A few days ago I boiled up my pots and did some natural dyeing, always a fun experience. The examples here are comparisons between some paper I dyed a while ago in a pot with eucalyptus leaves/bark/twigs + iron sulphate mordant, and my new pot with avocado stones and skin, eucalyptus leaves, a few other leaves + a mordant mix of alum and copper sulphate with a smidge of iron sulphate (as the colour was very light).
On both occasions I trapped plant material between the pages, added a resist and clamped the paper between wooden blocks, and the colour has taken well. However, this time I deliberately changed my paper choice as, up until this point, I have always ensured I’ve used 100% cotton rag paper.
For my previous dyeing I used *BFK Reeves 250gsm 100% cotton paper, a high quality print paper which I have used throughout my OCA assignments. This time I used Mont Marte 190gsm 100% acid free watercolour paper. The results speak for themselves.
Many of the pages are very average and the resulting prints are fuzzy and undefined. The gum leaves, top left, have a good green tinge to them which I’m happy about and they are also the most well-formed image transfers. Here I compare these prints with previous work:
The sprigs on the dark print are well-defined, crisply outlined and there is a depth and layering aspect to the imagery. My new sprig prints are flat, watery and hard to identify.
Again the leaves are faint but with more bleed-out, less defined. On the right, the fern has taken well and I think this is because I ‘basted’ the paper when it was in the pot. Part of it was above the water level and from time to time I poured some of the liquid between the clamped pages. So more colour was introduced and the effects have improved.
So, what have I learned?
Keep water-colour paper for water-colour painting, not printing or dyeing in any form. It simply absorbs too much liquid and has a tendency to bloat, causing the surface to lift. It doesn’t towel dry well enough to obtain successful monotype or lino prints and creates a water mark within oil based image transfer.
This has been a useful exercise and has demonstrated what can go wrong when you don’t know which paper to choose. Evey day I’m learning more and am becoming a much better judge of which papers are for what purpose. Trials like this enable me to view differing results and make more informed decisions.
Back to 100% cotton paper when dyeing in future, and ignore the advise from the local art shop!
*Note: It is variously referred to as Reeves or Rives throughout the internet.