Object or Thing

Cannot add more to this piece of work.  It sat there for a while, rolled up in the old bible box that my Grandmother used as a hat box (she had wonderful hats).  Then the other night I finished off the bottom right hand corner.  A little piece of family genealogy there, to me anyway…

IMG_0313

 

Lying flat on the table, it is a thing.  Nothing wrong with being ‘a thing’ – it seems things in our lives are interconnected with our brains and consciousness and make us what we are, allowing us to make new connections.  Is it more interesting as a thing or an object now that I have fastened to the wall?  Does it take on a new identity?  Or has it lost its becoming and is now static – I won’t say dead.   Its new persona invites new becomings, however.

 

 

Object

 

 

hatbox

 

Lovely design on the ‘hat box’.

Kozo Tea Iron

This latest experiment was about getting a contact print through an immersion in a cold dye, in this case tea. I used two strips of dry folded kozo paper that I had previously drawn on with sumi ink;  one piece was held together with a metal bull dog clip.  A stack of dry printmaking paper was interlaid with leaves and seeds,  then sandwiched between two sheets of perspex and clipped together with paper clips.  All three packages were immersed in the tea dye container for a few hours.  The darker dye (caused by the metal clip in the tea) remained in situ around the bundle while the liquid was motionless.  As I removed the papers I could see the reaction of the iron on the tea slowly take place over the rest of the dye and turn it completely black.

The kozo paper was squeezed in the hand when taken out of the tea dye to get the lovely ’embossing’ (the photo does not really do it justice).  I am very pleased with the abstract nature of the results, even though the plant material left little in the way of images on the printmaking paper, but there are some impressions – a trace of the leaves on some sheets.  There are also a few traces of other colours from the plant material.  Some of the seeds left a darker spot on the paper.

There is a tension here (freedom and control) between allowing enough moisture into the stack and the pressure required to achieve images of the plant material.  Perhaps the paper in the stack should have been damp which might have allowed more wicking of the dye.  Needs more investigation.

Some of the tonal variation occurred as the printmaking paper was removed from the stack.  I tried to restrict disturbing the remaining dye but some of this did happen of course!  The printmaking paper has much value as a base layer for further work.

 

Kozo-and-print-paper

Dyeing Scraps with Tea and Rust

Being a Jill of all trades, I was prompted to have another go with metal and tannin by an article in Wendy Feldberg’s blog Threadborne.  I am switching from researching, to seed collecting, to sewing up clothes and soft furnishings, to printing, to photography, to collecting more rocks for pigments,  to drawing and back again with great rapidity at the moment.  So this dip into dyeing is yet another experiment.  Making the invisible visible through chance.

My intention for this project was to get some pieces of cloth that I could use in my art work.  I had one bath with just the tea and tea bags, and the other with the metal and tannin.  I tried to combine the two dyes, moving some bundles from the tea to the metal bath and leaving part of the bundle above the dye so it was just dipped into the liquid.

The results from the dye session were good, better than expected.  It was a simple process compared to other dye sessions I have done that took much more of my time – or I should say – my presence, watching and checking.  I used some new squares of light weight cotton with a glazed  surface on one side, together with some old sheeting and clothing.   The glazed side accepted the ‘dye’ the same as the unglazed side.  I am thinking I might try printing on this fabric…

Cloths were rolled or folded, then bundled, clipped and tied.  I actually had two dyeing sessions, refreshing the initial brew with more tea, tea bags and vinegar.  The metal was rusty scraps, coins, bulldog clips, an old metal zip, and some aluminium foil (don’t think that did anything) all in a plastic ice cream 1 litre tub. Once out of these cold dye baths – one was overnight, the second one day – the cloths were rinsed, then left for a short while in salty water, then washed with Ecostore hand wash liquid soap that sits in the laundry.  I was very lazy, but really I only had machine washing powder as the other option.  And I felt the hand wash liquid would be softer on the dye.  Anyway, it worked fine.

After drying, the cloths were ironed – once flattened the magic really became apparent.  I included some pink rose petals and leaves in one bundle.  The petals left a pale green colour, and there is a mysterious very pale pink – cannot image where that came from, but it may have been a label that was attached to the plastic mesh bag as it was not from the rose petals.  I included the bag hoping to get an impression of the grid, but that didn’t happen.  I also folded a piece of acid free office computer paper and put that in the second dye bath.

 

 

Dyed-brew

Dyed-scraps-overview

Dyed-multi

Dyed-repeat

Dyed-paper

Dyed-scraps-petals

Transported from old to new dye possibilities

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It is now August, and I started this post in March…   Time passes.  It now feels like home.  Seeds of a new beginning – seed pods of Wharariki, the New Zealand mountain flax plant.

Oxford in the early morning sunlight – Mt Oxford hills seen from the town.

