October Studio

September has passed in a blur of sun, studio-time and a mad race to prepare for the annual studio tour of two weekends. As I have spent most of the post-tour week cleaning up, it occurred to me that you, dear Reader, might like a peek at where I do most of my art work.

My studio is in the basement of our house and it comprises areas for sewing, cutting, painting, bookbinding, printing, dyeing, laundry, garden planning and the hoarding of art supplies, books , sewing machines, seeds and the kids' artwork, plus sentimental “bits and bobs” as the Brits say; and not to forget the occasional mouse… The floor lists dramatically to starboard ( or is it port?), the ceiling is less than eight feet (that's OK for me, though – I am nowadays less than five feet tall) and one needs the lights on at all times (daylight fluorescent bulbs). It will never be featured in that Spiffy Studio mag but it's real and it's a Place of My Own.

Especially it works for West, my studio assistant….he is grandson Dylan's marmalade kitty who stayed over a few days this week, dined on the mice, then pooed in the bathtub…When not sitting in my tool box, West was on my keyboard watching the scroll bar go up and down…

Please come in! The Ikea chest of drawers would not go up the stairs so, boo hoo, I had to keep In the studio it to store my eco dye stash…

Facing you in the above pic as you enter is the dye cupboard (half empty because the rest of th supplies are still outside at my outdoor summer dye station.)

Left of the open door at the entrance and in the foreground is the wet station (sink, dye vats and mordant baths) , printing and book binding area; straight ahead on the left at mid-ground is my cutting and general work table with the paper etc. cupboards nearby. On the back wall are the painting supplies and various new canvases etc. We sourced all the furniture and cupboards at Habitat for Humanity or at thrift stores.

A closer shot showing what's on my table this week: Some more eco prints to frame; a couple of bricks covered in paper to use as weights for flattening book pages. Plus my coffee, of course.

My sewing area with the Sacred Stash (of textiles, naturally). I like to arrange the textiles into small collections or WIP projects; I put the collections in labelled, see-through plastic boxes – easy to find and to shlep back and forth. The second chair is for the grandkids…

My toolbox: The needlecase was the VERY FIRST free motion project I did. I learned free motion stitching quite by accident one day – I somehow read the chapter on darning with the sewing machine and had an epiphany! (What If the engineer who wrote the sewing machine manual had written How to Make Art With Your Sewing Machine? In the next few posts I will be doing a little retrospective on my embroideries since I am hoping to be able to add to the older series. But that is for later.) Just now:

A box of paper and textiles offcuts, awaiting their new assignments as art material:

A mordant bath and an indigo vat ( plastic boxes work fine! )

On the Inspiration Shelf: work in progress – Artist Books that never got finished for the tour! They are to be coptic-bound.

Shlomo put up this sonnet by Shakespeare for me to read while doing the laundry:

Some other work that is still in progress and never made it to the tour:

Eco print with indigo on silk dupion

Indigo, rust and tannin prints on linen and cotton – also WIPs

A few more rust print WIPs:

 

“May Gardenista” on the work table, WIP:

My mass book “Magnificat” recycled as an altered book – almost 400 pages folded! The cover of the mass book beside it shows a work by Odilon Redon “The Flight Into Egypt” (Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus, refugees, resting on the road). The colours in the painting are similar to the ones in “May Gardenista”” don't you think?

 

 

And now to show you some of what emerged from the studio in time for the studio tour this month:

 

 

 

The candleholders are by Shlomo who also participated in the tour with his metal art. They go well with the rust, tannin and indigo prints, I thought

 

Most of the work above is on paper or cloth dyed/printed with indigo, rust, plants and tannin.

Last pic:

I found this print when sorting stuff for the tour. I bought it many years ago and I cannot find the name of the painter. Does anyone recognise the work? It looks kind of Klee-ish. I had been in Canada only two years when I found it In the shop of the National Gallery of Canada, a repro of course. I felt it was something of a self-portrait, me wrapping myself in my British flag, missing my old home. And check her hippy headband.

 

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A Garden Printed in July

Eco dyeing and eco printing are, for me, art forms sprung from my lifelong love of plants and gardening. My earliest childhood memories, in fact, are of the textures, forms and colours of plants – bilberries, heather and fuschia growing in Orkney. Since then, I have made a garden in every place I have lived, starting small in England with seed packages of orange calendula, blue cornflowers and purple Virginian stock that my garden-loving parents gave me. In my current Ottawa garden, just two summers old, I am slowly building a collection of plants native to eastern Ontario or other parts of North America, but not so exclusive a collection as to banish well-beloved European green immigrants, sentimental favourites, that have adapted to our eco zone. I am also delving into the tradtional use of dye plants by First Nations of this area. Some of the latter plants (Sanguinaria canadensis /bloodroot, for example) had made themselves at home in my new garden years before we bought the house. Such are the plants that I want to use for eco dyes and prints – local, regional, national and a few well-travelled and well- behaved internationals. The epithet “eco” in eco dyeing can mean several things, of course, but first, I use it to refer to my use of plants that are native to my geographical area, especially those I can grow myself or forage with respect in the neighbourhood.

And now into the garden during a hot and humid month of July in Ottawa. What to find in bloom there, full of seasonal colour for printing? Below, a little bouquet of favourite flowers and leaves that work for printing: Clockwise from the left: Bee balm, Japanese maple, Coreopsis verticillata, rose leaf, blue cornflower, calendula, burgundy cornflower Anthemis tinctoria (Dyer's marguerite), Cotinus obovatus (smokebush).

Not only the oft-invoked serendipity and spontanaity but also some deliberation and discrimination went into planning this series of “July Gardenista” prints. Instead of going first for the “dark and stormy” eco print that is the result of putting iron and tannin- rich plants together in the bundle, my goal with this little collection was to pair complementary colours and to promote a range of analagous colours by a careful choice of pigment-bearing plants. I wanted clear, bright summer's day colours , a “painter's palette” .

And after first showing you the “painter's palette” prints I obtained on paper, I have included some of my “dark-and-stormies” : the iron-tannin-indigo prints that develop fast outside on the stones in the heat of a 35 C day!

Here are the ” painter's palette” results.

The plants below were printed on (thrifted) handmade paper, highly textured, most likely some kind of mulberry (kozo).

The cornflowers, calendulas and coreopsis above are still attached to the paper

Orange calendula print and bloom, above.

Blue cornflower print ( Renaissance artists considered this blue to be inferior – or so say some of the art historians like Daniel Thompson) I love that blue-orange opposition!

 

Cotinus in July – a new colour each month from this plant! Blue with green from cotinus

The pink-purple is Monarda didyma ” Cambridge Scarlet”/ bee balm

Coreopsis verticillata red with marigold yellow

A few pages together. The red stems of the coreopsis bring essential structure to the design on tne surface so covered with abstract smudges of colour

Blue pansy, fresh, prints teal-green: a strong shape in a strong colour. Then we have the yellow- purple complements via Anthemis tinctoria and Monarda didyma, amorphous stains

More red- green complements, with interesting strong red lines and loose smudges in contrast. Plus a bit of blue in there. Where did that come from?

 

A rose leaf (below) offers a soft yellow to complement the also-soft pink-purple of the bee balm. Strident deep orange-reds sing loud with a powerful dark teal green print from a blue pansy, And an emerald cotinus leaf.

The many contrasts of colour, form and value in these prints keep them from being insipid, don't you think?

And now to the “dark-and-stormies” .

To get really dark prints (black, charcoal, blue-black) from leaves, we need to choose tannin-rich leaves like sumac, oak, walnut, geranium and others and process them with iron bits.I do my D and S's in three stages – three, if I dip the thing in indigo for the last stage.

First stage: Bundle the paper and textile/layer with iron and vinegar to get a good iron print; bundle up the iron chunks and slosh on the white vinegar, 5% acetic acid, no exact proportions. Wrapping the iron or layering it flat works well. No need to alum-mordant; but if you do, no matter. Put the textile or paper with iron between heavy black plastic garbage bags, weighted down, and leave in the sun for a day (or even less if it is very hot outside, say over 30 C. Keep checking…) Leave it to print until you are happy with the result, then unwrap and evaluate. You can add more iron, vinegar, tea leaves and leave it for a while longer if you like.

