Coreopsis Love

Fall leaves and blooms are calling me…my extra freezer is empty of food and will hold mostly plant material this winter. Pretty soon, Ottawa will get its first killing frost and I am ready. I have started to collect stuff for winter pigment making. Just now, however, the Coreopsis verticillata is yet fresh and green and still parading its starry little yellow flowers; C. lanceolata is also green but without blooms and does not seem to be promising any more blooms this season. But you never know, with this weird weather.

The native coreopsis (and the related bidens) family is a traditional source of dye for many indigenous peoples of North and South America, giving rich red, orange and yellow. C. verticillata delivers a power of red-orange from the tip of its rooty toes to the top of its starry yellow head, and all through its rich, thready, green, spiky leaves.

The image above shows my 1-litre slow cooker at the ready to process cut-up Coreopsis verticillata for pigment extraction. Dear Reader: Are you ready for a coreopsis excursion to past encounters as well as some more colour adventures down the road?

Would you believe that a humble green and yellow plant could be hiding all this? I could not stop my eyes from popping:

Above is Coreopsis verticillata eco printed onto thin mulberry ( rice ) paper after mordanting with alum acetate in a cold water bath overnight. Below, coreopsis shows off redly with several other bright native and adapted companions from my June garden, ecoprinted onto another oriental paper (thrift store journal pages, not sure of the paper’s ID): magenta pink from Bee Balm ( Monarda didyma), blue from iris ( I. hybrida and I.siberica), greeny-yellow-brownish from sumac ( Rhus typhina) and odds and sods shades from Cotinus coggygria.

A fascinating thing about eco prints is that they reveal more than the eye can see when first meeting a plant where it grows. Art, like science, reveals the invisible. Note the iris prints from dark blue petals show up as purple, turquoise, green and light blue.

Next, coreo has been simply hammered onto cotton (using the “flower pounding” technique ). The deep red-orange colour comes via a coreo hybrid, “Route 66” . This cultivar is not as hardy as C. verticillata but worth its keep for a season in USDA Zone 4. The purple companion flower is a red pelargonium aka geranium, a red that prints purple. Accompanying a yellow that prints red.

Coreo v. performs beautifully here on linen ( mordanted with alum acetate) and is a divine partner for indigo’s blue; and here, the coreo leaves print kinda dark yellowish-orange

I have blogged in the past about pigment extraction from black walnut, blue iris and coreopsis as a solar dye. After putting coreopsis to the eco print test, and seeing that it Comes Through With Flying Colours (groan) every time, I wondered if now I might try to expand its repertoire by extracting its pigment to use as dye, paint, ink and/or print paste.

I readied myself for the unexpected. So this is what happened when I turned on the heat with coreopsis in the slow cooker.( The label on the hot pot refers to a previous occupant thereof and which I will report on here later this fall…I sometimes have more than one pot boiling )

After a couple of hours in hot ( not boiling, just slightly bubbling – plop plop; if you want more exactitude, my best guess is 180 degrees C ), water to cover ( about a litre) plus two teaspoons/10ml of alum acetate, the chopped-up coreo looked the colour of tomato soup. But lo, a thickish precipitate has fallen to the bottom of the pot and water sits on top. I was surprised and wondered how this state of affairs should be handled. Nothing anywhere about this in my fave refs.

After straining out the plants and then filtering the pot’s liquid contents through a paper coffee filter, I am looking at a glossy, loose, lump-free paste, similar to a not-to-stiff corn starch paste:

Decision time. [ I have plenty more coreopsis in the garden)

The paste is scraped off into a sterilised jar, some GAC 100 by Golden Paints is added as binder for flow and texture plus a couple of cloves for anti-mold.

Why the GAC? Just to see if it works to hold the paste together without further separation.

I get a good third of a cup of coreo paste then I squirt in a few teaspoons of GAC. Maybe it was tablespoons. Just to feel that the mix was “moveable” but not sloppy. Voila, coreopsis paint!

I try the paint on water colour paper, building up layers of colour [photographed with a blue napkin because that is the enhancing colour complement to orange):

But wait: we are not done with that batch of coreopsis.

There is still a lot of pigment left in the plant material – I can see the red dripping off it. I let it sit in the fridge overnight to drip. Back goes in the pot, with a bit more alum and a little less water than last time. Within an hour at medium heat, a lot more pigment:

After straining out the plant material, then filtering on coffee paper:

This time, I want only to dry the pigment to make powdered …what? Paint, ink, dye? TBD…

The pigment from the second extraction dries rather fast since there is less of it. I love the way it looks on that blue “Arabica” plate! I will leave it there overnight to dry completely, scrape the pigment into powder tomorrow and store it in a jar until the next coreopsis event.

