I stART the year..

…by looking back! Small wonder the god Janus is conceived as two-faced: with one face that looks back, the other that looks forward. So to look forward, I start from the experience of my 2013 Pilgrimage of Life In Art.

My pinched nerve and rotator cuff injury in early December 2013 has forced quite a few changes of plan, art-wise, for the early winter of 2014. So without 2014 work to show you just yet, for the next while I will present some images and info about my pre-2014 work, some of which has not so far made it to these pages, plus the work of some other fave artists.

My other intention, looking forward, is to update other pages on this blog, especially the info about native dye plants and links to other artists who work with bioregional plants for contact printing, wherever they might live in the world. That will indicate to you the focus of my art direction in 2014! I am looking forward to planning a new native/bioregional/pioneer plant dye garden in my new abode this summer.

Meantime, may I show you some pics of some of my 2013 Artist Books in their clamshell cases, the latter made by my husband, Shlomo? We are both members of the Canadian Book Binders and Book Artists Guild. Our chapter, the Ottawa Valley, has an exhibit of members' Artist Books at the University of Ottawa Morriset Library for a month, starting January 13. The photos of the books were taken in last summer:

Rust and maple prints:

Now this is not an Artist Book, nor do I have his permission to show the work since the unnamed artist died several centuries ago. But the image shows inspiration for my Italian eco prints and eco dyes: Umbrian frescos, decayed over time.

Below is a collection of contact prints on paper and textiles made with blue iris, part of my summer 2013 project to discover the pigment potential in blue iris blooms and the handmade paper potential of iris leaves. These works were exhibited at Portage du Fort, Quebec, as exemplars of Renaissance artist pigments and part of the Samuel de Champlain explorer festival. The display at Portage du Fort was later set up at the Ottawa School of Art. The photo shows a printed silk panel, several iris prints on paper and Artist Books of various structures including pages made with iris leaf paper, printed with iris pigment and iris ink. Clamshell case by Shlomo, papers by Wendy:

,

My artist residency work in Assisi:

More of my paper and textile fresco work, this time at the public gallery of the City of Assisi in the historic Piazza Commune. The photo shows a group exhibit of work by artists in residence 2013 at Arte Studio Ginestrelle, Assisi, Umbria:

One of my Artist Books shown at the University of Ottawa this month:

And the next series of beautiful glass mosaics was made by my daughter, Sarah, using a box of leftover glass fragments given to her by Shlomo. She took a pair of glass doors in her house and fitted the panes with glass mosaic:

Here is a work by another of my fave artists, my grandson, Dylan, now aged 4.

And a final work by an unknown artist's hand, found at the flea market in Gubbio where Saint Francis tamed the wolf: showing Assisi work, though in a less popular colour, pink. Note the beautiful damask linen weave typical of linen handtowels in that region. It is wonderful to think that once, time spent on work like this was considered time well spent:

Until the next Look Forward!

Happy new year to all my readers and a special thank you to all who have subscribed as followers.

Wendy

 

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The Champlain Palette: Workshop in Renaissance Pigments

Follow this link to Genevieve's instructions on how to prepare Renaissance pigments:



A two-day workshop in recreating the palette of Renaissance painters at the time of Samuel de Champlain, an early explorer and map maker of Eastern Canada, was offered this weekend at the Pontiac School of the Arts in the charming riverside village of Portage-du-Fort, about 100 kilomètres from Ottawa, west along the mighty Ottawa river. Genevieve Samson, book conservator at Library and Archives Canada and specialist in pigments in medieval and Renaissance MSS and books, led the workshop, assisted by local artist Rob HInchley. Her goals for the first day were to instruct participants in the composition and making of 33 organic and inorganic pigments and on the second day, for participants to use a smaller collection of thirteen pigments under Rob's tutelage to paint watercolours of nearby riverscapes where Champlain would have travelled. What a perfect set of interesting and achievable goals! And after this the students would have a show of their work at the art school.
 
