Making paint and ink with fall buckthorn berries

A few posts back, I shared with readers my stack of current books. One of them is by Jason Logan and is about making ink from plants he forages in the city, notably Toronto, NYC and Brooklyn. I find his book a truly charming intro to the world of foraging plants for pigments, well researched, beautifully written, and most of all, recipe-rich with luscious photographs of very arty ink marks. You know I love it! And he has great entries on his Instagram, too. ( Jason Logan’s book : Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking)

In the past, I have posted here about making paint and/or ink with blue iris and walnut; more recently, coreopsis was the subject. This time, I am reporting on buckthorn berries, a traditional source of green dye and paint. Artists of the Renaissance and later used buckthorn berries as a source of “sap green” as well as for various yellows or yellow-greens. The colours obtained depended on berry ripeness, plant variety and methods used for the colour extraction – all fascinating topics widely written up. (If these interest you, check out some of the references this blog, works by Dominique Cardon and Jenny Dean being great resources. You might also check a most informative blog on making artist paints: http://www.sunsikell.wordpress.com. Each of these provides trustworthy info on the pigment properties of and colour extraction methods for various varieties of buckthorn)

The buckthorn familiar to me in the Ottawa area is Rhamnus cathartica, and it is not an MVP in the plant world hereabouts! In fact, an Ottawa buckthorn SWAT team of vigilantes meets regularly to search and destroy this invasive non-native. But in spite of my preference for working with native plants, I am pretty excited and not too politically correct to find some pleasant use for the berries of the otherwise-despised buckthorn.

In fact, I found a whole hedge of the buckthorn bushes laden with juicy blue-black berries in late September ( the birds eat the berries only when nothing better is available, I have learned. ) So I helped myself to about two cupfuls with the intention of making ink and/or paint, having been inspired and instructed by Jason’s book.

First task was to extract the colour from the berries. Now I have to admit that at this point, I did not follow the instructions in Jason’s book. His practice is to just squash the fresh berries and use the juice uncooked. I decided to go with traditional dye extraction practice for this first attempt; this involved crushing the berries, covering them with water, cooking them at a simmer in the slow cooker until the water took on a dark purple-blue colour and then straining them in a jellymaking bag:

Notice how the jelly bag begins to turn green, even when purple juice has not done draining into the pot! ( Probably because of the soap residue in the jelly bag)

Now the fun begins. Indeed, to obtain green is the first colour goal, so a portion of the purple liquid is poured into a glass jar ( about a cupful) and a scant teaspoon of alum acetate is added. A good stir and a shake – et voila! Green! But not as a result of adding lye crystals, as Jason uses: first, because I had no lye on hand and anyway, older recipes often recommended alum ( though potassium aluminum sulphate). Thus, first pic shows the basic purple juice extraction, then the green with the alum added:

Then some trials on paper with these two colours ( FYI: the first pic shows how the purple stains changed colour in the empty cooking pot when I rinsed it with plain tap water – triggering a pH change and thus a colour move from blue to green) . The papers were painted with the purple and the green pigments.

With the addition of other modifiers besides alum, other colours besides greens developed. Ammonia gave brownish-yellow, soda ash gave yellows, lemon juice and white vinegar gave pink, without alum. Here are some of the samples:

To help preserve the natural paints/inks from developing molds, a number of agents can be tried. I used whole cloves ( Jason’s recommendation) in some containers and tea tree oil ( a well known anti-fungal) in others. But any mold that might develop can simply be removed and discarded. Depends how you feel about the mold.

Next time, I plan to report on the performance of additives like gum arabic that Jason recommends for ease of ink/paint flow for markmaking.

Meantime, I have buckthorn berries fermenting ( see Cardon for info on this) and plan to use those berries fresh, not cooked, to see how the colours develop in comparison to the colours obtained from the cooked ones. BTW, after cooking, you can put the mashed berry residue back into the pot, cover with water and cook again for a second extraction. And you can freeze the berries, too.

PS on ART FOR AID

For folks who have been following my art kit project to benefit Art For Aid: the good news is that a shipment of mylar blankets has left for the north, eagerly awaited by First Nations families as winter sets in. My art kits have started to arrive – one donor in NSW, Australia has even received hers BEFORE the kit mailed on the same day last week to Victoria, British Columbia! Generous folks have even donated over and above what I was able to supply in kits to match donation, though I was able to send them a just one wee kit. These little ones were in small stash I had set aside in case of SNAFUs….And no-one at all has asked for a refund, even if they were they unable to get a kit in a size that matched their donation when the supply ran out

I am extremely gratified and touched to find myself in the company of people like all these donors. Some compassionate and generous people even offered to make an extra donation as compensation for those who might have asked for a refund. I have experienced in this project the hope created by people who light candles instead of cursing the darkness.

A la prochaine, dear reader

Wendy

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Refund offered to folks too late to get an art kit

Just a quick word to anyone who has donated to the ART FOR AID mylar blanket programme, who did not reserve their kit through me and who now find that all the original kits (S,M, L) are gone. And furthermore, this info is especially for folks who did not manage to let me know that they had donated. If you did not let me know, I was unable to reserve a kit for you.

Colleen Gray of ART FOR AID tells me she will be gladly refund the donation of any donor who did not manage to reserve a kit and who prefers not to receive the small compensation kit I have offered to folks who missed out.

Both of these offers apply to people who donated between October 28 and November 3, 2018.

Let me know if this applies to you.

Contact me stating your preference at wendy(dot)feldberg(at)sympatico(dot)ca.

Good for you, Colleen! Thank you! And thank you, readers, for your patience.

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My art kits have all been spoken for now! None left!

Hello everyone!

As of today, November 3 , 2018, my offer to send kits to donors to ART FOR AID is CLOSED.

There are NO MORE kits available at this time.

I am very happy to report that the 36 art kits available last weekend in support of the ART FOR AID mylar blanket project have now gone to the donors. Thank you most sincerely to all donors!

You will be happy to learn that blanket shipment your donations provided for has now been prepared and will be on its way to the families in need. Colleen Gray of Art For Aid has been posting shipping updates on FB. She has been thrilled by your response, as I have been.

And in more good news for donors: the 36 kits have been mailed this week ( despite our rotating postal strike, lucky us!). Please let me know when you get yours! If you make some art with the papers, send me a photo!

But now a disappointment to report:

Folks who may have donated BEFORE they reserved a kit could be very disappointed by the above news: so please email me wendy(dot)feldberg(at)sympatico(dot)ca and let me know what you donated.

I will try to honour your generosity in some small way even if you have donated without first reserving your kit. Unfortunately for now, I will not be able to match your donation with the same kits as I was able to do for those who reserved kits.

My supposition is that some folks got the info by means other than directly from my blog or my FB posts. Thus some donors did not get the info first hand by reading on my blog or on my FB about how to reserve a kit first ( kit numbers were limited) and after that, to make the donation.

Thus some very generous people ended up donating after all the kits had been reserved by people who had seen the full instructions on my blog. It means that people were ready to donate even when they had not assured themselves of receiving their gift of a kit. A double portion of the spirit of generosity.

O dear. But I will try my best to compensate those donors in some measure. And I sincerely thank you for your patience, implore your mercy and I apologize for not having foreseen the need to handle eventualities such as this.

This has been a learning experience for me on how to fundraise online! But at the same time, I have received the grace of being touched by your great goodwill and trust. Thank you.

Wendy

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Quick Update on the availability of the art kits

Dear Readers,

Well, what a great response from you on the art kits made as benefit for Art For Aid http://www.artforaid.ca. (If you are new to this topic, see my previous post)

In all, 24 out of my 36 kits have been spoken for in just one day (I posted yesterday) , so the donations for buying the mylar blankets have been rolling in! Wow. I must say I did not predict this level of interest! Thank you all so very much; I am truly grateful for you and touched by your willingness to support Art For Aid in this way.

So great has the interest been, in fact, that all the larger size kits at $15 ( with 30 items) have “sold” and will be mailed out in turn this week. So I am out of large kits, folks. But never fear – there are more kits! Even if a tad smaller.

12 kits remain available: both the 20 item Medium kits (in 9″ x 12″ envelopes) and the 10 item Small kits (in 6″x 8″ envelopes).

The papers included in the Medium and Small sets are of the same genres and quality as those in the sold-out larger set, I promise.

NB: The papers inside the envelopes are various sizes, not necessarily the size of the envelope, but all are useful for mixed media work like collage, cards, artist books, journal pages, etc; and of course, I hope that the papers can inspire your own experiments in art.

After this series of kits reaches new homes, and I get feedback on the contents, I will look at whether it could be appropriate to make a second series available to donors.

So please, if you can, keep on donating and help me liquidate the current stock of 12 kits.

Don’t forget – email me BEFORE you donate to check with me if there are kits left for you in this round. wendy(dot)feldberg(at)sympatico(dot)ca.

It is getting colder each day and the mylar blankets we are buying for FN families become daily more valuable to their recipients. And we had our first snow today in Ottawa.

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Art for Aid

Dear Readers,

Would you like to receive an art kit made up of decorated papers from my mighty stash?

You can receive an art kit as my sincere and free thank-you if you donate to Art For Aid!

Read about the work of this organisation and learn how you can donate:

http://www.artforaid.ca

My Art My Aid

I am donating my Stash-Bust art kits this winter to any of my readers who makes a small donation to help buy mylar blankets through the Art For Aid organisation. The blankets will be sent to remote First Nations communities in Canada where substandard housing is all-too common and proper heating extremely difficult to achieve. You can help FN communities bust the cold this winter!

The kits I have assembled ( with help from two artist friends) come in small, medium or large sizes depending on the number of pieces included. Each kit contains a selection of (almost all) my own decorated papers along with an occasional printed and/or stitched textile, made in various ways and for various purposes: ecoprints, paste paper, inkjet prints, etchings, watercolours, paint/stitch trials, painty-doodle-experiments. Every item in every kit is unique. They are priced at $5, $10 or $15 each depending on the number of papers in the kit: 10, 20 or 30 items. Here is a photo of some of the kits:

You can use the kit contents for many of your fave mixed media art projects. How about for collage, Artist Books, origami, journal pages, hanging scrolls, ATCs, Round Robins, Exquisite Corpse projects, Mail-Art?…Mix and match the kit contents with your own supplies…use the papers as art-starters or prompts for your own work… swap kit items with a friend…buy a few kits to use as supplies for your own workshops or for a Play Day with artist buddies…check out paint and colour effects and see if they inspire you to try your own…make up kits of your own from your own Hallowed Stash!

How do you get your kit?

Better hurry – I have made up 36 kits for this round. (But if the project goes well, I will make more – the stash has barely a dent in it…)

This is how it works for you to receive your kit:

You donate by going to Art For Aid site.

You reserve your kit by telling me what amount you plan to donate and what size of kit you’d like ( kit quantities are limited)

Then you confirm your donation by emailing me when you have donated; at the same time, you provide me with your mailing address.

And I get that kit in the mail to you ( fingers crossed, no postal strike) PDQ. ( See below for email info etc. ):

How to donate:

http://www.artforaid.ca

Go to the Programmes tab on the website and choose the mylar blanket programme.

Follow the links on the Art For Aid “Programmes” page to make the donation.

If you plan to donate:

Send me an email at  wendy(dot)feldberg(at)sympatico(dot)ca with your name and mailing address, and the amount you plan to donate to Art For Aid. Then I can set aside your kit until I hear from you that you have donated.

Choose a suggested amount: $5 ( a selection of ten items) gets you a small kit, $10 ( a selection of 20 items) a middle size kit; and $15 ( a selection of 30 items) a large one. Of course you can donate as much as you like for a kit of any size.

Confirm your donation and provide your address

I will send you your kit(s) when I receive from you the confirmation that your donation has been made and when you email me your mailing address.

Kit availability

At the moment, I have 36 kits available. So you do need to contact me to reserve your kit BEFORE you donate to check that kits are still available this time around. If there is sufficient interest, and I run out of kits, I will employ some artist friends as speedy kitmaking helpers.

FYI about Colleen Gray, founder of Art For Aid.

Colleen is a working artist. She often finances the shipping of supplies to First Nations up north with the sales of her own art. So I am doing likewise. Last time I donated to Art For Aid was thirty boxes of art supplies that my Beloved had used well and had held on to for many a year before he died.

This has been my stash busting report!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and thank you in advance for your generosity. I posted on FB tonight and got a few orders! Hooray!

Email me if you have any questions. I am on FB too, so you can PM me there or post on the blog.

My next post(s) will continue my reports on making art colours with two local plants – coreopsis and buckthorn. I have lots to tell you about these two and lots of pics.

Let’s end with another few pics of examples of what’s inside those kits: :

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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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