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(Mis)Adventures with Eucalyptus eco prints

14 January, 2013

Plunging in with eucalyptus and silk.

In early December 2012, I started to try using eucaplytus leaves on silk and cotton fabric.  I went down the road to where a gum tree planted by Mrs White in the late 19th century towers above all other trees.  I collected dried, fallen leaves and fresh-when-cut leaves; see pods; bark; twigs from the prunings by the tree frog machine that took place a fortnight earlier.  Using India Flint’s method on page 264 of her book Second Skin, I rolled up in the silk the leaves etc around a bark covered twig for the core of the bundle of fabric.

First silk bundle

In a stainless steel pot I simmered the following for 30 minutes:

One bundle of leaves, bark twig, seed pods all tied up with a polyester piping cord.  An extra piece of eucalyptus bark; extra eucalyptus leaves; coil of aluminium wire 1 mm dia x 170 mm long; a piece of aluminium foil 80 mm x 200 mm; a used tea bag; tap water from kitchen, with a top up from laundry tap as necessary (untreated Oxford town bore water, no chlorine).

I was a bit nervous nothing would happen.  I was correct!  Well, something did happen, but not what I desired.  This is typical art progress!

After 30 minutes I turned off the heat and left it until the next day.  Without  removing all the cord, I had a peek to see what was happening when the bundle was cool.

First silk bundle

Apart from the resist created by the cord and plant material, very little colour came through from the eucalyptus, the whole piece being dominated by the dye water, as far as I understand.  I also wondered if this material was, in fact, silk.  I have had it for about twenty years and it was an old piece when I was given it.

Undaunted, you might say, and buoyed up by India Flint’s Eco Colour, I researched and read the internet – more very useful information from Alice Fox in the UK,  Wendy Feldberg in Canada and Cassandra Tondro in the USA  – thanks SO much for this.  I re-read the information to sort it all out in my mind into an ordered format so that I could at least intend experimenting in a reasoned fashion and record the tests in my workbook.  I made ash water from the wood burning stove ash, and then got jars of copper, alum, rhubarb and iron water underway.

The ash water had been strained through an old cotton pillow case, so I thought I would put this mordanted fabric in a hot dye and used the left-over silk bundle eucalyptus brew.  This still contained the leaves, aluminium foil and bark, and I also put in some Sequoiadendron giganteum bark from the garden as well (another tree planted early on in Oxford’s history) and a small dash of the rust & vinegar water I had used in my earlier paper experiments (just for good measure).

The cotton bundle contained an old rusty nail as core, lemon balm leaves and  one eucalyptus leaf at the end – all tied up with the cord previously used.

Eucalyptus cotton iron

I also put in a sheet of paper, concertina folded, enclosing another eucalyptus leaf, and held together with two rusting bulldog clips. Later I added another folded sheet of ordinary printing paper.

Euc thread Bond

Euc fold

As the experts will know, the water got very black!  I did not record how long I left the contents heating, but must have been about under an hour.

The results:  the cotton dyed fabric is above showing the black marks from the nail, and I think the eucalyptus leaf is showing at the top where I laid it across the hemmed fabric.  The two paper experiments are the smaller images – the bulldog clip marks are seen in the left hand image.

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