Tag Archives: botanical printing

The Real Key to Ecoprinting

The Real Key to Ecoprinting

It is interesting to listen to my customers at a show when I briefly explain the basics of ecoprinting.
“Oh so these are real leaves and you just lay them down to get the imprint?” is a common reply!
Or maybe you have seen a few images on blogs or Pinterest of a few lightly wrapped “bundles” tied loosely with a beautiful ribbon? Well, let’s talk about what the key is to the best prints with ecoprinting!

Ecoprinting or Botanical Printing seems to have popped up everywhere and for good reason-it’s fun! It’s not a new art form-it’s been around a long time and I enjoyed using leaves to imprint paper way back in my University days. 🙂

The world of art has changed dramatically of course since those days! The Internet changed everything. Methods and techniques I learned in my major course studies of Commercial Art and Printmaking have undergone some of the biggest changes. Little is hand drawn now and certainly lithographs and etchings are no longer commercially viable! But what has not changed in printmaking are the basics. ALL Successful (non-inkjet) printing requires contact and pressure! Block printing, lithographs, etchings, woodblocks, screen printing, typewriters and ecoprinting to name a few, all require contact with the surface plus pressure to create an imprint.

So the key to successful ecoprinting is not the leaves or the mordants or even the heat. All that is of little or no value unless PRESSURE is applied to create sufficient contact.  That is what printing is all about.

So, how do we achieve the required pressure? Humor me while my art history kicks in 😉

Take a look at this image of the 1440 Gutenberg press if you want an idea of pressure!


So basically, in traditional printmaking, you “ink” your metal, plastic, rubber or wood template, lay the paper or fabric onto the “printing plate” surface, apply pressure…. and you have an imprint!
The popularity of stamping designs onto paper and fabric may seem recent but it’s not. India had been using wood blocks to imprint designs on their fabrics for centuries. I have a number of these beautiful wood blocks and they all require pressure to succeed.
Applying pressure to imprint a design onto cotton in India

Most people don’t realize that the photos of the American Civil War that were put into papers and most famously Harper’s Weekly were created by having woodcarvers, each with a section of the drawn out photos, carve his portion to combine under the printing press. Again-pressure  🙂

A sectioned wood block used to imprint into Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War

The old linoleum blocks we used in art classes have given way to a softer, easier to carve “soft cut” linoleum block that make it easy for any artist to make their own designs in a fraction of the time. Below are a few that I have carved for use on both my wool and silk fabrics.

So pressure plays the key role. When ecoprinters use words like “Bundling tightly” or tight Bundles, we can get an idea of the pressure involved when we understand that printing in its original context, means pressure!


You can imprint a leaf  or flower on fabric simply by subjecting both to enormous pressure (see first image!) But by far the easiest method to achieve as uniform contact as possible involved laying leaves onto the designated fabric and rolling the pieces into tight bundles using pipes of copper or wood as the central pivot. The final wrapping of the rolled piece with string adds to the tightness of the bundle.
People who are unaware of ecoprinting or beginners to this art form often envision this and little more. It is accurate but just the first step. Rolling this piece tightly on a wood dowel and finally tying with twine will result in a “bundle” like the one below.


This bundle is larger than usual as it just happens to be 3 yards of 45″ raw silk. It was folded, leaves inside, rolled and tied into this small missile like size and ready for the steaming pot! If I had kept it spread onto a table, exposing the leaves to the heat of the sun, very little would have happened. I tried once in an experiment. I had a piece of silk, topped with leaves and clear glass. I had contact, but no pressure. I did not even get stains :-).

The result of one large piece of properly bundled silk noil.

I’ve seen the use of shrink wrap rather than twine but I prefer not to use much plastic if I can help it. And besides I don’t mind the resulting “string marks” from the twine. And if you do not like those marks? Well use fabric strips instead of twine!

Learn to wrap tight bundles to ensure full contact with your plants to the surface and you will have mastered the real key to successful ecoprinting! It is simply another form of printmaking.

 

Felting on Raw Silk

Felting on Raw Silk

Update! A workshop in this same technique will be offered at my studio July 13-14, 2019! Learn how to design, ecoprint, felt your design then construct your wallhanging! Complete details and description here:  http://thesilkthread.com/workshops/eco-printing-on-silk-2-2/

Felting has become a popular medium with fiber artists! Depending on your personal knowledge of felt in general, most people think of those multi-colored felt pads you see in all the craft stores when someone mentions felt. According to Wikipedia ” Felt is a textile material that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibers together. Felt can be made of natural fibers such as wool or animal fur, or from synthetic fibers such as petroleum-based acrylic or acrylonitrile or wood pulp-based rayon.”  It is an ancient craft and felt is used in art, fashion and industrial applications.

My alpacas Bella, Virginia and Kicho, supply me with much of the animal hair that I use for my kind of felting. But I supplement much of their black and white hair with the beautiful shades of wool from my friends with sheep. Fiber shows supply the additional wools dyed in a variety of beautiful colors.

After the shearing and the summer heat, 2 of the girls enjoy a spray bath!

There are a number of types and techniques of felting (nuno, knit, wet, sculpture, hats, etc.) and since a complete “how to” is beyond the scope of this newsletter, simply google “felting” and that will bring up a huge array of sites for you to further research! I do “Needle Felting” which basically is the only felting type that does not require wetting the fibers beforehand. Needle felting simply hooks onto fibers with specially placed barbs (felting needle) and forces fibers to tangled as you punch through the fabric!

Fiber shows and craft stores carry the basic tools for Needle felting. Crucial of course are the needles.They come in various sizes-either single or as groups. And a surface on which to place your fabric to begin the felting (poking) process. The image shows several gathered from various suppliers. All I use is in the image. Both the “brush” surface and the “Styrofoam” offer the necessary cushioning effect plus allow you to easily carry your lightweight supplies anywhere. Most needle felting done as a painting or scene use a sheet of wool as the “canvas” on which to begin an image. Below is a first result from a student of mine who first painted this very same scene on canvas before using the wool as her canvas!

Since I am a painter, my needle felting takes on the feel of painting. I mainly use it to embellish my ecoprinted silk noil (also known as raw silk)
I use raw silk for many of my garments and wall hangings as it feels very different from what we think of as silk…it has a pile (noil) is much heavier and is created with much shorter strands of silk. After ecoprinting a piece of yardage I look at it awhile and can envision where my embellishments such as birds, flowers or my Woodland Fairies might go to enhance my vision. Raw silk takes the use of the needle far better than regular silk.

One of my earliest needle felted pieces was a felted bird on a silk handkerchief. I had to be careful of over stabbing the silk as it can damage the area in which you work 🙂
My original photos do not do it justice but I learned that if I wanted to use my Habatoi silk stash I had to switch from felting on Habatoi silk to hand painting on it! SO you will see my raw silk wall hangings embellished with needle felting and my charmeuse or Habatoi silk embellished with hand painting.

My Woodland Faeries series are all hand painted onto the smoother silks! But below is a closeup of one of the birds being felted onto the raw silk.Most are created on large pieces ranging from 20-30″ wide by 36-48″ long!

I collect driftwood from oceans, lakes or rivers and have quite a stash as eventual hangers. I love the feel and texture of the old wood. In many of the hangings I have added backings ranging from cotton fabric to raw silk to burlap. The figures that I use to embellish are my own. You can use a pencil to lightly draw in your bird or flower or whatever. A lightbox can make it easier to lay your fabric down (if it is light colored) on top and trace out a darkly outlined image.
It takes practice but if you are familiar with shading techniques in painting, it is essentially the same! Use dark to outline and use lighter and lighter pieces of your wool or hair to show tonal changes. I predominantly use the 3 needle and switch to single use with outlining. The point is to make sure they are thoroughly adhered.


My “Bluebirds” (sold) attached to a burlap backing.

The fun to me is to “attach” whatever images I am using to the previously ecoprinted piece to make it look as though it was planned in advance lol. The ecoprinted piece comes first. I like to make my birds bold or hide them among the foliage and it all depends on how the original ecoprinted raw silk design looks.  And wall hangings are not the only decorative piece that can be needle felted on!

Daises felted handbag


Dandelion puffs

Needle felting is an art form that varies with what you are creating, what you want to achieve and how involved you want to be! Like all needlecrafts, it’s relaxing, easy to learn and only gets better with practice!

Update! A workshop in this same technique will be offered at my studio July 13-14! Learn how to design, ecoprint, felt your design then construct your wallhanging! Complete details and description here:  http://thesilkthread.com/workshops/eco-printing-on-silk-2-2/

Workshop travels and Ecoprinting on Leather

On the road again!