Second stage: For this stage, I layer on leaves, then I steam the bundle to print the leaves. I layer tannin-rich leaves onto the textile or paper, put the iron bits back in, bundle or stack the package in the dye pot, slosh again with vinegar and process (covered) over high steam heat over water for about an hour. The leaves print blue-black if they are tannin-rich. You may get smidges of yellow or green colouration also. Very nice. I suggest using leaves of contrasting size and shape, like the longer pinnate sumac with the smaller palmate geranium. This kind of attention to shape and size of print elements makes for a more interesting surface design. After all, sooner or later, an artist might like to feel they have some control over the essentially- spontaneous exo print process. Serendipity and considered choices make good partners in design.

Third stage for indigo: Either dribble on a diluted indigo solution from pre- reduced crystals and let dry; or skip this stage and dribble the indigo onto the substrate at Stage Two before steaming.

For good info on using pre-reduced indigo, check out Catherine Ellis' fine PDF via Earth Guild.

NB The indigo I am using at the moment is not the “granola” indigo, i.e., the “haute eco” indigo used by “eco-printerati” which comes from real leaves. MIne Is the synthetic variety, alas, the pre-reduced crystals. But rest assured, Dear Reader, for when my potted Indigo indigofera plant grows big enough, I, too, shall aspire to membership in the aforementioned elite company. And you shall be the first to know. ( And I do have my Japanese indigo in the works, too. )

And now some the pics of the the iron/rust, tannin and indigo prints.

Shlomo cut and welded these iron bits:

The bundle was dribbled and blobbed here and there with indigo: iron bits with tannin from tea leaves.

Other iron bits for the bundles/layers/stacks:

Leaves layered on the textile after the first printing with iron and tea leaves only:

Ready for steam processing: Indigo dribble, tannin marks from some ? leaves in the bundle that printed in the heat of the sun: lots of great rust marks.

Papers and iron stashed under plastic in the hot sun:,

Rust prints on paper with indigo and tannin-rich tea leaves, dry.

 

Part of a rust printed textile:

Sumac prints blue-black with iron bits:

Indigo and rust with tannins and leaf prints:

 

And one last print: Japanese maple and geranium without iron but with indigo. Just the usual eco print process to print the maple and geranium on rice (mulberry) paper, then pre-reduced indigo dribbled on with a bulb baster. The maples printed different colours on rice paper than on linen where ir gave purple and green, And here, different colours from the upper and under side of the leaf.

And that is it for ” July Gardenista” prints, Dear Reader.

We are off to Brooklyn this week for a week to babysit our newest grandbaby! And to give the poor parents a break – little Zev is no sleeper! We may have time for some arty things – the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is nearby…we will not be able to resist a nice walk in the gardens with our little grandson.

Leaving you with one of my faves:

Until August, then.

Wendy

 

 

June Dye Plants in July

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have come since last post, dear Reader! Pinched nerves, spine miseries, carpal tunnel syndrome have kept me away from blogland and the garden for too long….But TG for physio and MRI machines…Still, I had to save my mobility and energy for family visits (new baby), a family trip to the Muskokas and a couple of eco dye classes that I gave in June. But I did keep taking pics of the June dye plants growing in nicely without me fussing; so here are some of them ( even though we are half way through July) along with a few samples of eco prints done by students in June:

Cotinus coggygria (R) with Rhus typhina (above R); nasturtiums in the wheelbarrow ( for hapazome) and dogwoods by the fence.

Front garden with the eco print star, red Japanese maple, probably “Bloodgood”

At this time of the year, this red leaved maple prints greens and purples. For complementary contrast, it is paired with yellow-primting sumac ( a student print).

And here is the Acer palmatum again, this time green, with red Coreopsis verticillata as colour complement, and yellows from baptisia as analagous colours.

Coiinus surprises in June, with red coreo for a bit of sizzle:

Iris always blue:

Tall bearded blue iris:

Baptisia australis: blue and purple blooms on the same plant! Fluorescent yellow from ththe leaves, deep blue stains from the little flowers:

This plant is NOT in my garden: Rhamnus cathartica (buckthorn) is an invasive non-native soo fair game for June foraging. Green from the berries, a trad dye plant in Europe. The local Buckthorn Police were happy that this Most Wanted on their list had been hunted down…

Japanese indigo ( Persicaria tinctoria): two overwintered plants that I layered and that consequently filled the whole planter: a plant with the will to live and leave a legacy; dye pot coming.

