Iris Scrolls: Artist Books printed with iris pigments

My “Iris Camino” continues.

Today on my Iris Journey, I introduce two companions: Artist Books, printed with iris dyes and one of them made with pages of iris leaf fibre. (For pics of the Tall Bearded Iris, check iris eco print tags).


“Iris Scroll 1”, the first book is (re)made from thrifted and repurposed blank journal pages, paper type unknown but perhaps some kind of hand-made mulberry paper (The waffle weave typical of J cloth-type cloths used for drying papers is obvious on the journal page surfaces).


The book pages were singles so a “Flag Book” binding came to mind. And since a pun is involved (“Flag Iris” is a kind of wild iris growing near water), I enjoyed the connection to my chosen book structure.


Below is how the pages looked after being inserted into an accordion-type spine made of another found paper, no idea what kind of paper but it was too soft and fabric-like and a b**** to work with here.


I made a separate hard cover to house the Flag Book; the spine on the hard cover is made of my iris leaf fibre paper:

The single pages fly like flags:





The dye prints on the book pages ( “Flags”) were obtained from the bounty of the early June garden: Iris (blues, purples, turquoises and greens); Rhus typhina (sumac leaves: greeny-yellows and khaki-type browns); Coreopsis verticillata (reds, oranges) and spent Tagetes blooms (greens and browns from the calices; yellowy-orange from petals). The cover image is of a sumac leaf touched by iris and coreopsis; the spine is made of iris leaf paper, in two layers:



For the book spine (iris fibre paper) I used the thicker sheets, and coloured the inner spine paper with green iris ink:






Three overlapping “Flags”:




“The Medium Is The Message” (Marshall MacLuhan) in this next book.


” Iris Scroll 2″ has a coptic binding structure with covers and endpapers made from iris-printed watercolour paper, pages made of iris leaf fibre and sewing string dyed green with iris ink:


Oy. The iris paper is extremely fragile even after having added newsprint pulp (will use abaca or kozo next time) so the stitching turned out to be true “Stitch and Bitch” sessions…But still fun, ha ha, as bitchin' can be…
To sew, I used cheap cotton string dyed in iris ink, even though that string was really too thick for delicate stitching…The page papers ripped when I put in the needle and string, the pages failing to match up perfectly with the cover holes. I went back and reinforced the signatures with linen tape dyed in iris ink. That worked up to a point but did not hide the holes completely. Ironing the paper did the trick in closing most of the unwanted holes.
One must, at times, make a virtue out of necessity. I enjoy the “ghetto” effects of the rough papers, the very hairy deckled edges, holes everywhere all stitched up, the chunky pale green string…A study in contrasts with the elegant Iris prints in a range of blues and greens on the covers. I enjoy the abstract impressions made by the iris blooms that allude to original forms without replicating them.





” Surface Textural Interest” – AKA, Curator Art Speak for little fragments of unblended iris leaf as well as mends in the paper attempted with pulp when the page ripped during my sloppy couching:



More “textural interest”: AKA, blobs of white newsprint that I did not blend well with the iris leaf




Wonky alignment of holes due to ripped paper in the signature folds:



Overall, though, I love the imperfections.


Next post: Renaissance pigments and the class with Genevieve Samson, book conservator and Renaissance pigment expert at Library and Archives Canada in the nation's capital, Ottawa

O, it was lovely! And perfect.


Dandelion Creations

Dandelions! I am happy to see them when they arrive in May. I adore their seed pods, too (Irrestible as motifs for graphic design!) Plus they are fun. This year, I taught my grandson, Dylan, an almost-forgotten childhood chasing game “What's the time, Mister Wolf?”. Just picking the seedpod and blowing on it brought the memory and the very words of the game right back…The haptic and the kinetic are key in memory…

We observed the formalities of the game: One player (or better, several players chanting together while tailing the Wolf) cries/ cry: “What's the time, Mister Wolf?”. “Mister Wolf” walking ahead holding a dandelion clock in his hand, turns around, blows on the dandelion to disperse some seeds in a puff and replies in the required, delciously menacing tone (bringing smiles of excited anticipation to the Wolf Stalkers) : “One o'clock!” …The words must be drawn out and delivered accompanied by rolling of eyes, twisting of lips and pawing of the air by Wolf limbs..The Wolf moves on…The Stalkers' question is repeated until Mister Wolf, with his last puff, rounds on the Stalkers (who have been waiting in deep delight for this moment) and snarls his most terrifying snarl: “It's DINNER time and time to eat you all up!” .. Joyful screaming begins and the chase ensues…Whoever is “eaten” last, gets to be Mister Wolf…

No such carniverous eating at the Kemptiville Dandelion Festival! Just an experience of quaintness in a country town with a distinguished agricultural college, a pragmatism that opens doors to creative thinking, a real need to keep a certain culture alive and people employed.

