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

 

 

April Adieux

At the start of the month of April, the Kaleyard was not without some ragged post-winter charm:

Kaleyard_march2015

After the spring clean-up:

CleanKaleyradSpring2015Meanwhile, the indoor dye garden is growing.

First. Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria). I layered the long stems to encourage rooting at the nodes of the one plant that survived the winter indoors (most of them dried out while we were away in January, no reflection on the plant’s vigorous survival mechanisms)

JapIndiogoPlantThe seedlings from last year’s crop of Japanese indigo seeds are appearing:

JapIndigoSeedlingsAnd perhaps some seeds have survived the rigours of the winter outside: on verra! After the winter the leaves have taken on that teal colour of the Japanese indigo that I harvested three times last year and dried.

JapIndiOutsideSeedlingsOther dye plants from saved seeds:

Baptisia australis:

BaptisiaSeedlingsTagetes pumila (Lemon Gem marigold):

LemonGemSeedlingsThe beloved black kale ‘Lacinato’:

KaleSeedlingsAnd the Indigo indigofera that I started from seed last year and kept as a pet in a pot:

IndigoPlantHere are some Indigo indigofera prints on paper with rust; the indigo is from the pre-reduced crystals:

IndigopapersSome old favourites of mine, the red amaranth that Hopi Indians used  for colour. I had them in my old garden where they self seeded abundantly; here, for my new garden which will be in its second summer in 2015 , I bought seeds:

RedAmaranthSeeddlingsAnd now as promised, here are some more images of the making of the Chinese Thread Book reported in my last post. First, better image of the first of Ruth Smith’s books on the Miao needle case:
RSmithBk1
And a second book by Ruth Smith (both sent to me by Kit Tyrrell in the UK, so kind!) on other structures similar:

RSmithBk2
Some of my trials before making the finished version. I tried several kinds of paper and book cloth before I made my own book cloth from mulberry paper and eco dyed and rusted linen tablecloth damask, recycled of course. I keep my “trials” in a project box so that I can refer back to the experiments as well as my instructions to myself for the completed work. (If you think you will remember…ha ha…):

ThreadBkTrialsMore trials:

TrialBoxAnd on leaving the cool and cruel month of April, let’s say goodbye to the lovely bloodroot which has begun dropping its white petals:

BloodrootApril2015Next time:

I am experimenting with eco dyeing on cheapo cotton knit from the auto parts store (sold for polishing cars). It comes in one metre lengths and in tubular form. At 99 cents a metre on sale…
CottonKnit

And perhaps I will get to finish the next in my ‘Botanica’ series of Artist’s Books. The next one is “BOTANICA: Gardenista”. The book is done, and I am planning the case or cover.

Last Word

I have updated my Tutorial Page with one on the basics of eco printing on paper and cloth.

Also, the Dye Plant Page has been updated; I will continue to update it as the plants allow me to photograph them! I am waiting for some of the bushes in my garden to leaf out. I prefer to use my own photos of plants in my garden and environs.

A la prochaine!

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

 

Paper Diversions: Rust Prints, Fresco Papers and Fancy Doodles

Paste papers and rust prints are among the mark-making adventures on my radar this month, along with the trademarked 'Zentangles' (Since I am unable to insert the R copyright/trademark symbol using this iPad keyboard, I must henceforth refer to thIs topic as 'The Z Word')

One of my rust print excursions (below) is via Canal paper (artisan-made by Saint Armand in Montreal) and features vinegar-splashed iron chunks sprinkled with Assam tea for blue-black tannin marks:

Next is something I have never tried before; pedantically, I was thinking it was just a fad, basically the 'Pet Rock' of markmaking:

The Z Word

Throwing prejudice aside, I bought a wee kit for my daughter, who, seeking some artistic diversion to offset the pressures of work, was ready to give these fancy doodles a go. We both tried; for my effort, i gave myself zero, having broken the Fancy Doodle Rules (use a pen, no ruler, no eraser, start at the line, etc. ) and not having filled in the whole three and a half inch square required:

My daughter, on the other hand, became enchanted. This is her first Z Word:

And her second:

She ran off home, excited to do more Z Words, plus try more spirograph from Michaels (she and Dylan, aged five, play with that together) plus a fancy old-fashioned kind of spirograph from Lee Valley Tools that architects used to use and that Google knows nothing about. Thank you, Z Word, and please accept my apologies; you are not the Pet Rock of the art world after all.

