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Autumn Leaves on Paper and Cloth

30 June, 2013

I had the opportunity to collect leaves from a friend’s garden. She has the most wonderful collection of shrubs and trees, all good candidates for natural printing.  I made three separate bundles using paper from three different pre-steam soaks.

Pescia 300 gsm paper  was put in a brew of brown rain water and ivy branch and leaves which had collected in a rusty wheelbarrow. The paper was there for nearly three days. Secondly, and for the same amount of time, I placed Fabriano artistico 360 gsm paper, (synthetic) lining fabric and pre-used poplin cotton in another mordant – an alum and washing soda bath.

Thirdly, a piece of white paper was soaked in a rust bath.  As usual the planned method of preparation flew out the door when I then added a little of the rusty water from this water + vinegar and iron objects on to the lining fabric which was on top of the second soaking pile.

All the leaves were from the freezer. The full sheet of Pescia paper I folded to fit the steamer, as I wanted a large complete sheet for a project that is part of a forthcoming group show. Into the rolled paper and fabric from the alum bath, I put more of the same leaves and bound them up with unmordanted wide cotton bias binding at which point I introduced some dried harakeke roots (NZ flax plant, Phormium cultivars).  The image below shows these two  bundles in the steamer.

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Below is the alum Fabriano paper on its cylindrical cardboard core again.  I make sure I roll the wet paper and leaves tightly when rolling up the bundle.  I do find the bias binding works well.

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Unwinding this bundle.  It contained vine leaves, cotinus, acer, maple, sycamore and other deciduous leaves – I have to consult the owner about the more unusual plants…  The vine leaves were a glorious blend of reds, greys and black, so I was interested to see the quite stunning result – for me at least!

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Another view of this bundle of two sheets of paper – it is the left hand side of the image above, the vine leaf removed.  Some of the vine leaf is still stuck to the paper.  It was removed when dry.

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This is a further image of the still wet papers.

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I particularly  like the shape of this leaf, which I think is from a tulip tree – Liriodendron.

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Here is the lining fabric and the cotton bias binding from the rust paper print.  (If you sew, you will know what that is!)

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All the above image are when the material was wet.   So today I photographed the dried and ironed fabric.  Immediately below is the lining fabric, and another image of the same piece.  When I iron the fabric I like to keep the embossing from the leaf veins.

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The definition of the leaves is a lovely instance of chance – the darker areas behind the leaf giving the appearance of depth.

Finally, below is the cotton fabric from the alum and washing soda mordant bath: the leaf shapes not distinct.

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The tannin bath print (two images below) was not so spectacular as the ones from the alum bath; but still quite subtle.  The definition on the printing paper – Pescia (56 x 76 cms | 22 x 30 inches) – is not so good, but I think there was not enough pressure on the package even though it was well weighted down.  I wonder if the one hour steam was too long, so I will experiment with a shorter one.  It is almost as if there is too much water accumulating between the sheets of paper.  I may have soaked the paper for too long as well.  I should try taking off the excess water by pressing between sheets of butchers paper before laying on the plant material (as you do when printing).  This image was taken when the paper was dry.

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This is the ‘back’ below.  I do to know why it is so very mono-colour, but possibly the absence of the vine leaves explains this.  And the alum which always seems to give a yellow/green cast to the colour range.

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Here are other papers from this steam.  This is the third bundle, bound with bias binding.  The outer paper was the rust print.

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In the photo below, the paper with the oil based ink dry point (to the right)  was included in the tannin bath.  All papers are dry.

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I have to say, my rust prints are very rusty.  For a couple of days nothing seems to happen, then there is more rust than I would like the next day.  This is what I mean.  This is the other side of the paper above – and the leaf print is very black!

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The top sheet of paper here has some lovely, abstract detail.

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This was an exciting outcome for me.  I just love this process.  Many thanks to Faye and Dave Marshall for providing the leaves.

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