Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another Year Ending! Another Scarf is Cooking!

I have been so busy with working that I haven't had much time for blogging.  The year is ending quickly, and most of my dyeable fresh plant material is disappearing into the cold.  Fortunately, I have been a good boy and stored many windfall treasures against the winter,  This past week we had a tremendous thunderstorm with high winds that blew a lot of Autumn leaves to the ground.  I took the opportunity to gather the Wild Cherry leaves and some Muscadine Grape leaves to dye a new scarf.
On a 14"x72" Crepe de Chine scarf that I had dipped in vinegar, I spread out the leaves (some face up, some face down) on the right half of the scarf.    I added small pieces of steel threads from a steel belted radial tire, recycled tea leaves and coffee grounds then folded the left half over the right.  I slowly rolled the scarf into a sausage shape then tied with cotton twine.  I folded the sausage shape in half and again tied the bundle with cotton twine.
My brother has just given me a beautiful old copper kettle, like a giant tea kettle, and I poured some left over hickory dye and some water into it and placed the sausage bundle into the kettle to cook for an hour.  After cooking the bundle, I left it in the bath for 4 hours then removed it and allowed it to remain for three days before opening it to check on the metals.  I liked what I saw and decided to leave it at this stage.
The copper kettle gave me some beautiful green tones.  The leaf impressions were of various shades of green from dark blue-green to pale grey green.  The Crepe de Chine gave a lovely luminescence to the prints.  Some good impressions remained, and on each end of the scarf a single grape leaf impression stood out with its serrated edges like a heart.
I shook out the leaves and wires, then hung the scarf to dry without rinsing.  The vinegar smell was very strong.  As the scarf dried, some of the greens became more subtle and even.  The areas with the wires looked like veins of minerals inside a rock.  The overall effect was very soothing and made you want to read it like the pages of a book.  I think it was successful.
I have posted a photo of this scarf on the left.  Enjoy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Getting All Steamed Up!

I have been asked by many of my fellow eco printers to show photos of the steamer I use in the oven for eco printing both on fabric and paper.  I am including 3 photo views and I hope that they are not too small to understand.  One view is the steamer clamped and closed, ready to go into a 225 degree (F) oven for 1 or 1+ 1/2 hrs.  The second view is of the steamer open, with the makings of the steaming unit visible.  The third view is another view of the steamer innards that will hopefully give a good idea of how it is constructed.
Whether you are printing on fabric or paper, the important thing is not to let the steamer run out of water.  Do this by starting with nearly 2 inches of water or dye bath in the bottom pan.  Use whatever rack you have available to hold your bundles or prints above the boiling water.  For paper prints, I lay a ceramic tile on the bottom rack then stack dampened papers and plant materials (up to 11 layers) then place the 2nd ceramic tile on top to weight the pile down for good contact.  Place the 2nd aluminum roasting pan upside down on top of the first pan, and use binder clips, bulldog clips or whatever type of clips you have that will withstand the oven temperature to hold the two pans together during steaming.  Place the steamer in a preheated oven at 225 degrees (F).  Close the oven and let cook for approx. 1 hr. or 1 + 1/2 hrs. Turn off the heat and let the steamer cool in the oven overnight.  The next day, remove the cover pan  and the ceramic tile "bundle" from the steamer.  begin to separate thee layers of paper/plant materials.  If the paper is stuck together tightly, pick the stack up and run cold water over it as you separate the layers.  If plant material sticks to it, it is O.K.  When the print is dry, the vegetative material will usually peel away.  If it doesn't you may hold it under running water until it loosen then dry the print again.  I dry my prints by hanging them like laundry on a clothesline with wooden clothespins.  I hope this is helpful. .

Monday, July 30, 2012

I have been experimenting with Pignut hickory (Carya glabra).  I tried the Gesner mordant assessment method, and was quite pleased with the number of different colors or shades of dye that were possible.  After boiling young green Pignut Hickory nuts still in their green hulls for about an hour in a stainless steel pot, I dyed a piece of Tannin mordanted cotton muslin and hung it up to dry.  In the accompanying photo, it is the light tannish piece of fabric to the left. I then took 4 containers and put 1/4 cup of the dye bath into the container and added 4 different mordants; vinegar, alum, soda ash and iron.  The strip of fabric down the center shows the result of dipping tannin mordanted cotton muslin in each mixture in the order listed.  After seeing the results of my experiment, I took 6 cups of dyebath and added the 1/4 cup mixture with iron.  The resulting color is the piece of fabric to the left, a really nice dark grey.  I also took 2 cups of the dyebath and put it in a copper kettle and simmered it first for 20 minutes, then 1 hr., then 2 hrs.  Each time I dipped a piece of paper toweling into the kettle and hung to dry.  The paper strips across the bottom of the photo are the results of the dye on paper.  There is a much more red tone to the brown when the copper kettle as used.  This assessment method is a very worthwhile way to test your dyes for what mordants will do and how to use them to modify colors.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Big Thank You!

I want to extend a big Thank You to the Florida Native Plant Society for having me as their guest speaker last night.  It is a pleasure to present a program when you know every person in the room is interested in what you are saying.  It also helps to have someone listening who understands binomial nomenclature.  It saves a lot of double talking.  You know you are on the right path when there are lots of questions that lead into more information being given.  This group was doubly wonderful because their principles and goals parallel those of the Natural Dyers:  education, conservation, sustainability and regionalism.  Their warm reception just opened up the flood gates, and information flowed that I had forgotten that I knew.  It was funny to find myself answering questions that I had been asking myself.  Thanks again for a great evening.  And thank you also for your kind words about my work.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Finally, I'm back to the Blog!  Since returning from Europe I have been workshoping and project dyeing along with catching up on personal and family matters that I just haven't had time to sit down and write on my blog.  The past week hasn't helped much with Tropical Storm Debbie dumping nearly 13 inches on my place, seven of them in one 24 hr. period.
This did allow me to save a lot of rainwater for dyeing.  That part is great.  The storm also brought down many branches covered with lichens that I can save and use for dyeing.  Another bonus is the huge spurt of mushroom growth.  I have species I have never seen before, and I will be trying some of them for making dye.
I finally got to try eco printing on one of the beautiful etamine de laine scarves that I purchased.  I will try to post a photo on this new blog format.  This piece was also treated a little differently than my normal scarf projects.  Instead of roll bundling, this one was folded with the materials inside then sandwiched between two ceramic tiles and steamed for 1 hr, left to cool overnight and left to sit for 4 days.  On the fourth day, I opened the bundle to remove the beer bottle caps and other metal pieces to prevent damaging the wool scarf. I was really pleased with what I saw.  I let the scarf remain in that condition for 5 more days, then rinsed.  It did lose a little color, but not much.  I will heat set with an iron then wash.  I hope you like it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Home again!

Well, I'm back from Europe.  Amsterdam, Utrecht and Vilnius were awesome places to visit.  I finally got to meet in person all of my International Facebook dye and felt friends.  Wonderful sights to see and food to eat.  It was very, very heartwarming to see how friendly and giving people can be.  Everything possible was done to make me feel welcome.  For this I thank all of you.  The weather was a bit chilly for a Floridian, but true to her nature, Ingrid Garrod made me a gift of a hand-felted Beret to keep my head warm.   Fabienne Dorsman-Rey shared opening her bundles with me and her husband Peter fixed one of the finest Quiche Lorraines I have ever tasted.   Several of my felting/dyeing friends made pages for a book with samples of the work they do in silk and wool.  It was truly beautiful.
I was able to find a Yarn shop in Amsterdam that sold absolutely marvelous wool, silk and linen threads and yarns.  What a find!  Of course, I had to have some, and even stated stitching on my eco dyed shawl with one of the threads as I traveled around.  A few trips to the Noordmarkt in Amsterdam, the Lapjesmarkt in Utrecht left me with a good supply of cottons and linen that will keep me in the dyepots for quite a while.
I landed in Vilnius, Lithuania on a dark snowy Easter night.  Even though I had missed an earlier flight, I was met by Giedra Dagiliene at the airport and escorted to my hotel.  I so appreciated being met by someone.  Thank you so much Giedra.
The presentation of my work at the Seskines Secondary School to a group of Art teachers, students and artists, was wonderful.  When it comes to art, language is not really a barrier at all.  I'd like to thank all of the people to attended,  giving up part of their Easter Holiday and some traveling pretty far, to come see my work and to share an interest in the natural dyeing and printing.  My piece titled "Vilnius"  was well received and many questions were asked about processes.  It was another wonderful day of sharing of friendship, food and art.  Thank you Giedra and Company.
It is good to be back home, with many memories and many photos to relive them.  I wish all of you good dyeing.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Vilnius Project!