Unfortunately, we arrived late on the last day of the Dandelion Festival in Kemptville, Ontario…we missed a lot of the vendors but not Chef Chris Enlo, late of the Millenium resto in L. A., and now proprietor of The Branch resto in Kemptville. Chef Chris pulled put all the stops.He even shared his recipe for dandelion root beer. Of course, I asked him if he had managed to obtain the maybe-mythical red colour from the dandelion roots while preparing the beer. Just pale brown, he said. Here is his recipe (he gave permission to share it)

Dandelion root beer

1. Gather dandelion roots (or have your farmer friend dig them up, as Chris did)

2. Roast them in a slow oven like chicory (same family, coffee substitute also) – 250 degrees.

3. Grind the dried out roots to a powdery mess

4. Cover with water by an inch and cook gently for an hour. Add one star anise and an inch of cinnamon stick in the last half hour, then remove.

5. Add more water to taste and sweeten with a shlurp of sugar syrup (make your own with one cup of water to one cup of sugar OR maple syrup OR honey.

Then there was this tasty treat: Dandelion pesto! No recipe but if you can make pesto with basil or coriander, then I guess dandelion would be the same. Blow your guests' minds at your next dinner party…

Boo hoo, we missed the dandelion wine artisans and the farmers so headed off into town to check out the lamp posts and shop windows, all dandelioned-up:


Too late for brunch at the Victorian Pantry:

Look what we missed:

But they still had dandelion cupcakes for us with our (regular, not dandelion) coffee ( we could have had dandelion tea if we had chosen to):

I froze the cupcake for Daughter's birthday and for her to share with Dylan today

My own dandelion creations? Eco printed papers from May dandelions in my “lawn” (note the tad of blue from the violet…a perfect complement)

…Dandelion colours and forms that hold their own even with showy tulips:

Eco print watercolour paper fresh from the steam bath:

The whole plant on linen, pre dyed with sumac (Rhus typhina): Yellows…

The finished dandelion print on watercolour paper:

Next flush of dandelion bloom, I will try some more dandelion fun.

Now we go on to the blue Bearded Iris – the June garden is filled with blues and mauves and pinks..But only a short, intense week or two for this heritage variety of iris in my garden ( I have had it over 35 years and it came from another 30-year garden and doubtless from pioneer gardens before that..).Depending on how you look at it, this heritage iris has advantages for an eco dyer: is floppy in rain and wind so one is compelled to pick them…that is why the end up in vases …or dye pots…in my house..

More on blue iris next post and another coreopsis update.

And just possibly some more very old wool socks to dye. After finding my husband's old ski socksin the winter, now I have found my old cross country ski socks from days of yore. Gonna get out the eco dyes…Coreop-socks

Lastly, an update on my eco printed artists books. Some of them will be the national show of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild to be held in Calgary this July.

That is, if I ever get back in the house after being in the June garden…


April Plants and Eco Prints

Goodbye to the Cotswolds in March…

Hello to April in Ottawa:

Just a two weeks later, the Rideau Canal is filled again and the old elm sees its reflection:

Friends return – the Scilla is among the first. Scilla will print blue, like bluebells or hyacinths.

The spring garden is slow this year, five weeks later than in 2012. Iris, perennial géranium and tulips are growing well – all of them ready to give colour in the dye pot.(The iron sculptures are by my husband- he calls them “Peony” . This year, I will wrap them with cloth and plants to make a print. ..See the toad on guard, too, on his plastic perch with a rock from Wharfdale)

Some old friends did not make it. Two mature blue Italian plum trees got too much Black Knot and we had to cut them down. We were sad. This is what they looked like afterwards, waiting for the first outdoor dye session:

And close up:

Amazing colours! Bark and wood dyes this spring, clearly. And prunings from the Concord grape.

Other dye plants:

Rhubarb leaves are a traditional mordant for cellulose fibres but are poisonous (oxalic acid). I prefer sumac – it is plentiful, easy to use, and a native plant besides. Using native plants is one of my aims in dyeing.

Alpine Strawberry is good as ground cover – it selfseeds, too. It makes a lovely clear print.

Perennial geranium, oh so dependable in the eco print bundle. I dug some up out of the snow in January and it was still green – and it printed greeny-yellow, like …

The Tulipa Tarda was tardy indeed this year. I will not print it- too lovely to pick and too few in my garden.

The crocus prints beautifully, petal, stamen and leaf. Plenty of those!

But I have to wait some weeks longer for other plants to print…the trusty Bergenia is up but not much else on the long border beside the canal pond.

Buds, branches, barks, catkins. This late spring is giving me many of these to print while waiting for leaves and blossoms. But it is spring nevertheless and the robin is back in the dye garden.