I still have loads of dried J. Indigo from last year, plus a 2014 vat that will get reactivated later this month:

The very well informed and generous mad dyers over at FB pageThe Wild Dyery have told us how we can get the vat going again.

Above are prints from a lichen solar dye pot that I started on my return from the Muskokas where I found huge rocks covered in umbilicaria (Rock Tripe) lichen, and which our B&B owners allowed me to gather.

The liquor looks like rich red wine at the moment; I shake it to areate the jar each day and I catch the dye drips on a piece of linen under the jars. The underside of the lichen is green when wet.

The umbilicaria, above. Not sure of the variety. FYI: The ethics of collecting lichen are in still in dispute. I feel comfortable having collected three small jars worth from over a large area on private property where a lot of the lichen has detached spontaneously from the rocks. The colour will fully develop in about six months.

A lovely print by expert linocut printmaker and teacher Deidre Hierlihy who took a little eco print instruction session from me this month; print on handmade Canal paper by Saint Armand. Smooshed blue aronia berries with Salvia officinalis (culinary sage) and rust prints.

One of my favourite wild flower scenes in the Muskokas: orange Indian paintbrush (talleja) backed by white clover and tall yellow hawksweed. Native peoples used the talleja for pigments according to Moerman ( see my refs page)

Last pic is of ME, dear Reader. I have been reluctant to show my face and be somewhat personal, but I know you perhaps wonder who is speaking to you and what I might look like. So here I am, dressed for the photo and right after I had my grey hair dyed…I cannot tell a lie, paper was not the only thing that got dyed in June… I got these great copper-oxidised earrings from the kids for Mother’s Day; the kids insisted I send them a pic with me wearing them; so I am daring to share it with you. The earrings were made by the very talented young jeweller artist Shane Cook, a grad of NSCAD. Behind me in the pic are some of my embroideries. A couple of these works will soon appear in a text book about modern textile art embroidery published by the Hong Kong Polytechnical University.

Next post will be in July!

 

Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rust and Indigo For A Chinese Thread Book

Thanks to the delightful kindness of Kit Tyrrell, one of my blog readers in the UK, I have received two booklets by Ruth Smith about folded books that can contain many compartments. One such book is the Chinese Thread Book (AKA the Miao Dong thread-and-needle case) that I mentioned in my last post. Kit had found the booklets at a textile show in the UK and had made the needle case using soft Japanese paper. She was so generous in sending them to me to have a go, too.

One of Ruth Smith's instruction books:

(You can see the thread book on the far right of the cover pic)

The traditional Miao thread and needle cases can have up to thirteen folded 'containers' stacked on top of each other and enclosed within covers that shut like a pocketbook. Miao embroiderers kept thread, needles, patterns, etc, in these “pockets”

For the annual CBBAG (bookbinding) swap ( themed “Envelope” this year) I was looking for an interesting way to bind and/or contain a collection of 20 artistically-made 'envelopes' containing creative enclosures.

We were encouraged to explore the 'Conceal-Reveal' concept inherent in the theme. I had in mind to make a multi-pouch container based on the traditional needle-and-thread cases made by the Miao people of South West China. Their needle-and-thread cases are usually made from paper, often handmade, and decorated with symbols and designs of cultural significance. (In fact, the Miao designs are a principal means of handing down their history since until recently, the Miao people were 94% illiterate, having no written records, relying instead on oral and graphic-image storytelling and record-keeping to transmit and preserve their ancient culture)

Instead of paper, however, I decided to use my (pre-reduced) indigo and rust dyed fabrics (stashed from last year) because of an indigo connection: the Miao people are famous for growing indigo (three species) and for indigo-dyeing their handwoven hemp clothing that they later applique with exquisitely skilful embroideries.

In addition, I thought that placing the CBBAG Swap envelopes inside still other 'envelopes' that also 'conceal' then 'reveal' seemed another appropriate and enriching concept to explore, and one that links to the curiosity, excitement and mystery we might experience in turning the pages of a book.