'Fresco' paste papers.

Paste paper was the next experiment. The textured surfaces of papers coloured with pigmented paste seem fresco-like; so my aim for the overall look of the paste papers became: abraded surfaces – pitted, peeling and faded, ancient walls…

I have enjoyed making paste papers in the past, painting more or less traditional swirled and combed patterns and using mostly natural dyes ( I have reported on the paste recipe, patterns and results in a previous post.). Favoured by book artists, paste papers are usually coloured with a home-made wheat or cornstarch or rice paste (sometimes wallpaper paste or methyl cellulose) mixed with acrylic paints or other pigments.

Paste paper was a kind of side activity traditional with bookbinders, a frugal way to use up the leftover paste used in book construction. The paste (wheat, corn, rice, etc., depending on cultural traditions and era) was mixed with colours and painted in simple but effective designs on paper that could be used for book decoration. Today, many bookbinders make paste paper for its own sake and as a way to obtain beautiful and unique materials for Artists' Books displaying complex, painterly designs.

Really, you could just use straight acrylic paints instead of going to the trouble of making coloured paste. Still, making paste papers nowadays is perhaps more about rediscovering and emulating the long-ago customs of bookbinders and connecting yourself with the history of the craft. But allowing your creativity some contemporary licence. The resulting art papers can be used as pages, end papers or covers for Artists' Books, as background for book content or even as the book content itself.

For my 'fresco' papers, I chose acrylic paints by Golden for their high pigment load. ( Wheat or cornstarch paste tends to thin out the pigment so paler prints can result from less concentrated paint colours). My preference is for a basic palette I can use to mix the colours I want, either by layering colours on top of one another on the paper, or by mixing them before application.

For this batch, I chose Hansa yellow, Cadmium red, Ultramarine blue, Cobalt blue, Green Gold, Cadmium orange, Titan buff (instead of stark white), 'sludge' by Tri- Art ( a factory mix of leftover paints that offers a cheap, brownish substitute for black that gives a more faded, antique look to the darks on the page) and Interference red, a metallic paint I used as a resist before the paste layer, and as bit of shine on the surface, brushed on straight.

Some of the paste papers were printed in two or three layers of colour, and dried between layers so that a wet top layer could be wiped, scraped, rolled or printed off in areas to allow the under colour to show through. Textile scraps (coarse linen strips, crochet lace, netting, heavy weaves, etc.) were pressed with a brayer into a wet paste layer, then removed, leaving their impressions like stamps and lifting off a lot of the surface colour, creating new texture and revealing the underlying layers. The textiles can also lift off bits of paper, too! The abrasion was not hard to achieve…Other marks were made with carved rollers, combs, etc.

I took several monotypes from the 'host' paste painting by pressing a clean, damp sheet of Canal paper on top of the painted page (or two) and pulling a secondary print. In some cases, as in this first image, you can see that layers of paper were pulled up from the surface of the paper along with the coloured paste, creating a look of broken plaster.

 

 

This image belpw shows the monotype I printed off the 'host' paper, above, with bits of paper pulled off the surface and adding to the 'fresco' effect.

The Interference red used as a resist before painting the first coloured layers changed colour to purply- grey when the 'sludge' was rolled over the top of the yellow and red layers. The metallic worked better on the top surface in this paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time!