On the road again 🙂

My workshops usually involve travel. My most recent was  teaching participants how to ecoprint on leather and paper and creating leather journals from our efforts :-). My car was packed and it looked like I was moving!  Air travel was impractical and the drive meant I could stop over with neglected relatives enroute.
But there’s a good reason people go to Florida during the winter 🙂 I’m back now from a 2 week jaunt down there (and Georgia) and  I made time to actually turn it into a working vacation! Anyone who is a self employed artist knows how hard that can be!

I have taught workshops for a long time. You can’t be a painting artist and not share tips and techniques with big and small workshops.

Theresa teaching a “Paint your Dog” class at Jerrysartarama workshop space

So when the opportunity came from my friend, Suzanne Connors, to teach my ecoprinting techniques on leather and watercolor paper at her Aya Fiber Studio in Stuart, FL, I said “sure!” I chose leather and paper because once the techniques were mastered, my students would have the skills to create beautiful art journals for friends or for sale.

Not all workshops have such exotic locations! In this case, Florida’s weather was a far cry from what was happening in NC.

Views from the Aya Fiber studio

The 4 day workshop kept us busy! My students learned about the leathers that worked best for my technique, the papers that worked, leather tools, end products and created some amazing journals.

Students at their tables
A full hide on the worktable

Not all workshops end with finished products. But I felt it was important that they have finished pieces to refer to when back home in their own work spaces.

 

Ecoprinting on leather
Ecoprinting on different leathers
practice books
A finished leather and watercolor paper art journal
A finished leather and watercolor paper art journal

examples of additional leather techniques
leather journal

Additional techniques added a WOW factor to the leather and everyone had gorgeous results!

 

sheets of watercolor paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workshops do not have to be held in inspiring places. I’ve been in dusty expo buildings, recreation halls and similar places. My North Carolina studios are in the country and I share them with my artist hubby, Stephen Filarsky. It offers a different ambience-just as inspiring-but in a totally different environment in the country!

Below is a busy workshop I held in an Expo building in Michigan. My participants were just as enthusiastic!

Workshop in livestock building in Michigan

Below is the art studio transformed into a workshop space for my participants (we also hold painting workshops in here of course)

Workshop in my art studio
My workshop studio

 

May roses at our studio!

April and May are the time the heirloom “rescued roses” bloom at our location!

Our alpacas

A few alpacas provide not only fiber but entertainment for little ones who often mistake them for camels lol!

As long as people wish to learn new skills and techniques and involve themselves in the beauty of art, there will always be classes and workshops :-). Embracing the unknown in the arts broadens the mind and fills that creative space in your soul that just waits for some kind of inspiration!

And as a bonus to my teaching trip to FL we took a sunset cruise recommended by the studio. I missed the manatee that swam up to the studio docks but not on the hour long cruise! I had never seen one before!

Manatee and baby

So I am off to unload my car, (which looks like I moved half of my studio!) but adding

The Golden Hour

a parting image of what is called “The Golden Hour” on the water. We were able to enjoy it from the quiet puttering of the electric boat (and also why we could silently come close to the manatees)

Until next time!-Theresa

 

 

 

Collecting Leaves and an Abandoned Puppy

So this should have gone out in Nov….and it did in my newsletter but not on my blog! SO here it is (after my Christmas one lol!) But Enjoy

Hi fellow artists!
So finally, Fall in the US has stopped procrastinating and has arrived! And for those of us who ecoprint or use leaves in our art, there is that slight panic that the leaves we took for granted for months will now disappear. Or will they?
My botanical printing goes back a ways and over the years I have tried all kinds of techniques to gather and store leaves. Quite frankly I look for the least labor intensive methods that make it easy for me to pull out leaves in January.

So let’s start with the basics-gathering your leaves. No need to make this a production! If you’re not on your own property you can find leaves anywhere-in piles by the side of the roads, unraked in yards or parks. I have never had anyone tell me NOT to collect leaves in public areas so go for it! Carry a rake, paper and plastic bags. The paper bags sit open easier and you can dump your leaves from there into your plastic bags.

My Honda Fit is a little workhorse and can carry whatever I put it to!

With the hatch up, the back of my Honda holds bags of leaves, rakes, snips and assorted objects for carrying and scooping. I keep the tops of the bags open or lightly tied.

 

 

 

In municipal areas, the leaves are yours for the taking. I often hit areas where my “magic trees” are on a Sunday when businesses are closed.

