More ink

So here as promised is my update on inkmaking from my dye stash this winter – and what a winter: over 100cm of snow so far. Nothing for it but to huddle over the dye pot and carry on making ink.

First, a little info on one of the modifiers ( or colour shifters) I used for varying the ink colours made so far with buckthorn, grape, walnut and roselle. One of the chief charms of these inks for me is the fact that they can vary in colour depending on the substrate’s pH and/or on the natural dye modifiers ( colour shifters) that the artist chooses to apply. Examples of common modifiers are vinegar ( or lemon juice), soda ash and iron.

The greens, yellows and the blue in the image above are painted on with the green buckthorn: pinks develop when acid is applied, in this instance, a lemon. Yellows appear with ammonia. The other ink colours mentioned above look like this (below) when acid is touched to them:

Above is the inked paper before the lemon was printed on it.The blues are grape, the browns are walnut and iron gall ink.

Next, I thought it was time for yellows and oranges to extend the ink palette so back I went to The Stash to check out the options among my native plant colours. It happened that some years ago I had picked up some Osage orange wood sawdust/shavings at a local shop. This plant is native to the southern states of the US but was introduced elsewhere as hedge material – it is thick and has wicked thorns, too. (Osage is often termed invasive now). The deep orangey-yellow heartwood can be used for dye. So though not a local native, it works as one for me, and also because its name makes a connection to the Osage First Nation and to my interest in First Nations dye traditions

After soaking the wood shavings in water for a few weeks (I forgot to write what kind of water I put in the jar – I think it was tap water with pH about 6.5), I cooked them with distilled water added in the slow cooker for several hours on and off; then I strained out the shavings, filtered the liquid and cooked it down to 25% of the original dye bath volume. At the last, I added a teaspoon or so of soda ash to bump up the yellows to orangey. The result is as shown below:

Osage orange ink, ink swatch, Osage shavings, filter paper

Upon this sunny elixir, I bestowed the name ” Osage Orange Tomcat” – you can guess why? But really, because I was inspired by the Paul Klee exhibit at the National Gallery in Ottawa. Klee did a wee painting of his orange tomcat that I love (Klee is my big fave and I love orange kitties, too)

Here are some more pics of the ink collection so far: the light yellow is what the Osage looks like when swatched before cooking.
Squint to see the labels! These are the inks as a collection
Various pinks from rosehips, sumac and roselle

Inks swatched out on various papers. The pH of the papers can alter the colours of the inks in a delightful way! Pink roselle turns blue on certain papers as does purple grape.
Inks on kozo paper which tends to keep the original colour and to mute it somewhat. (And the snow stays white no matter what) Colours L to R: Osage orange, Osage yellow, buckthorn green, rosehip red-brown, dead tulip pink, roselle pink, grape purple, walnut and grape grey, walnut brown, burnt dahlia and osage (what? ) and iron gall with sumac and walnut.
The filter papers from sumac berry

And to finish, a little book and some cards made with the inks:

Mulitflora ink on paper, handcarved stamps
Indigo ink and eco print on handembossed paper covers, coptic binding

That is probably enough for this post! I am finding this project very, shall we say, absorbing…Paradoxically, though my stash of dyes and dye plants is getting smaller, a different one is now taking its place…


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Walnuts Continued



It’s finally time to get to that benignly-neglected walnut stash that has been fermenting in a dark cupboard in my studio since the summer of 2015.

At Canadian Thanksgiving in early October, I posted a few photos here of a quick dye/ink made with a few freshly foraged green walnuts that obliged by producing the above-pictured measure of dye.

I learned from my research, however, that the best walnut colours in terms of fastness  can be had from walnuts that have soaked for a year, water-covered, in wooden casks. Now my green walnuts had been soaking for three years in big glass jars, so neither extra tannins ( from the wood) nor oxygen (which is believed to optimize the dye characteristics) entered the glass jar as happens with wood casks.  One might expect bad smells and molds after all that time, too, but there were none of either. My three-year walnut liquid had simply  become a thick dark brown potage smelling slightly of the fall forest. I wonder if fermentation prevents the mold that walnut ink is reputed to harbour? Time will tell.

To make this batch of  walnut colour, I put half a potful of the mushy brown ferment (along with the still-hard nuts in their shells) in the slow cooker, covered the sludge with water and heated this for an hour or so at  80 – 90 C. After straining and filtering the liquid, I cooked it down by half until it was sort of a bit syrupy. The dye looks like this on watercolour paper:

The dye liquid, cooked down, was then put into wee bottles ( with some gum arabic added to ink it up) and  finished with walnut-dyed tags and labels:

Off to the craft fair next weekend in Chelsea, Quebec! And taking some buckthorn ink along, too:

Next ink colour to try is wild grape, waiting its turn in the stash, Might even have some ready to go with the walnut and buckthorn for next weekend! Naturally, the ink so-obtained can work as paint, also;  you can even add some other binder – an acrylic glazing liquid might be nice.

A la prochaine, mes amis/amies