On the left is a photo the 6th state of my "Vilnius" project.  The rust printing is finished, the dye work is finished and it is now ready to be stitched and framed.  I will not have time to stitch this before my exhibit in Vilnius, but I  will take it with me as part of the exhibit.
Rust printing can be very unpredictable. Dyeing with natural dyes can be unpredictable as well.  If the dyes are loaded with tannins, when they contact the iron in the rust, the color may change completely to blue, gray or black!
This has been a fun journey and even though it took 7 days to create, it was like receiving a gift every morning when I went to uncover the print.
It is indeed a worthwhile journey to make as it teaches you to work slowly and to pay attention to what your materials are telling you.  It is a method that gives the artist a little more control over the final outcome than straight natural dyeing or eco printing.  It can also be used to create a base layer upon which to work with other media.  Try it, I think you will enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rust dyeing for my Vilnius Project!

Since I will be traveling to Vilnius, Lithuania April 8th for an exhibit of my eco printed fabric and paper works, I decided to do a rust printed/dyed project to commemorate the event.
I started with a piece of white cotton muslin approx. 5' x 6', gathered together all kinds of things that I thought would make interesting marks, and set about creating marks and textures to illustrate what could be done with recycled metals.
Old Railroad and Industrial pieces are good, construction debris, old farm equipment (they can be broken), old housewares and tools from your garage all contribute to making marks on your work surface.  You are creating sort of a metal shorthand.  And you are re-using something that probably would have gone to a landfill or stayed in a junk pile helping to draw vermin and maybe causing someone to get hurt.
You do not need to make a "realistic" picture.  You can do an abstract of similar shapes or high contrast shapes to help create textures rhythm and movement throughout the piece.  Let your self go and develop your inner expression.  I have provided some photos of the work in progress.  When it is complete, I will post it again.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More EcoPrints on Paper!

I am again trying to extend my knowledge of what happens when you mix various materials with watercolor paper and a cast iron cooking pot.  I already knew that iron and Eucalyptus would react with each other, creating colors and patterns that they do not when used separately.  What I wanted was to add, in small measure, other materials to find out what reactions would occur.  My other question that I am still seeking a definite answer to is; can I plan a design and predictably carry it out by using the same methods or must I change the way I work and think?
I set up my cauldron, gathered a few different materials together and began layering them onto sheets of 140 lb. Arches watercolor paper which was sandwiched between 2 12" sq. ceramic tiles.  This packet was then placed inside the cauldron on top of a Stainless Steel wire rack to keep them elevated out of the boiling water.  A lid was put on the pot and the fire started.  When I saw steam escaping from under the lid, I clocked the cooking time for 1 hr. and then let the fire die down and the packet to remain in the pot to cool.  I left the packet sandwiched for 3 days.
The results taught me a few more things that I had not known.  During the steaming, color and minerals migrate through the stack affecting all of the prints in some way.  Metals affected other papers that were not indirect contact with it.  It affect other plant materials that were not in contact with it.  I did not have any adverse effects except with turmeric.  It is so strong that it can affect pages that are 5 or 6 sheets away just from being carried by the steam in the pot.  The photos will show my results and also the migrations. The order they were photographed is the order in which they were stacked.

Monday, February 20, 2012

3 Ecco Printed silk Scarves and 1 Eco Printed Tee Shirt = 4 Blue Ribbons!

I decided to enter the County Fair with three of the silk scarves pictured on the left (the two outside scarves in the top photo and the scarf in the next photo down).  I also entered an Eco Printed cotton Tee Shirt.  All total, they won 4 blue ribbons.  I was very surprised, not many people in my rural county know what eco printing is, much less natural dyeing.  But I guess beauty wins out in any case.  The scarves are lovely to look at and feel.  The Tee shirt was popular with many hunters and fishermen because it looked like a camoflage shirt.
Of course, it made me very happy that they were so well received.!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spread the Word!

