Tag Archives: eco dyeing

Consistency in Ecoprinting

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Consistency and Ecoprinting

Let’s tackle the number One question I get in messages and emails pertaining to Ecoprinting. And that is Consistency!

“I am so unhappy with my current results, what am I doing wrong?”

“I simply cannot get it to be consist! It is very frustrating!”

“Sometimes my prints are beautiful and sometimes they are bad. How do I change that?”

I am fortunate that my world of art is pretty all-encompassing-from making a living as a fine art portrait artist (working in all mediums) to leatherwork , woodcarving and the fiber arts. In all my years as a professional artist only ONE art form, for me, has tested my need to control the medium and that is Ecoprinting or Botanical printing! Now I am content to simply understand some of its idiosyncrasies!

Working outside

Let’s face it, with most mediums, from start to finish, the artist is in control and pretty much knows what is going to happen. The artist knows the packaged paints to choose and apply, the best wood to carve, the right clay to make his pottery, the steps to make the jewelry, the colors warped into the loom or stitch length in the sewing machine, etc. Predictable, comfortable and with expected results!

Theresa painting

Then we come to Ecoprinting. Wanting to control the outcome of using leaves to enrich cloth or paper surfaces is the main reason for dissatisfaction among so many Ecoprinters. They seem to have lost sight of why this art form appealed to them in the first place. The sheer excitement and awe of unrolling a bundle every single time to discover a surprise is part of its huge appeal!

But after a while, something like dissatisfaction can happen. Maybe it’s that innate human nature to feel someone else’s results are better than yours! (I see this a LOT in teaching painting classes) And it’s hard not to browse Facebook and Instagram and see results that make you feel your work is inadequate. Suddenly, no longer content with serendipitous results, you want to master and control this Art form of Botanical printing. And usually those first questions of doubt are the results: “Why are my leaves not giving me the same results as before?” Or “How come my maple leaves do not print like So and so’s?”

 

I am not a scientist. But thanks, I believe, to years as a painting artist and observing Nature in all her seasons, and my years of hiking and horseback riding on trails, there is an intuitive understanding of what is happening within my particular environment! So let’s step back to the basics of understanding what influences Nature’s green growth.

It’s hard not to sound like an encyclopedia when mentioning facts but if you do a search for trees you will discover there are roughly four primary factors that affect plant growth: light, water, temperature and nutrients. These four elements affect the plant’s growth hormones, making the plant grow more quickly or more slowly. Changing any of the four can cause the plant stress which changes growth. Now those are the basic influences! One of my blogs from my website talked about Planting and Harvesting by the Signs of the Moon.

Morning sun with Kincho and her rooster pal

 

Think about those basic four elements. I really had to dig back to my high school biology to remember the wording but in the end, I love Google haha.

For me, the crucial element is Light:     “Plants need sunlight for a process that we call photosynthesis. … Plants contain a molecule called chlorophyll, and the chlorophyll is what absorbs the sunlight. The chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light, and they reflect green light.  In addition to giving plants their green color, chlorophyll is vital for photosynthesis as it helps to channel the energy of sunlight into chemical energy. With photosynthesis, chlorophyll absorbs energy and then transforms water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbohydrates. The process of photosynthesis converts solar energy into a usable form for plants.”    

That is why the same genus of tree in Alaska will print differently than its counterpart in Florida- Sunlight. Or weeks of rain in your area limit the sunlight for your favorite trees and bushes. Summer drought and weird cold patterns influence the nutrients and growth pattern. Even the time of day influences your results. Watch which plants furl and unfurl their leaves during certain times of the day.

 

Prolonged rain
Prolonged drought

 

 

The interesting thing about all these “scientific” explanations is that I know they are true based not on laboratory experiments but plain common sense and field work.

 

I just returned from a Fiber Show in Michigan and those factors of light, water, temperature and nutrients are among the important factors related to the quality of wool from the sheep farmers. Everything that grows in fact, need those elements!

So all this begins to make sense when you wonder why those leaves from a particular tree are suddenly “not working”. Apply those four elements. What is happening to stress or change the growths process of the leaves this month that did so well before? I had stunning results with the leaves of my pecan tree one year and the following year, not so great. I get beautiful green results from plants that I once deemed “not so great” such as fruit tree leaves and wisteria by not using the leaves during the height of fruiting season.