While waiting for the garden to provide, I forage in the kitchen. These accordions were printed with black tea and bits of iron on 140 lb. water colour paper, Saint Armand “Canal” paper (somewhere between 140 and 80 lb. in the weight) and 80 lb drawing paper. The papers were steamed after soaking briefly in alum acetate mordant.


Taylor's of Harrogate black tea, Darjeeling, dried leaves.

Last views: Cotswold memories:

An ancient yew avenue in a church yard in Painswick, Gloucestershire

Tiny daffodils in a stone planter. The streets through the village are so narrow that the front gardens can only be made in wee pots on the front steps of a house or on the sidewalks.

Tabitha's Well in Painswick. The Celandine grows abundantly there. The water runs down a steep hill to a river where the woollen mills used to be.

Next post: The tea-stained accordions will be…?


Trade secrets…sshhh…

The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG) Ottawa Valley Chapter, held another workshop recently. Our instructor, Mary McIntyre, led us in making a simple and elegant photograph album. Mary is a paper conservator and master bookbinder. She enriched the workshop experience for us with her interesting presentation on the history of albums. Most enriching was her generous sharing of expert knowledge of bookbinding way beyond the topic of album-making. Workshop participants, each in their area of interest and expertise, also shared generously. It was a very satisfying experience. How pleasant to be a member of such a generous group and to learn and share so freely. One of the principal aims of CBBAG is to pass on the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for bookbinding and the book arts, and to actually plan for a time when students might become instructors also. CBBAG is not a guild where trade secrets are the order of business! No NDA's required.

In the past, though, in other guilds, strict secrecy and Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) represented important values to the master artisan. Diane Vogel Maurer reports in the introduction to her book ” Marbling: A Complete Guide to Creating Beautiful Patterened Papers and Fabrics” that “much of the work was accomplished secretly behind wooden partitions and masters were careful to teach only a few aspects of their craft to each worker to prevent any of their apprentices from learning enough to establish himself as a competitor.” (p15) That proprietory approach to teaching and learning marbling had its lifespan cut short by Charles Woolnaugh who “divulged the whole process by publishing a book, despite the outrage of the guild. James Sumner, Woolnaugh's chief rival, did not take such severe umbrage, however. Recognizing the value of disclosure to the progress of knowledge and of healthy competition, Sumner pragmatically published his own book on marbling. I have to say I like the cut of both their jibs.

So here I am, Spilling The Beans again on my blog, today starting with some images of the albums we made at the CBBAG workshop. Mary supplied us with bookcloth she had made herself from Quilter's Quarters. Mary divulged her secrets, too, in the self-respecting context of a workshop. To make the bookcloth, she revealed that she applied a simple cornstarch paste to the back of the cotton and let it dry. (Wheat starch paste works too. A recipe for corn starch paste is at the end of this post). The bookcloth covered the outside of the album and we had some pretty Japanese papers to line the inside covers. To construct the album pages, we cut Fabriano black pastel paper to size, sewed the stacks of signatures together (I made my first Kettle Stitches!) and made some decorative stitches over the spine of the album.

My album is the orange one. You can see the elegant effect of the spine-wrapping threads on all these albums.
We cut rectangular apertures in the spine board to enjoy a view of the sewn signatures. I love that feature!

The linen thread we used to sew the signatures was brought through the aperture, then around and over the spine at top and bottom. This gave a lovely thread texture to the outside of the spine.

Husband made the green one. He made another album at home. His engineer's mind caused him to figure out how to make the spine decoration threads more stable ( they do kind of shift around) so he simply pierced holes in the spine and brought the thread through them.

Natural linen thread, waxed, for the stitching

Canson pastel papers for the album pages and commercial bookcloth for the outside covers:
A map for the inside cover:

Corn starch paste recipe

Four parts water to one part corn starch.

Mix cold water and starch until smooth

Cook over medium heat until thick and smooth, stirring all the time.

Cool in the fridge.

Thin with cold water and beat to remove lumps, to make a paintable mix. Thinner is better.

Place fabric on a flat surface like an acrylic sheet,

Apply paste to the back of the fabric

Dry and store.

More “Secrets”

In the CBBAG workshop, our instructor, Mary McIntyre, shared aspects of her practices re attaching papers to textiles. I have been reading “Magical Secrets About Chine Colle” by Brian Shure of Crown Point Press. Brian is another artist maker like Mary, dedicated to a legacy of teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in a self -and-other -respecting but generous and open manner. One way Brian does this is through his books. His information on using paste with paper and textiles is very valuable. He shares expertise fully in his book with the goal that you and I as readers will learn and pay it forward. In future posts, I plan to report more of how I am using Mary's and Brian's processes of attaching papers to fabrics.

Until next time!

PS The bookbinding needle inside the spine aperture gives a sense of scale.