Indigo blues et amaranth reds in August

A busy month so far! Art, gardens, travels, guests…

Brooklyn and Manhattan in late July, early August were HOT! Ottawa, too.

But refuge was close: The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and in particular, the native plants garden, were ripe with goldenrod and black-eyed susan:

 

We were there In Brooklyn for these two beauties, giving the little mama a break and a bit of time for a nap – Mr. Zev is no sleeper! So a walk every day with the Grandies in the botanical garden was heaven for all concerned. Don't you love the tie Zev is wearing on top of his onesie? Smiles to light up your heart!

 

Earlier in the summer, we paid a visit to the grave of one of my dear friends at Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario. The beautiful chapel there is alive with icons, painted by a member of the community. I am making a little book in memory of Martha and her garden.

 

Not long after, West, our grandson's kitty stayed over for a few days. Here you see West taking his ease after his brave but fruitless night-long vigil at the mousehole in our kitchen floor. Dylan's mama found West (he was nine months old ) at the animal shelter and just had to take him home. West had arrived injured when about six weeks old, and most adopters were afraid to take him on – but not Dylan's mama. Looking pretty comfy, isn't he?

 

The August garden is full and lucious with colour still but, dear Reader, my “kaleyard” this year needs to be renamed the “amaranth yard”! This year, I planted the black 'Lacinato' kale in a pot along with what I thought were two dwarf red amaranth ( I got the seeds from a hippy seed seller and I forget the name of the variety) but which have turned out to be extremely ambitious and quite bumptious imposters, size-wise; they are reaching ever-skyward and thus dwarfing the usually-giant kale! OOOPs! And it is here to stay. The amaranth will self seed copiously around the whole neighbourhood- its tiny seed becomes windborne quite easily. I am growing it mainly for dye; even if it is not the famous Hopi red amaranth, it may yield some dye anyway…I did have a red amaranth (variety unkown) for many years in my other garden and it gave me a lasting pink.

Some other dye sources: this year, blue cornflower and yellow calendula. Monarda didyma “Cambridge Scarlet” , Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' and 'Route 66', chartreuse smokebush and yellow black-eyed susan:

 

 

 

 

Studio time this month has been taken up with prep for the annual West End Studio Tour. Indigo and rust will be featuring large on the displays. This year, I will show rust, indigo and tannin monotypes on paper and cloth wall pieces: eco dyed and printed silk scarves, artist books and small art cards. A selection follows:

Rusted paper and cloth with indigo and tannins ( plants, too):

Indigo, rust and tannin on paper. One of six larger works.

Laying out the monotype print:

 

A stack of printed cloth and papers:

I made some cast paper dyed with indigo and painted with acrylics for my books:

 

 

Eco dyed scarves:

'

An older rusted linen work, embroidered and two-sided:

Some scarf prints:
 

Some eco prints on paper and cloth:

Off the country again tomorrow to meet up with the other grandchildren and to usher out August.

I am taking my wildfower books, my sewing kit and my hapazome hammers. Flower pounding! Kids LOVE it! Can you guess the plants Dylan and I pounded?

 

 

 

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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

 

” O, to be in Blogland, now that April’s here…”

Dear Reader,

Finally, I feel settled enough in my new house and studio to blog! Let me begin with these words of blessing. (I am also substituting “blog” for “hous” ) Not sayin' that I haven't cursed a bit in the past few months but now I am speaking a blessing:

I found that page, loose in a book I picked up in a thrift shop. I have no idea who composed it or when but I like the sentiments.

What have I been up to since my last blog entry, many moons ago, you may enquire? Well, we moved house last November and a big change it has been.

For my December birthday, Husband made this birthday candle for me:

 

It took me many weeks to get over the pinched nerve and wrecked muscles in my Sword and Pen Arm and I still have to watch my posture a lot. The injury, studio still unpacked after our move last November and all kinds of reno meant that no art got done.

But I did manage to write a couple of articles, one about eco printing and another about the book arts, soon to be published if the editors do not change their minds…will keep you informed.

My studio, meantime, almost habitable:

 

This is one corner of the studio. The “Kandinsky” now on the wall turned up when I unpacked a few old boxes- done twenty years ago when I thought it would be instructive to copy my favourite painters. I got bored by the time the top right hand corner was to be filled in…I still think it is a good exercise to copy a painting from time to time to keep one's hand in. And keep one's ego where it belongs.