This is what my Chinese Thread Book looked like when it was done: I needed four larger compartments each topped with one smaller 'box' or 'envelope'; the eight compartments are mounted on cloth-bound book board covers. Each of the larger 'boxes' contains five art envelopes (about 5″ square) with an enclosure; the smaller box on top contains small cards bearing the name of each participant in the project.


But first, there was many a trial and much mess and often, confusion…More books of instruction and also You Tubes were gratefully consulted…

After the confidence-building reading and video-watching, on to the trials – playtime!

On the studio table is some rust and indigo dyed cloth laid out for auditioning as book cloth (cloth backed with paper to use in bookbinding)

Some trials with paper – origami folds to make a box:

 

The vintage linen (below) dyed with rust and indigo was successfully backed with thin mulberry paper to make book cloth. I adhered the cloth and paper together with Heat 'N Bond and Steam-a-Seam; no wet paste or glue for this application, though I have used it very successfully before. But wet glue had been a mistake in a previous trial with another kind of cloth). Lessons learned from paper trials and the cloth-wet glue trial led to success with the first of the four folded cloth 'envelopes' AKA origami-fold boxes:

Smaller boxes are stacked (glued with PVA) on top of the larger ones and open up to reveal their contents:

The paper layer of the bookcloth of which the wee boxes are made is painted with indigo; the cloth side is rust printed cotton. Some of the thin mulberry paper tore but I fixed that easily with acrylic glazing liquid – in fact, giving the whole mulberry paper layer a thin coat of glaze which serves both to enhance the indigo blue colour and to strengthen the paper. (The Miao people varnish their paper). One has to give some thought to the colour of the paper that lines the cloth before adhering cloth and paper together and folding it – something I failed to do! The result: a lot of unwanted white showing! So I made a wash from the indigo and CAREFULLY painted it on the white paper/outside of the boxes…though after the thread case was finished, not before, which would have been safer.

Inside the wee box, a little card for each artist with their name:

 

Inside the larger folded boxes five 'envelopes' with their enclosures:

 

On top of each of the five 'envelopes' inside the larger box I placed a lid made from my hand made and hand dyed indigo and rust paper. I intended the 'lid' to conceal the contents briefly even after the box is opened…you lift the lid by a wee loop.Each of the four lids is different:
 
 

 

 

This box shows my own CBBAG 'Envelope' inside:

 

The case for the folded boxes is covered with rust-printed linen and furnished with ribbon ties: It looks like a hard-cover book.

 

The covers fold flat to keep the folded boxes flat inside, and they are wrapped around with a ribbon:

 

And a final protective 'envelope' : one to slip the ” Envelope” case inside, made of indigo and rust printed cotton and linen; free motion stitched label.

 

Next time: A look at some of the envelopes and their enclosures!

And maybe some Philip Taafe ( I must stop making that promise…the truth is that I took some photos at the gallery where his show took place but have not received permission to use them…so until I do….I did write and ask for permissiom at the gallery but the answer I received was not clearly a YES or a NO…so I have to clarify…I do believe an artist has the right to the work being represented by images that he or she wants so I cannot go barging ahead to publish my own little snapshots without a clear OK…But if I cannot use my own photos, I know I can use theirs)

And thank you once again to Kit Tyrrell who, through her amazing kindness, provided me with the necessary instructions for this interesting and challenging bookbinding project

Wendy

 

Snow Comes To The Kaleyard

Winter means art indoors and the studio is my refuge. For natural dyeing and eco printing, I use my stash of dried plants, dye powders and whatever fresh plant materials I can find in the fridge or a florist bouquet. The first snow in the kaleyard this year sent me scuttling about to bring in one of my Potted Plant Pets that, forgetful gardener that I am, I had neglected all summer and fall. Out of sight, out of mind: it was hidden, pot and all, by the huge foliage of that Monster Kale. Si when the vernight temperature fell to about two degrees, that was curtains for the leaves on the indigo (Indigofera tinctoria).

I had started the seeds indoors in March and set out the largest plant In a pot after the last frost in late May.The indigo looked like this (below) in June beside the Kale Monster; by November, it was hidden completely by the dinosaur kale.

Let us see if the now-leafless indigo pet will revive. More below on this indigo and its gifts to the dyer.