But perhaps the best part about collecting leaves is this-back roads! Unless you have experienced the fun and excitement of discovering new plants, winding roads and abandoned farms, you can’t imagine how well that interacts on a fall day! Sunny skies, chill in the air and Nature calling to you! It helps to take photos along the way-and one main reason other than recording a grand adventure, is the remember where you were when you collected certain leaves. Ones that prove to be amazing printers are ones you will want to find year after year.

It was on such an abandoned road recent;y that we stopped at several abandoned house-to collect and to take photos of the past. Forgotten stone walls with sumac beginning to enclose them.

 

 

 

 

This abandoned homestead below bears further exploration as has an old mill-somewhere back in the woods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But down out long winding dirt road we saw what we thought was a fox or cat dart across the road and disappear into the woods.
I stopped the car and peered into the woods and realized it was a beagle. As I got out and approached her with dog biscuits in hand, her tail wagged furiously while she crouched behind bushes and peed submissively.  I picked her up and that was that. Back roads-dirt or paved- are good places for people to dump their animals and this thin little thing was just a puppy-maybe 5 months old judging from a few puppy teeth left.
My husband and I are cut out of the same piece of cloth so we just put the little girl in the car and continued with our journey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now really! Could you have left that little face behind? Someone did.  So relax, we took the puppy my husband named Tuppence to the vet that same Sunday pm, had her vaccinated, micro-chipped (we searched for a chip first), and introduced her to the other 3 dogs. Yes, she is settling in nicely!

So back to the leaves…..let’s say you have collected  bushels. After all, you don’t want to be left leafless right? 🙂 Now what. Where and how to store? Take a look at a few solutions I have tried!

2 old screen doors are a good solution depending on how many you have-the advantage is that they dry flat, air circulates on both sides and the screens prevent the leaves from blowing away! But I had way too many leaves for this to work long! Also this was not very portable. If it rained you had to start over.

So here I tried screens from the thrift store. Easier to move but still I would need too many screens.

 

 

 

 

So here I got clever and made my own baskets-I could hang them in the barn or under a shed and they would air dry. Well they did but the lightweight leaves began to compact all on their own (they did not seem that heavy!) and the bottom ones might as well have been onion skins! Now you have to understand that I use a LOT of leaves. I do not have the time nor the space to systematically stack leaves encased in newspaper on coordinated and marked shelving units!-that all sounds good and looks so nice in posted photos but the reality is very different. 🙂

 

 

So my solution now for the last few years?  Yep-keep them in their bags! I sit them on the ground under a shed and leave the tops open. I stack maples in one area, oak in another, etc and some are mixed anyway!

 

In the end-do things YOUR way. Your prints will turn out whether you toss them into bags or iron and press each one into a book!
And I’ll end this narrative with a parting image of Tuppence, the abandoned puppy. She looks like she is settling in nicely doesn’t she? No telling what you’ll find on those back roads!

 

 

 

The Roots of Ecoprinting

How deep do the roots go into the personal Psyche of those people captivated by “Ecoprinting?”  What nourishes their interest and fascination? On what level do they embrace it?

The Roots of Ecoprinting

There is nothing quite like Nature’s artistry in her plant Kingdom.  Our own personal journey in Nature determines how deeply our roots are connected to our appreciation of such beauty. There are so many ways to embrace this love of Nature.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

Who has not enjoyed spectacular scenic views while driving camping or hiking? Part of what motivates the artist in me are views that take in the distance.

 

Sunflower Field
Monet’s 1875 Woman with a Parasol in the Garden at Argenteuil

The play of light and shadow on acres of sunflowers captivated me off a dirt road in Virginia.

Gardens and vistas, both cultivated and wild have been celebrated and admired by people from all walks of life.  Artists, poets, writers, outdoor enthusiasts and musicians have taken inspiration from Nature.

With cultivated gardens, I think initially for many it is the colors that capture their attention. And colors aren’t limited to planted gardens! I know in my long hikes through forests, it’s the wildflowers -some bright and showy and some very tiny peeking up in early spring walks.

For some it may be the significance of a particular plant discovery. My sister’s annual joy when discovering the purple crocuses  pushing their way through the snow is one such vivid memory for me. Even for those of us embracing the  winters in upstate New York,  crocuses signaled that Spring was truly coming!

Crocus flowers blooming through the melting snow.
Maple trees

 

And with that knowledge came the certainty that soon it would be time to tap the sugar maple trees , carrying the frozen cans into the house for my mother to add to the sugaring pot on the stove before we caught the school bus.

