Time to share with you, dear Readers, some more of the results of my experiments with the “pianticelli” (Little Plants) of the Subasio near Assisi. Most of the  “fioretti” (Little Flowers) have long ago gone to seed, though some valiant survivors remain, like Scabious and Centaura cyanus; only the Cyclamen (a protected species in this regional park) is in its element now. At the start of October when I arrived here, the leaf colours (unmodified by iron) were giving me lots of yellows, many exciting and unCanadian shades…but relentlessly yellow nevertheless…Would I ever see a real blue or green emerge from the dye pot?

I began my printing experiments with papers and so the little Artist Books which were made from them show the range of yellows, both pure and iron or tannin modified; the first textiles (a vintage cotton sheet donated by the Studio) also show that range.

Some pics of the book pages; covers are made from the walnut eco printed cotton (leaves and nuts):

Artist Books 1 and 2: “October Scroll: Little Plants of the Subasio” (“Pergamena di Ottobre: Pianticelle del Subasio”)

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The accordion spine records the names of the Subasio plants printed on the pages inside in Latin, Italian and English.

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The covers are of Walnut shibori prints – leaves and nuts.

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Book structure

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Each page is printed with a single exemplar of a Subasio plant: this is the Juglans regia (European Walnut):

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.and these are the stems and tannin-rich seed pods  of the Ginestrelle (Cytisus scoparius or Broom,  one of several variety of Broom) from which the Studio takes it name. (I am now a Ginestrellian, I have learned!) The dyes wash around the stems and pods, creating the water-colour effects I love. Those few yellow blobs below the pod prints are a few last blooms left on the Ginestrelle – just for me! Thank you, Saint Francis:

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More books next time. Now for a few textile “frescos” .

So despite my original idea to print only paper, I bought ten metres of unused but very old linen at the flea market in Assisi, a very thick handwoven and textured weave. It was all in a roll and sewn  closed with little red cross stitches…it might as well have had my name written on in for the Desire To Possess overtook me completely…I had not intended at all to work in textiles because I thought a month’s worth of them them too clunky to cart across the ocean from Canada to Italy.  Pads of watercolour paper are way easier to transport, obtain, prepare for dyeing and to print. But the antiques flea market close to the Portziuncula of Saint Francis and Saint Clare at Santa Maria degli Angleli was soooo tempting…ooo, the piles of antique linens, to dye for, ha ha.

Even so, the lovely, heavy, textured, handwoven linen proved a b**** to print because it was without the “patina” of years of laundering.  To get a variety of colours during the weeks here, given the slow development of fall pigments in the Subasio October leaves, I had to dye each textile several times with a view to tweaking the chemical reactions in the dyes hoping to provoke tannins that would in turn provoke other colours from the leaves printed in succession. Each successive print gave more and more broken colour and form; previous colours changed in the environment of the “leaf of the week” coupled with tannins and more soaks in alum acetate. At first I was really worried that nothing but yellow would emerge, as happened the first week here with my papers. But patience and faith in the processes of Slow Art triumphed. The results appear to me like the fragments of frescos I delight to see all around on the walls of Assisi and other medieval towns , colour and form diffusing over the centuries, plaster textures disintegrating, colours receding and advancing and changing with time.   (I am posting more pics of them on FB if you need others – just a few examples now):

Colour notes: Walnut, elder, sumac for yellows; Broom seed pods, Cotinus, oak leaves,  walnut fruits for browns; Dogwood berries, blackberries and Cotinus leaves for blues; plus some other berries, unknown; “Ruta”, Dogwood and Cotinus leaves for greens; iron dips for greying and violating and greening; and many little surprises from the overlapping of numerous dye baths and plant associations…

Here, the black-brown print of the oak leaf (Quercus robur, Roverella) overprinted with yellow from walnut leaf gave up some surprise blues, the Enhance feature on iPhoto notwithstanding:

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The reds are from madder, Rubia tinctoria powder selectively sprinkled and dribbled on for the last layer of prints. No madder plants at this altitude on the Subasio, likely lower down if they are here. The only galium I can find here is Galium lucidum, Shining Bedstraw. It gives no red as far as I can discover even though some authoriities propose it as the same variety as G. mollugo which does give red from the roots. Anyhow, the madder powder from Couleurs de Plantes in France is still a bioregional fit with the Subasio plants used here. Plus the reds of this Madder Rich are maintained even in higher processing temperatures,  which is nice.

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Next time, more Textile Frescos with images of some of the fresco colours from Umbrian churches.

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