Meantime, I did manage to bring in the Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) and pot it up for overwintering. This type of indigo also yields blue pigment so I have dried several batches of leaves to try winter vat-making. In the past, I have found that the plants will set seed in their pots and produce seedlings in late winter. But for good measure I have saved seeds this year. One of my dyer friends here in Ottawa says she even finds seedlings in her compost in spring! That is a plant with a huge will to survive, even if with a reputation for short seed viability.

Here are the leaves of Japanese indigo, dried after the first of three harvests this year:

 

And here are some dye results on silk velvet, post-dyeing and pre-eco printing ( Those little brown pebbley things that look like critter poo are, in fact, dried tansy buttons.)

The blues I obtained (above) from my first-ever Japanese indigo vat are, as you can see, on the turquoise side of blue.

Later in the year ( when I am back from January in Brooklyn where our youngest is about to have her first baby) I will have a go with a vat using dried the Persicaria tinctoria but likely not before February.

On to dyeing with other indigo now – the Indigofera tinctorIa. I am chiefly interested in using this indigo for my Artist Books. My current focus is, as you might know by now, Artist Books made with and about native plants, the Medium being the Message in my approach to the work.

But I am not so granola that I shun non-native plants like European kale, Japanese indigo and indigo (probably) from India. We are all strangers and sojourners on this earth, are we not? And we likely come from somewhere else, and will end up somewhere else again, more than likely. I am from Orkney, as it happens, but live now in Ottawa, Canada, via Liverpool in England. Green Immigrants have a valued place in my garden; potted, they are Plant Pets; they will always find a place in my repertoire as a dye artist even if native plants are my garden focus. We have transplantation, translation and removal in common, and the search for where to put down roots, scatter seeds and lay one's head.

Indigo paper has an interesting history in the book and paper arts, too. ( A discourse on that topic will follow at another time, dear Reader! ) Indigo papers will be a fine little Rabbit Hole for me to disappear down with my pre-reduced indigo, taking along rust and black tea leaves as companions, plus some others (like beeswax) to sustain and surprise us on the journey.

Feeling connections to the traditional use of indigo for colouring papers of various qualities and types, especially for the express purpose of hiding imperfections, I have begun to accumulate indigo-and-rust dyed materials to create a series of Artist Books, with tea leaves for tannins to blacken the rust. And some beeswax to trap the rust, like insects in amber. And dye and wax to cover over many things, like the mold on paper left too long soaking in alum water…And, O that divine blue and orange combo, the Impressionist painter's expressive colour gift to humanity and art history.

To get the blue markings, I dipped, painted, sprinkled, splashed the dye and scattered crystal before eco printing it with the rust and tea on watercolour paper. I dissolved pre- reduced indigo crystals in water (no chemicals added) and also scattered crystals on the pages to be eco printed as usual by steaming. To get the rust, I laid on flat bits of metals and soaked the metals and the paper in white vinegar befor steaming. (You can skip the steaming step if you are OK waiting a day or so for the rust to print. The hot steam simply accelerates the process. And the indigo needs no steaming, either. But if you want tannins to react with the rust, and you'd like marks from the tea leaves, then steam the stack or bundle as I did with tea leaves scattered on) Some examples:

Here is a batch of indigo, rust and tea prints on paper:

 

 

 

The dark marks in this one are from molds on composted papers:

 

 

 

And here is some linen printed with indigo, rust and tea: this will become book cloth.

 

 

This (below) is what happens when you scatter the indigo crystals on top of paper and plants for eco printing; logwood and madder powders are scattered in there, too, on top of mold marks and rust. I showed my friend, Gayle, how to do this and this was her result at my studio:

 

Finally for this post: some Artist Books, including work from a bookbinding workshop offered by the generous Genevieve Samson, medieval book conservator at Archives Canada and CBBAG member. Longstitch binding: the white one is mine, the next two are Gen's demo books, the coptic binding is by Gayle Quick of CBBAG and the blue and white on the bottom of the stack is a canvas wrapper I painted with acrylics.

 

Next time: more books, more indigo and some painted chair covers

 

Blessings on your day, dear Reader. Thank you and welcome to all the new folks who have joined the blog since last post.

 

Wendy