 

 

 

In Ecoprinting, I have found delight in imprinting not just plant designs, but memories. The results are tactile, visually beautiful and a delight! Not all maple trees are the same. The ones of my childhood are not as common in the North Carolina Piedmont area. Even the ones on my own mini farm are not what I look for in my art. But I have located a few special sugar maples that take me back to my roots. And I delight in what they share with me!

 

 

ecoprinted maple leaves on Silk
ecoprinted maple leaves on Silk

In an en earlier blog I wrote about roses….and shared images of abandoned homesteads, heirloom roses and the resulting beautiful images from fallen rose leaves. More memories  captured through the art of ecoprinting.  But perhaps this final image says it best! And if you want to connect in my NEW Facebook group “Personal Journeys in Ecoprinting” where you can share your inspiration, happy thoughts and  positive energy, join us!     https://www.facebook.com/groups/532432183800670

Eco-print Workshops!

Eco-print Workshops with The Silk Thread

I found that at shows, people are fascinated by my ecoprinting. The infinite number of  leaf prints, especially sharp, crisp ones,  is the first area of fascination. The second is realizing  that Mother Nature can actually release such beautiful colors onto silk.  For many,  it is the knowledge that the entire process is a sustainable and renewable art form.  But universally, it is the image of collecting  leaves on a beautiful day, scattering them onto silk and, in the end, creating a beautiful, unique surprise from Nature that has the most appeal!

Theresa Collecting plants
Collecting leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So It did not take long for people to start asking if I would hold workshops in ecoprinting.   I condensed my process down to a one day workshop that  has made it easy for participants to leave with beautiful scarves created with their own hands!

 

Ecoprinting workshop

Everyone is Equal!

What I love about the Ecoprint workshops is that Everyone is Equal in experience, creativity  and artistic ability!   With painting workshops, even for beginners,  there is always that subtle competitiveness and insecurity. You can hear it in the conversations “Oh, I’m not really an artist,” or “Is this good?” or “I won’t trace, that’s cheating,” and the list goes on.  In Ecoprinting, the participants all learn to initially work the same way with the same methods, but in the end, it is Mother Nature who holds the reins!

I’m including some images from a few recent workshops. I am fortunate in that my mini-farm contains all the plant material we need, right outside the doors of the 2 art studios!  Although I work at my

The Silk Studio viewed from the garden

smaller silk studio, and often outside on the deck, it is the larger “Painting” studio where I hold the Ecoprint workshops. I can fit up to 6 (my max number of students) comfortably with my spread out techniques and best of all, we are out of any wind….you can imagine the frustration of laying plants onto a silk scarf on a windy day :-).

All  my workshops run from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. There is plenty of time to relax after the bundled silk is in the pots. This is when we all eat our bagged lunches, tour the silk studio, engage with the ponies, chickens  and assorted livestock on the mini-farm. On a gorgeous day, we sit under the trees and simply soak in the atmosphere while the silk processes in the steamers.

working in the Art studio

There is no doubt that the most exciting time is when we open the bundles of silk and see the results!

opening bundles

As you browse, you’ll see the faces say it best! Enjoy the closeups. Visit my workshop page to see what dates are available and contact me with any questions!

Until next time!-Theresa

Posing with their creations!
Happy with their results!
A delighted participant

 

close up results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First batch drying on the line
First time results!
First time results!
First time results!
Laying out the plants

Wearing Nature’s Colors

There's nothing like silk!
There’s nothing like silk!

Truly-there is nothing like the look and feel of silk! Soft and luxurious or earthy and light, nothing compares to this all natural, sustainable fabric against the skin.

And nothing speaks to the soul as eloquently as wearing Mother Nature’s colors imprinted naturally onto silk fabrics. For me,  wearing creations that come from Nature and to experience both the natural colors the leaves give up during my process or the results of natural dye additions is the journey I enjoy most!

The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk

Let the look of my handcrafted garments tell their own story!

Custom made silk noil tunic
Custom made silk noil tunic
Handcrafted silk noil dress imprinted with leaves.
Handcrafted silk noil dress imprinted with leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handcrafted poncho dyed with cochineal
Handcrafted poncho dyed with cochineal
Handcrafted poncho of silk noil
Handcrafted poncho of silk noil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stylish fit
A stylish fit
Ecoprinted long silk scarf.
Ecoprinted long silk scarf.

 

Indigo dyed Silk dress
Indigo dyed Silk dress