December notes

Time to catch up on sharing my doings in the studio since last May! At year’s end, I usually try to take note of how the year has gone, what has gone on as well as off in the studio. Not gonna lie – there was no Magnum Opus: instead, much lurching from project to project, sustained in wobbly up-and-down fashion by pious resolve to carry out faithfully The Duty Of The Moment concerning the making of botanical inks…

I did a lot of Zooms and Face Times, didn’t you? Study zooms, socializing zooms, family meet up zooms…I did three presentations on Zoom on the subject of how I make botanical inks, basically summarizing my journey to that point…but the majority of the time on zoom I was an attendee not a presenter …and I cannot make it through any meeting without doodling. So I spread my studio drop cloth on the dining room table, installed the computer, the inks, the pens etc and made marks…

Dribbles and splashes of botanical inks with markmaking in black pen
Indigo inks with swatch of inks collection: avocado, buckthorn, grape, osage, walnut, iron gall
Egg dish from the Dollar Store makes a great ink palette

The natural ink collection is made from a relatively small number of plants that I either grow in my garden or forage locally. I do have some natural dye powders that “come from away” but so far, with the exception of indigo indigofera ( see photo above), I do not use these for making ink. ( I have tried growing indigo in pots with varied success)

These inks are dye based and thus are pH reactive; this means that they can change colour or shade depending on the substrate they are applied to, or on the modifier used to alter their colour intentionally ( as in classic natural dye practice). Swatching natural inks is an adventure!

Ink palette swatched on “Canal” paper by Saint Armand; various papers to try.
Ink swatches pinned to my doodle-drop clothh

In between making inks and Zoom presentations on the whats and the how-to’s, I contributed a chapter on basic eco printing for a book on natural dyes published in September 2021 by Long Thread Media in the U.S. It was honour for me to be among these most-respected contributors to the field.

Later in the year, my annual art studio tour took place over two weekends. It was a real joy to meet up with visitors to the studio, even if we were masked and socially-distanced. It was great to put on display, along with my inks and ink paintings, some of my printed and embroidered textiles and my Artist Books.

Paste paper cover, coptic bound journal
I carved stamps to print signature wrappers for the journal
Natural inks on watercolour paper by Speedball
Natural inks on paper by Speedball
Painted and printed with acrylics; hand and machine embroidered. ” BYE BYE BEANS” series
Eco printed and embroidered silk cover on slipcase for an Artist Book “Botanica”

After the studio tour, I began to forage for fall ink botanicals, especially wild grapes ( for purples, pinks and blues), ripe buckthorn berries ( for greens) and street-planter, frost-bitten marigolds for yellows and maybe oranges, TBD.

I will end this post with some pics of the marigold project and as precursor to my next post in December 2021 to wrap up the year’s doings. I am making lakes with the marigolds: i.e., turning the water soluble marigold dye into solid cakes for use as watercolours, the full report on that will be next time. Meantime, a few advance pics to show something of the laking process:

And the last photo for this post is of the finger-painted swatch I did this week of some of the inks made in 2021, testing them for colour at year’s end.

A la prochaine! A blessed Advent meanwhile