Sentinel-trees

At the beginning of 2014, a ‘sudden rush of blood to the head’ started a process that before you would have believed it possible landed us in another house in the same town within a month.  It does not feel like a home yet, but we are settling our nerves now, coming out of the upheaval.  People wonder why we did it, but the old place, gorgeous as it was, needed  younger, stronger custodians than we could give.  We thought it would take months to sell, but it happened almost immediately.  I really miss the plants and the beautiful views;  trying not to think too much about it.  However, I’m finding new curiosities and opportunities and living in the town will possibly force us out to the wild places that we neglected.  We really had a semi-wild place in the garden to keep us occupied.

Before we departed I managed to do a few solar dyes.  Some of the colours from last summer were still in their dye pots, so I popped in swatches of woven wool – Viburnum tinus, Privet berries, and Hypericum perforatum seed heads.  I also tried Rosemary twigs – lovely smell!

In early January I started a solar dye with flowers and another with leaves of Alchemilla mollis – the flower dye is below with a painted sample of the dye directly on the page.

Alchemilla-mollis flowers

In the dye jars, the yellow colour appeared almost immediately but I got a stronger colour from the  Alchemilla flowers.

A-mollis-flower-solar

Another solar jar was gradually receiving – over a fortnight – red hollyhock flowers that fell off the plant.  Previously I have steamed the hollyhock flower heads onto silk, and the colour was a bright pink, quite different to the result on wool.

Hollyhock-solar

 

The dried swatches as in my test book:

Feb-solar-dyes

One of the last photos I took at the old house.  Althea that I grew from seeds.  Will start again.

Althea

Snow in ‘summer’ along with high winds!   This is the view that greeted us a few days after we moved house.  Very dramatic welcome…

March-snow-wind

Our new house is just over one year old, like a doll’s house, and we have a garage full of stuff to be sorted, given away or reallocated somewhere.  There is a lovely patch of weeds down the road – some old friends and some new rather ferocious looking ones too!
Ferocious-weed

This knotweed is an old friend – and a walk in the park led me to some knotweed – Polygonum aviculare it may be – from which I have obtained a yellow.  So there are possibilities.  The knotweed below was growing by the footpath.  I have brought some of the prostrate polygonum from the old garden.

Friendly-weed

Mallow

weeds-fence

Yellow-with-plantain

Finally, a sentimental note.  A move like this presents your belongings to you in a different light.  You find things you had forgotten, and other possessions take on a new life.  I happened to look through two Stanley Gibbons stamp albums that belonged to my father.  The books are large and heavy, and lots of the stamps are missing, but not on this page, however.  Towards the back of the book, this 15-year-old listed the number of stamps he had collected:  on 10 March 1929 he had 1315.  I read this on the 10 March 2014.

pennyred

Colours from a Landscape

I am currently showing some pigment colour swatches at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, and in October I am doing a workshop on making paint.   This exhibition was facilitated through the Blue Oyster Gallery in Dunedin.  Also included in the show are some natural pigments on paper – eco prints – and some raw pigment.  The two artworks on paper show colours from Waikari (green)  and Ashley Gorge (pink and green)  in North Canterbury.  Many thanks to Clare Fraser from the Dunedin Botanic Gardens who is in charge of the venue.  I think the colours look fantastic presented on black paper against the lovely red walls of the Information Centre!

The pigment swatches each show a colour found at a specific location which is named on the swatch.

Image

Appearing below are some of the photos I received from Jaime Hanton, Blue Oyster Gallery, Dunedin, who kindly photographed the show and installed the work for me :

Dunedin Botanics 1

Dunedin Botanics 2

Dunedin botanics 3

Dunedin Botantics 4

This is not my anticipated installation for this show as the initial selection was stolen.  My box was left on the pavement by the courier company and disappeared overnight.  The items in this box were some of those in the photograph shown in the display case, bottom left corner.  If, by any chance, they turn up, I would just love to have them back.  They represent five years research, experiment and recording.  I have given up hope of ever seeing them again, however, and will re-build as much of the information as I can…  Worse things happen, and I ‘count my blessings’.

 

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Dunedin Botanics 6

Shells were traditionally used for paint containers!

Autumn colours eco print

I have been trying to catch the autumn leaves before they all blow away!   This post was started a few weeks ago, and I have published others before getting round to finishing this one.

The leaves have been used for eco prints on paper and cloth. I have been using lots of different mordants to soak paper and cotton – alum, washing soda, copper, tannin, gelatine and acorns, both alone and in different combinations.

Here is a collage of the the result on various pieces of cotton fabric, pre soaked for a few days in tannin, alum and washing soda and iron water.  I added iron filings when I put the packages together – was a bit heavy handed – but which produced a beautiful result where they touched Cotinus coggygria leaves.  Leaves used were acer, cotinus, oak, acacia both fresh and frozen, and iris and rose petals.  The fabrics were folded or rolled and weighted down with ceramic tiles.