Next time: Extracting pigment from buckthorn ( Rhamnus cathartica) .

I have been working on this, too.

This is a plant on the Canadian Most Despised Invasive Plant list – but historically, in the Europe of Painters, it was a source of paint derived from nature, and therefore, an MVP – a Most Valued Paint.

Meantime, here are a few of the references I will be consulting for my Close Encounters With Natural Colour this fall ( will also check my own blog because I forget what I wrote)

Until next time

Wendy

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Natural Inspirations

I am back! I had to cut my recent “Happy Canadian Thanksgiving” post off shortish because I was having a pain of a time with an older and clunkier WP editor …now I have discovered my error and am trying this editing platform direct from WP. So far, so good!

The point is: I can never be too thankful! When I find myself a tad stuck, I can look at the inspiration in the colours of the fall fruit market ( which harvest, BTW, is so abundant and tasty this year after our miserably hot summer – the peaches, o my…), and of course, never forgetting my fall garden:

Inspiring to see these same colours used with abandon by my eight year old grandson. We used old map paper that he painted, then folded to make an Origami wallet:

As I mentioned in my ( very recent) post, Stash Busting can be a source of inspiration, too.

Do you, like me, have a hoard of UFO’s, WIPs or project left-overs that you cannot bear to throw out and which you promise yourself will find New Life one day?

I have been working on that Sacred Stash all year, opening up boxes and repacking them with my new ideas of versions of future projects Continue reading

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Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Yes, dear Readers, I am still blogging, despite the long hiatus in posts. Welcome to all who have subscribed in the last year and to readers who just pop by for a look now and then. Thank you for your comments and your encouragement to keep on making art! I have much to be grateful for this year despite the obstacles. Today I want to tell you about that.

But not too much text from me just now – let us begin with a picture! Ottawa was hit by some destructive weather two weeks ago; my area was fortunate in that we only lost power for a few days. Others lost their homes. Miraculously, only a few  people were injured, thank God not more; alas,  one poor sheep died, along with a chicken. Many trees were uprooted, though.

Here is what it looked like in my living room a few hours after the power went out:

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The skinny candles are burning on candlesticks made by Shlomo. Thank you, Shlomo!  Thanks to a charged-up iPad, I was able to read my iBooks until a kind neighbour-friend juiced it up again next day in a part of town unaffected by the power outage. TG! This fine neighbour has a gas stove that remained operational and allowed her to bring me coffee in the morning. A place must surely now be reserved in Heaven for her.

2018 has been a slow year for my art owing to injury to my art arm, the right. But it has come around finally, thanks to physio and cortisone shots…I am trying to get back in the studio more. Yet more to be grateful for.

On the Family Front: a wonderful suprise. My son and his Beloved of 12 years decided to get married officially. Attended by our families (including their own two kids), we had a wedding!

I love the photo of the ladies with The Bride in their beautiful wedding clothes and delighted smiles. My Hannah and Sarah are R and L of the bride. And check out 2 year old Ezra with his little cousin negotiating the consumption of his chips…you would think he was proposing…but my fave is the one with the little cousins and the Bride and Groom making silly faces. O, it was a happy day!

I made small artworks for the table: little paste-painted place cards in the form of a single-signature book, pamphlet sewn, for each guest; the  cards were housed  in keepsake slipcases covered in eco dyed silk printed with iris blooms ( a stash treasure). Guests were invited to write their good wishes and of course, the kids got to draw and colour.

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On the art show side of things: I am delighted to have some of my FRESCO wall art pieces on show at the new Ottawa Art Gallery- a fabulous new City of Ottawa venue for local and other artists. FRESCO is a series of eco dyed works ( indigo and rust) invoking the experience of finding beauty in decay and decomposition. Here is an example of a collection of smaller works in the series:

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Now a few pics of the garden, my refuge as well as my source of plants for pigments: it is fall now and time to collect and freeze the dye plants.

My fall dye work is starting: it is black walnut time! This year, I plan to make ink again ( in the past, I have made ink from blue iris, walnut and coreopsis) but will try some new plants. Meanwhile:

Black walnut

Four cups of water, cooked in the slow cooker on low overnight. Cooks down to one cup, which will be strained in cheesecloth then cooked down some more. Then add a wee spoon of gum arabic – et voila, ink! Or let the the strained and cooked-down dye evaporate, then store the powder. The squirrels and I thank the Creator for the bounty of walnuts!