But wait, you say! What about those fall leaves? They are dead and those four elements do not affect them anymore right? Well…. imagine my surprise in a recent workshop where I brought my Fall 2018 maple leaves for students to re-hydrate for use and watched the normally strong red color print almost black! The tannins had “aged.” I keep the iron strength in my gallon containers the same and experiments since have proved me right so I learned to mix weaker solutions for old leaves 😊

 

So I did not want to turn blog into a science paper. I love the spontaneity of ecoprinting and do not want to turn it into a science. No matter how many formulas you are given, you are still reliant on the leaves and they cannot be controlled like tubes of paint. I tell my students to take notes however to help them understand what is happening. While taking photos of the leaves you used when they have been laid out on the fabric or paper (recommended!) Note the time, the weather and even the outside temperature (if you work outside like I do) and whether the leaves are fresh or dry. If you make a note of where the leaves came from that can be a huge advantage. And if you want to dig deeper—check out a Farmer’s Almanac!

 

I teach a lot of workshops and I remind my students “Your results today are based on what Mother Nature has chosen to give you! Be happy with her gifts!”

The “No Serial Number” magazine story

It’s always fun to find yourself in an International magazine! And especially so when that magazine is the up and coming “Green” magazine, “No Serial Number” an “an eclectic lifestyle magazine about Eco-conscious and Heritage Craft, Design and Fashion.”    The purpose of the publication aligns itself beautifully with my ecoprinted collections and it is a joy to see this publication embrace all that is sustainable, renewable and beautiful!

Cover Photo No Serial Number

 

So what about my article? Well, I had the best time writing it and pulling together my images. 6 whole pages! But for a sneak preview  you can see a bit of it here!

Page 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Botanical or ecoprinting appeals to the simpler side of people-the surround sound of being in the woods, gathering plant matter and watching it come to as an art form is my passion. But many collectors simply enjoy the finished pieces. Whether for home or office, there is something peaceful and beautiful in knowing the ecoprinted art has given us a lasting piece of Nature’s designs and colors!

It was my pleasure to have “No Serial Number” echo my thoughts and feelings by publishing my work and photos!

page 4

When I discovered  that Floridian Kathy Hays, an expert  in all things related to contact (or eco) printing,  was going to be in my NC area, I jumped on the chance to have a one-on-one workshop with her. I could not make her 3 day workshop in Florida so she put together a jam packed session!  We started early at my studio stirring the vat like a witches brew!

The day was perfect for working outdoors! I had previously washed all the silk to be used as that was my main focus. But indigo works beautifully on all fabrics.     The photos below will take you through the basics of our process 🙂

Kathy Hays stirring the Indigo vat
Kathy Hays stirring the Indigo vat
Testing the color of the indigo vat
Testing the color of the indigo vat

Perhaps the most amazing thing to observe is the Green of the initial Indigo turn to blue as it is exposed to the air-oxygen. I think that if we find it magical today, think how the ancients must have felt watching it turn from green to blue in front of their eyes!

Indigo exposed to Oxygen
Indigo exposed to Oxygen

There is no doubt we were having fun!

Checking the results
Checking the results

During and after the workshop I continued to work with my silk, enjoying that feel of working outdoors, creating something beautiful and improving my skills in yet another area of my new favorite medium! Seems my printmaking skills from college have come in handy after all!

Enjoy the collage of a few of the results!   Up close and personal:  see my site!

Four silk scarves, eco printed and indigo dyed.
Four silk scarves, eco printed and indigo dyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother Nature’s Colors in eco-printing on silk

My last “batch” before leaving for a trip to Oregon earlier this month.  Grinding, then boiling cochineal bugs and laying out plants on silk….all part of the long process!

Laying out the plants
Laying out the plants

 

Cochineal extract
Cochineal extract

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the results? Oh my, what fun! 🙂

Collage of Mother Nature's colors
Collage of Mother Nature’s colors
Detail of an eco-scarf.
Detail of an eco-scarf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close up of vegetable plants on silk
Close up of vegetable plants on silk
Bella watching the silk dry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost 3 weeks in the Pacific northwest and I could not leave without expanding my collection of leaf matter.  Check out the monster Big Leaf maple.  The weather promises to break, the snow is melting and the sun will make it possible for me to create more of Mother Nature’s Art 🙂

Big leaf maple
Big Leaf maple
Pacific northwest oak leaves
Pacific northwest oak leaves

Nature’s colors-Amazing results from eco-printing on silk!

