Eco prints on paper with red Fall leaves

This is my first attempt at eco printing on watercolour paper. I collected fallen leaves for the prints in a range of red-orange- burgundy colours: none was green so the strong green-yellow print results were striking!   

I prepared the paper as for fibres such as silk , wool, linen, etc. by soaking  the paper in alum (10%) and water for a some hours. Just guessing with the alum percentage for the paper prints, though.

Then I layered the various leaves between sheets of the watercolour paper, about twelve sheets, stacked the pile  in my steamer (a vintage aluminum turkey roaster), covered the paper with my $2 bamboo cutting board (Mistake…the board fell apart later…) and a ceramic dish on top of that for extra weight and flatness, then steamed the papers for an hour. 

When the papers were dry (see pic below), and in order to induce colour shifts or outright changes, I used a Q-tip to selectively paint areas of the prints with modifiers/postmordants : iron liquor (5% vinegar and rusty nails), copper sulphate liquor (copper pipe bits in 5% vinegar). I dampened the paper a tad first with a spray of water. Basically I have used the same process to print paper as I have done this summer to print fabrics.

Here are the results of the paper eco print experiments, first round:

1. First,  a group of the prints drying:

2. Now a collection of Silver and Red maple and Korean pear leaf eco prints on watercolour paper. The brown wash is the result of staining by the iron modifier; the greenish wash comes from the copper liquor.

3. Two leaves, same kind, different colours: perhaps there was a lot of tannin in the leaf that printed dotty- black?

4. Prints washed with iron and copper liquor produces secondary brownish and greenish effects on top of yellow and black eco prints:  

5. Unmistakably maple, printed as if a water colour wash, no modifiers:

6. Prints washed with iron and copper liquor:

7. One key point about eco printing: I  notice that the back of the leaf with the prominent veins prints with the strongest colours and most distinct forms. So the watercolour paper touching the back  of the leaf (here) produced a different print from the paper touching the front of the leaf (and this is  consistent with how leaves print on fabrics).

Print from the back of the leaves:

 ..and prints from the front surface of the leaf: I tinkered with the print colours- iron and copper liquor washes blur the edges more and add shades and layers.

Next posts: Sweet Gum and more eucalyptusco prints on silk and wool.

P.S. We have a big frost forecast for tonight – I have read that tagetes give wonderful colours when frost-bitten (so says Dyer Divine, Karen Leigh Casselman) ..they are out there waiting…


About wendyfe

I am a fibre artist working in mixed media textiles with a focus on vintage cloth reworked with stitching, natural dyeing, eco printing and rust printing . My work can be seen at
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One Response to Eco prints on paper with red Fall leaves

  1. Pingback: Assessment 3 A: progress | samvisual

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