Husband has been finding it hard,too, not to have space to work at his art. But he did manage these industrial-vibe candlesticks:


 

My textiles and artist books returned safe and sound from Arte Studio Ginestrelle in Italy in January after the exhibition in Assisi (from which my heart has not yet returned). I gathered some of my artist's books together to pet them while waiting for my little artmaking place to be ready. I very much enjoyed our reunion:

 

This group shows the collection of botanical “scrolls” made in my last house and in the Subasio, in Assisi. The orange colours are rust, tea and coreopsis, the blues and greens are from iris and the blacks from iron with maple. These days, my chief interest is in printing and dyeing with regional native plants on papers and textiles.

This scroll below dyed with June blooms and leaves: iris, coreopsis and sumac mostly, with a few Prunus cistena:

 

This scroll was printed with dried coreopsis and tagetes. The stalks are used to make the spine of the book and are from the dried coreopsis.

 

Rusted paper making the accordion spine, with iron-dyed thread attaching pages inside the folds.

 

Another view of the scroll collection:

Looking over my old work helps me get back in the zone after I have been away for a long time. Blogging helps, too!

Though unable to work much in my own home, I have been able to take a few workshops. Here, I am using a photo I took of a favourite tree and transferring an abstract version of the design onto an aluminum plate using a Sharpie marker that acts as a resist to the etching fluid:

 

I made the aluminum plates in a non toxic studio set up using Akua inks.

 

This is the etched plate which I will print at home, results TBD:

 

And here are four Japanese stab-bound books we learned how to make at a workshop given by the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild. Next post, I will have a photo of the beautiful wrapper we made for the books. Our teachers, so competent and knowledgable, were Mary MacIntyre and Genevieve Samson. Mary is the national president of CBBAG: both she and Gen are conservators at the National Archives in Ottawa.

Some less fun activity:

Wonder if I can use this as a design? Smashed by ice from my neighour's roof sliding onto my car in the driveway…had to get a new windshield and a new roof on my car…but we will keep the neighours, they are nice!

 

Snd because it is spring, at last there is the dye garden to think about. I have not much idea of what has survived in the pots I brought from our old house and little notion of what I will find already in the garden once spring really arrives; the garden is still under two feet of snow and more snow is forecast for this week. A long, cold, icy, white winter. We have lost a maple tree, boo hoo, and the tree guy could not get in last week to cut is down because the gate was frozen closed…

Meantime, I grow seeds in the house: hope springs eternal…

 

The Japanese Indigo is for the dye garden, but that will remain in pots because she is thought invasive in many parts of the gardening world.

 

That is it for now. I am working on a review of my lists of dye plants so that will be the subject of a post on the near future. I am planning to focus more on plants native to my eco zone.

And, BTW, we had a leak in our roof – water came through the dining room ceiling because of dammed-up ice…this is been a most brutal winter, the winter of many discontents…but many consolations, too, as you can see above!

Until the next time

 

Wendy

 

 

Subasio Eco Prints on Paper

 

NOTA BENE:

Due to my extreme KLUTZINESS , I have posted my November 10th blog entry today down on October 14 (see below) as an “Update”.  I am afraid to mess with it in case I lose the post…so if you would like to see pics of my work in our show in Assisi, it is down in October 14!

To recover my wits and your esteem, I am posting a second entry today also – – correctly, I hope.

Here begins a series of posts showing eco prints of European Walnut, Olive, Blackberry, Dogwood, Sloe, False Acacia, Elder, Grape, Oak and others; on watercolour papers of various types and origins; using plants foraged on the higher levels of the Subasio near Assisi in Umbria; printed at the Arte Studio Ginestrelle in my outdoor “lab” accompanied at various stages by Guardian Cats along with passing wild boars, Black Scorpions, baby vipers, large porcupines, hares,  P1120628magpies, jays, butterflies and colourful moths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Elder with blackberry

P1120629

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Dogwood with iron.

P1120631

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Dogwood with iron and blackberry.

P1120632

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Sumac with iron.

P1120634

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Dogwood with sumac and iron.

P1120636

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: European Walnut with Blackberry

P1120637

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Walnut with iron.

P1120640

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Dogwood with iron.

