A Marginally Noted Man

Dear blog readers!

Today, something really exciting but not about eco printing! instead, I have invited my friend, Anne Shmelzer tell us about her first novel.

My debut novel, A Marginally Noted Man – a tale that delves into the traumatizing past of a WWI veteran – is now published through Railway Creek Books Canada where it can be purchased in print or ebook formats on Amazon, Apple and Kobo by using the purchase links at railwaycreekbooks.ca. I am very honoured that the book has been endorsed by Col Rakesh Jetly, Chief Psychiatrist for the Canadian Armed Forces, who said:

“Anne Shmelzer displays an acute understanding of the warfare experience. She shines a light on the early emergence of PTSD and creates a vivid image of Will Nicol’s internal struggle to regain his mental health. From the battlefields of the Western Front to his reintegration into society, A Marginally Noted Mantakes us on an emotional journey that is difficult to put down. This is a great read!”

A Marginally Noted Man tells the story of Will Nicol who returns to Hastings County to rebuild his life after the horrific aftermath of war on the Western Front and to seek comfort in the arms of his widowed niece. With Leah by his side, Will attempts to banish the memories that have scarred his mind and body, and continue to plague him. But as he continues to struggle to reconcile his status as a war hero with the traumatizing memory that he can’t contain, Will soon realizes that to regain his sanity he must come to terms with the past. Together with his comrade-in-arms, Michael Isaacs, Will returns to the scene of a fateful mission to confront his guilt and unburden his mind.

I do hope you take the time to read A Marginally Noted Man and enjoy the story as much as I loved writing it. If you would be so inclined, please leave a note on Amazon, Kobo or Apple telling me what you thought. It would mean a great deal to me to see your review.

I would also like to invite you to my book signings, which are taking place:

I would love to see you there!

Thank you for reading and your support. And, please feel free to pass this email along to other friends and family who may be interested in reading A Marginally Noted Man or attending one of the book signings.

May we find Shalom, peace in our time.


Posted in Anne Shmelzer, PTSD | Leave a comment

Mordants and Natural Dyeing, The Great Debate


Carrie Sundra of Alpenglow Yarns is the Voice of Reason on the safe use of mordants. . One’s choices are one’s own in the ecoprint endeavour, so by all means diverge from the science if you please. For myself, I am trying to gather the facts! More on that later. Jane Deane at FB The Wild Dyery brought this article to the attention of the dye community.

Originally posted on Alpenglow Yarn:

I’ve thought about writing this post for a while. This topic, more than anything else in natural dyeing, brings up emotion and occasional controversy. My goal with this post is to present some facts, with references to reputable sources that you can check and read further. Natural dye books unfortunately tend to be bastions of misinformation, rife with generalities and opinions that are expressed as facts, and I do not consider the majority of them to be reputable sources of factual information about chemicals or chemistry.

I always kind of cringe when someone asks me about mordants and their toxicity.  It’s not because I’m reluctant to talk about it, it’s just that it’s a complex subject and I usually don’t have time at a show or in an interview to address the topic well.  It’s a difficult one to answer succinctly. That’s a big reason that I chose to write about it…

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At the Burrow DyeTable # Two: A Little Poke in the Night


Would love ya’all to read this exemplary post on how to dye with pokeberries. Thinking the ideas herein might work for elderberries, too. Dye divas everywhere, especially those at The Wild Dyery (FB) – would you like to take up th challenge? Thank you, Jean, at Grackleandsun

Originally posted on Grackle & Sun:

Oh, my friends, have I been harvesting poke.  I’ve been harvesting poke for weeks.  Over hill, over dale, thorough bush, thorough brier, over park, over pale, thorough flood, thorough fire, I do wander everywhere… collecting all the pokeberries I can find.  Well, not all of them.  I left plenty for the songbirds.  Husband lent a handsome hand, as well, because he is all things good.  Happily, despite the drought this summer, there is many much poke.  It is glorious.

And for what do I gather these succulent little berries that cling in clusters on their pendulous racemes?  For dyeing, of course.  To make that dyer’s alchemy happen—to pull colour from one to put upon another.  Transference.  The dictionary defines alchemy as “any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.”  If turning the often (but wrongly)…

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October Studio

September has passed in a blur of sun, studio-time and a mad race to prepare for the annual studio tour of two weekends. As I have spent most of the post-tour week cleaning up, it occurred to me that you, dear Reader, might like a peek at where I do most of my art work.

