Anyone who follows my site will know I’ve done a bit of eco-printing/dyeing over the years, but I’ve never tried it using a steaming method. Last week I was introduced to this new technique by eco-printer Wendy Joyce in her 2 day workshop.
My experience has always been to sandwich dry paper and plant fibres, building multiple layers, then compress the pile between tightly clamped (or tied) tiles. These have then been submerged in pans of pre-mordanted boiling water containing plant material for a period of time, before removing, separating the layers and drying.
I’ve generally had reasonable results but became a little disillusioned as the plant transfer to paper always came out the same, regardless of which plants were used. One would think that using wildly different flowers and foliage would give wildly different colour results but, in my experience, that hasn’t happened. The simple fact is that the pre-mordanted boiling water seems to have overridden the colour leeching from the plant fibres.
In this course we soaked our paper in trays of pre-mordanted water for a period before layering them damp with plant material and clamping, or tying, between tiles. So, the same construction method I’m used to but a different approach to paper preparation.
These parcels were then placed into a steamer for it to work its magic. Our bundles sat piled on a wire rack above boiling water while we moved on to wrapping around cans using the same pre-mordant method and plant fibre layering between sheets of paper.
Another interesting aspect was the use of fabric either side of the first and last sheets. This is a good way to stop the damp paper sticking to either the tiles or the can and also to avoid string lines around the outer paper wound around a can. Obviously if you want lines omit the fabric layer, but the advantage of having it in place is that plant material can be placed on both the inner and outer sides of your outer sheet, instead of having a plain side.
Once steamed we proceeded to unwrap and dry flat. I cut some of my paper on a slant to make a set of concertina booklets and these were wrapped around cans to dye.
These next two (front and back images) were folded and sandwiched between tiles. They were soaked in different trays, hence the difference in appearance as one tray had plant material in it which allowed the tannin to transfer to the paper, giving it a brown hue.
Different mordants and techniques used over the 2 days produced very different results. Some paper was steamed, some went into a pot of water with all the used leaves (so with a lot of tannin), some was placed back into the mordant trays after colour had transferred – hoping to change the hue. Here are a few showing the wide variety of effects you can achieve.
Obviously the type of paper used also has a bearing on the result. I found quality cotton rag print-making paper and heavyweight watercolour paper worked well for me.
This is a fraction of what I produced over the weekend. A excellent workshop and a new set of skills for the future.