P1120641

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Dogwood, iron, Blackberry

P1120652

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Walnut

P1120642

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogwood, Blackberry, iron, Fennel

P1120655

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cotinus coggygria (Smokebush).

More next time!

 

 

October prints from the Subasio

So mostly photos today showing my experiments with the regional plants of the Subasio. My printing setup is a tad on the ghetto side which is what I had predicted and had planned to cooperate with. The first few prints had way too much steam puffed at them so came out rather watery. An iron wash (ferrous sulphate painted on the wimpy bits) brought out the lines and new colours. So far, I have obtained a multitude of yellows and not a few blues (from dogwood berries and blackberries) plus pinky purples from pomegranate seed juice. Browns, tans, rusts are coming along as the days of October draw closer to the end of the month and the leaves begin to turn colour. Good old cotinus gave a tad of blue, too!

 

Here are the pics from the first two weeks of textile prints ( prints on paper coming soon – they are being worked into Artist Books. I must say I have my work cut out for me to complete the projects I had intended to do…the “distractions” are many…so let us start with a few of them before we get down to eco/enviro print buisiness:

Brunellschi's Dome (Il Duomo) in nearby Florence:

 

 

 

Mount Subasio view:

 

Assisi with pilgrims:

 

Studio visitor:

 

Fuzzy photo, sorry: Balckberry leaves and fruit, cotinus, oak and iron:

 

Detail of above:

 

Juglans regia (European walnut) on the Studio's vintage sheets:

 

Cornus sanguinea (Dogwood) leaves and berries with dried Sunflowers:

 

Cotinus coggygria (Smokebush), dogwood berries and iron on cotton:

Cotinus, pomegranate, dogwood berries and leaves on vintage cotton:

 

The cotton collection:

 

Silk organza soaking up the rust juice from the rust-printed papers; white wine vinegar at 6% acid on rusty iron bits,

 

The iron mordanted silk organza (from home) with cotinus and dogwood (berries):

Others in the silk organza collection:

 

With pomegranate and dogwood berries:

Random print: blue from dogwood berries, yellows from the leaves, browns too.

 

Next time:

Eco printed papers for Artist Books and prints on vintage handwoven linen from the monthly flea market in Assisi. Could not resist the linen…

 

Pax et Bonum to all my readers- the beautiful Franciscan blessing

 

Wendy

 

More October Ecoprints from the Subasio

“Inspired by the broken colours and forms of the still-radiant ancient frescos on the walls of churches and streets in Assisi and neighbouring medieval hill-towns, I created a series of Artist Books and textile frescos whose content refers to the natural environment of the Subasio as well as to its powerful spiritual and Dantean heritage. My intention was to research the bioregional plants of the Subasio near the Arte Studionestrelle at Santa Maria di Lignano and to discover natural pigments which I could use to dye and print locally-made paper and vintage linen. I was interested in a contemporary application of the traditional knowledge about natural dyes associated historically with this region of Italy where much of that older wisdom seems to have disappeared. My question was: Could some version of that knowledge be restored? The October native vegetation growing high up the mountain provided a rich palette from leaves, bark, berries and late blooms that worked together in successive layers of dye and print. My work on this beautiful mountain recalls to me the Fioretti (Little Flowers) of Saint Francis of Assisi whose love for the Umbrian landscape brought him and others closer to God. And although I was here too late in the season to use the traditional ginestrelle blooms in my prints, I was able to obtain much colour from their seed pods! ” (Shlomo Feldberg constructed covers and boxes for Wendy's Artist Books during his residency in addition to completing his own mixed media work.)

The statement above about my work during my residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle appears in the catalogue for the show of contemporary art at the public art gallery of Assisi. The show takes place the last week of November. As well as the inspiration I found so abundantly in and around Mount Subasio, I am pleased to share with you some of the Artist Books and textiles created during my October 2013 residency and featured in the annual exhibit by many of the Artists In Residence. I have also brought home with me many eco printed papers and textiles that will form much of my work later in the winter.

First pic: Umbrian handwoven linen, highly textured and serviceable cloth; an Assisi-fleamarket find, vintage but never used.

It took me many prep and printing sessions with mordants and local plants to express the Giotto/Cimabue/Pintoricchio fresco colours I had in mind. Even then, I used madder dye powder for the reds since Rubia tinctorum does not grow at almost 1000 metres above sea level where the Studio is located.