My studio is in the basement of our house and it comprises areas for sewing, cutting, painting, bookbinding, printing, dyeing, laundry, garden planning and the hoarding of art supplies, books , sewing machines, seeds and the kids' artwork, plus sentimental “bits and bobs” as the Brits say; and not to forget the occasional mouse… The floor lists dramatically to starboard ( or is it port?), the ceiling is less than eight feet (that's OK for me, though – I am nowadays less than five feet tall) and one needs the lights on at all times (daylight fluorescent bulbs). It will never be featured in that Spiffy Studio mag but it's real and it's a Place of My Own.

Especially it works for West, my studio assistant….he is grandson Dylan's marmalade kitty who stayed over a few days this week, dined on the mice, then pooed in the bathtub…When not sitting in my tool box, West was on my keyboard watching the scroll bar go up and down…

Please come in! The Ikea chest of drawers would not go up the stairs so, boo hoo, I had to keep In the studio it to store my eco dye stash…

Facing you in the above pic as you enter is the dye cupboard (half empty because the rest of th supplies are still outside at my outdoor summer dye station.)

Left of the open door at the entrance and in the foreground is the wet station (sink, dye vats and mordant baths) , printing and book binding area; straight ahead on the left at mid-ground is my cutting and general work table with the paper etc. cupboards nearby. On the back wall are the painting supplies and various new canvases etc. We sourced all the furniture and cupboards at Habitat for Humanity or at thrift stores.

A closer shot showing what's on my table this week: Some more eco prints to frame; a couple of bricks covered in paper to use as weights for flattening book pages. Plus my coffee, of course.

My sewing area with the Sacred Stash (of textiles, naturally). I like to arrange the textiles into small collections or WIP projects; I put the collections in labelled, see-through plastic boxes – easy to find and to shlep back and forth. The second chair is for the grandkids…

My toolbox: The needlecase was the VERY FIRST free motion project I did. I learned free motion stitching quite by accident one day – I somehow read the chapter on darning with the sewing machine and had an epiphany! (What If the engineer who wrote the sewing machine manual had written How to Make Art With Your Sewing Machine? In the next few posts I will be doing a little retrospective on my embroideries since I am hoping to be able to add to the older series. But that is for later.) Just now:

A box of paper and textiles offcuts, awaiting their new assignments as art material:

A mordant bath and an indigo vat ( plastic boxes work fine! )

On the Inspiration Shelf: work in progress – Artist Books that never got finished for the tour! They are to be coptic-bound.

Shlomo put up this sonnet by Shakespeare for me to read while doing the laundry:

Some other work that is still in progress and never made it to the tour:

Eco print with indigo on silk dupion

Indigo, rust and tannin prints on linen and cotton – also WIPs

A few more rust print WIPs:


“May Gardenista” on the work table, WIP:

My mass book “Magnificat” recycled as an altered book – almost 400 pages folded! The cover of the mass book beside it shows a work by Odilon Redon “The Flight Into Egypt” (Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus, refugees, resting on the road). The colours in the painting are similar to the ones in “May Gardenista”” don't you think?



And now to show you some of what emerged from the studio in time for the studio tour this month:




The candleholders are by Shlomo who also participated in the tour with his metal art. They go well with the rust, tannin and indigo prints, I thought


Most of the work above is on paper or cloth dyed/printed with indigo, rust, plants and tannin.

Last pic:

I found this print when sorting stuff for the tour. I bought it many years ago and I cannot find the name of the painter. Does anyone recognise the work? It looks kind of Klee-ish. I had been in Canada only two years when I found it In the shop of the National Gallery of Canada, a repro of course. I felt it was something of a self-portrait, me wrapping myself in my British flag, missing my old home. And check her hippy headband.


Posted in artist books, artist's studio, book arts, indigo, Indigo dyeing, Magnificat, Odilon Redon, Rust dyeing, Rust Printing | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

Indigo blues et amaranth reds in August

A busy month so far! Art, gardens, travels, guests…

Brooklyn and Manhattan in late July, early August were HOT! Ottawa, too.

But refuge was close: The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and in particular, the native plants garden, were ripe with goldenrod and black-eyed susan:


We were there In Brooklyn for these two beauties, giving the little mama a break and a bit of time for a nap – Mr. Zev is no sleeper! So a walk every day with the Grandies in the botanical garden was heaven for all concerned. Don't you love the tie Zev is wearing on top of his onesie? Smiles to light up your heart!