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A wood block depicting a pin oak leaf was printed on to Pescia cotton 300 gsm printmaking paper which was later soaked with the cotton fabric. I rolled this paper and some of the fabric in layers around a wood core, using Phormium tenax or harakeke roots in the final layer of cotton. The same leaves were used as in the cotton bundles above, except with the addition of iron filings, vinegar and some Hypericum solar dye bath to which had been added salt and vinegar for a wool and thread dye experiment. My usual over-enthusiasm…

I managed to cram all of this into the steamer – there is a new, larger setup now.

The Pescia paper print, overprinted with cotinus and iron filings at the top and various other leaves below, follows.

Pinoak-print

The reverse of this Pescia paper roll – showing an iris petal and rose petals still attached.

Pinoak-reverse

The winter flowering iris plant that grows in the garden.

Iris

Here the cotton has picked up the green of the iris petal.
Pinoakfabric1

I was delighted with the result on this pre-used cotton poplin type fabric.  A mixture of defined and watery images.  The bias binding has taken up the colour extremely well.  It is an unused, old roll and quite stiff, so I wonder if it is starched.

Pinoakfabric2

Here is another view.  The rusty red came from a pink rose petal.

Pinoakfabric3

Another view of the blue-black colour created by the iron filings.

Cotton-with-iron

Autumn Leaves on Paper and Cloth

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.

Darfield15

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.

Darfield4

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!

Darfield3

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.

Darfield2

This is a further image of the still wet papers.

Darfield1

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

Darfield6

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

Darfield5

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.

Darfield7

Darfield8

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.

Darfield9

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.

Darfield10

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.

Darfield11

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

Darfield16

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.

Darfield14

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!

Darfield13

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

Darfield12

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

Cotinus Dye Journey

Dye Pre history:

29 January 2013

Solar dye created with Cotinus coggygria and a small iron nail.

Cotonus-jar

Added pink silk and white cotton bundles containing honesty seed pods, aquilegia seeds and lupin seed pods.  Cotton fabric on top held under water with a cotinus twig.

2 February 2013

Bundles removed, inspected, and the silk returned as very little dye taken up in the centre of the bundle.  To brighten the colour I added some hypericum and hydrangea sola dye to the cotinus/iron brew.  The opened cotton bundle is below:

Cotinus-solar-cotton-bundle

ecoprint--cotton-continus

This is what happened to the silk bundle.

Cotinus-on-pink-silk-1

The ‘cotinus’ dye bath was not abandoned at this point but I put it in a larger jar to accommodate a linen bundle.

28 February 2013

Linen added.

Linen-cotinus-sequoia

Sequoiadendron giganteum cones, dark red prunus leaves and sequoia bark in a scarf length of white linen (mordanted previously in alum) and bound with linen and cotton thread, was next placed in the Cotinus leaf solar dye, but this left little colour, even after the linen and dye bath were simmered for one hour.  Even though the colour of the dye was dark perhaps I had exhausted the dye content.  I think it was worth the effort, the gentle colours – blue grey, pink and palest brown.

Cotinusdye-sequoiabundle

Eco Print Silk Bundles – Montbretia flowers

Another misadventure?  But with a happy outcome.

11Febsilksteam

In February, I used my last large piece of silk, to enclose montbretia flowers, hydrangea leaves, hypericum leaves, dock seeds on a stem x 4, and pink dahlia buds (broken up), and put on to steam for 30 minutes on a low heat (No 2 setting). Accompanying this bundle was a smaller one, containing the same material except without the dock seeds.  Put the lid on the pot and made sure the steam was not too fierce.

After a while, because of a strong blast of wind as the southerly front arrived, I had to concentrate on quickly picking up the cabbage tree leaves (Cordyline australis) off the back lawn.  I thought of the possible steam damage, and finding a new cabbage leaf (it’s supple) I had the idea of using that for an outer cover – which you can see above in the photo.  Wondered if it would transfer any colour as well.  A piece of bark, possibly Acacia melynoxilon, was also added on top.  The water seemed to have stopped steaming so I upped the temperature to 2.5 for the last ten minutes.

At this point the small bundle was taken out.  At both ends of the bundle I dropped on some red cabbage dye (turned blue by the action of some ash mordant) and then some wineberry dye in the middle.  It was left to dry on a piece of paper, but as a lot of the dye came out of the bundle, I put it back in the steam pot once that was turned off.

Montbretia-paper

The large bundle was next subjected to 30 more minutes of steaming as some of the pink colour inside was not transferring to the silk.  The montbretia petals dyed the silk a lovely golden yellow.  When that was done, I left both bundles on the rack overnight.  I decided to keep both bundles to mature for one month, which I did by leaving them in separate open snap lock bags, and untying them on 11 March.

Month-bundle3

This was the result!  A rather sorry looking object, mouldy and still damp in the middle.

Here is the opened large bundle!

Montbretia-large

The large leaf here is hypericum, leaving a red stain.  Lots of decayed plant material.

Montbretia-decay

And this is the cleaned, ironed bundle:

Montbretia-silk-lge

Montbretia-silk-lge2

The smaller silk bundle:

Montbretia-small

Steam and Solar Dyes – New Zealand Plants

In this post I collect together the New Zealand plants I have recently used in steam and solar dyeing.

Hebe species.  Steamed bundles

Hebe-plant

Hebe flowers and leaves were laid out on opposite sides of two silk bundles, with hebe twigs for the core. After steaming the leaves produced yellow and the flowers a mix of blue and a grey-pink-brown as is shown in the smaller bundle below.  Although as the silk used was already dyed a pale ‘salmon pink’, this background colour does not look very pink in the photograph…

Hebe small silk

Good colours, but not much definition of leaf or flower shape, and I still had the heat too high causing damage to the silk as you can see at the top the image above.  The photograph below shows part of the larger piece of dyed white silk.

Hebe-large-silk

Beech Leaves – Nothofagus species.  Solar dye

Nothofagus

I placed the leaves in water in a large jar.  No colour emerged, so  I decided to simmer the leaves, but unfortunately damaged them by letting the water in the pot dry out…

In 1849, when the British settlement of Canterbury started in earnest, the area named Oxford  by the early surveyors was covered by a large forest – Harewood Forest, which has been described as ‘the most magnificent stand of virgin bush in Canterbury and unique because of its variety.  It originally covered 56,000 acres [22,662.40  ha] and was the magnet which attracted the sawmilling community from which the present town grew’  (Oliver A Gillespie, Oxford, the first hundred years).  The forest  was logged for timber for the growing settlement around Christchurch and was nearly destroyed in 1898 by a fire which swept through the area, fanned by the strong winds that occur in Canterbury.  The last sawmill closed in 1912.

I will repeat the solar dye at some point, as I am lucky enough to have these trees growing in the garden.  There are still clumps of the forest remaining close by – and we find seeds from these oases arrive via the birds and grow well in the undisturbed parts of the garden.

Kapuka – Griselinia littoralis.  Solar dye

Griselinea

This tree is found in lowland and subalpine forest throughout New Zealand.  Griselinea has small flowers, which are green in the female and yellow in the male plants, and the berries are black when ripe.  For my test I used the green leaves which I cut up, and tied a knot in the alum pre-mordanted silk.  The berries are now on the trees, and ripen from March to June.

Griseliniesilksample

Wharariki, New Zealand Mountain or Coastal Flax Plant – Phormium cookianum.  

Steamed bundle and solar dye.

I think the flax plants in my garden are cultivars of P. cookianum.  The leaves have distinct colours – either green, yellow, pink and orange, or in combination, each plant being different.  The flowers are small and, characteristically for this plant, the seed pods hang downwards and are more or less twisted.  Our flax plants have not flowered yet this year so I wonder if they flower every year.  (See more details here :  <http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/plants/ethnobotany/weaving-plants/information-sheets/harakeke-and-wharariki> )

This piece of silk started life as a steamed bundle containing a fallen Magnolia bud, but very little colour came from this (here the silk is still wet).  Taking this silk I  rolled up a new bundle containing just yellow flax leaf pieces and put it on to steam with the Hebe bundles mentioned above.  The vein down the centre of the flax leaf left a good red mark on the silk.

P1170291

P-cookianum-silk

Makomako or Wineberry – Aristotelia serrata.  Steamed bundle and solar dye

 The plant is found throughout New Zealand in lowland and subalpine forest, especially in clearings.  The solar dye liquid has a sweet, wine-like smell.

Aristotelia-serrata

Incorporated into a steam bundle of mixed flowers and leaves, were some Flax, Wineberry and Griselinea leaves, and Hebe flowers.  The Wineberry leaves gave a good imprint.  This is seen in the two images below.  The purple-grey marks are from the leaves which are thin and translucent.  (The pink in the background of the second  image below is from hollyhock flowers.)

wineberrybundle

Wineberry

The berries, which are edible, are red when mature and black when ripe.  I picked black berries and solar dyed the cotton shown below.  The colour of the dye is very strong.  This entry in my workbook is shared with a eucalyptus solar dye.

Wineberry-solar

The Eucalyptus (I think it is blue dollar gum) shown above, leads nicely into my next post which I intend to be about my other solar dyes.

For information on the plants I referred to NZ Flowers and Plants in Colour by J. T. Salmon, edition published in 1986.  Some of the plant nomenclature has changed since then, but I have used the current plant names.  All plants come from the garden.