Back from Brooklyn

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February in Ottawa is Winterlude, AKA The Deep Freeze at minus 35…

The Kaleyard looks lovely, though, with dye plants snug under the snow billows:

Can't help thinking about what will have survived its first year in The Kaleyard, and if, come spring, it will look like this again:
While we were in Brooklyn/NYC, I found some lovely areas of winter beauty, and in some unexpected places. E.g. : A gentrified part of Redhook outside a big supermarket, giving me my only view of the Statue of Liberty on this trip:
And at the icy waters near Riverside Park on the Upper West Side of Manhattan:

The High Line is my favourite NYC park to visit in the great city. Over the years, some abandoned railroad tracks raised above city streets became informal host to wildflowers and wildlife when left to wind and weather and wild critter. When the railroad was threatened with demolition, the local community rallied to save it; now it is an artfully landscaped haven of natural native plantings among the skyscrapers. Native plantings and sculptures, boardwalks and benches make the High Line endlessly interesting in every season.

Sumacs and the Flag on the High Line:

Grasses and milkweed: i love the winter colours and forms of the plants.

Mahonia and winterberry. There are many berry-bearing bushes and trees on the High Line to feed the wildlife and aid propogation.

The recent High Line extension landscaping has allowed plants to volunteer and to selfseed without specialist planning:

Sculptures along the extension: impermanent, weather-susceptible, fleeting, temporary…this one is formed by soil, rock and rags:

A city profile, from the High Line

And after the park, a hot lunch in a NY deli:

…plus a game of Deli Tic-Tac-To with grandson Dylan (aged 5) :

Iconic NYC views nearby:

 

Views served up with art advice:

And a history book to read on the subway. Now that I have an American grandson, I owe it to him to learn his history- why not from a gardening perspective? (And we watched some episodes of the West Wing on Netflix, too..plus noticed cracks made about dorky Canadians, too…)!The author of The Founding Gardeners shows how the Founding Fathers used native plants on their properties as statements not only about the natural beauty of the American landscape but as symbols of a necessary attachment to the principles of hard work, self-sufficiency and political independence in the new country. A fascinating perspective on the use of native plants in ones's garden!

NYC has some great doorways and I was checking them for colour.

The Brooklyn Flea (market) doorway. I noticed a lot of blue and blue-grey paint paired with Brooklyn red brick…I am enjoying that combo…Thinking I might try it for my house this spring…This doorway was of The C-l-e-a-r-i-n-g Gallery in Bushwick, where “Green Calvin”, a show of green ceramic chicken faces on identical green canvases by Calvin Marcus took place. I loved the doorway.

And inside our rented walk-up apartment (VRBO) near the Brooklyn Museum, a charming old interior dec:

 

As for the weather: you may have heard about the snowstorm that grounded the flights in and out of NYC in January: Here, Dylan and Shlomo are walking home from the subway at rhe Brooklyn Museum. I liked the colour combos here.

 

 

And for the art I have come back to in my studio, here is a quick peek: Some painted canvas to cover a chair.

This month, my project was to create art envelopes with enclosures for the annual book arts swap at CBBAG. I used a basic palette of primary red-blue-yellow to decorate paste papers, mixing colours on the surface; then used vintage textile fragments in secondary colours as envelope inserts:

A collection of envelopes

A couple of envelope examples:

 

More next post about art in NYC (e.g, at the Luhring Augustine Gallery in Bushwick for the Philip Taafe exhibit – Philip Taafe is one of my faves and a master of pattern and colour; plus Al Loving and Sam Gilliam at the MOMA who have worked in textiles to create abstract art and who are being brought out of mothballs basically by the current in-crowd of art curators at the MOMA. (Mothballs and textiles, you say…?)

…and some of my ongoing art projects in the studio.

Hello and welcome to all the new followers of Threadborne. And to all vistors, old and new, thank you for stopping by and for your comments.

Wendy

 

 

January in Brooklyn

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So we are in Brooklyn for January because…

… As the image shows, one bun is out of the oven and we are waiting for the other one…the Bride of 2012 (whose wedding chuppah was reported here) is soon to be a mama…

While waiting, the Grandies have been soaking up the local NYC culture. For example:

Lower Manhattan by Kirk Bauer – a work of art, a photo

Just around the corner from our apartment.