Earlier in the summer, we paid a visit to the grave of one of my dear friends at Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario. The beautiful chapel there is alive with icons, painted by a member of the community. I am making a little book in memory of Martha and her garden.


Not long after, West, our grandson's kitty stayed over for a few days. Here you see West taking his ease after his brave but fruitless night-long vigil at the mousehole in our kitchen floor. Dylan's mama found West (he was nine months old ) at the animal shelter and just had to take him home. West had arrived injured when about six weeks old, and most adopters were afraid to take him on – but not Dylan's mama. Looking pretty comfy, isn't he?


The August garden is full and lucious with colour still but, dear Reader, my “kaleyard” this year needs to be renamed the “amaranth yard”! This year, I planted the black 'Lacinato' kale in a pot along with what I thought were two dwarf red amaranth ( I got the seeds from a hippy seed seller and I forget the name of the variety) but which have turned out to be extremely ambitious and quite bumptious imposters, size-wise; they are reaching ever-skyward and thus dwarfing the usually-giant kale! OOOPs! And it is here to stay. The amaranth will self seed copiously around the whole neighbourhood- its tiny seed becomes windborne quite easily. I am growing it mainly for dye; even if it is not the famous Hopi red amaranth, it may yield some dye anyway…I did have a red amaranth (variety unkown) for many years in my other garden and it gave me a lasting pink.

Some other dye sources: this year, blue cornflower and yellow calendula. Monarda didyma “Cambridge Scarlet” , Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' and 'Route 66', chartreuse smokebush and yellow black-eyed susan:





Studio time this month has been taken up with prep for the annual West End Studio Tour. Indigo and rust will be featuring large on the displays. This year, I will show rust, indigo and tannin monotypes on paper and cloth wall pieces: eco dyed and printed silk scarves, artist books and small art cards. A selection follows:

Rusted paper and cloth with indigo and tannins ( plants, too):

Indigo, rust and tannin on paper. One of six larger works.

Laying out the monotype print:


A stack of printed cloth and papers:

I made some cast paper dyed with indigo and painted with acrylics for my books:



Eco dyed scarves:


An older rusted linen work, embroidered and two-sided:

Some scarf prints:

Some eco prints on paper and cloth:

Off the country again tomorrow to meet up with the other grandchildren and to usher out August.

I am taking my wildfower books, my sewing kit and my hapazome hammers. Flower pounding! Kids LOVE it! Can you guess the plants Dylan and I pounded?




Posted in Brooklyn, dye garden, eco prints on paper, handmade paper, hapazome, Indigo dyeing, kaleyard, NYC, Rust dyeing | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Garden Printed in July

Eco dyeing and eco printing are, for me, art forms sprung from my lifelong love of plants and gardening. My earliest childhood memories, in fact, are of the textures, forms and colours of plants – bilberries, heather and fuschia growing in Orkney. Since then, I have made a garden in every place I have lived, starting small in England with seed packages of orange calendula, blue cornflowers and purple Virginian stock that my garden-loving parents gave me. In my current Ottawa garden, just two summers old, I am slowly building a collection of plants native to eastern Ontario or other parts of North America, but not so exclusive a collection as to banish well-beloved European green immigrants, sentimental favourites, that have adapted to our eco zone. I am also delving into the tradtional use of dye plants by First Nations of this area. Some of the latter plants (Sanguinaria canadensis /bloodroot, for example) had made themselves at home in my new garden years before we bought the house. Such are the plants that I want to use for eco dyes and prints – local, regional, national and a few well-travelled and well- behaved internationals. The epithet “eco” in eco dyeing can mean several things, of course, but first, I use it to refer to my use of plants that are native to my geographical area, especially those I can grow myself or forage with respect in the neighbourhood.

And now into the garden during a hot and humid month of July in Ottawa. What to find in bloom there, full of seasonal colour for printing? Below, a little bouquet of favourite flowers and leaves that work for printing: Clockwise from the left: Bee balm, Japanese maple, Coreopsis verticillata, rose leaf, blue cornflower, calendula, burgundy cornflower Anthemis tinctoria (Dyer's marguerite), Cotinus obovatus (smokebush).

Not only the oft-invoked serendipity and spontanaity but also some deliberation and discrimination went into planning this series of “July Gardenista” prints. Instead of going first for the “dark and stormy” eco print that is the result of putting iron and tannin- rich plants together in the bundle, my goal with this little collection was to pair complementary colours and to promote a range of analagous colours by a careful choice of pigment-bearing plants. I wanted clear, bright summer's day colours , a “painter's palette” .

