Forest Floor

A forest floor is a place of new beginnings, nurturing life from the detritus of the old, first drawing down the eye of the body and the eye of the mind so as to enable them together to look up and beyond.

Here are the first images of pieces for my upcoming show “Forest Floor”, July 2012 at the Shenkman Arts Centre, Ottawa. The work featured is contact printed with plants and rust on silks, linens, cotton and papers and stitched at various stages of the process.

“Eyes of the Forest” (22″ x 96″)

Silk habotai, contact printed with plants and rusted iron; hand stitched. Mounted for hanging on a plexi bar.

1. Section of the work, hanging.


2. Another section:


Third section:


Detail 1

Detail 2

Detail 3

Detail 4

Detail 5

Detail 6


Plants used for contact printing: red cabbage, safflower petals, Osage Orange (dye powder) rooibos tea, black tea.



Companions on the “Silk Roads”: Madder, Logwood and Osage Orange

Several recent eco-printed textiles (8 mm silk habotai) were inspired by the colours of this midwinter landscape, similar to “Silk Roads 6”, below:

Silk Roads 5

Red cabbage, Ceylon tea and safflower:

Some pretty greens happen with the safflower yellows and cabbage blues mingling, while  the amber browns come  from tea, not rust.

Silk Roads 7 
Some more midwinter colours, as for Silk Roads 5, but with rust (and vinegar to activate the rust strongly). The colour differences due to the rust and vinegar are quite striking.

In the landscape of my winter garden, the large dried mopheads of “Annabelle” hydrangeas and the leafless vines of the arctic kiwi (arctinidia) provide the rusted orangey-browns we see in the iron rust prints above.

Now for some of the colours of warmer seasons, with madder reds, logwood purples and Osage orange golds combining with Red cabbage blues, safflower yellows, iron rusts,  tea blacks and red-browns:

Silk Roads 8

To the familiar combo of Red cabbage, black and brown tea, safflower and rust, I added a quarter teaspoon of Madder Rich dye extract powder to 2 0z water and dribbled that mixture over the textile once the other dyestuffs had been laid down. The Osage orange, basically a rough sawdust, was sprinkled thickly in places, like cheese on pizza. Bundled in rusted iron and steamed for an hour or so.

Silk Roads 9

  Logwood purple-blue added to the mix, along with some unintended cuddling up from  madder bundle in the dye pot. The logwood was sprinkled dry (while the madder had been was dissolved in water first) onto the textile after the other dyestuffs were laid down. Bundled over a length of rebar and steamed for an hour or so.   

A few “Silk Roads”

Eco-printed with madder (reds and pinks), logwood (deep blues and purples) and Osage orange for deep orangey-yellows.  Blacks and rust from iron; brown from teas; lavender blues from Red cabbage; greens from blue-yellow mixes.

Next post: A few favourite details from January’s work

Eco Print Adventures with Dye Extracts and Associates

More trials with dried dyestuffs, regular and irregular, on 10 mm silk habotai and modified post-printing with iron. 

1. Top: Osage Orange with madder (rich) Bottom: Ditto, modified with iron.

2. Left, Osage Orange, modified with iron, post-printing; Right, the same Osage Orange. Bundled over driftwood.

3. Left, Osage Orange and cochineal, modified with iron post-printing.Right, Osage Orange and Cochineal. Bundled over copper.

4. Collection: Osage Orange, Shizandra Chinensis with dried lemon tie-dye(beiges and tans); ditto, modified with iron to give greys and khakis.Second left, a fragment of silk chiffon printed with Tel Aviv park eucalyptus leaves, simmered in dried lemons,  modified with iron.

Dye Sources

1. Rubia tinctorum (madder rich) and cochineal (Dactyopius coccus) concentrated extracts (from Maiwa/Couleurs de Plantes)

2.Maclura pomifera (Osage Orange), woodchips/sawdust (from my stash). Interesting history of use recorded by Rita J. Adrosko in “Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing”, an authoratative reference (much misquoted, it seems to me).  

3. Dried lemons. They look like wee black walnuts and are actually small limes. From my kitchen cupboard via the mid-east grocery.

4.  Black Tea (loose Assam/Darjeeling) the darkest I could find.

5. Schizandra chinensis ( schizandra berries, ground). Often referred to in less frequent dye literature as a tannin-rich mordant. “On Special” at the health food store along with other intriguing roots and leaves with dye associations like  calendula, hypericum perforatum, nettles, calendula, etc. Among other claimed health benefits, an aphrodisiac in Chinese Medicine. Various colours claimed for this dyestuff so one needs to experiment with mordants, modifiers, heat, length of cooking time, etc.

Next post: Travelling further along the “Silk Roads”