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

 

 

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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.

Details:

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…?

Wendy

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.

 

 

Midwinter Eco-printed Scrolls

 

In just a few days, the darkest days will be over and light will stay with us longer! This post, I had been hoping to share some pics of illuminated MSS on loan from the Bodleian to the Jewish Museum in NY…unfortunately, I seem to have lost them somewhere in cyberspace.( I learned from “The Art of the Saint John's Bible” by Susan Sink that the term “illuminated” refers to the gold used for illustrations in the manuscripts. ) So instead, I offer some images of my dye garden in midsummer and midwinter as illumination to your imagination!

Midsummer past:

Midwinter present:

The harvest of that garden keeps me close to summer all year. Besides the dye flowers you see in the summer garden ( coreopsis, tagetes, amaranthus, baptisia australis, borage, basil, viola ticolor) nearby are Red Maple (acer rubrum), Sugar Maple (acer saccharum), Silver Maple (acer saccharinum) Chokecherry (prunus virginiana) and from the kitchen, tea (camellia sinensis).

In the fall I eco-printed watercolour papers with tree leaves as content for another series of botanical scrolls (suite to my textile scrolls exhibited in July), artist books entitled “New World Scroll” . Some images:

Rust and leaf eco prints provide form and content of the New World Scroll. as does the book's accordion structure. The first books were in scroll form, flat or pleated or slatted (depending on its culture of origin). I am using paper to recall ancient form and marking it with plant dyes as a contemporary take on ancient practice, and also as a comment on disappearing traditional natural dyeing knowledge and skills, a loss now connected with disappearing plant diversity and ecological imbalance.

I have handwritten the names of the plants in Latin and English as is proper to a botanical document but in pleated scroll style. I have to say I was hesitating to use my own hand ….dreamed of perfect type from an elegant letterpress…but concept and earthiness won out. Hands on, the powerful presence of a maker in the lettering.

The plants recorded on the scroll are both native and immigrant, a witness to the ideal of a global sharing of knowledge and skill for the benefit of all. A blog, kind of.

Each double spread is inserted inside a fold in the accordion spine and presents four different prints. There are twenty-four eco- printed pages, two eco-printed end papers and a set of eco- printed and embroidered linen covers.

Some closer looks:

The embroidered and printed covers refer to traditional skills and knowledge that have faded away but which are being recovered gradually in textile circles – women's work, mainly…and with new appreciation for the artistry in the ancient practices.

Chokecherry and Red Maple pages in the scroll

Chokecherry pages

Simple pamphlet stitch spine

Opening the scroll

Next time:

More book arts!

And more NYC because that is where I will be spending Christmas. I wish you all the blessings of this holy season

Wendy

 

Slow Clothworks: curing, washing and rinsing eco prints

Arlee Barr’s eco-print washing-out adventures have inspired this post! Thank you to arlee the unvarnished.

A Spring 2012 review of my inventory revealed a box of vintage cottons and linens, eco printed in June 2011 and left to cure, unwashed and unrinsed until now, some twelve months later. The long curing, I must admit, was more by accident than by design because for the most part, I had simply let my June 2011 dyed and eco-printed textiles dry in the summer sun then washed them out right after that.

(And should I also admit “gloating over my hoard” instead of the slight fiction expressed in the above sanitized “review of my inventory”? With 30-odd years of the virus Academia in my blood, Strict Honesty, as in “Unvarnished and Unembellished Truth” dies hard, dear Readers. We need to have our answers ready for the question: What isTruth?)

Back to eco prints!

What would be the effects of long waiting before washing out? Would they lose the colour? and if so, how much? Last summer’s posts detailed the post-washing results for many similar linens and cottons mordanted, dyed and printed in the same manner.This week, a “cured” collection of eight met an (overly-thorough?) half capful of Synthrapol and two tablespoons of Orvus paste in a washing machine filled with cool water, set to two rinses.

Note that I normally unbundle my eco prints when cool, immediately after printing or dyeing, thus, so far, I have not let bundles “cure” before unwrapping.

Mordants

The little stash was mordanted June 2011 by soaking (not cooking) in a classic (from the traditional dye lit.) three- step alum-tannin-alum sequence, with tannin from fresh sumac leaves, garden-gathered, simmered in water to cover, strained, then cooled. The alum was the food grade variety from Bulk Barn.

First was the preparation of the mordants: sumac-tannin mordant and alum, then the cool soaking period for each step of the mordanting – 24 hours at least for each -IOW, until I got around to the next step…

Indeed, the process was Slow. Could have been Slower, too, if I had let the bundles sit for some time before unwrapping.

Plant materials

The leaves for the eco prints were (variously) perennial geranium, Purple Sandcherry (prunus cistena) purple pansies, dried red rose petals (from rosebud tea), dried hibiscus petals (from hibiscus tea), willow leaves and sumac leaves. Most prints in this collection were obtained early in the season by steaming, while one 2011 leaf print was sumac-mordanted earlier then bundled and dyed in black walnut juice in September when walnuts were available. The sumac soak acted as both tannin mordant and as a light yellow-green dye, so the prints are all somewhat yellow-based. (FYI : A colour- free tannin mordant can be obtained as powder from Maiwa in Vancouver…In late fall, when I was out of fresh sumac juice, I switched to this second source of tannin..BTW, the tree barks I used in June 2011 were tannin rich too, but more on that in later posts.)

Here are some images showing the Before and After of the curing- washing-rinsing phases for this collection of Slow Cloths

1. Before: Willow leaf on linen (Black Walnut dye – note the bundling string marks plus the labels I wrote …you think you will remember the printing details? NO way…I write a quick set of material and process notes on a label and pin that to the cloth. Make your own labels or buy a box of manila ones)

After:

Detail : a willow leaf print…

2. Before: Purple Sandcherry with one willow leaf.

The Before pic shows a deeper colouration than After, I think, so I see some loss of colour even after a year of curing in a box in the dark.But can we say more mellowing or a patina than a loss…(see what I mean about the way we can varnish the truth?)

After:

3. Before: Purple Sandcherry and Perennial Geranium with purple pansy:

After: Some fading (truthful observation!) I think, but not major, and some “blooming” of other colours. That may have happened because another textile in the wash had been post-mordanted with iron.

4. Before: Sumac, hibiscus petals (dried), rose petals (dried), perennial geranium leaves and flowers. The dark speckles are dried rose bud petals which had pretty well pulverized in the tea. The pinks are from hibiscus, large dried petals from tea. Dabs of purple came from the geranium flowers.

After: A loss of the pinks and purples due to the iron in another textile washed with this one. Iron turns hibiscus pink to grey. I took a chance washing the collection together in one batch..so this colour change was a result I had anticipated.

5. A few details of another print, post-wash (no Before pic ): perennial geranium on sumac dyed cotton, I found little fading after washing. Amazingly strong print from the geranium.

More detailsl: layered prints.
The greens are from the P. Sandcherry which give both green and purple, depending in the time of year. Later in the season, post-June, I observed more and deeper purples, especially on silks. The darkest lace is from the rosebud tea prints. The vintage cottons and linens do indeed develop a kind of patina.

A last note from a lovely willow leaf, later in the season.

Next post: More on the eco printed stash as I prepare to select Art Cloth for the July show in Ottawa.

Cheers

Wendy

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