More walnuts



Last time I reported on making walnut colour extract on its way to becoming ink. The walnuts have been fermenting since late summer 2015. They started out in big jars (128 fl oz), a couple of dozen green-hulled walnuts in each jar with water to cover, left to solar-soak outside until frost, then transported inside to dark studio cupboards.

Most recipes I have looked at suggest removing the green hull and using that part. I thought that maybe some extra tannins might enter the dye if I left the nutmeats inside their shells and cooked them along with the green bits. After cooking ( and before being donated to the critters outside) I find they  look a quite lovely deep brown:

 

Walnut does quite well as a dye without cooking. I found it enough to simply soak a discoloured vintage white wool coat in a bucket of fermenting walnuts. After a couple of weeks soaking and a rinse in plain water, this was the colour:

You can see that different shades of white wool had been used to crochet this thrift-shop find. I could also have soaked the coat a second and third time for deeper shades. Wool dyes beautifully in walnut- here are some more examples from a few pre-ink years ago:

Eco printed wool pre-felt, native plants.

Lambs-wool cardy dyed with walnuts, iron nails and eucalyptus (I  forget which kind)

Little strips of blanket trimmings bundled with various eucalyptus and immersed in a walnut dye bath – also from past dye pots.

Linen and cotton dye well also, as does paper. Here are some samples of eco dye prints made in October 2013 while Shlomo and I were in residence at Arte Studio Ginestrelle near Assisi in Umbria. The walnut there ( photo below) is the Juglans regia – ours in Ottawa is Juglans nigra.

Notice the distinct pinky lavender colour that comes out with the yellow pigment in the eco print.

 

The photo above shows one of my Artist Books with linen covers eco dyed in walnut; the pages are about other  plants of the Subasio Regional Park where the art residence was located. The title of the little book is “Pianticelli del Subasio”.

And now here is a little surprise – walnuts combined with wild grapes to make a colour extract. I found a reference to this combination in a book about First Nations quill dyeing traditions. The recommendation was to combine walnuts with ” a lot of wild grape” and cook that until the liquid went black. I stopped the cooking way before the liquid turned black and got this grey-blue-greenish colour you see on tag of the left hand bottle of ink. ( More on grapes next time) 

And to finish in a sweet walnut note from the kitchen: here is what we had for breakfast one day at the art residence: walnut-parmesan scones ( I do not have the recipe so must go back there and pick it up…)

Until next time.

Welcome to new readers and thank you to those who have been following along this inky passage this fall. I do have lots of ink-fixings in my stash yet to be explored so we are not done yet.

Happy Chanuka for tomorrow, too!

This year, I made some chanakiot for the grandkids  – The candle ” flames” are cut-outs with velcro attached so the kids can “light” their candles each night ( and open a little loot bag, too! )

Even if we do not celebrate Chanuka, we  can still be the light!

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Bye bye, buckthorn berries

Buckthorn hedge with fall berries

No more buckthorn berries left now in mid November for making the historic paint colour, Sap Green.  I collected about four cups/ one litre of them a month ago and have been posting the results of my colour search here. Today I am wrapping up the basic buckthorn work and providing a review of what I have learned from my experiments.

Juicy blue-black buckthorn berries which the Field Botanists of Ontario tell me on FB that the birds eat only when desperate , so to go ahead – please make paint and ink with them!

The Rhamnus cathartica ( Common buckthorn) is a despised shrub here in Ontario and , as in many North American zones, is classed as invasive. I normally try to work with native plants to obtain dye colours. I find I am guided by pragmatism as much as by principle -native plants take less gardening work, survive extremes of neglect and weather more easily and attract interesting and useful critters. Why buckthorn, then? Because of its long and fascinating history as a dye plant as a species here and in other parts of the world. 

For my research on the use of buckthorn for pigment, I have relied chiefly on the work of Dominique Cardon on natural dyes and of Daniel Thomspon on medieval painting. A delicious new book about making ink by Jason Logan rekindled my interest in buckthorn greens, and pointed me back to some of my previous work in similar areas, reported here: iris green ( also am historic colour) and walnut dyes/paints/inks. Enough background now. (Please check my references page and recent posts for full info). 