Finally for this LONG post, I leave you with some of the books  have been reading this year – all at once, of  course. They lie all over the house at the ready ( note the visual pun…)

And a selfie – I have let my hair go as nature would have it ( much cheaper and less annoying than visiting the hairdresser)

Happy Thanksgiving to all and thank you for following. Next time, maybe I will have remembered better how to navigate the wordpress editor!

I have an renewal of my blog and website happening on the back burner so hope that will be done in the next few months – and at the same time, I am destashing My Stuff- and the studio Sacred Stash is not exempt this time around. Will report on how  the Stash can fuel creativity.

Meantime I have found excellent info and so far respectful sharing on a FB page Printing With Botanicals ( I think that is the title of the group). They are up on the latest Tricks and Tips for eco prints- check them out!

Blessings on your work and play, dear Readers. Click on the pics to see close-ups

Wendy

The fall garden 

 

 

 

 

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More Paste Papers

January and February have passed with me learning about paste papers. I am really quite interested in the varied applications of this genre – historical, contemporary, practical and just plain fun to do! I came upon paste papers as a medium because I have temporarily had to give up the exacting work of cutting and folding papers for bookarts. I was looking for a way to work on my art while suffering severe bursitis (threat of frozen shoulder) with muscle impingement in my Sword, Pen, Needle and Brush etc. arm…only a range of motion of about 12″ across my work bench and no cutting of paper…oy.  So welcome paste papers. (I think it might become an addiction, dear Reader…you should see my stash…)

I reported last month on various experimental papers I  made using corn starch paste and methyl cellulose paste as paint carriers. This month I was also into wheat starch paste, the traditional paste used by bookbinders of old, found also in the nineteenth century decorative paper art of the Moravian sisters whose designs are admired and prized still.

A quick post today so as not to let February pass without a post from me. The physiotherapist tells me to take it easy on the computer and to modify my studio practice until my arm gets a lot better. So less chat this time, more pics. Here we go.

I am trying to use the Moravian sisters’ traditional palette of Prussian blue, carmine red, yellow ochre and olive green. (I have to say it is not easy to find paint makers of modern acrylics today who carry paints thus named. So we have to figure out the chemicals. Next time, I hope I can report my use of home-mixed, raw pigments to get these colours). Within my limits, I am practicing the use of various tools like combs and calligraphy steel brush pens – not to mention Q tips and pastry brushes…(I am fortunate that I am not tempted by the neighbour’s surly cat)

 

 

The last image shows some renegade design of my own – actually, a fish pattern adapted from that used by Pisanky makers to decorate their Resurrection-theme eggs at Easter. I carved a lino block or two with the pattern. The lattice designs above are versions of the patterns typical of the Hernnhutter (Moravian sisters) designs, as the “pulled paper”and stippled designs. Will report the how-to’s when I can type more.

And some non-traditional designs in a series I have entitled “Northern Lights” – lots of colour,  and sloshing about of paint and swooping around with combs etc ( no kitty tails, though, honest):

That orange accordion (L) is Stage One of an artist book I made with orange paste paint and a wood grain tool to imitate the fur of my daughter’s orange kitty whom I LOVE… will show you the finished book next time. It opens on the other side of the zig zig to blank pages. The working title of the book is ” Everything I Know About How Cats Think” .

Hasta la vista, everyone. Wanted you to know what I was thinking while waiting for the garden to come back…and to say welcome and thank you to all the new readers for your interest!

Wendy

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts on a winter’s night

Hello again, dear and patient readers; and  welcome to new readers and followers. This is what it looked like outside my Ottawa living room earlier today:

532A95FD-BCF8-4B4A-A361-E37BEDB25C15And this is what things look like inside right now:

449F7B3B-78B5-4F33-9ED0-6C67A150D445.jpegYes, a fire and a stack of books…and me wearing my comfy silver  “shoon” (refurbished El Nats, thanks to a $2 bottle of acrylic paint). And yes, my feet are up because I have a foot infection (under treatment) so nothing for it but to read – and blog.

Time to share with you some of my recent book arts projects using my eco dyed papers and textiles – starting with the Chanuka books I made for the grandkids before Christmas:

To paint the papers, I used indigo powder mixed with acrylic medium on sturdy watercolour paper; the little books are housed in a Masu box I made for each book; the box is also indigo-printed and painted.

Next up are some of the Artist Books I have been working on this fall. The ones I chose to develop further were those made in Assisi in 2013 when Shlomo and I did our artists’ residency there. So working with those particular  books has been another way to achieve closure. Shlomo was an ace box maker and he made the clamshell boxes and slip cases for my other books. He had intended to make the enclosures for all of my “Subasio Scroll”  series. Since his death, of course, that task has become mine. I have learned a lot and I am grateful to have had the spiritual energy to do the work, not to mention Shlomo’s example as a craftsperson.

Here is a small collection of some of my Assisi books – the series title is “Subasio Scrolls” (Assisi is at Mount Subsio.) Sorry about the colours! Could not get them right this time.

4B55F20B-81A1-43CC-A032-A0BE324A2DA3D727B7DC-01E6-430B-AEEE-67AEDCA7A236And below is a look inside one of my blank journals that are bound with embroidered eco printed cloth and use eco printed papers as signature wrappers and as the first pages of each signature:

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Notice, by the way, the colouration of the eco prints in this journal. These papers were printed in my early days of eco printing (2011 ) and have been kept away from light inside boxes. The greens and yellows have faded and some greens have turned to tans and browns. In a future post, I will share with you some ideas for handling fading…Folks, eco prints are subject to such changes, be aware – plants and processes will respond differently over time so one’s choices of plant, process and art purpose will affect longevity.

My current work is somewhat stalled because I am trying to get over a painful bursitis in my shoulder with muscle impingement – makes it impossible to stretch out my Sword and Pen arm very far…so I have to restrict movements that hurt…oy.

What to do? Using the scalpel and the exacto knife for cutting signature paper and bookboard is out for a while. How about creating paste paper? Slosh paint around on paper, mark it up with any handy tool or serviceable body part …Learn more about endpapers and other ways to use the papers decorated with paste and paint or dye. That could work for me! One can achieve respectable results without the precision needed for bookbinding. And one can finger paint with the non-dominant hand.

Paste paper came about in the bookbinder’s workshop. At the end of a job there might be leftover wheatpaste (used for glueing ). So the binder could add some colour to the paste and put that onto paper with brush, fingers, whatever…and then to scrape off the paste to make the design. Historical papers used a limited colour palette of mostly primaries and a relatively small repertoire of marks combined imaginatively – and quickly! The paste soon loses its capacity to accept a mark so one has no time to indulge one’s OCD…you just have to go for it!

I decided I would start with one colour only per sheet of paper, in order to concentrate on the markmaking and the tools – not to get bogged down in making colour choices for the Perfect Paste Paper. And that I would start with only one or two laters of paste colour. Plus I need to test  out how far I can actually stretch my arm.

Here are some examples, using ivory paint and black paint on 12″ x 12″ thin cardstock.

E4E9B9DF-FFD0-40F3-A379-320A1BB81742And some detail shots:

My last eco print with a future as Artist Book material is this one of Japanese maple (2015). It was printed on rice paper (with a tad of indigo ); it is rather fragile and quite creased after the steaming. I think I will apply some tea stains in the creases to make them a feature as opposed to a fault.

Later this year, I will have an exhibition of my FRESCO series, eco prints with rust and indigo. Here is a small collection from that series that was inspired by the frescos of Umbria; the funky candleabras were made by Shlomo.

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And one work to add to the collection but not an eco print, rather, a painting with indigo:

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I think this painting is finished …but I still have time to obsess about that…

My final image shows a corner of my studio, at last in a mess – which means I am working in it…at the back, to the left, you see some of my eco printed silk shawls and scarves. I still need to take pictures of them so maybe next post I will be ready. The spiffy new city art gallery in Ottawa will be accepting some of my stuff in their boutique when it opens later this year! Plus I have a couple more gigs to work on – reports coming in the coming months.

Hooray for a deadline or two.

Thank you for all your visits and for your comments. I have been trying to respond but I am afraid I might have misused the new and improved Word Press editor and disappeared you off into the ether. Please forgive me!

A happy new year to all and a good and messy studio!

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What to do when your barque is becalmed

 

Yes, well, my little boat has been kind of marooned for a while. But I am slowly learning to row again.

I have not been short of ideas since last post, dear Readers, just desperately short of carry-through, short of ideas with legs. What good is an idea without legs?