The abundance of yellows in the earlyOctober leaves was a challenge. During my first week of printings, shades of yellow or brown was all I could manage to obtain using a basic alum acetate mordant. Hmm. I knew I would print the papers and cloth several times again for more colour and form.

As the October days passed, the fall colours began to change and pigments both increased and decreased in the leaves. I searched for sources of blue and found them in Dogwood berries (Cornus sanguinea), Sloes (Prunus espinosa – tiny plums) and Cotinus coggygria (more blue after the middle of October). Purple showed in the bark of walnut twigs (Juglans regia) as well as late blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) and sloes; greens from Dogwood leaves (and berries, too); moss greens from Rosa canina (Dog Rose). The yellows were varied: Golden-apricot from Olive leaves; deep golden from Walnut; yellow-chartreuse from Sumac. The “ginestrelle” or Dyer's Broom (Cytisus scoparius in these parts) had only seed pods for printing tannin browns in October, its brilliant yellow blooms long gone.

Here, blue, green and teal from Dogwood berries and leaves:

 

And the enticing golden yellows from European Walnut on old cotton sheets:

 

A small display of yellows with iron (flowers by Shlomo)

 

Dogwood greens, walnut yellows and deep browns; pinks and purple-pink from walnut twig bark.

 

Rusted silk chiffon with BlackBerry and Dogwood berries:

 

 
Dogwood and walnut with the last sunflower:
 
 
Walnut with Dogwood, Elder and iron:
 

 

Artist Books : “Subasio Scrolls”

With the Subasio Scroll Collection I am continuing to develop an earlier goal: to use the accordion book form as a botanical scroll. This collection of three books is entilted “Little Plants of the Subasio: October Scroll” (1, 2, 3). A fourth book is coptic-bound and contains my handwritten copies of sayings from Dante and Francis of Assisi. The book is also entitled “Little Plants of the Subasio”.

Each page of each book, back and front, is printed with leaves, bark and/or berries and fruits of the area around Arte Studio Ginestrelle, which is llocated nearly at the top of this part of the Subasio. The range of available plants changes with the altitude (here, between 800 and 1000m.) So while madder might be found on the bottom layer of the vegetation belt, only a relative (Galium lucidum, but not a red one! ) was found at the mid-to-high level where the Studio is.

 

My aim was to use only what I could forage within that vegetation layer on the mountain and therefore not to import plants from other areas. I did succeed in that aim, except for my use of powdered madder…one cannot express the spirit of Giotto's frescos without red! All the other plant colours came from the vegetation right at hand.

(Aside: I was unable to find any really good locally-made paper for my books , despite the fact that the Fabriano art paper factory is within a few hours drive of Assisi and the other hill towns. The art supply shop in Florence was closed on Saturdays, the day we went there. One bookbinder we met in Florence says he sends for his supplies to Talas in Brooklyn!!! Or to Paris or Germany. Wow. )

 

Some of my main pigment sources were: Juglans regia, Cornus sanguinea, Rubus fruticosus, Prunus espinosa, Robinia pseudoacacia (invasive, introduced), Carpino nero, Quercus robur, “Rutacae” – species unknown except for the family relationship), Sambucus negra, Rosa canina, Acer opalus, plus Olive and Grape.

 

My “Subasio October Scrolls” collection of Artist Books consists so far of three accordion-spined and one coptic-bound book. ( Covers and Book Box were made by Shlomo Feldberg using my printed textiles and papers.) These Artist Books remain in Assisi for exhibition. Others will be added to the collection in time as I continue to work with the many papers and textiles I made there and brought home.

 

Below: Walnut leaf print on the box: walnut dyed linen thread for the book stitiching

 
 

Completed scrolls atop the reference books I used to help me identify the native and local plants. I had hope they could tell me which might be for use as sources of pigment. None of these books discussed the traditional dye uses of the plants, even when they gave extensive info about medicinal use. This confirmed my supposition that natural dye knowledge about the area was limited or non-existent.

 

 

A wild fennel and rust page in one of my books:

 

Walnut leaf page:

 

An arrray of pages in a scroll book:

 

The spine of a book with plant labels in English, Latin and Italian:

 

 

Robinia pseudoacacia:

 

 

Carpino nero (Black Hornbeam):

 

 

The little coptic-bound book of sayings from Dante and Francis of Assisi; on ecoprinted pages:

 

 

Dante, Canto IX. Mount Subasio and some prayer-poems by Francis of Assisi.

 
Title page:
 

 

 

Book box and book covers:

 

 

 
 

I leave you today with a promise to post more pics and info when (a) I have sorted and retrieved some lost photos (FB crashed iPhoto and ate my camera upload…lost a LOT of pics!!!) and (b) after we have moved to our new house next week.

(This is not our new house)

Those colours! The ducal palace at Gubbio, the town where Francis tamed the wolf:

 

Here is more inspiration from tne colours and forms of Umbria:

The view from our bedroom:

 

Look up for inspiration:

 

Look down…

 

Even the distressed surfaces inspire: in fact, these above all…

 

 

I hope I leave you looking for more like Brother Cat Cimabue (L) and Brother Cat Negrito (R)- the Studio's Resident Royalty, assigned to outdoor duties but skilled in finding “work” inside
 

 

More pics next time! Leaf prints for book pages, inspiration photos…and photos of the Studio and environs.

Best to you, dear Reader.

 

Subasio Scrolls and Fresco Textiles

“Inspired by the broken colours and forms of the still-radiant ancient frescos on the walls of churches and streets in Assisi and neighbouring medieval hill-towns, I created a series of Artist Books and textile frescos whose content refers to the natural environment of the Subasio as well as to its powerful spiritual and Dantean heritage. My intention was to research the bioregional plants of the Subasio near the Arte Studionestrelle at Santa Maria di Lignano and to discover natural pigments which I could use to dye and print locally-made paper and vintage linen. I was interested in a contemporary application of the traditional knowledge about natural dyes associated historically with this region of Italy where much of that older wisdom seems to have disappeared. My question was: Could some version of that knowledge be restored? The October native vegetation growing high up the mountain provided a rich palette from leaves, bark, berries and late blooms that worked together in successive layers of dye and print. My work on this beautiful mountain recalls to me the Fioretti (Little Flowers) of Saint Francis of Assisi whose love for the Umbrian landscape brought him and others closer to God. And although I was here too late in the season to use the traditional ginestrelle blooms in my prints, I was able to obtain much colour from their seed pods! ” (Shlomo Feldberg constructed covers and boxes for Wendy's Artist Books during his residency in addition to completing his own mixed media work.)

The statement above about my work during my residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle appears in the catalogue for the show of contemporary art at the public art gallery of Assisi. The show takes place the last week of November. As well as the inspiration I found so abundantly in and around Mount Subasio, I am pleased to share with you some of the Artist Books and textiles created during my October 2013 residency and featured in the annual exhibit by many of the Artists In Residence. I have also brought home with me many eco printed papers and textiles that will form much of my work later in the winter.

First pic: Umbrian handwoven linen, highly textured and serviceable cloth; an Assisi-fleamarket find, vintage but never used.

It took me many prep and printing sessions with mordants and local plants to express the Giotto/Cimabue/Pintoricchio fresco colours I had in mind. Even then, I used madder dye powder for the reds since Rubia tinctorum does not grow at almost 1000 metres above sea level where the Studio is located.

The abundance of yellows in the earlyOctober leaves was a challenge. During my first week of printings, shades of yellow or brown was all I could manage to obtain using a basic alum acetate mordant. Hmm. I knew I would print the papers and cloth several times again for more colour and form.

As the October days passed, the fall colours began to change and pigments both increased and decreased in the leaves. I searched for sources of blue and found them in Dogwood berries (Cornus sanguinea), Sloes (Prunus espinosa – tiny plums) and Cotinus coggygria (more blue after the middle of October). Purple showed in the bark of walnut twigs (Juglans regia) as well as late blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) and sloes; greens from Dogwood leaves (and berries, too); moss greens from Rosa canina (Dog Rose). The yellows were varied: Golden-apricot from Olive leaves; deep golden from Walnut; yellow-chartreuse from Sumac. The “ginestrelle” or Dyer's Broom (Cytisus scoparius in these parts) had only seed pods for printing tannin browns in October, its brilliant yellow blooms long gone.

Here, blue, green and teal from Dogwood berries and leaves:

 

And the enticing golden yellows from European Walnut on old cotton sheets:

 

A small display of yellows with iron (flowers by Shlomo)

 

Dogwood greens, walnut yellows and deep browns; pinks and purple-pink from walnut twig bark.

 

Rusted silk chiffon with BlackBerry and Dogwood berries:

 

 
Dogwood and walnut with the last sunflower:
 
 
Walnut with Dogwood, Elder and iron:
 

 

Artist Books : “Subasio Scrolls”

With the Subasio Scroll Collection I am continuing to develop an earlier goal: to use the accordion book form as a botanical scroll. This collection of three books is entilted “Little Plants of the Subasio: October Scroll” (1, 2, 3). A fourth book is coptic-bound and contains my handwritten copies of sayings from Dante and Francis of Assisi. The book is also entitled “Little Plants of the Subasio”.

Each page of each book, back and front, is printed with leaves, bark and/or berries and fruits of the area around Arte Studio Ginestrelle, which is llocated nearly at the top of this part of the Subasio. The range of available plants changes with the altitude (here, between 800 and 1000m.) So while madder might be found on the bottom layer of the vegetation belt, only a relative (Galium lucidum, but not a red one! ) was found at the mid-to-high level where the Studio is.

 

My aim was to use only what I could forage within that vegetation layer on the mountain and therefore not to import plants from other areas. I did succeed in that aim, except for my use of powdered madder…one cannot express the spirit of Giotto's frescos without red! All the other plant colours came from the vegetation right at hand.

(Aside: I was unable to find any really good locally-made paper for my books , despite the fact that the Fabriano art paper factory is within a few hours drive of Assisi and the other hill towns. The art supply shop in Florence was closed on Saturdays, the day we went there. One bookbinder we met in Florence says he sends for his supplies to Talas in Brooklyn!!! Or to Paris or Germany. Wow. )

 

Some of my main pigment sources were: Juglans regia, Cornus sanguinea, Rubus fruticosus, Prunus espinosa, Robinia pseudoacacia (invasive, introduced), Carpino nero, Quercus robur, “Rutacae” – species unknown except for the family relationship), Sambucus negra, Rosa canina, Acer opalus, plus Olive and Grape.

 

My “Subasio October Scrolls” collection of Artist Books consists so far of three accordion-spined and one coptic-bound book. ( Covers and Book Box were made by Shlomo Feldberg using my printed textiles and papers.) These Artist Books remain in Assisi for exhibition. Others will be added to the collection in time as I continue to work with the many papers and textiles I made there and brought home.

 

Below: Walnut leaf print on the box: walnut dyed linen thread for the book stitiching

 
 

Completed scrolls atop the reference books I used to help me identify the native and local plants. I had hope they could tell me which might be for use as sources of pigment. None of these books discussed the traditional dye uses of the plants, even when they gave extensive info about medicinal use. This confirmed my supposition that natural dye knowledge about the area was limited or non-existent.

 

 

A wild fennel and rust page in one of my books:

 

Walnut leaf page:

 

An arrray of pages in a scroll book:

 

The spine of a book with plant labels in English, Latin and Italian:

 

 

Robinia pseudoacacia:

 

 

Carpino nero (Black Hornbeam):

 

 

The little coptic-bound book of sayings from Dante and Francis of Assisi; on ecoprinted pages:

 

 

Dante, Canto IX. Mount Subasio and some prayer-poems by Francis of Assisi.

 
Title page:
 

 

 

Book box and book covers:

 

 

 
 

I leave you today with a promise to post more pics and info when (a) I have sorted and retrieved some lost photos (FB crashed iPhoto and ate my camera upload…lost a LOT of pics!!!) and (b) after we have moved to our new house next week.

(This is not our new house)

Those colours! The ducal palace at Gubbio, the town where Francis tamed the wolf:

 

Here is more inspiration from tne colours and forms of Umbria:

The view from our bedroom:

 

Look up for inspiration:

 

Look down…

 

Even the distressed surfaces inspire: in fact, these above all…

 

 

I hope I leave you looking for more like Brother Cat Cimabue (L) and Brother Cat Negrito (R)- the Studio's Resident Royalty, assigned to outdoor duties but skilled in finding “work” inside
 

 

More pics next time! Leaf prints for book pages, inspiration photos…and photos of the Studio and environs.

Best to you, dear Reader.