January 12, 2012
Outside the snow is falling and the dye garden is asleep:
Inside, the studio consoles. I have a shipment from Maiwa, Vancouver (via Couleurs de Plantes, France): a collection of powdered natural dye extracts, mostly colours I cannot obtain from my Zone 4 garden, like some reds and purples. For my “Silk Roads” collection, I would like to extend the lavenders and sky blues I obtain regularly from Red Cabbage.
I tried the dye extract Madder Rich (red) and Logwood (purple) in a non-traditional way: instead of dissolving the dye powders in water for an immersion dye bath, I sprinkled the powder onto dampened silk fragments , pushing the powders around with a small paint brush, then bundling the silk over a copper pipe and steaming as usual.
“Madder Rich” dye extract on silk habotai 8 mm
Wow! That red will rack the eco-bundle colours up a notch. As it happens, today I received a late, long-anticipated Christmas gift in the mail: India Flint’s new book, “Second Skin”. In Chapter 10, India describes her use of a dye-sprinkle technique to obtain madder reds in her eco bundles. That gives me confidence to try the technique further. One stands on others’ shoulders to see far…My aim with the madder experiment was to see if the elevated water temperature (above 200 in a steam bath) would bring out the browns in the madder, as it is reported to do in a boiling water immersion bath. As far as I can tell with this one small test, the madder reds will stay fixed.
Logwood dye extract on silk habotai, 8mm.
Exotic serpent? I folded the silk lengthwise in half and rolled that around a copper pipe before steaming. After these little tests, I feel ready to try some dye extract powders in my “Silk Roads” collection. One thing worth noting: no excess dye washed out in the rinse water.
Now three more panels from the current “Silk Roads” collection:
Silk Roads 5.
No rusted iron, rooibos tea or vinegar in this ecoprint, just Red Cabbage, safflower and black tea leaves. The results are a range of strong ambers complemented by lavender-purple (not blue) from Red Cabbage, but no blacks or very dark browns and greys. Where the purples and the ambers mix, lightish greens appear:
Silk Roads 6
Rusted iron from a reliably rusty corn stick muffin pan and a vintage flat iron (oval rust prints); Red Cabbage, safflower petals, black tea, rooibos tea. Soaked briefly (20 mins?) in 5% vinegar after bundling, steamed for 2 hours. Greens – chartreusey ones- appear where the safflower and red cabbage meet. A detail:
I think of Turner ‘s cosmic, abstract, oilpainted sky-scapes when I see how these colours work together to create wonderfully expressive markings. The iron shifts the colours and especially the values, typically darkening the marks and enriching the range of lights and darks.
Silk Roads 7
The corn-cob shapes appear as bright orangey-rust prints. A fresher Red Cabbage might have given deeper colours of blue and purple but the lighter sky blue still charms gently. The cabbage that printed the previous three panels was at least a month old. Two more details:
Silk Roads 7 (detail 2)
Note where black tea, normally a dark brown, prints nearly black in the presence of iron. Safflower and Red Cabbage together make more greens. In “Silk Roads 5”, the same black tea prints deep amber brown in the absence of iron. Rooibos tea holds its own as a rusty red-brown here. I use whole dried tea leaves for the black tea eco print, not the ground leaves we might find in tea bags, e.g. for the rooibos. One last detail:
Silk Roads 7 (detail 2)
These dye sources in combination give a full range of colour values, dark, medium and light, with some “betweens”. The darker values are coaxed out by the iron in combo with tannins in the black tea. “Silk Roads 5”, without strong value contrasts (lower contrast is not always a colour sin), communicates subtlety. It allows a third colour, green, to emerge brightly from the mix of Red Cabbage and Black Tea.
Always delightful surprises. Which is why eco printing is a fascinating field.
Eco printing with dye extracts plus direct printing with plants .
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