Natural dyeing experimentation.
My head is moving in the direction of printing, as that is what I’ll be doing for the next year or so in my coursework. Whilst dyeing isn’t strictly printing, it is still a method of transferring images to fabric and paper and I enjoy it.
Torn gum leaves were added to my boiling dye pot and once the colour had leached into the water I added a smidge – literally a quarter teaspoon – of iron sulphate. It immediately turned charcoal and I was sure I had overdone it. My aim was to create some colour on the paper but not completely coat the sheets.
Not having done this process on paper before, and wanting to create an art book as the final outcome, I used a heavy weight cotton rag paper cut and folded to finished sheet size. The pages were held between two blocks with a protective layer between the wood block and the paper to avoid a transfer print from the block.
Gum leaves, bottlebrush stems and ferns were inserted within the folded pages and the whole thing was tied with string. I had intended using clamps but mine aren’t big enough so I tied it, not terribly tightly as I didn’t want the string marks to come through. Having the results in front of me now I realise that I should have either tied it more tightly or waited to buy bigger clamps but, despite that, and considering this is my first attempt on paper, the results are fairly amazing.
The photos mostly show double pages folded flat whilst drying. These will be stitched into a book.
The leaf prints have taken well but haven’t come out green as I would have liked. I put this down to the fact that I didn’t pick them fresh, they were from the ground although still fresh-looking, and also the iron I used always darkens the liquid and overrides other colours. Next time I’ll try copper and newly picked leaves and see how that comes out.
On the left I have a print of both a gum leaf and some bottlebrush stems. This is one of the outer papers where a protective layer was placed on top of it next to the wood block. That sheet buckled under the prolonged boiling, and crimped, enabling the dye to snake in along the rippled surface. What a serendipitous stunning result.
There is always a build-up of dye around the twigs or stems because they don’t lie very flat. If I clamp more tightly next time this will reduce, but I quite like it.
It seems that more colour came out of the bottlebrush leaves than the gum leaves and this has added more depth to the first print done in this manner.
A friend recently placed plant material between papers sheets, clamped tightly and boiled it up without any mordant or other leaves or twigs in the water, just plain water. She got wonderful prints on almost white paper. The only colour was coming from the trapped leaves and they were very green. She got beautiful results. That’s another one for me to try.