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

 

More ecoprints on paper from plants of the Subasio

At Arte Studio Ginestrelle, my studio set up for printing on paper was dependent on found materials, whatever could be repurposed for steaming papers and textiles. I used wire-mesh screen material scrunched up in a pot or a lasagna pan with a few inches of water below and a large terracotta tile for a lid. A Gypsy Campfire was not an option because we were located in the Regional Park of the Subasio and thus subject to strict forest fire controls. My heat source was propane, the same as we used in the house for cooking (when not using the wood stove). It was a simple and effective set up in an outside barn studio. With a daily temperature of around 75 degrees, that was no hardship!

A pot with wire screen bent to fit (and it makes interesting grid prints, too)

 

Iron bits to make rust prints; abundantly available around this former three storey farm house ( built to house a family of ten) :

 

…The bundles of textile or paper were for reasons of practicality on the small side. This textile bundle had been simmered in some of the plentiful walnuts strewn under the trees on the property. I usually stacked my paper bundles six sheets of papers high, weighing the stack down with a rock on top of a tile. I bundled paper and textile in thick white linen thread and used it later to sew my Artist Books, after it had taken on pigments:

 

I used a lot of different locally available papers, some unavailable to me here in Ottawa. To my surprise, the quality Fabriano paper known worldwide was just not available in Assisi or Perugia nearby, nor in Florence – the latter because the art supply shop was closed when we visited it. (Businesses often close from 1 – 3 pm in the afternoon as well as on Saturday and Sunday). I used thicker papers ( over 300 gms) to enclose my bundles; from these I obtained prints from pigments leaking through the stack. (Fabriano is about two hours drive from Assisi towards the Adriatic at Ancona. )

Here are some samples of my papers that were printed in the first week or so of my residency when I intentionally printed only one kind of plant on each page or between two pages. This was to enable me to judge the colours I could obtain without the colour mixing that occurs when you bundle several plants together.

Post ecoprinting, I often treat paper and textiles surfaces as paintings, taking the colours and forms in directions I choose as counterpoint to the spontanaity in colour and form that is the result of an eco print.

After printing this first set of papers, I enriched their colours in various ways: by using iron as a modifier and painting on iron liquor: by resteaming the papers with other leaves or by using the same type of leaves again and steaming them longer or under more pressure; and by applying natural dye colour (e.g., madder) as powder sprinkled on or as liquid, painted on.

These papers are in their early stages of development in the layering. Later, along with the eco printed textiles, they will be layered with embroidery and taken along other colour roads.

 

The grid prints are from the screen mesh and from a metal rack during the first printing. For layered colours, I made second and third printings. Rust and madder were painted on to give more colour post-printing; squishing blue coloured berries on top of the print introduced some complementary blue shades beside the yellows and oranges.

 

 

I enjoyed the “distressed” effects on some of the thinner papers caused by the high heat in the steambath and the fact that the paper sometimes tore or developed holes. The distressed surfaces and broken colours recalled for me fresco surfaces that have faded or flaked off over the centuries. These papers will form the content of more work on that “distressed fresco” theme now that I am back in my home studio.

Meantime, here are some more examples of “Little Plants of the Subasio” gathered together as pages of botanical scrolls, or destined to be:

Italian Maple (Acer opalus):

 

Rusted pages with Rosa canina (Wild/Dog Rose) and a “ginestrelle” seed pod:

 

 

Rust print:

 

 

Italian Maple with Oak (Quercus robur) modified with iron to give black:

 

 

Blackberry smooshed on maple:

 

 

Maple with iron:

 

 

Dogwood with iron:

 

 

Paper stack barrier sheet: with leaked colour from maple and madder.

 

 

Walnut (Jugland regia) with Dogwood berries and iron:

 

 

Walnut leaf and fern with iron:

 

 

Not sure- maybe maple…Did not take good notes on that one! The blue is Dogwood berries.

 

 

Sicilian Sumac (Rhus coraria)

 

 

Fern, Blackberry and iron:

 

 

Maple, iron and Blackberry:

 

 

Fern, maple and iron:

 

 

Collection: Maple, oak and vine leaves; blackened with iron liquor painted on, post printing.

 

 

Next time: More pages for “Little Plants of the Subasio: October Scrolls” Artist Books