Cool plywood bench in the library entrance.

Inside the library display cases:

The snows blow in Brooklyn:

Some of our local subway stations:

 

At the Brooklyn Museum : “Killer Heels” – designer shoes. Very disturbing show. The movie still below captures a woman imprisoned by fashion, in hideous subjection to torture, willingly undergone

 

 

Too bad they had no shoes we could try on and take selfies of, to ridicule ourselves in…

…but there were African textiles we could pet:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in true Quilt Police style, I looked at the back:

Then there was the Brooklyn Flea, open at weekends, with antiques, collectibles and delectables, too:

The coold red pipes are to code:

 

And in Manhattan:

The Frick Collection on Fifth Avenue : some El Grecos and other treasures from Scotland but no photos allowed except here in the indoor garden courtyard. A luxurious mansion filled with art. Pretty astonishing that one collector could afford all of it.

The view across from the Frick to Central Park:

Until next time!

Wendy

 

International artist retreats 2015-2016, Mount Subasio, Assisi

wendyfe:

Check out Arte Studio Ginestrelle on Mount Subasio, Umbria, near Assisi, Italy. This was my choice for art residency in October, 2013. It’s a wonderful place.

Originally posted on artestudioginestrelle:

artestudioginestrelle, landscape

We will be glad to send you all the complete information and materials regarding how to apply for the International residency programs, cultural events and International exhibitions 2015-2016.

Please, contact us:
artestudioginestrelle@gmail.com

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Mary Had a Little Book

wendyfe:

Merry Christmas to all! For your edification, research by Eric Kwakkel on ancient books as depicted in paintings of The Annunciation. One of my favourite sites.

Originally posted on medievalbooks:

For the book historian Christmas is a great season. It means that a lot of so-called “Annunciation” scenes make their rounds on social media, the biblical story in which the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will give birth to God’s son, Christ. There is something very attractive about these scenes for lovers of medieval books. Especially in the later Middle Ages, Mary is shown to be reading when Gabriel breaks the news. The idea was to show her in a holy place engaged in prayer, studies explain (here and here), and to make this connection to the beholder, she was shown with a book.

While this alone tells you a lot about the role of the book in medieval times, the Annunciation scenes have an even more interesting story to tell. They invited medieval decorators to depict a book and a reader engaged with it, life-like and to the best of their abilities. This implies that…

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Paper Diversions: Rust Prints, Fresco Papers and Fancy Doodles

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Paste papers and rust prints are among the mark-making adventures on my radar this month, along with the trademarked 'Zentangles' (Since I am unable to insert the R copyright/trademark symbol using this iPad keyboard, I must henceforth refer to thIs topic as 'The Z Word')

One of my rust print excursions (below) is via Canal paper (artisan-made by Saint Armand in Montreal) and features vinegar-splashed iron chunks sprinkled with Assam tea for blue-black tannin marks:

Next is something I have never tried before; pedantically, I was thinking it was just a fad, basically the 'Pet Rock' of markmaking:

The Z Word

Throwing prejudice aside, I bought a wee kit for my daughter, who, seeking some artistic diversion to offset the pressures of work, was ready to give these fancy doodles a go. We both tried; for my effort, i gave myself zero, having broken the Fancy Doodle Rules (use a pen, no ruler, no eraser, start at the line, etc. ) and not having filled in the whole three and a half inch square required:

My daughter, on the other hand, became enchanted. This is her first Z Word:

And her second:

She ran off home, excited to do more Z Words, plus try more spirograph from Michaels (she and Dylan, aged five, play with that together) plus a fancy old-fashioned kind of spirograph from Lee Valley Tools that architects used to use and that Google knows nothing about. Thank you, Z Word, and please accept my apologies; you are not the Pet Rock of the art world after all.

'Fresco' paste papers.

Paste paper was the next experiment. The textured surfaces of papers coloured with pigmented paste seem fresco-like; so my aim for the overall look of the paste papers became: abraded surfaces – pitted, peeling and faded, ancient walls…

I have enjoyed making paste papers in the past, painting more or less traditional swirled and combed patterns and using mostly natural dyes ( I have reported on the paste recipe, patterns and results in a previous post.). Favoured by book artists, paste papers are usually coloured with a home-made wheat or cornstarch or rice paste (sometimes wallpaper paste or methyl cellulose) mixed with acrylic paints or other pigments.

Paste paper was a kind of side activity traditional with bookbinders, a frugal way to use up the leftover paste used in book construction. The paste (wheat, corn, rice, etc., depending on cultural traditions and era) was mixed with colours and painted in simple but effective designs on paper that could be used for book decoration. Today, many bookbinders make paste paper for its own sake and as a way to obtain beautiful and unique materials for Artists' Books displaying complex, painterly designs.

Really, you could just use straight acrylic paints instead of going to the trouble of making coloured paste. Still, making paste papers nowadays is perhaps more about rediscovering and emulating the long-ago customs of bookbinders and connecting yourself with the history of the craft. But allowing your creativity some contemporary licence. The resulting art papers can be used as pages, end papers or covers for Artists' Books, as background for book content or even as the book content itself.

For my 'fresco' papers, I chose acrylic paints by Golden for their high pigment load. ( Wheat or cornstarch paste tends to thin out the pigment so paler prints can result from less concentrated paint colours). My preference is for a basic palette I can use to mix the colours I want, either by layering colours on top of one another on the paper, or by mixing them before application.

For this batch, I chose Hansa yellow, Cadmium red, Ultramarine blue, Cobalt blue, Green Gold, Cadmium orange, Titan buff (instead of stark white), 'sludge' by Tri- Art ( a factory mix of leftover paints that offers a cheap, brownish substitute for black that gives a more faded, antique look to the darks on the page) and Interference red, a metallic paint I used as a resist before the paste layer, and as bit of shine on the surface, brushed on straight.

Some of the paste papers were printed in two or three layers of colour, and dried between layers so that a wet top layer could be wiped, scraped, rolled or printed off in areas to allow the under colour to show through. Textile scraps (coarse linen strips, crochet lace, netting, heavy weaves, etc.) were pressed with a brayer into a wet paste layer, then removed, leaving their impressions like stamps and lifting off a lot of the surface colour, creating new texture and revealing the underlying layers. The textiles can also lift off bits of paper, too! The abrasion was not hard to achieve…Other marks were made with carved rollers, combs, etc.

I took several monotypes from the 'host' paste painting by pressing a clean, damp sheet of Canal paper on top of the painted page (or two) and pulling a secondary print. In some cases, as in this first image, you can see that layers of paper were pulled up from the surface of the paper along with the coloured paste, creating a look of broken plaster.

 

 

This image belpw shows the monotype I printed off the 'host' paper, above, with bits of paper pulled off the surface and adding to the 'fresco' effect.

The Interference red used as a resist before painting the first coloured layers changed colour to purply- grey when the 'sludge' was rolled over the top of the yellow and red layers. The metallic worked better on the top surface in this paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time!

Wendy

 

 

Kaleyard Art for Story Chairs

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I recently became owner of six small, pretty wood dining chairs with hand-made wool tapestry seat-covers in a charming rose-sprig pattern. They are perfect in size for our new and smaller dining room. But in style – unadventurous. Farewell, twee tapestry. Time for some upcycling fun, I thought…maybe something outsider-arty and a more than a tad outrageous? So more than a bit pretentious, since for this project, I am invoking real art by real painters.

I was thinking Kandinsky and Klee, two of my favourite painters, because of how they used vibrant colours in geometric and organic forms…I have two images of their work on the wall in my studio as constant companions. The ‘Kandinsky’ is one I painted myself many, many years ago…I like to experiment with painting from time to time and try to copy, just for the exercise, work by my favourite artists. (I think one can learn a lot this way. One learns especially fast that one sucks at painting and should likely not blog about one’s paintings except to encourage ‘schadenfreude’ …

The only thing I have in common with Kandinsky is that I, like him, experience synesthesia, which for me means that when I hear music, especially opera, I see colours. But that doesn’t get me my painter license…

The Klee on my studio wall is poster of a work in the MOMA.

Here is my Kaleyard ‘Kandinsky’ (Be kind, dear Reader):

I was pretty into it when painting the figures but then got really bored with the bits top right and top centre… O those muddy lumps…Thus, copying art has limits as an educational pastime…

The Klee:

For my chair upcycling project, I made a giant sacrifice in deciding to use up a precious hoard of thrifted canvas from my Hallowed Stash. The Lofty Eco Idea was not to buy anything but to use what was at hand. The fabric, about 60″ long and 36″ wide, was enough to make six new chair seat covers, painted and stitched. I gessoed the canvas with some very ancient stuff, barely liquid, found in the drawer where I go to practice my archaeological digging now and then.

For colours, I elected to go for bright and bold, not realizing right away that the Kandinsky and the Klee had pretty much formed my choice without my conscious awareness. (Shall I credit or blame in this case? ) I chose seven colours; Dark blue (ultramarine), cobalt blue, cadmium orange, nickel azo gold, green gold. quinacridone crimson and Hansa yellow. Straight out of the tube. Squeezed straight onto the brush. And a quirky move to start me off on that big, white, scary canvas: I used up the rest of my indigo ‘vat’ (left over from the indigo-dyed papers I showed you last post), sloshing it on and letting it drip down the canvas in squiggly stripes with dribbles and blobs. I decided to layer on the warm colour layers first, with the result the the indigo dribbles turned green under nickel azo gold and Hansa yellow.

The large canvas was eventually to be cut up into six equal portions, so no single ‘focal points’ were in my mind. No points at all, in fact. I simply laid down a layer of dye or paint each day for a week when I came down to the basement to do the laundry. No thinking, just moving the brush, following the first impulse for markmaking, no second guessing: “Trust your beginnings”, as Julia Caprara, my esteemed teacher, used to say. Loud and chaotic colour, n’est-ce pas? COMMIT TO FUN! And NOT to the surface…Paint it out, paint it over, paint it and let it go…No obsessing…

Black and white layers will be stitched on layer when the acrylic paint has dried sufficiently. And the wood chairs will be painted, each one a different colour in the Kandisky Kaleyard Why not?

This is the canvas part-way through the project:

Here are the smaller portions after the canvas was cut up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for the old tapestry seat covers, so lovingly stitched by an unknown hand: they will get a dunk or two in the indigo dye vat, ready for inclusion in a wall piece – switching roles with the painted canvas, therefore.

I think Klee might feel it proper to plop his derriere on my paintings..And he painted on what what he found at hand, too, even corrugated cardboard – I saw that in the MOMA.

Next post about the Kaleyard Art Chairs will show the finished suite!

Best

Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Comes To The Kaleyard

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Winter means art indoors and the studio is my refuge. For natural dyeing and eco printing, I use my stash of dried plants, dye powders and whatever fresh plant materials I can find in the fridge or a florist bouquet. The first snow in the kaleyard this year sent me scuttling about to bring in one of my Potted Plant Pets that, forgetful gardener that I am, I had neglected all summer and fall. Out of sight, out of mind: it was hidden, pot and all, by the huge foliage of that Monster Kale. Si when the vernight temperature fell to about two degrees, that was curtains for the leaves on the indigo (Indigofera tinctoria).

I had started the seeds indoors in March and set out the largest plant In a pot after the last frost in late May.The indigo looked like this (below) in June beside the Kale Monster; by November, it was hidden completely by the dinosaur kale.

Let us see if the now-leafless indigo pet will revive. More below on this indigo and its gifts to the dyer.

Meantime, I did manage to bring in the Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) and pot it up for overwintering. This type of indigo also yields blue pigment so I have dried several batches of leaves to try winter vat-making. In the past, I have found that the plants will set seed in their pots and produce seedlings in late winter. But for good measure I have saved seeds this year. One of my dyer friends here in Ottawa says she even finds seedlings in her compost in spring! That is a plant with a huge will to survive, even if with a reputation for short seed viability.

Here are the leaves of Japanese indigo, dried after the first of three harvests this year:

 

And here are some dye results on silk velvet, post-dyeing and pre-eco printing ( Those little brown pebbley things that look like critter poo are, in fact, dried tansy buttons.)

The blues I obtained (above) from my first-ever Japanese indigo vat are, as you can see, on the turquoise side of blue.

Later in the year ( when I am back from January in Brooklyn where our youngest is about to have her first baby) I will have a go with a vat using dried the Persicaria tinctoria but likely not before February.

On to dyeing with other indigo now – the Indigofera tinctorIa. I am chiefly interested in using this indigo for my Artist Books. My current focus is, as you might know by now, Artist Books made with and about native plants, the Medium being the Message in my approach to the work.

But I am not so granola that I shun non-native plants like European kale, Japanese indigo and indigo (probably) from India. We are all strangers and sojourners on this earth, are we not? And we likely come from somewhere else, and will end up somewhere else again, more than likely. I am from Orkney, as it happens, but live now in Ottawa, Canada, via Liverpool in England. Green Immigrants have a valued place in my garden; potted, they are Plant Pets; they will always find a place in my repertoire as a dye artist even if native plants are my garden focus. We have transplantation, translation and removal in common, and the search for where to put down roots, scatter seeds and lay one's head.

Indigo paper has an interesting history in the book and paper arts, too. ( A discourse on that topic will follow at another time, dear Reader! ) Indigo papers will be a fine little Rabbit Hole for me to disappear down with my pre-reduced indigo, taking along rust and black tea leaves as companions, plus some others (like beeswax) to sustain and surprise us on the journey.

Feeling connections to the traditional use of indigo for colouring papers of various qualities and types, especially for the express purpose of hiding imperfections, I have begun to accumulate indigo-and-rust dyed materials to create a series of Artist Books, with tea leaves for tannins to blacken the rust. And some beeswax to trap the rust, like insects in amber. And dye and wax to cover over many things, like the mold on paper left too long soaking in alum water…And, O that divine blue and orange combo, the Impressionist painter's expressive colour gift to humanity and art history.

To get the blue markings, I dipped, painted, sprinkled, splashed the dye and scattered crystal before eco printing it with the rust and tea on watercolour paper. I dissolved pre- reduced indigo crystals in water (no chemicals added) and also scattered crystals on the pages to be eco printed as usual by steaming. To get the rust, I laid on flat bits of metals and soaked the metals and the paper in white vinegar befor steaming. (You can skip the steaming step if you are OK waiting a day or so for the rust to print. The hot steam simply accelerates the process. And the indigo needs no steaming, either. But if you want tannins to react with the rust, and you'd like marks from the tea leaves, then steam the stack or bundle as I did with tea leaves scattered on) Some examples:

Here is a batch of indigo, rust and tea prints on paper:

 

 

 

The dark marks in this one are from molds on composted papers:

 

 

 

And here is some linen printed with indigo, rust and tea: this will become book cloth.

 

 

This (below) is what happens when you scatter the indigo crystals on top of paper and plants for eco printing; logwood and madder powders are scattered in there, too, on top of mold marks and rust. I showed my friend, Gayle, how to do this and this was her result at my studio:

 

Finally for this post: some Artist Books, including work from a bookbinding workshop offered by the generous Genevieve Samson, medieval book conservator at Archives Canada and CBBAG member. Longstitch binding: the white one is mine, the next two are Gen's demo books, the coptic binding is by Gayle Quick of CBBAG and the blue and white on the bottom of the stack is a canvas wrapper I painted with acrylics.

 

Next time: more books, more indigo and some painted chair covers

 

Blessings on your day, dear Reader. Thank you and welcome to all the new folks who have joined the blog since last post.

 

Wendy

 

Autumn in the Kaleyard

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Kale is another word for cabbage. I learned recently that Scottish “Kailyard” literature displeased the artspeakers of the late Victorian era who found it sentimental and cottagey, not nearly edgey enough, too sweat-blood-and-tears free, so to speak. James Barrie, author of 'Peter Pan and Wendy' was a kaleyardist author, and thus much sneered at by the critics of ' kaleyard' (or 'kailyard') lit, a genre so- named for the ordinary country-Scot of tradition who had kept a cabbage patch ( or 'kaleyard') beside his wee house to feed his family way before the potato came north…You may even have noticed 'cole' (AKA kale or cabbage) depicted in medieval MSS. showing images of jolly, contented peasants tending seasonal crops.

In growing the absurdly handsome 'Lacinato' black kale (AKA 'Dinosaur' kale) this year, I had the most innocent of intentions, just looking for some kitchen dyes and a little summer salad. I had no idea this plant would turn out to be the decorative star of the front yard, a neighbourhood conversation starter like no other and an art-political statement besides. Here it is, flanked on the left by the lovely native great blue lobelia, or Lobelia syphilitica.

Dino kale leaves (backed by natives coreopsis on the right and black-eyed susans on the left, out of focus.)

 

Kale colour and texture are foils to a chartreuse barberry, saved from severe garden editing as a Native Plant Gardening Don't, only because it was too prickly to pull out that day – but which turned out to be a Garden Designer Do (Does Glamour magazine still run pics of their fashion Do's and Don'ts? ). The sedum 'Autumn Joy' is still summer green in this photo:

And here is the much-expanded kale beside the fall rust-pink of Sedum spectabilis:

 

Pollinators love the fall-blooming Michaelmas daisy:

 

Pot-grown indigo beside the kale: this will overwinter indoors, like Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria).

 

Calendulas love the cooler fall weather: and burnt orange beside kale green is eyepopping.

 

These humble, cottagey little kaleyard sparrows love their bath at ground level:

 

This is the sparrows' Birds' Eye view of the fall colours in my kaleyard. The lobelia has gone to seed. The rue (back left) is divinely thick and blue-green, lighter in tone than kale, with a lacey texture for contrast, harmony and repetition.

 

Looking up, the sparrows can see the black elder, native Sambucus nigra, in full fruit:

 

And under the bird feeder, some new garden sculptures by Shlomo, in my favourite orange and blue combo:

 

Fall means foraged wild apples for apple butter:

 

And for art this late summer and early fall, eco prints a-plenty, using mostly the native plants from my garden.

Coreopsis with Aronia melanocarpa berries and Prunus cistena leaves:

 

Prunus cistena, Aronia melanocarpa, sumac.

 

Japanese maple and grevillia (exotics!)

 

Varia:

 

Almost all native plant prints. The reds are coreopsis and bloodroot; the blues are various blue berries, e.g., aronia, elder and dogwood.

 

Iron enhanced prints from Cotinus obovatus, Baptisia tinctoria and Sanguinaria canadensis.

 

Ditto, as above; blues from red cabbage and aronia berries.

 

Plus an embroidered Artist Book or two: this one is about daisies ( o how kaleyard a topic!) and incorporates embroidered imagery along with vintage textiles (o how kaleyard an art!)

Spidey below was not the only weaver in the kaleyard:
 

 

This year, Kaleyard visitors were invited to weave fibers and plants on the garden loom (hinged like a gate to the shed and painted as near to Yves Klein blue as we could manage with Home Depot paint).

 

And finally, we began to hang up some of the art we have had stashed since we moved here a year ago: blue and orange, my faves:

 

Next time, more about Artist Books and native plants for eco printing; plus some long overdue updates to my other pages here, notably the tutorials page, the eco dye references and the plants.

I also have a set of thrifted chairs that need new seat covers and a new paint job. TBD!

 

Regards from your Kaleyardist blogger

 

Wendy

 

 

August prints from native plants: Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

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Eco dyeing and printing are seasonal activities for me, closely tied to my garden's rhythms. Late summer and early fall in AgCan/USDA zones 4/5 is a period rich in accumulated plant pigments. Even though eco printing as a technique relies on the knowledge of tradional dyeing, it does not always turn up the same pigments in the dye pot as do the traditional “whole cloth, dye bath” techniques for dyeing fibres.

Furthermore, due to the nature of the eco print processes ( bundling, stacking, steaming, composting, tying, solarizing, etc.) , more than one colour may show up from one plant on a dye printed surface. This happens when the eco print processes force pigments in the plants to separate out into constituent colours on the surface of the substrate. These colour differences can often lost be when the plants are processed to extract colours by first heating them in water in a pot to make a dye bath, then processing the fibres in the dye bath to take up the colour.

I like to approach my print surfaces as if they were abstract compostions; thus, I am concerned with the interplay among colours, forms and field. The second image (rather far below) shows silk crepe de chine eco printed with a selection of native plants from my garden last week: a background lightly coloured pale- ish yellow by just a tad of goldenrod ( a few sprigs removed from the tops), a lot of coreopsis verticillata (the whole plant in bits) to give small, varied and strong red-orange marks, the blue-black berries of Aronia melanocarpa ( black chokeberry) smooshed on to contribute blue, purple and lavender areas to the field (plus the darks and lights of analagous colours, as does the coreopsis), purple sandcherry leaves for deep teal greens (not shown), and on the right, a Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quiquefolia) leaflet in its red fall colours – but scarcely any eco print from it.

This image right below shows coreopsis (red and oranges) and red cabbage (blues) on silk. The colours and distribution of forms across the field of the textile reminded me of flower paintings by Seurat and Odilon Redon- along with the orange-blue Impressionist fave colour combos. Playing with the dye outcomes is for me the most fascinating part of contact printing with plants

Back to the Virginia creeper (VC)

VC, a native vine, is not much used in the traditional dye pot, as far as I can tell. It seems to be a kind of Bait and Switch plant, flaunting spectacular red and purple fall foliage, adorned with rich bunches of black berries that birds devour; but it appears to be a Tame, Timid and Stripeless Tiger in the trad dye pot. Adrosko, Cannon, Casselman and Dean (to mention some Big Trad Dye Names, see my References page) make no mention of VC as a dye plant. Other sources do mention it but without enthusiasm: Richards and Tyrl in their book on on North American dye plants have it classified in their chapter about plants that give little or no colour, noting only a pale yellow-cream. ( I guess that is the chapter every poor dye plant dreads to be consigned to… But take heart, Virginia creepers. Eco printing is your friend.)

Daniel Moerman (in “Native American Ethnobotany” ) writes with erudition that the Kiowa Indian tribe (in Canadian usage: “First Nations” or Kiowa native peoples) obtained pink dyes from VC berries to colour feathers used in war dances.

The notion of long-term “fastness” is not generallly addressed, other than to recommend the use of the Usual Suspects as mordants. I suspect tannins and iron might help VC colour up in an eco print process more than in the trad dye pot.

The only really hopeful discussion about potential eco print colour from the VC appears in a 1986 publication entitled “Dye Plants of Ontario” from the Burr House Spinners and Weavers Guild ( see Reference page). The guild tested the vine for dye potential, using the whole plant, having gathered it in November and noting: “This vine is not known as a dye plant.”

With alum as mordant , a 6:1 plant-to-water ratio and 45 minutes in a simmering dye bath, the colour given is “butterscotch”. Other mordants were as follows: with copper, a rich tan; with iron, a golden tan. As a modifier post-dye bath, iron gave deep bronze; ammonia, a bright golden tan. Summer foliage gave ivory with an ammonia rinse, and olive greens with a vinegar rinse. No longer recommended as mordants are tin and chrome though the Burr House dyers did report their experiments with these.

Thus, with this info In mind, I plan to experiment further with the Virginia creeper as it matures in my garden and in the environs.

And after all that “learned” text above, I expect, Dear Reader, that you will be wondering when your author will finally put up the Eye Candy.

Here it is:

 

The red leaf on the right is one leaflet of the five leaflets ( the “quinque” in quinquefolia) of the Virginia creeper. But hardly any eco print at all. The reds and purples came from coreopsis and aronia berries, though of course, one could be forgiven for hoping the VC had printed thus. But we know that what we see in a leaf is not what we necessarily get on an eco printed substrate. (And I think snails ate the holes in the VC leaflet – the vine was covered in snails. )

Next, I will mess around with tannins and iron to see if an eco print can be coaxed out of the Virginia creeper. There were no iron bits, bark or tannin rich plants in the bundle shown here. Of course, I am just guessing that we could get a print from the VC in the environment of these mordants/dye assistants. TBD.

Inspiration for this post

Thanks to the edltor of the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who asked me about fastness of dye in the Virginia creeper. That question became my research topic for today, and led me down this most interesting rabbit hole. I have been planting lots of the native Virginia creeper this summer to attract birds, to give fall colour, to cover the tattier parts of our fence and to give privacy. Perhaps VC leaves can make an interesting eco print, or perhaps the VC berries can dye some war dance feathers pink (gonna try for those pink feathers for sure but maybe will weave them into the garden loom instead of my hair. Turn swords to ploughshares, kind of.)

Meanwhile, here is a taste of some more Eye Candy in relation to future posts about dyeing with native plants. The next post will be about eco prints on silk with other native plants from my garden. See if you can guess the plants printed here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hints: Walnut, coreopsis, sumac, aronia berries, rose, cotinus, goldenrod, purple sandcherry.

 

Until next time

 

Wendy

 

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