Natural Dyeing with Kirsten Ingemar

5 days natural dyeing at Sturt summer school  was an enjoyable way to start the new year.

The course was interesting although I already knew much of what was taught.  I went for several reasons; I’ve never really had a reliable method of getting a good green dye colour from plant material as they usually turn to browns and greys: I wanted to explore natural dyeing on paper again and I was interested in more linear and random patterns/colours than just transferring plant images/stencils to cloth and paper.

The results were mixed, some people had very vibrant sharp marks/patterns whilst others came out more sludgy and with fuzzy imagery.  I’ve always used silk in previous classes but learned that wool cloth produces stunning results with excellent colour pick-up.  I didn’t have any, so relied on silk noil and cotton.  Different paper types gave enormous variations in outcome.

Above: Eucalyptus bark pot with copper mordant results.  Top – 185gsm and 300gsm Arches watercolour paper.  Bottom – 250gsm Somerset print paper.

Hard to believe the two sets of dyed papers shown above were treated in exactly the same way; both with similar plant material, the same resist between layers to stop dye seepage, both tied tightly between the same tiles and in the pot together and for the same length of time.

Above: Plant impressions on Canson watercolour paper, around 200-250gsm.

Lesson learned:
The type of paper used makes or breaks the results.  The best outcomes were those using Canson watercolour paper.

We worked with around 11 pots of different plant material including various Eucalyptus leaves and bark, American Ash, red cabbage, Bottlebrush, Purple Plum, Wattle, Oak, Maple, Smokebush, Cinerea and Rosemary.  Each pot was boiled, samples of the colours were taken and different mordants were added to see what colours would evolve.

Lesson learned:
Mark jars with the type of mordant to be added (alum, copper sulphate or iron sulphate in our case). 
Once main pot has boiled and colour achieved put a little of the liquid into each jar and add a smidge of mordant, add fabric scraps to jars (we used silk noil) and continue to boil the pot with the jars for another hour. 
Remove the fabric samples and choose which colour you wish to work with.  Add that mordant to the main pot, boil and add fabric or paper to dye.

We brushed egg white onto the underside of plant material before lying it onto fabrics, folding, securing and dyeing.  This increases the protein level and produces a better colour and pattern transfer.

Above: Brushing the underside of leaves with egg white before placing onto fabric.  Cloth impressed with Eucalyptus Cinerea leaves.

Lesson learned:
Never, never do this with plant material that is going onto paper as the egg white turns to glue and leaves cannot be easily removed, thereby ruining the pattern.  Yes, it’s the second time I’ve done it without thinking in advance – what a pain.  Won’t do it again!

Above: Yep, what a mess!

Here are some of my better results, on paper, cotton fabric and silk noil.

Folded and dyed silk noil, overdyed using arashi method on pole.

Top: Dyed BFK Reeves print paper.  Bottom: Dyed silk noil

Both pieces: 300gsm watercolour paper, dyed using torn leaves, pine needles, twigs and bark.

Left: Ferns on cotton fabric with green dyed silk noil (achieved in Rosemary pot).  Right: Silk noil with very thick layers of plant material embossed into the surface.

Large piece of cotton fabric (and close-up sections), folded and secured between wooden blocks.  Patterning achieved by inserting pine needles between layers.

Overall a fun week with a bunch of lovely classmates.  I learned a lot from them and the tutor, so next time I try this I’ll have some new ideas to experiment with.

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2019 01 11 Image of the week

I’m late this week as I’ve been otherwise engaged.

Sorting through my rejected prints, and rescuing paper to be recycled into new sheets for future projects, I came across probably my first ever monoprint depicting a scene.  It might not attract anyone else but to me it demonstrates a freedom of movement and stroke that is rarely evident in my work.

So ‘not me’.  I think I’ll pin it on my wall for a while.

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2019 01 01 Image of the week

Illustrator Jennifer Orkin Lewis brings selfies to a whole new level: She takes photos of herself in a mirror and then makes paintings of them, adding backgrounds such as plants, wallpaper and detailed gardens.

This is just one of her great collection of self images.

See more about Jennifer and her work at:

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Design Play: Exercise 3 – Final design & prints

The goal: To turn solid shapes into line drawings, create variations on the theme and translate these into a workable design to print.

Stage 1 of this exercise started by using photos of Walking Irises in my garden.  I developed and abstracted the flowers and added other components.

Stage 2 I worked on the individual aspects and created a composition, culminating in an etched solar plate ready for printing.

This final stage shows the printed images including the best print, hand-coloured (seeing as I’m enjoying my Inktense pigment pencils so much).

Above left: Black oil based ink + 40% extender on 250gsm Arches 88 paper. Right: Dairylide yellow/ultramarine blue/black mix + 40% extender on 125gsm cartridge proofing paper.

Above: Black oil based ink + 40% extender, magenta mix (from another person using the studio), Inktense pigment pencils, on 250gsm Arches 88 paper.

Great outcome, learned a lot from this exercise and the resulting prints.

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2018 12 24 Image of the week


Claire B

Etched print, oil based inks, on 250gsm BFK Reeves paper, coloured with Inktense pigments.

This is the best of the prints I completed in November, and today I finished it with hand-colouring.  Very happy with this final outcome.

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2018 12 19 Image of the week

Hearst Castle, California
Roman Pool, 2015, photography Claire B

The most spectacular tiled extravaganza I’ve seen in my life. Hard to photograph as the light streams through the leaded glass windows at one end obscuring the statues.

And a bonus image with a better look at the individual tiles and one of the many sculptures:

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Design Play: Exercise 9 – Line studies

I’m jumping around with the exercises in the book and missing some out as I’ve done similar things multiple times in the past.

The goal: To explore the power of a line and the nature of a line versus a dot or shape.

Start Point:
I recently posted a comment on someone’s blog about kick-starting inspiration.
It’s a good reminder that I should just create whatever I want, whenever I want and however I want.  So, as I sat with my favourite-era books (1950s fabric designs) and reference material I was also reminded of RemPods – something I’ve researched and written about previously:

RemPods, or Pop-up Reminiscence Pods are the brainchild of Richard Ernest who presented his idea to the UK Dragons’ Den programme and received some substantial backing.  A RemPod is a room setting that can be erected in a care home/nursing home for those who suffer with dementia. They form a therapeutic and calming setting, often built with vintage items which remind the patients of a bygone era which gives them a sense of security and familiarity.

In 2015 I designed my own RemPod and created a collagraph plate and printed it in multiple colourways.  I was very much at the beginning of my printmaking journey so they aren’t great, but the idea still attracts me.  Click here to see them.

This week, as I sat mulling, my eyes fell on my (large) stash of beads – couple those with my vintage pattern books and RemPods and I was quickly visualising old-style beaded curtains; those tinkling  lengths of threaded beads, swaying in the breeze and separating kitchen from living area.




I drew something in this vein in 2014 when I was first looking at repeat patterns, wallpapers and fabric designs.

Fishing it out, I found that it perfectly represents an abstract idea of hanging lengths of beads.

I redrew it, etched it onto a solar plate and started printing.


The prints were then hand coloured, using Inktense pencils, cut, backed and laminated to create a set of bookmarks.  I’m now happily giving them to all my friends.

And all that from a little inadvertent inspiration from Michael Richards blog.
Thanks, Michael!

Check out some fabulous RemPods at

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