Books, boxes and eco prints

Time to catch up on reports about studio work! Where did July go? Well, this month took me and Husband on a new adventure. We have sold our house and have (almost) bought another, much smaller and with a much smaller garden…so lots of work ahead of us, sorting and recycling and, O Lord help us, DESTASHING…But somewhere in between the house selling and house hunting I managed to fit in some July eco prints – for the good of my soul and my sanity – challenging myself to work with wool, (What a great distraction from the Task At Hand…) Thanks to the generosity of James Dennison, eco printer extraordinaire, who sent me some wonderful pre-felt yardage (second-hand wool is hard to come by), July did not pass without an eco print or two…

To start:, A coiled pre-felt: the coreopsis leaks red…the strings were iron-dyed and made their own marks:


Three pre-felt fragments, printed with Black Walnut, Golden Rod, Purple Sandcherry, Coreopsis, Rose and Sumac:



Detail – greens, blues and teals from Prunus cistena: red from Coreopsis verticillata, yellow from sumac and Golden Rod:



A little silk habotai with coreopsis and Purple Sancherry:



My friend Carmella Rother, a felt artist, tried eco printing for the first time on her felted and embroidered merino. We had a fun session at my studio, with many lovely results. Even a first-time “student” print can succeed beautifully, as you can see. Carmella is captivated! She is now experimenting with eco prints on her felted vessels


Here, coreopsis and rose leaf with iron bitsmon felted merino:



String embossments on felt with eco prints (Purple Sandcherry)



Sumac and Purple Sandcherry on felted merino:



Sumac, coreopsis, Red Salvia blooms on embroidered felted merino:



Native plants for eco prints: Monarda, Golden Rod, Coreopsis, Black-Eyed Susan:



…Book Report

My books arrived back from the July Canadian BookBinders and Book Artists Guild National Show in Calgary.

A Blizzard Book (Hedi Kyle design) with soft cover: clamshell case by Shlomo Feldberg. Eco printed with maple and rust.


New World Scroll: Acer Saccharum. Eco printed papers, bookcloth, embroidered. Slip case by Shlomo (Book and box covered by eco printed papers and cloth)



Coptic binding; rust and maple printed papers; maple-printed linen covers (iron-dipped):



Rust printed and embroidered cloth; rust and maple printed papers:



That's it for now. Next project is to install a small show of eco printed Artist Books and prints at the Ottawa School of Art on August 12. The Iris Green books and prints will be part of the display as well as other books, including the ones in this post.

I will be giving a class in eco printing on paper at the Ottawa School of Art August Fri 23 Aug evening and Sat 24 Aug, for the day.

Hope to have some more student prints to share after the class!




A Rainbow of Eco Prints at the IMPRESS International Printmaking Festival

Home to freezing Ottawa from the equally freezing Cotswolds… finally sorted through the thousands of photos and picked some for the blog…It was the coldest March in 50 years in England – snow, sleet, rain, wind…Dire warnings about severe weather (several snowflakes were forecast) ..but who cares? It was a fabulously creative time in the Master Class on eco printing on paper.

The hoped-for foraging was meagre since few plants on my long lists (see Refs pages) were actually available for the gathering from the fields and gardens, given the late spring. Nevertheless, hotel fridges, Tesco, Waitrose, lay-bys, street weeds, hedgerow stalwarts and students' own gardens still provided all we could possibly want for our foray into eco printing on paper. Cousin Pam from Yorkshire even drove down with a “boot” full of eucalyptus, laurel and hydrangea trimmings from her garden; sage, mint, kale, Red Cabbage and carrot tops from Waitrose, roses too and early quince blossoms. From the Stroud environs came blackberry tangles, snowdrops, crocuses, celandine, cyclamen, dried beech leaves, ivy, mistletoe, nettles (barely up but plentiful), juniper berries, barks, mosses and mystery leaves galore…and oak leaves foraged from a galvanised iron drinking trough, all ready rusted…

See now what we printed with all of these (and more) We also had some painterly post-printing brush play with dye assistants/colour shifters like ammonia, iron liquor, copper sulphate and cream of tartar. Just a selection in this post – more to come (and lots already on FB). These, plus dye powders from Couleurs de Plantes, a selection of dried dye plants like sumac berries and black tea, copper pipes, iron bits and various barks all contributed to the rainbow of colours we obtained.

I was very happy with the results my students were able to achieve – first time for most of them. We worked hard and tried everything! Such an adventurous group. We had no time in one short day to let the first bundle rest longer than the lunch hour! The first batch of papers were pre-mordanted with alum as is my recommendation while the second batch had no alum soak (no time! ) but then we were experimenting.

Through the steam from the pot…the first reveal…

Eucalyptus, rose leaves, logwood dye powder, iron modified, in a steamed stack of papers. What can you say? So very lovely.

Sumac berries, logwood dye powder(?), some greenery, iron modified. Simmered in water, “Canal” paper rolled over a wood dowel (or was it a copper pipe?) This method of processing gave highly textured surfaces to the paper and induced pigments to pool in the folds where the fibres were bruised by the rolling.

Mystery (to me) leaf modified by selectively painting with iron liquor (rusty nails in vinegar or ferrous sulphate powder solution) Blues likely from the very co-operative Red Cabbage, greens maybe from rose or nettle…I did give each student a sheet of labels to attach to tne papers and to record the plants used but I did not photograph the label for this one from Bernard (I think)

Water colour paper, accordion fold with pockets , iron bits, dye powders, Rec Cabbage et al…spectacular rust and plant dye print by fearless printer, Maxine Relton.

Eco print on silk organza (I included some silk in the kit along with papers for chine colle experiments) Not sure of the plants but the result is delightful.

Cousin Pam's Ilkley Eucalyptus with Madder Rich dye powder . Isn't that an inspired colour pairing? Love the wash effect of the dye powder (which could be painted on like ink as well as sprinkled as powder)

Rose leaves and quince blossom – on the left, first print; on the right, painterly touches with iron liquor to bring definition. Lovely effect. As Kate said: “The iron brings it all to life!” Indeed it does here, while still retaining, not overpowering, the character of the original colours

A wonderful range of colours and forms in delicious harmony. A colour and value study.

More printerly prints next time. Thank you for your good wishes


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.



Teaching the basics of eco printing

After a whole eighteen months of experimenting with natural dyes on textiles and paper, I am daring to share some of what I know in classes as well as on this 'ere blog.

In the fall, I did a quiet little workshop at home here for fun with a couple of my talented colleagues from the local chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders' and Book Artists' Guild. They were kind enough to be my guinea pigs – I plan to I post some photos of their quite lovely prints

I have received quite a few requests to Reach eco printing as well as a number of requests related to my blog posts. Readers are wondering if they can find a quick summary somewhere without having to slog through the blog…I do understand need because I have trouble myself sometimes finding the info I wrote up on my own blog…one forgets…

Below is the link to that “Anti Blog Slog” article you may have been looking for. It first appeared in the wonderful Hand Eye online magazine (I subscribe to the print magazine, too). I am planning to make a blog page of basic instructions that will amplify the info in the Hand Eye article.

However, I would like to insist that no quick fix is available for learning about the eco print processes. You have to work at it, folks. BUT love it so much it does not seem like work. Check out the books I recommend and the list of artists I admire to find some you can learn from, as I have done – and then pay it forward. No one artist will be able to answer all your questions. Rely on the ones who appeal to your learning style and your passions.

This year, will be getting my feet wet in teaching what I have learned. I am doing presentations, demos and a Master Class in England in March and then something similar in Italy in October. As for local classes: well, I had been hoping to be able to offer a Master Class at the Moon Rain Centre near me in Quebec as part of an international festival of textile arts, but they are slow to get it organised so I may not be available by the time they are ready to tell me Yes or No. Meantime, a new co op gallery I belong to may allow me to teach there.

I am not a novice teacher. I taught all my professional life at the universiy level where my specialty was teaching academic communication skills to professors and grad students whose first language was not English.

And as a reward for having read all that texty bit above, here is the bit with the pictures: