Nature's alchemy: clay resist printing and indigo dyeing with Sarah Burns

Ref: S4D33540

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About this course

Learn how to make patterns using the ancient craft of 'dhabu' or Indian mud resist printing and indi g o dyeing - with a very special connection to West Dean and the grounds. We will be collecting mud from fields and chalk from the hills to make the dye resist and forage for objects for mark-making in this unique m a gical place.

Course Description

Join us for a four-day immersive course delving into the ancient art of ‘dhabu’ textile printing. You will begin the day with a historical talk, followed by a walk around West Dean's parkland to collect mud and chalk and found objects for mark making. Back in the studio, your tutor will lead a demonstration and hands-on workshop, guiding you through each step with provided materials.

Originating from Rajasthan, India, mud resist ‘dhabu’ printing produces unique results unachievable by other methods. You will have the chance to work with wood blocks from your tutor's collection and found objects, along with any items you bring from home.

We will experiment with this unique process which is completed in three steps: printing with mud and then dipping in indigo and finally washing off the mud to reveal the printed design on the textile.

We will experiment with the different properties of this resist – how to apply it by pouring, scraping and splattering – a highly tactile and sensual process that connects us directly with the ground beneath our feet. After drying, our mud resist patterns will be dyed with indigo – another magical process that you will explore and learn to master. You will learn how to make them, apply them using printing blocks, print them on mordanted cloth and ensure they are fast.

Your tutor, Sarah Burns is passionate about slow, local production that creates beautiful fabric. This approach is kinder to our environment and this course will explore these values.

Through this highly tactile and sensual process, you will connect directly with the earth, creating prints inspired by West Dean.

This course is part of our materials week. Our February themed week of short courses for 2025 focuses on CLAY, led by talented artist-tutors:

Sarah Burns – Nature's alchemy: clay resist printing and indigo dyeing

Helen Miles – Classical mosaic making

Grainne Reynolds – Jewellery using silver clay

Sarah Villeneau – Organic sculpture in clay

Gilbert Whyman – Sculpting from life – figure and portrait

Laura Dennis – Mixed media landscape painting on clay board

Each course explores a different aspect of using this versatile material and how it may be used in a variety of contemporary practices.

Each tutor will be invited to give a short talk (10 minutes) about an aspect of their work relating to the theme of the week on Tuesday evening at 5.15pm. Participants will also be encouraged to visit other courses to see work produced across the varied approaches offered in the week.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • 2m Washed calico
  • A3 Japanese stencil paper
  • A sheet of tracing paper
  • Indigo bath Ingredients
  • Clay resist ingredients

What students need to bring

  • Please bring any objects you would like to print and experiment with
  • Any tools or objects to use for mark-making
  • You can bring your own cotton/calico fabric but it must be pre-washed and ironed
  • Masking tape, scissors, pencils, pins, ruler craft knife
  • An apron – and suitable outdoor clothing and footwear – this is a very messy course.
  • A notebook and pen, and camera if you wish to record your work in progress

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Tracing paper
  • Drawing materials
  • Craft knife

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, and covered footwear are essential.


Sarah Burns in the factory

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a pattern-maker and textile printer. She studied politics at Jesus College, Cambridge, and Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art. She teaches natural dyeing and printing in her West Sussex studio as well as at Ditchling Museum. Her designs can be seen at the Guy Goodfellow Collection in Chelsea, at Dartington Hall, and as part of the Virginia White Collection. 


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.