Leisa Rich's article in the current issue of Fiber Art Now is inspiring. (My article on eco print artists is in there, too, brag brag, see future posts). She challenges us “granola” types (you know who we are in the textile world: recycled-everything, natural dyes, non-toxic-this-and-that) to make art from the humongous piles of discarded synthetics out there. Thus she leads us on a Camino with artists who have kissed the Toads of the art materials world and turned them into Princesses and Princes…
Let me not slander my buddies, the garden toads, though: I do love them. As an icon for this post, I introduce you to my Guardian Toad, here watching over Canada Violets, Rosa canina and rock-nostalgia from Wharfdale in Yorkshire:
This week I tried printing Pellon with Serviceberry. Pellon is a synthetic material in various weights used for interfacing that can also be painted, melted, waxed, embroidered, etc for mixed media art applications. It is known as Vilene in Britain and as Freudenberg by handmade papermakers who use it in heavier weights as felts when couching sheets of paper.
Here is the lovely Serviceberry in May:
Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis) is a Canadian native with delicious berries (we ate a bowlful with ice cream yesterday). First Nations peoples use them to make pemmican. The tree has given a truly bountiful crop this year, with so many berries that the squirrels do not even bother to eat the ones that fall on the ground. (Mind you, who can understand how the Squirrel Brain works at any time? It reminds me of the kind of thinking employed by some galleries when they run about collecting art to sell…)
We have one Serviceberry tree in the front yard whose berries fall on the sidewalk so I have to sweep them up (Aside: Alas, some folks around here use terms like “litter” to describe fallen fruit, even if they do live in a neighbourhood known as Granola Heights, suggesting it is populated largely by Ex Hippies on Fat Pensions – not me, BTW. ) My thought is consonant with Leisa Rich's : that pretty well any “litter” can have art in its future, that one woman's litter might be another woman's life support.
Why waste certain of our fallen plant bounty if it can be eco printed? Even “deadheading” has been dropped as a term in my gardening vocabulary since I began eco dyeing and printing. I now say I am collecting dye plants when I nip off dead blooms to be saved for dye pots later.
So assorted pebbles, pine needles, soil samples, unknown sidewalk treasures and Serviceberry leaves ended up in the sweepings destined for eco print bundles in the steamer:
Silk, linen, cotton, paper and Pellon wrapped the berries. Sad to say, the linen and cotton were a bust, print-wise, despite pre-mordanting and post-dye-pot treatment with iron and copper assistants. A complete flop! The watercolour paper (unmordanted because I had no mordanted sheets ready) did quite well, despite lack of alum: some purples from the berries and greens from the leaves, as well as lovely embossings overall because I had rolled this bundle over a copper pipe instead of layering it flat. I have to assume that the copper pipe assisted the dye take up even in the absence of alum mordant:
The surprise of the dye pot was the unmordanted Pellon, bundled around a fat, bark-free branch (no extra tannins), steamed first, then immersion-dyed for an hour with iron bits and Serviceberry materials; later dipped in homemade copper sulphate (which did not shift the colours further to green, to my mind). Blues and purples emerged from berries and with a tad of lavender-grey with iron. Greens from the leaves. I tried a lot of colour-shifting manoeuvres but I believe the original green print from the unmordanted Pellon printed in the steam process is what we end up with.
Finally, a comparison with the ever-dependable silk habotai. Silk on the right. Note the “deckled edge” on the Pellon which comes when you tear it:
I have lots of synthetic interfacing in various wieghts in my stash so this experiment with synthetics will likely not be the last, and neither will dyeing with Serviceberry.