Here is what you might do to get buckthorn (“Sap”) green. Believe me, there are a lot of recipes out there so no need to swear by mine- I don’t! 

Here are two cups of ripe crushed berries in a one-litre/four cup slow cooker, heated to below boiling ( around 180) and cooked for an hour and a half or so, until the juice looks deep purple. My research turned up variations on whether to cook the berries or just squeeze the fresh uncooked juice. I tried both and found no difference in how the colour developed. Note also that to get a deep colour of green (a later step in the process), medieval recipes advised  cooking down the liquid by at least half…so clearly, buckthorn is heat tolerant, which was my concern. 

After the cooking step, time to strain the contents of the pot and then filter it. I used a wire colander for straining, then used a jelly bag for filtering the first time ( best to have more than one filtering session). I saved the residue for a second extraction as the old recipes advised. 

After transferring the purple liquid into clean glass jars, time to shift the pH  upwards  in order to trigger the formation of that coveted green. Some of the old recipes suggest using a combo of alum and soda ash. I used alum acetate alone, about one teaspoon/5 ml per cup /250 ml canning jar- or until the colour turns dark green before your eyes! Stir the jar a bit,   dissolve the alum in a tad of water, then add it. No need to be terribly exact. I figured if the alum did not work alone, I  could throw in the soda ash, too. It worked fine! 

I kept some purple liquid to use as is for its purple colour, then put aside a jarful of green liquid for further trickery. Natural dyers who are accustomed to working with modifiers such as ammonia, soda ash, iron, vinegar and copper sulphate will enjoy messing with the dye chemistry at this point.  I did a little of that but my main goal was green and maybe a bit of yellow-green ( with soda ash as modifier) 

Buckthorn green modified soda ash (yellows) and splashed with lemon juice (pink)

 Colour test strips

Green modified with soda ash for yellows;  splashed with lemon juice for pink
Greens splashed with lemon juice for pink
Greens light and dark with a tad of pink

These colour trials are on 140lb watercolour paper – different colours will show on other papers. On fabrics? I have not tried  the Sap Green on fabric yet but the ancient preference was to use silk for the easiest dye take up. 

I have to say that my mopping-up cloth ( a heavy canvas) looks pretty colour receptive, even without a mordant: 

Catching the green and yellow drips

The next step was to ” insissipate” the liquid – i.e., to concentrate its colour by either boiling it down to at least 50% of the original volume or by letting it evaporate to the same level. I boiled the dye down, having combined two batches of green dye liquid. ( Reminder: The berries can stand to be used for two extractions so do not chuck out the berries after the first straining. )

I filtered the boiled down liquid through three layers of cut up nylon pantyhose ( not thick ones) – in fact, I filtered the liquid also before  boiling it down. You can filter as many times as you think the sludgey bits in the liquid need it.

Greens bottled up

The test strips here show the colours before and after filtering the green liquid. The darker green contains thickish cooked plant residue, the ligher colour is after filtering. Because Sap Green is a relatively transparent colour, you need to paint more than one layer for a deeper shade. The green sludge in the liquid might please your inner texture seeker, though. 

As the photo shows, the green dye is now enrolled as an ink. To each one ounce bottle of liquid, I added 15 drops of gum arabic, one whole clove and for anti-mold overkill, one drop of very pungent tea tree oil ( used in soaps for Athlete’s Foot). 

So I think that is it for buckthorn basics for now.

I have in mind to try a dye blanket with buckthorn green over plants in an ecoprint adventure. And there is one more medieval technique to try and that is to make a “clothlet” as reservoir to hold the green colour ( I will not be using a pig’s bladder as artists did way back) …I have made ” clothlets” for iris green ( reported on this blog).  Thompson says Sap Green was also stored in clothlets. You know where I am going with this…

Next time: probably walnut ink! While I get my “clothlets” and dye carrier blankets sorted. 