And after first showing you the “painter's palette” prints I obtained on paper, I have included some of my “dark-and-stormies” : the iron-tannin-indigo prints that develop fast outside on the stones in the heat of a 35 C day!

Here are the ” painter's palette” results.

The plants below were printed on (thrifted) handmade paper, highly textured, most likely some kind of mulberry (kozo).

The cornflowers, calendulas and coreopsis above are still attached to the paper

Orange calendula print and bloom, above.

Blue cornflower print ( Renaissance artists considered this blue to be inferior – or so say some of the art historians like Daniel Thompson) I love that blue-orange opposition!


Cotinus in July – a new colour each month from this plant! Blue with green from cotinus

The pink-purple is Monarda didyma ” Cambridge Scarlet”/ bee balm

Coreopsis verticillata red with marigold yellow

A few pages together. The red stems of the coreopsis bring essential structure to the design on tne surface so covered with abstract smudges of colour

Blue pansy, fresh, prints teal-green: a strong shape in a strong colour. Then we have the yellow- purple complements via Anthemis tinctoria and Monarda didyma, amorphous stains

More red- green complements, with interesting strong red lines and loose smudges in contrast. Plus a bit of blue in there. Where did that come from?


A rose leaf (below) offers a soft yellow to complement the also-soft pink-purple of the bee balm. Strident deep orange-reds sing loud with a powerful dark teal green print from a blue pansy, And an emerald cotinus leaf.

The many contrasts of colour, form and value in these prints keep them from being insipid, don't you think?

And now to the “dark-and-stormies” .

To get really dark prints (black, charcoal, blue-black) from leaves, we need to choose tannin-rich leaves like sumac, oak, walnut, geranium and others and process them with iron bits.I do my D and S's in three stages – three, if I dip the thing in indigo for the last stage.

First stage: Bundle the paper and textile/layer with iron and vinegar to get a good iron print; bundle up the iron chunks and slosh on the white vinegar, 5% acetic acid, no exact proportions. Wrapping the iron or layering it flat works well. No need to alum-mordant; but if you do, no matter. Put the textile or paper with iron between heavy black plastic garbage bags, weighted down, and leave in the sun for a day (or even less if it is very hot outside, say over 30 C. Keep checking…) Leave it to print until you are happy with the result, then unwrap and evaluate. You can add more iron, vinegar, tea leaves and leave it for a while longer if you like.

Second stage: For this stage, I layer on leaves, then I steam the bundle to print the leaves. I layer tannin-rich leaves onto the textile or paper, put the iron bits back in, bundle or stack the package in the dye pot, slosh again with vinegar and process (covered) over high steam heat over water for about an hour. The leaves print blue-black if they are tannin-rich. You may get smidges of yellow or green colouration also. Very nice. I suggest using leaves of contrasting size and shape, like the longer pinnate sumac with the smaller palmate geranium. This kind of attention to shape and size of print elements makes for a more interesting surface design. After all, sooner or later, an artist might like to feel they have some control over the essentially- spontaneous exo print process. Serendipity and considered choices make good partners in design.

Third stage for indigo: Either dribble on a diluted indigo solution from pre- reduced crystals and let dry; or skip this stage and dribble the indigo onto the substrate at Stage Two before steaming.

For good info on using pre-reduced indigo, check out Catherine Ellis' fine PDF via Earth Guild.

NB The indigo I am using at the moment is not the “granola” indigo, i.e., the “haute eco” indigo used by “eco-printerati” which comes from real leaves. MIne Is the synthetic variety, alas, the pre-reduced crystals. But rest assured, Dear Reader, for when my potted Indigo indigofera plant grows big enough, I, too, shall aspire to membership in the aforementioned elite company. And you shall be the first to know. ( And I do have my Japanese indigo in the works, too. )

And now some the pics of the the iron/rust, tannin and indigo prints.

Shlomo cut and welded these iron bits:

The bundle was dribbled and blobbed here and there with indigo: iron bits with tannin from tea leaves.

Other iron bits for the bundles/layers/stacks:

Leaves layered on the textile after the first printing with iron and tea leaves only:

Ready for steam processing: Indigo dribble, tannin marks from some ? leaves in the bundle that printed in the heat of the sun: lots of great rust marks.

Papers and iron stashed under plastic in the hot sun:,

Rust prints on paper with indigo and tannin-rich tea leaves, dry.


