Blooms, Books and Bylines

Gardening season is finally upon us here in the Frozen North, still only barely unfrozen

I am spending most of my daylight hours sorting my new garden and contemplating my options for a redesign that features native plants suitable for eco dyeing and printing. I am actively researching so more plant info will be coming soon!

Meantime, here is what I have been up to since last blog entry: eco printing in the microwave, book binding, writing articles for magazines and painting. And a little Studio Dec.

I have installed a new feature in my new, pared-down studio space: artworks display shelving made from a recycled kitchen cupboard. So instead of hiding my artworks under the bed, I can place them where I see them each time I enter the studio. I will try to change the display monthly.


The box and the book (top right) are by my Shlomo who also belongs to CBBAG, the Canadian Book Artists and Book Binders Guild. He also printed the maple leaf which I cut out, holes and all. The little blue HotWheels was snuck in by Dylan, our grandson for he considers no surface well dressed unless HotWheeled (or Lego'd). Completing the vignette is a dish of vintage glass African trade beads beside an Indian printing block from Rajastan where Hannah (the Bride of two years ago) was on a work assigment earlier this year. The rest are my efforts in various media, both current and older.

For example, on display (middle shelf) is my first eco print of this season. For this first print. I tried a method other than long steaming in a pot on the stove. For plant colour, I used Icicle Pansies from pots in the garden and red geraniums from pots in the house. I deadheaded the plants, rinsed the blooms, put them (wet) between sheets of watercolour paper, zapped the package in the micro for ten seconds inside a plastic bag (the watercolour paper was first quickly dipped in alum acetate water), then I pressed the little stack overnight under weights. BTW, see my Reference page for info about eco dyeing in the microwave, in particular, in an article by Karen Leigh Casselman, teacher to India Flint, and Canadian Diva of Dyes.

A wonderful range of blues and greens appeared from the pansies with deep magenta and rich lilac from the bright red geraniums (pelargoniums):



These colours recall the blue iris prints I made last June. Note how a face colour (e.g. blue) present in the plant can separate into constituent colours as a result of the eco print process.


This purple from the pelargonium is abundant and compelling even without the other colours leaking through from the pansies:


The eco printed work below was done last summer, 2013. Coreopsis verticillata- and sumac-printed papers were used to cover a box made for a box exchange at our last CBBAG meeting. I enjoyed making the closures! Linen thread, crocheted to make a loop, and printed watercolour paper, rolled, to make a bead.







Bookbinding workshops again this spring! The April workshop was about Secret Belgian binding. We used the papers our instructor provided – some were lovely, handmarbled sheets. Yellow is so Spring!





Finally for this post are three references to articles I have written since January about eco printing and Artist Books.

You can read my article about eco printing with native plants in the winter issue of the Turkey Red Journal, another article on more or less the same topic in The Journal For Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (U.K.) in the summer 2014 issue, and a third article (on Artists' Books) in the summer issue of Fiber Art Now magazine (U.S.) (See below for the web links). The Turkey Red Journal is free for readers and available online. The other two are paper publications and are on sale as subscriptions and/or on newstands. Fiber Art Now pays a modest stipend for articles published while the other two magazines rely on volunteers.

And here is a little painting distraction that I permitted myself this winter. I glued watercolour papers to the inside covers of the binder that houses copies of articles I have written for various publications. I then painted the papers with my personal logo, a figleaf. (The Bible refers to Adam and Eve sewing clothes for themselves out of figleaves when they lost Paradise. Threadwork and plants are thus mythically and perhaps spiritually connected)

Inside front cover:

Inside back cover:


Article references:


Until next time! I will report on the CBBAG show of Artist Books at the City of Ottawa Archives (April, May and June) Several of my Artist Books are in the show, including those made in Italy at the Arte Studio Ginestrelle residency last October.