Along the road to the school, July wildflowers abound: Hypericum perforatum, white daisies, blue Bear's Breeches, pink wild dianthus, white Achillea, early Golden Rod and Queen Anne's Lace. Here, going down to the Ottawa river are blue and white blooms appropriately coloured blue and white for Quebec:
 
 
 
 
The Renaissance Palette and the use of powdered pigments
 
Using a huge array of powdered pigments originating from all over the world and obtained through Kremer in New York , KAMA in Montreal and some made by Genevieve herself, the class created thirty-three samples of paints in yellows, reds, blues, browns, greens and oranges. We used gum arabic as a binder to make watercolour paints from the pigments; we also learned how to make egg tempera paint with egg yolk and pigment. No tap water but demineralised water should be used to make the paints when water is required.
Genevieve has made efforts to obtain the pigment powders from their places of origin. It was not always possible for sometimes the supplier did not want to reveal sources…In the future she hopes to make her pigments starting from scratch using the soil, the rocks, the plants, etc. But she cautions that steps must be taken to ensure that pigments made directly, e.g., from clay, must be made free of impurities that can cause mold growth, etc.
After each paint sample was mixed and made ready, we entered the colours in the chart:
 
 
 
We learned that painters of the day did not blend colours together but used them pure.
 
For each student to take home, Genevieve had prepared in advance a set of thirteen pigments of the above colours in small pans in a watercolour tray:
 
 
As part of her presentation on pigments derived from plants, Genevieve asked me to share the results of my iris clothlet experiments previously reported here
 
Painters carried their pigments in white shells like these below because the colour of the shells enhanced pigments so that they “read” correctly. Genevieve showed images in medieval paintings of painters using shells for their pigments.
 
The top row of shells contains alum and iris pigmented linen clothlets soaked in Gum Arabic (L) and glair AKA egg white (R), with resulting colour; the shells on the bottom row contain clothlets without alum.
 
 
 
Tips, Tricks and Gossip a la Renaissance Pigment class
 
Genevieve is a warm raconteuse and tells flavourful side stories to keep us working while we mix and grind our pigments. Some examples to share:
 
– Renaissance painters and dyers were often a cagey lot. We have lost a lot of useful knowledge because of this tendency to keep trade secrets but at least it keeps conservators employed… Trade secrecy is maybe an issue sometimes today, too…
 
– One “secret recipe” for a dye process contained nasty inclusions like rancid fish oil…We wondered if this ingredient was early “disinformation” in action: the release of sketchy info in the hopes that a competitor would steal the process and suffer loss of business as a result…We speculated suspiciously that we know people can give out their pie recipes but with something missing or a false ingredient, etc…Was that Renaissance dye recipe “leak” like a modern day Wiki-leak? Controversial topics then as now…

– As recently as the 1980's in France, women conservators at the National Library were permitted to carry out only the first steps in restoring bindings. They had to pass the final finishing work to male binders and were not allowed to know how to do the males' work…
 
— A tip for preserving pigment “cakes”: Do not keep them in ziploc baggies where they get no air. Either vacuum seal the bag or store the pigment cake in a container that lets in some air.Here is some paint that grew mold in a ziploc bag. Gum arabic can go bad, too.
 
 
– Tips for making egg tempera paint: Use older rather than fresh eggs; the egg yolk is good for one day only – mix pigment with a new yolk the next day.
 
Sharing Knowledge
 
Genevieve gave permission to describe freely the content of the class and to publish photos, as did the other students. She said she would like nothing more than to spread the word about the beauty of these pigments and the fascinating processes involved in making them. As a researcher, she is committed to spreading current or new knowledge as well as restoring lost knowledge.
 
The link below will take you to a slide show on the How To's of Renaissance pigments a la Genevieve Samson:

Genevieve's email address:
 
gensamson27@gmail.com
 
End Note
 
The Fleur de Lys (“Lily Flower”) forms part of the Quebec provincial flag and is a design long associated with French history and culture in France and in Quebec. It was used in France at the time of Champlain. Its origins as a symbol go far back to the sixth century when King Clovis of the Franks adopted it in his banner. Did he intend to call this flower a lily, which is the strict meaning of the term? The symbol is pretty obviously not a lily at all but an iris. Perhaps he, as a native speaker of a Germanic language and not French, as a soldier and a conqueror, would not have worried too much about correct French plant identification. What did it matter, lily or iris? I think what most likely mattered was that this flower shows a tripartite separation of petals and in religious imagery, could have been a apt symbol of the Holy Trinity for King Clovis, a new convert to Christianity.
 
The adorable little lapel buttons below have clever designs within the Fleur de Lys form, demonstrating aspects of Quebec French culture:
 
 
 

Next post: What's new in the garden for eco dyes? And yet another stage in the Iris Camino.

 

Iris Scrolls: Artist Books printed with iris pigments

My “Iris Camino” continues.

Today on my Iris Journey, I introduce two companions: Artist Books, printed with iris dyes and one of them made with pages of iris leaf fibre. (For pics of the Tall Bearded Iris, check iris eco print tags).

 

“Iris Scroll 1”, the first book is (re)made from thrifted and repurposed blank journal pages, paper type unknown but perhaps some kind of hand-made mulberry paper (The waffle weave typical of J cloth-type cloths used for drying papers is obvious on the journal page surfaces).

 

The book pages were singles so a “Flag Book” binding came to mind. And since a pun is involved (“Flag Iris” is a kind of wild iris growing near water), I enjoyed the connection to my chosen book structure.

 

Below is how the pages looked after being inserted into an accordion-type spine made of another found paper, no idea what kind of paper but it was too soft and fabric-like and a b**** to work with here.

 

I made a separate hard cover to house the Flag Book; the spine on the hard cover is made of my iris leaf fibre paper:


 
The single pages fly like flags:
 
 

 

 

 

 
 

The dye prints on the book pages ( “Flags”) were obtained from the bounty of the early June garden: Iris (blues, purples, turquoises and greens); Rhus typhina (sumac leaves: greeny-yellows and khaki-type browns); Coreopsis verticillata (reds, oranges) and spent Tagetes blooms (greens and browns from the calices; yellowy-orange from petals). The cover image is of a sumac leaf touched by iris and coreopsis; the spine is made of iris leaf paper, in two layers:

 

 
 

For the book spine (iris fibre paper) I used the thicker sheets, and coloured the inner spine paper with green iris ink:

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Three overlapping “Flags”:

 

 

 

“The Medium Is The Message” (Marshall MacLuhan) in this next book.

 

” Iris Scroll 2″ has a coptic binding structure with covers and endpapers made from iris-printed watercolour paper, pages made of iris leaf fibre and sewing string dyed green with iris ink:

 

 
Oy. The iris paper is extremely fragile even after having added newsprint pulp (will use abaca or kozo next time) so the stitching turned out to be true “Stitch and Bitch” sessions…But still fun, ha ha, as bitchin' can be…
 
 
To sew, I used cheap cotton string dyed in iris ink, even though that string was really too thick for delicate stitching…The page papers ripped when I put in the needle and string, the pages failing to match up perfectly with the cover holes. I went back and reinforced the signatures with linen tape dyed in iris ink. That worked up to a point but did not hide the holes completely. Ironing the paper did the trick in closing most of the unwanted holes.
 
One must, at times, make a virtue out of necessity. I enjoy the “ghetto” effects of the rough papers, the very hairy deckled edges, holes everywhere all stitched up, the chunky pale green string…A study in contrasts with the elegant Iris prints in a range of blues and greens on the covers. I enjoy the abstract impressions made by the iris blooms that allude to original forms without replicating them.
 

 

 

 

 

” Surface Textural Interest” – AKA, Curator Art Speak for little fragments of unblended iris leaf as well as mends in the paper attempted with pulp when the page ripped during my sloppy couching:

 

 
 

More “textural interest”: AKA, blobs of white newsprint that I did not blend well with the iris leaf

fibre:

 

 

Wonky alignment of holes due to ripped paper in the signature folds:

 

 

Overall, though, I love the imperfections.

 

Next post: Renaissance pigments and the class with Genevieve Samson, book conservator and Renaissance pigment expert at Library and Archives Canada in the nation's capital, Ottawa

O, it was lovely! And perfect.