In need of remedy for artist’s block, I decided to go delving into my venerable stash of projects begun and abandoned, of ideas that charmed at the time but never made it off the drawing board.  All to see if any past diversions could possibly make it to the execution stage. Here, we are talking projects from years ago, and from way before the eco dye magic put its spell on me. But I am still entranced with plants. So I hauled out of mothballs  a collections of sketchbooks I had worked up some time ago when exploring my theme of disappearing seed diversity ( I am a maniac gardener and seed collector and these passions fuel my art)

For exhibition, I had completed a suite of work entitled “Bye Bye Beans” based on the idea of a Scarlet Runner Bean as an icon of seed diversity. The working methods I adopted in order to create the work were so different from the dye pot dramas of eco dyeing – where you never knew if the dye pot protagonist would live happily ever after or die a murky death in the end….That difference was highly attractive to me in my “stuckness”. I could plan and it might actually work out. My art would not be in the thrall of dye pan-demonium. For the ” Beans” series, I had carefully explored several ways of presenting the concept, using a variety of printing and textile techniques and recording all slavishly in a series of sketchbooks. No serendipity or Fly By The Seat of Your Pants here! No  post-process suprise-delights as in the eco dye pots, but still, as in eco dyeing, an excavation of patterning.  So to get a little wind back in my sails, to to speak, after a long time away from serious artmaking, I decided to look up this old love.  Here is what I found (tap the image for info)

The sketchbook pages show ideas for pieces in the Beans series that led to the final five or six works that comprised the first “suite” ( I will take pics of the finished works  and post next time). So now they are again  ideas under review for the next Bye Bye Beans iteration.

Lest you think I have abandoned eco dye work…Here are  a few pieces I managed to get done this summer, showing native Coreopsis verticillata with indigo and a tad of sumac here and there ( I am into ” restricted”  these days and that can be a good thing).  I printed three linen tops that had seen better days, colour-wise.

To finish, a few images of a Spring bookbinding challenge for CBBAG Ottawa Valley: we had to create a binding for a collection of recipe cards. I took the opportunity to learn gelli printing. I used one printing plate (a woven grass place mat) and a restricted palette of acrylics. The recipe cards are housed in wee pouches with flaps.

Next time, I hope to show also some pics of the bookmark project I mentioned in the July post, along with the “Bye Bye Beans” suite (finished) from the series whose concepts I am planning to reprise.

Thank you to all the new readers and hello again to regular followers. I would like to tell you that I was very touched all over again to re-read the consoling comments on my July post from readers old and new.

 

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July Greetings

Hello again to all my olde readers and to the many new readers who have surprised me by their interest in my take on eco dyeing and on other topics.

My absence from the blogosphere has been due to the death of my Beloved ( from cancer) in March 2016. I have just needed the intervening time to set my little barque aright, as you might expect.  (” O Lord, the ocean is so large and my boat is so small.” )

So here I am, dipping my oar in again, if I may extend the sailing metaphor. What I note in my absence is the huge interest in tutorials and in suggestions for plants that work for eco dyeing. I will be adding to these two subpages in due time. My blog and website are in need of an overhaul so the updates will happen as a we go along with that project.

My garden is an especial refuge and strength these days, as well as my chief source of plants for printing. Starting out in spring (so long coming ), the front garden looked the way I had been feeling for much of the year: the wrecked fence,  broken pathway and desolate flower beds…but a little evergreen here and there…

IMG_4374But soon my old dye friends began  showing up again:

Bloodroot: white blossoms, red dye from the root.

IMG_6346Then the serviceberry (amelanchier laevis) – -another native plant, like the bloodroot, and with printable leaves all season.

IMG_6398.JPGHurry along now to the blues of pansies and irises whose spent blooms, awaiting dye duty, are residing in the freezer: the frozen petals give even more juicy blues than when fresh ( a strategy shared by India Flint ).

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BTW – I have a colour obsession with the blue-chartreuse combo as well as any blue-orange pairing: Ecco! Daylily with blue-painted garden loom; my Beloved’s woven pop-can art – a Jaffa orange; grandson Dylan’s flower vase; Shlomo’s wood garden sculpture with orange clay pots by the Sheddio door.

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A lusher garden now in July, with eco-dye promises from bioregional plants monarda didyma ( scarlet Bee Balm, a hybrid via a native ), coreopsis ( red and orange), cotinus ( a range of surprise shades..) – and lots more.

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And what have I been up to, art wise?

This is just a wee intro to my update on that topic for this post. Some bookmarks made for the Al Mutanabbi project and promoted at the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists’ Guild – members are dropping bookmarks around rhe community, guerrilla-style…Here are my bookmarks:

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I have been doing experiments with indigo in a painting:

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Took a bookbinding course with master binder Dan Mazza of London, Ontario: Dan’s models here, mine in the next post:

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And last but most fun: a pair of Minnie Mouse shoes I was tempted by but resisted (Chicken? You are right)

and Dylan’s bear – how can you not smile?

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More art (mine, Dylan’s and Shlomo’s) and dye plants next time.

Thank you for joining the blog, new readers. And thank you, old blog friends, for your interest. And above all for your many beautiful and consoling thoughts, messages and prayers this last year.

Venceremos!

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