Part of a rust printed textile:

Sumac prints blue-black with iron bits:

Indigo and rust with tannins and leaf prints:


And one last print: Japanese maple and geranium without iron but with indigo. Just the usual eco print process to print the maple and geranium on rice (mulberry) paper, then pre-reduced indigo dribbled on with a bulb baster. The maples printed different colours on rice paper than on linen where ir gave purple and green, And here, different colours from the upper and under side of the leaf.

And that is it for ” July Gardenista” prints, Dear Reader.

We are off to Brooklyn this week for a week to babysit our newest grandbaby! And to give the poor parents a break – little Zev is no sleeper! We may have time for some arty things – the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is nearby…we will not be able to resist a nice walk in the gardens with our little grandson.

Leaving you with one of my faves:

Until August, then.




Posted in Brooklyn, dye plants, dyeing with native plants, Eco Prints, eco prints on paper, Indigo dyeing, Rust Printing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

June Dye Plants in July

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have come since last post, dear Reader! Pinched nerves, spine miseries, carpal tunnel syndrome have kept me away from blogland and the garden for too long….But TG for physio and MRI machines…Still, I had to save my mobility and energy for family visits (new baby), a family trip to the Muskokas and a couple of eco dye classes that I gave in June. But I did keep taking pics of the June dye plants growing in nicely without me fussing; so here are some of them ( even though we are half way through July) along with a few samples of eco prints done by students in June:

Cotinus coggygria (R) with Rhus typhina (above R); nasturtiums in the wheelbarrow ( for hapazome) and dogwoods by the fence.

Front garden with the eco print star, red Japanese maple, probably “Bloodgood”

At this time of the year, this red leaved maple prints greens and purples. For complementary contrast, it is paired with yellow-primting sumac ( a student print).

And here is the Acer palmatum again, this time green, with red Coreopsis verticillata as colour complement, and yellows from baptisia as analagous colours.

Coiinus surprises in June, with red coreo for a bit of sizzle:

Iris always blue:

Tall bearded blue iris:

Baptisia australis: blue and purple blooms on the same plant! Fluorescent yellow from ththe leaves, deep blue stains from the little flowers:

This plant is NOT in my garden: Rhamnus cathartica (buckthorn) is an invasive non-native soo fair game for June foraging. Green from the berries, a trad dye plant in Europe. The local Buckthorn Police were happy that this Most Wanted on their list had been hunted down…

Japanese indigo ( Persicaria tinctoria): two overwintered plants that I layered and that consequently filled the whole planter: a plant with the will to live and leave a legacy; dye pot coming.

I still have loads of dried J. Indigo from last year, plus a 2014 vat that will get reactivated later this month:

The very well informed and generous mad dyers over at FB pageThe Wild Dyery have told us how we can get the vat going again.

Above are prints from a lichen solar dye pot that I started on my return from the Muskokas where I found huge rocks covered in umbilicaria (Rock Tripe) lichen, and which our B&B owners allowed me to gather.

The liquor looks like rich red wine at the moment; I shake it to areate the jar each day and I catch the dye drips on a piece of linen under the jars. The underside of the lichen is green when wet.

The umbilicaria, above. Not sure of the variety. FYI: The ethics of collecting lichen are in still in dispute. I feel comfortable having collected three small jars worth from over a large area on private property where a lot of the lichen has detached spontaneously from the rocks. The colour will fully develop in about six months.

A lovely print by expert linocut printmaker and teacher Deidre Hierlihy who took a little eco print instruction session from me this month; print on handmade Canal paper by Saint Armand. Smooshed blue aronia berries with Salvia officinalis (culinary sage) and rust prints.

One of my favourite wild flower scenes in the Muskokas: orange Indian paintbrush (talleja) backed by white clover and tall yellow hawksweed. Native peoples used the talleja for pigments according to Moerman ( see my refs page)

Last pic is of ME, dear Reader. I have been reluctant to show my face and be somewhat personal, but I know you perhaps wonder who is speaking to you and what I might look like. So here I am, dressed for the photo and right after I had my grey hair dyed…I cannot tell a lie, paper was not the only thing that got dyed in June… I got these great copper-oxidised earrings from the kids for Mother’s Day; the kids insisted I send them a pic with me wearing them; so I am daring to share it with you. The earrings were made by the very talented young jeweller artist Shane Cook, a grad of NSCAD. Behind me in the pic are some of my embroideries. A couple of these works will soon appear in a text book about modern textile art embroidery published by the Hong Kong Polytechnical University.

Next post will be in July!





















Posted in classes, dye garden, dye plants, lichen, textile art | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments