Solar Dyes: From Purple and Red to Green

Spring brought the peonies, one of which had deep red petals which went into a dye pot with pieces of silk, wool and cotton.

Peony-picture.jpg

Painting of Aoraki – Mt Cook behind the flowers is by John Horton.  These peonies were a gift from Viv and Nancy!

This is the amazing colour that appeared…Peony.jpg

My next test was with a ‘new’ kumara variety called Purple Dawn.  [Kumara is a sweet potato, which Maori brought with them to New Zealand.]  My friend Casey Macaulay told me how she had experimented painting with the red cooking water and how when vinegar was added the liquid turned bright green – I just had to try for myself.  The silk and cotton absorbed the red colour, but the paper was different as seen below.  I forgot to wash the kumara, and I think the ‘bits’ in the dye came from the skin.

The green-yellow fabric at the top is old cotton t-shirt rag, I had the same pink/green result when I dropped the dye onto the surface.  The dark dye brush mark is with vinegar added, the pink mark is straight out of the solar dye jar.  Note how the silk and cotton stay pink.

Purple-Dawn-Kumara-1.jpg

For the next test I cleaned, peeled and shredded the kumara, and added some sodium acetate to a separate portion of the dye.  The vinegar (sodium acetate) did turn the dye green, but the colours were so different. I probably should not have prepared the kumara quite so much!   Casey has different water to us so that may explain the paler green results I had.

 

Purple-Dawn-kumara.jpg

By this time I was getting really confused by these results – you probably are too (!); I did a further test in my workbook to see if the paper there gave different results.  When I put a blog together I try to get the photo image colours correct (via Photoshop).  Here however,  if I alter the pink, the green is wrong.  So I would comment that in the scan of the workbook page below –

The top left blob has a distinct dark purple edges and the overall colour is slightly green with a purple tinge

The top right hand brush stroke should be pinker

Both the Kumara No 1 tests colours should be bluer

The Kumara No 2 tests; neither should be so green…the one on the left is a pale brown.

Kumara-workbook1

If you are still with me, there is more!

My next solar dye was with the paler red peonies (in the photograph at the top). The silk and cotton took up the dye with no problem, but the addition of some vinegar brightened the colour on the silk and cotton.

Pale-peony.jpg

Hollyhock petals were collected during the summer of 2013/2014 in the old garden; I kept these in the freezer.  I tried  India Flint’s ice-flower dye method as described in her book Eco Colour whereby you place the frozen petals directly into warm water, but the water I used was hot.  The result was almost instantaneous – a deep dark red.  I put silk and knitted cotton in the solar dye.  The knitted cotton only partly submerged and what emerged was a mix of pink-red and green – again.  I also added some vinegar and salt to portions of the dye.  Images below.

Hollyhock.jpg

The bright green mark at the centre of the knitting was caused by the sample left to dry over a piece of metal.  The grey colour that appears sometimes is where the material was not completely submerged but some colour has been transferred by osmosis it would seem.  I do fold or scrunch up the cloth as well and for these tests am not bothered by colour variations .

Hollyhock-test.jpg

Later I used the original dye for further tests.  Just great colour harmonies here.  Green and blue-green marks made by copper pipe.  The paper is kozo.

Hollyhock-2nd-test.jpg

Hollyhock-Kozo.jpg

 

Hollyhock-copper-pipe.jpg

Hollyhock-green.jpg

In these tests, all the silk and cotton was originally white and unwashed, no mordants used, just the salt and vinegar added afterwards to separated amounts of dye liquid.  The chemicals in the paper seem to affect the dyes.  I could try applying soy milk to the paper and letting it dry before painting  on the dye.

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’.

Black Turtle Bean, dye

Saw Grackleandsun‘s blog on black bean dyeing, so I thought I would add this information on my recent test.  I used Black Turtle beans – not sure if these are the ones used in dyeing by Grackleandsun, but according to Wikipedia – “Black turtle bean is a small, shiny variety of common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), especially popular in Latin American cuisine, though it can also be found in Cajun and Creole cuisines of south Louisiana. They are often called simply black beans.”

I coloured mordanted cotton and non-mordanted silk and also used the dye straight from the solar dye pot on the page.  it gave a lovely colour.  Eventually the jar did rather pong!

Anyway, here’s the page from my test book;

Turtle-Bean-dye-test-page

Explore Find Collect Discover

Progressing with my little piece of fanciful endeavour. The weather is too hot to do much but I am enjoying this evening pastime.  Trying to contextualise this piece, I found it lends itself to ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’.  The ‘borrowing’ comes from Spirit Cloth, so thanks to Jude for her inspiration and putting me on yet another path.

It is quite difficult to find suitable, old, worn cloth, but I realise I have to collect all my textiles and yarns in one spot – I seem to be endlessly looking for where I have stashed them – and since we moved they could be anywhere!  I am using fabric dyed last year, snippets of my mother’s dressmaking, her box of embroidery threads, my threads from those I collected decades ago and even some old silk velvet from my sister’s mother in law.  The cloth (dyed in tea) with the holes was an old pillowcase into which we used to put horse riding gear when it was being machine washed.  The ‘something new’ is the print of the mallow plant growing in the new garden.

I really like the feel of the layers of cloth and the abstract forms created by the stitching on the reverse of the piece.  The space created by the circle (top left) seems to suggest landscape, or a vista.  It is the only part that has visual depth.  What to do next…

Piece

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

Red Freesia Solar Dye

Freesia red

In November, when I was clearing the dead spring bulb foliage, I kept a few dried flowers from some of the freesias we had grown this year.  The thought crossed my mind – I wonder if they will provide colour as the dried flowers were still orange-yellow.  As you can see the freesia flower was a deeply coloured red.  Below is a photo of the solar dye in progress.  The colour appeared almost immediately.  You can see that the stalk was still green, just the petals were dry and papery.  Inserted in the jar was a piece of unmordanted folded woollen fabric.

freesia-solar-dye

The colour  on the woollen fabric was rather dull, and seemed to attract a brown coloration on the fold.  I noticed this also occurring at the edges of the colour when applied to paper.

red-freesia-wool

Red-freesia-on-paper

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’.

 

P1160373

 

 

 

Dunedin Botanics 6

Shells were traditionally used for paint containers!

Eight Waters

Exploring the Invisible

This fascinating site has details of  a new project with artist Sarah Craske that seeks to explore the nature of water –  here showing the differences in pH of water collected from natural water courses.

img_1210

Here’s the link  –   Eight Waters.

Dyes on Paper

As the main purpose for starting solar dyeing with plants was to find more organic colours that I could use on paper, I record here some of my recent paper experiments.  This first one is on kozo (mulberry)  paper, and coloured by a pomegranite skin solar dye.  I squashed the folded paper into the jar, and really like the way the scrunched and twisted paper keeps its shape when dry.  I am not sure where the dark marks came from.

Kozo-pomegranite

I have also experimented with Knotweed – Persicaria.   Knotweed grows in my veggie patch.  There are two varieties – one smaller than the other.  The smallest one, P. maculosa, has been used here.  It seems simpler just to scan my test book pages! – here they are:

Persicaria-paper-tests

This is the page for Privet berries.   They are poisonous, by the way.  The colour has lasted well in the solar dye jars, and each brew is different.  I have not achieved a blue which you can get with adding alum and salt.  One source said the berries had to be ripe in order to do this.  I collected two lots, the second one of which is this test.  The berries were round and plump, seemed to be very ripe, but apparently, perhaps, not…

Privet-berries-paper-test

This next page is abut Viburnum tinus.  I solar dyed the drupes which are a beautiful steely blue.  It is interesting how the colours change according to type of paper or textile to which they are applied.

Viburnum-paper-tests

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.