It is becoming more and more obvious to me that the use of natural plant materials to make dyes, inks and other things is spreading rapidly.  I have given a few speeches locally, and taught a few workshops; and now the request for more are rolling in.  I am of course very happy.  I have become fairly passionate about what I do and I would like the whole World to enjoy it as much as I.
My reasons for getting started in this were quite simple, my reasons for staying with this and pushing it further is more complex.  There is something wonderful about taking simple, natural items and creating something of beauty with them that warms the inner being.  Why shouldn't I use Nature's gifts to do what makes me feel good?  Our World has become so complicated and technical that we have lost our connection with Nature.  We use to take a vacation and dedicate it to visiting one National Park or  Historical place.  Now, we jump on a tour bus and in 3 days we can cover 7 or 8 places and thereby gain knowledge of the World!

Natural dyeing and Eco printing have given me back the feeling of discovery!

I have a childlike wonder again, something I sadly missed.  I admit I have become quite jaded and cynical due to the various careers I have had.  I can pickup a leaf and see its texture, color and shape; but it doesn't stop there.  I also see the subtle little changes in color that indicate there is more inside.  I now look at all of the parts of the leaf, not just the immediately visible surface.  Now I think, "I wonder how this will print on fabric or paper, how can I extract this beautiful color before it has gone?"

At 69 yrs. old it is a wonderful thing to have a renewed interest in Life and find joy in the simple things again.  I makes me want to shout from the rooftops, "The World is at your feet, pick it up, look at it, It's wonderful!"

I am a Virgo.  Sometimes considered to be a real organizer, planner and full steam ahead doer.  Sometimes I am a bit of a perfectionist.  Ha.  Nature can sure change all that!  When you work with natural things, you learn that we are but one pebble in the stream, and just when we thought we had it down pat, Nature shows us there is still a lot to learn.

This blog entry got a little wordy, but I wanted to tell you how much this art form has meant to me and what I have discovered about myself along the way.  I would like each of you to look at what you have discovered about the techniques and how the knowledge has changed the way you view the World.  We are truly an international community, we share that same thrill of discovery, the practicality of what we do, and we leave the World a little better off because we have done it.

Enjoy your dyeing, tell your friends about it, encourage more interest in it and share your knowledge willingly and freely.....Now go!  Back to the dyepots!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Eco Prints on Paper II

Well, I'm off again, seeking new adventure on paper.  My latest inspiration came to me while making spachetti sauce.  I was sprinkling Italian Seasoning into the pot when I though "What if" I did something like this only prints?  Not daunted by much, I set my sauce to simmer, got out some broken leaves and other plant materials, a ziplock bag and a rolling pin.  I place the materials in the Ziplock bag and crushed them with the rolling pin.  Then I place them in an empty shaker bottle.  I set some printmaking paper to soak in a pot of alum mordant I had prepared for cloth, and gathered dried leaves, berries, some rusty wire from a burned automobile tire and my trusty rice cooker.  After soaking my papers, I began so stack paper, leaves, sprinkles of plant material, etc. until I had a nice stack.  I placed the stack in my rice cooker and added 3 cups of a fern root and bladder extract.  I steamed for 1.5 hrs. and left in the pot covered overnight.  The attached photos will show the final results.  I was glad to discover that you could use more than watercolor paper to make prints.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eco-printing for paper!

It's a new year, with new ideas and new things to play with.  Last December I posted two sites that just blew me away with examples of using eco-dyeing to print paper.  As a printmaker, I knew that I had to try this.  This morning I spent about 2 hrs. gathering up leaves from my stash, soaking them in warm water, and preparing water color paper for eco-printing.  Like a quilter, I went from bin to bin, box to box, gathering things that would give texture and color to my prints.  I felt like a kid in school again.  I have even used some leaves that were previously used in eco-printing fabric.
I had some scraps of 140 lb. and 300 lb. watercolor papers, both hot and cold pressed so I prepared them by tearing them into approx. 5 x 7 in. sheets, then soaking them in an alum bath (warm) for about 20-25 minutes.  I placed a large bowl of water in the micro and warmed it for about 3 minutes and placed my leaves, the water to soak until they were soft enough to lay flat.
I placed a steamer rack in my old enameled canning kettle, and laid down an 8" x8" white ceramic tile. Then I started layering.  Paper then leaves, paper, leaves, until I had 8 sheets of paper covered with leaves and flower parts of different kinds, finally weighing them down with another ceramic tile.  I covered the kettle with the lid and am steaming for about 2 hours.  I will not undo the bundle until it is completely cold.  Photos to follow tomorrow.