Here is a quick post to let you know my article about eco printing paper for an Artist’s Book appears in the July issue of Somerset Studio. Today I am posting (below) the unedited version of my original text for readers of Somerset Studio and for readers of my blog.
The edited version appearing in the magazine contains incorrect instructions about the use of PVA as adhesive to attach plants and metals for eco printing. I was not given the opportunity to see the article, post-editing. If readers followed the instructions as published under my name by Somerset Studio, I believe they would be disappointed and would fail to produce a useable print on a useable substrate.
As you perhaps know from reading these pages, I have not so far glued plants or metal bits onto substrates for eco prints and have never recommended this strategy. Were I to use glues for attaching leaves etc, I would try a water soluble adhesive like wheat paste, methyl cellulose, corn starch paste, etc, but never PVA. PVA can be used successfully to attach textiles or paper to the cover boards of books and was, in fact, used for the covers of the book in my article; still, I prefer to use reversible glues such as wheat paste for the pages in most of my Artist Books.
So let me try to snatch Victory from the jaws of Defeat (a famous Churchillian quote): maybe I will next try some experiments with glueing plants to substrates and thank Somerset Studio for the inspiration as well as for publishing my work. Tout set Providence: Everything is Providence.
For images of the book, see tags Rust Print, Artist Books on this blog. BTW, the book is on exhibition in Calgary this month at the national show for the Canadian Book Artists and Book Binders Guild.
Eco Printing with Rust and Plants
My artist book “Botanica: New World Scroll 1” is made from papers eco printed with rust and plant dyes as a contemporary take on traditions of natural dyeing and bookmaking. Object and process both invite us to slow down and savor making, handling and viewing a beautiful book, to appreciate a book’s tactile and visual pleasures as well as its intellectual ones. Historically, the first books were scrolls, sometimes pleated or slatted, objects of reverence treasured for both content and form. My book’s accordion and pamphlet-stitched structure printed in contemporary style on watercolor paper creates living links to a rich past.
To make my book, stacks of papers were layered with leaves and metals, sprayed with vinegar and water to rust the metals, then steamed over boiling water to extract the “eco” prints. Plant pigments combined with rust to deposit prints directly on the paper in a range of greys, charcoals and blacks as well as natural rust and plant colors.
The process of eco printing papers offers artists many creative options. For eco printing projects other than bookmaking, try stacking papers six sheets high and sized to fit your steamer, and then follow directions for processing an eco printed book.
Tools and Materials to Make an Eco Printed Book
For the book pages
- 6 pieces of 140 lb. watercolor paper, 4” x 8”, folded in half to make a section 4” x 4”
For the book’s spine
- 1 piece of 80 lb. or 90 lb. artist paper, 4” x 24” folded into an accordion with 16 panels, each 4” x 1 ½”
To print the papers
For the spine:
- Loose black or Rooibos tea leaves (dry)
- Flat, scrap metal pieces
For the pages:
- Tannin-rich leaves such as maple, chokecherry oak, sumac, walnut, etc. (“Botanica: New World Scroll 1” is printed with fall-gathered Red Maple (Acer rubrum) and Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).
- Flat metal pieces
To develop the rust
- Spray bottle filled with 50-50 mixture of white vinegar (5% acid) and water
To stitch the book sections
- Linen or other strong thread
To steam the prints
- Covered cooking vessel (e.g. an old meat roaster) filled with three inches of water and fitted with a raised rack, large enough to hold the papers (Safety note: Do not use for food preparation)
To enclose the papers
- Four pieces of cardboard, each 4” x 4”, two per stack of papers
To weight the papers
- Bricks, rocks, heavy ceramic dishes (to ensure close contact between paper and printing materials)
Source of heat
- Kitchen stove, portable hot plate, camping stove, etc.
Tongs and gloves for handling hot materials
To print the papers
- Make two stacks of papers each with three sections folded 4” x 4”
- Insert two or more tannin-rich leaves and a small flat piece of metal inside the fold of each section and also between each of the sections in the stack (I used maple and chokecherry leaves for their contrasting shapes)
- Spray –soak the stacks with the vinegar-water mixture.
- Place one piece of the 4” x 4” cardboard under and one on top of each stack.
- Wrap the stacks around with cotton string and tie securely.
- Place the two stacks side by side on the steaming rack
- Place the weights on top of the stacks
- Bring the water in the pot to a boil and steam for 60 – 90 minutes
- Turn the bundles every thirty minutes. Steam longer if the desired print is faint, shorter if too strong.
10. When complete, turn off the heat and allow the bundles to rest in the pot until cool or overnight
11. Unwrap the bundles, discard the plants but reserve the metal pieces for other prints.
12. Spread the papers out to dry. Remove stuck-on plant material
13. Once dry, flatten papers under weights.
To print the accordion spine
- Insert dry tea leaves between all the folds of the accordion; insert pieces of metal also inside a few of the folds.
- Spray-soak the spine with vinegar-water
- Tie with cotton string and steam as for book papers
To assemble the book
Write the names of the plants in English and Latin on the spine with black and/or gold archival pens
- Insert one 4” x 4” folded section into the second “valley” fold from one end of the accordion
- Stitch the section into the spine using linen thread and a pamphlet stitch
- Repeat with the other five sections
- Make two book covers (front and back) using 4” x4” eco printed end papers, textile and bookboard
6. Using PVA glue, encase each end portion of the accordion spine between an end paper and a textile-covered book board. (See image for ideas)
For more information, see the Resources section.
- To help fix the colors, pre-soak papers for two hours or overnight in a solution of one teaspoon of alum acetate or potassium alum sulphate to four cups of water.
- Rusted metals alone print colors in the orange-rust-brown range on papers.
- Leaves may be layered on top of rust printed papers and processed a second time. This method tends to print tannin-rich leaves as black on top of rust.
- Leaves printed alone without metals tend to print colors depending in their growth season: greens, blues, purples, yellows, browns are common
- Natural dye powders can be sprinkled onto papers or diluted and painted on selectively, as can plant inks such as walnut
- Dye assistants such as ammonia, cream of tartar, iron or copper sulphate can be painted on selectively to induce color shifts.
- Spray papers with a deacidifier on completion of the project.
Resources for bookmaking and natural dyes
- Alisa Golden: “Creating Handmade Books”
- Shereen Laplantz: “Cover to Cover: Creative Techniques for Making Beautiful Books, Journals and Albums”
- For a complete line of supplies and information related to natural dyes, dye assistants and reference materials, see www.maiwa.com
- Jenny Dean (with Karen Diadick Casselman, consultant): “Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes”