Master of Fine Arts program at Emily Carr.

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