” O, to be in Blogland, now that April’s here…”

Dear Reader,

Finally, I feel settled enough in my new house and studio to blog! Let me begin with these words of blessing. (I am also substituting “blog” for “hous” ) Not sayin' that I haven't cursed a bit in the past few months but now I am speaking a blessing:

I found that page, loose in a book I picked up in a thrift shop. I have no idea who composed it or when but I like the sentiments.

What have I been up to since my last blog entry, many moons ago, you may enquire? Well, we moved house last November and a big change it has been.

For my December birthday, Husband made this birthday candle for me:


It took me many weeks to get over the pinched nerve and wrecked muscles in my Sword and Pen Arm and I still have to watch my posture a lot. The injury, studio still unpacked after our move last November and all kinds of reno meant that no art got done.

But I did manage to write a couple of articles, one about eco printing and another about the book arts, soon to be published if the editors do not change their minds…will keep you informed.

My studio, meantime, almost habitable:


This is one corner of the studio. The “Kandinsky” now on the wall turned up when I unpacked a few old boxes- done twenty years ago when I thought it would be instructive to copy my favourite painters. I got bored by the time the top right hand corner was to be filled in…I still think it is a good exercise to copy a painting from time to time to keep one's hand in. And keep one's ego where it belongs.

Husband has been finding it hard,too, not to have space to work at his art. But he did manage these industrial-vibe candlesticks:


My textiles and artist books returned safe and sound from Arte Studio Ginestrelle in Italy in January after the exhibition in Assisi (from which my heart has not yet returned). I gathered some of my artist's books together to pet them while waiting for my little artmaking place to be ready. I very much enjoyed our reunion:


This group shows the collection of botanical “scrolls” made in my last house and in the Subasio, in Assisi. The orange colours are rust, tea and coreopsis, the blues and greens are from iris and the blacks from iron with maple. These days, my chief interest is in printing and dyeing with regional native plants on papers and textiles.

This scroll below dyed with June blooms and leaves: iris, coreopsis and sumac mostly, with a few Prunus cistena:


This scroll was printed with dried coreopsis and tagetes. The stalks are used to make the spine of the book and are from the dried coreopsis.


Rusted paper making the accordion spine, with iron-dyed thread attaching pages inside the folds.


Another view of the scroll collection:

Looking over my old work helps me get back in the zone after I have been away for a long time. Blogging helps, too!

Though unable to work much in my own home, I have been able to take a few workshops. Here, I am using a photo I took of a favourite tree and transferring an abstract version of the design onto an aluminum plate using a Sharpie marker that acts as a resist to the etching fluid:


I made the aluminum plates in a non toxic studio set up using Akua inks.


This is the etched plate which I will print at home, results TBD:


And here are four Japanese stab-bound books we learned how to make at a workshop given by the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild. Next post, I will have a photo of the beautiful wrapper we made for the books. Our teachers, so competent and knowledgable, were Mary MacIntyre and Genevieve Samson. Mary is the national president of CBBAG: both she and Gen are conservators at the National Archives in Ottawa.

Some less fun activity:

Wonder if I can use this as a design? Smashed by ice from my neighour's roof sliding onto my car in the driveway…had to get a new windshield and a new roof on my car…but we will keep the neighours, they are nice!


Snd because it is spring, at last there is the dye garden to think about. I have not much idea of what has survived in the pots I brought from our old house and little notion of what I will find already in the garden once spring really arrives; the garden is still under two feet of snow and more snow is forecast for this week. A long, cold, icy, white winter. We have lost a maple tree, boo hoo, and the tree guy could not get in last week to cut is down because the gate was frozen closed…

Meantime, I grow seeds in the house: hope springs eternal…


The Japanese Indigo is for the dye garden, but that will remain in pots because she is thought invasive in many parts of the gardening world.


That is it for now. I am working on a review of my lists of dye plants so that will be the subject of a post on the near future. I am planning to focus more on plants native to my eco zone.

And, BTW, we had a leak in our roof – water came through the dining room ceiling because of dammed-up ice…this is been a most brutal winter, the winter of many discontents…but many consolations, too, as you can see above!

Until the next time