Purples from basic buckthorn juice; greens from the purples juice modified with alum acetate

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Yes, dear Readers, I am still blogging, despite the long hiatus in posts. Welcome to all who have subscribed in the last year and to readers who just pop by for a look now and then. Thank you for your comments and your encouragement to keep on making art! I have much to be grateful for this year despite the obstacles. Today I want to tell you about that.

But not too much text from me just now – let us begin with a picture! Ottawa was hit by some destructive weather two weeks ago; my area was fortunate in that we only lost power for a few days. Others lost their homes. Miraculously, only a few  people were injured, thank God not more; alas,  one poor sheep died, along with a chicken. Many trees were uprooted, though.

Here is what it looked like in my living room a few hours after the power went out:

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The skinny candles are burning on candlesticks made by Shlomo. Thank you, Shlomo!  Thanks to a charged-up iPad, I was able to read my iBooks until a kind neighbour-friend juiced it up again next day in a part of town unaffected by the power outage. TG! This fine neighbour has a gas stove that remained operational and allowed her to bring me coffee in the morning. A place must surely now be reserved in Heaven for her.

2018 has been a slow year for my art owing to injury to my art arm, the right. But it has come around finally, thanks to physio and cortisone shots…I am trying to get back in the studio more. Yet more to be grateful for.

On the Family Front: a wonderful suprise. My son and his Beloved of 12 years decided to get married officially. Attended by our families (including their own two kids), we had a wedding!

I love the photo of the ladies with The Bride in their beautiful wedding clothes and delighted smiles. My Hannah and Sarah are R and L of the bride. And check out 2 year old Ezra with his little cousin negotiating the consumption of his chips…you would think he was proposing…but my fave is the one with the little cousins and the Bride and Groom making silly faces. O, it was a happy day!

I made small artworks for the table: little paste-painted place cards in the form of a single-signature book, pamphlet sewn, for each guest; the  cards were housed  in keepsake slipcases covered in eco dyed silk printed with iris blooms ( a stash treasure). Guests were invited to write their good wishes and of course, the kids got to draw and colour.

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On the art show side of things: I am delighted to have some of my FRESCO wall art pieces on show at the new Ottawa Art Gallery- a fabulous new City of Ottawa venue for local and other artists. FRESCO is a series of eco dyed works ( indigo and rust) invoking the experience of finding beauty in decay and decomposition. Here is an example of a collection of smaller works in the series:

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Now a few pics of the garden, my refuge as well as my source of plants for pigments: it is fall now and time to collect and freeze the dye plants.

My fall dye work is starting: it is black walnut time! This year, I plan to make ink again ( in the past, I have made ink from blue iris, walnut and coreopsis) but will try some new plants. Meanwhile:

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Four cups of water, cooked in the slow cooker on low overnight. Cooks down to one cup, which will be strained in cheesecloth then cooked down some more. Then add a wee spoon of gum arabic – et voila, ink! Or let the the strained and cooked-down dye evaporate, then store the powder. The squirrels and I thank the Creator for the bounty of walnuts!

Finally for this LONG post, I leave you with some of the books  have been reading this year – all at once, of  course. They lie all over the house at the ready ( note the visual pun…)

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And a selfie – I have let my hair go as nature would have it ( much cheaper and less annoying than visiting the hairdresser)

Happy Thanksgiving to all and thank you for following. Next time, maybe I will have remembered better how to navigate the wordpress editor!

I have an renewal of my blog and website happening on the back burner so hope that will be done in the next few months – and at the same time, I am destashing My Stuff- and the studio Sacred Stash is not exempt this time around. Will report on how  the Stash can fuel creativity.

Meantime I have found excellent info and so far respectful sharing on a FB page Printing With Botanicals ( I think that is the title of the group). They are up on the latest Tricks and Tips for eco prints- check them out!

Blessings on your work and play, dear Readers. Click on the pics to see close-ups

Wendy

D8B908E9-D773-40BC-A830-9EE3D58971C2The fall garden