OK, I admit it, I’m hooked! Nature’s colors rock! After 11 days of constant painting on silk at the Village of Yesteryear at the NC State Fair (Another blog!) , I experimented with yet another technique for eco dyeing/printing and the results were gorgeous! (I admit it, I brag!)

I collected yet more leaves from maple trees  and along the roadside as well as on my own mini-farm….adding to my collection so I would have leaves when the winter came. It wasn’t hard to enlist the help of my artist husband, Stephen Filarsky! I had hoped that some of the colors of these stunning fall maple trees would dye but the colors did not migrate to the silk….yet. I’ll keep trying 🙂

Fall maple trees
Fall maple trees

Working with iron, onion skins and pecans as a mordant in different batches, well, you’ll have to see the results!

The following scarves consist of silk eco-printed with an assortment and variation (in each) of maples, peonies, mimosa, oak, roses, pear, sumac and pecan to name a few natural ingredients.

onion skin mordant
onion skin mordant

Oak, maple and sumac were within a few of these silk scarves.

Peonies, ferns, maple and roses
Peonies, ferns, maple and roses

A beautiful combination of colors-a surprise actually 🙂

maple leaves on silk
maple leaves on silk

So real, it seems as though you could pluck them off the silk!

rose leaves from various old roses
rose leaves from various old roses

Interesting how different roses printed differently.

Eco-printing on indigo dyed raw silk
Eco-printing on indigo dyed raw silk

The raw silk really takes the dye process. I had previously dyed this piece with indigo and was not happy with it-I am now 🙂

All of my silk work is being done in the small studio. At the moment I am heading off to a show and looking forward to free time after the weekend to experiment a bit more. Big show coming up towards the end of the month!

Colors from Nature: Eco-dyeing from the NC backroads.

A gorgeous day, car windows down and a back road in North Carolina. It really doesn’t get much better than that!   With my artist hubby Steve in the passenger seat, we explored yet another favorite back road. This time, we were searching for particular leaves, flowers and berries to collect for my eco-dyeing with silk scarves. Just as the roadsides are awash in June with wild Queen Anne’s lace and orange Tiger lilies, in September and October they are replaced with wild Helianthus or vivid yellow sunflowers and a multitude of plants as yet untouched by the color change .  Our mini farm has most of them  but we love the fun of looking!  The same roads change by the season and this month we were in search of Nature’s early fall bounty.

 

One of our favorite back roads

Pure Spring water
Pure Spring water

Our Quest took us into Virginia where we stopped to collect the pure spring waters of the once famous Buffalo Springs Resort. Known to the Indians, then gathering fame with the Colonialists, it reached its peak of fame in the late 1800’s as a curative water for whatever ails you! Now owned by the US Park Service, it’s vast array of buildings are gone, leaving nothing but a gazebo, the always available “Lithia” water and its ghosts of the past. A fascinating history of this place can be read here: http://sovahomefront.org/_site_buffalosprings.php

 

Collecting water from Buffalo Springs
Collecting water from Buffalo Springs

We searched and collected just what we needed and were going to experiment with such as grasses, tobacco leaves and flowers, assorted leaves from oaks, maples and poplars as well as wild sumac. The leaves have not yet turned to their brilliant fall colors-that’s for another trip!

Collecting wildflowers
Collecting wildflowers
Hubby helping to gather a few flowers for dyeing
Hubby helping to gather a few flowers for dyeing

I’m getting ready for the 11 day North Carolina State Fair where I will be the silk artist in the Village of Yesteryear-a community of craftsmen and women.

 

Read more here: http://villageofyesteryear.com/
Eco-dyeing is a is time consuming labor of love! This year’s public at the NCSF will see my first series of eco-dyed scarves along with my hand painted and dyed silk designs. I love the subtle patterns left by nature. With the exception of the beautiful reds of the cochineal bug that has been cultivated in South America for centuries (and can be found here in NC), most of the natural colors are softer and less vivid. Eco-dyeing is best done when the artist can enjoy the process from its very beginning of gathering fallen leaves and berries to it’s very end with the slow unwrapping of the silks and the delight of surprise results of colors and patterns!

And finally, after I shared this post, we went to an estate sale of the contents of an old Victorian house and found not one, but two, intact gallons of Buffalo Springs water in the basement (with the 1902 work desk from the old dentist who occupied the home in the 1920’s) What a find for us! Enlarged so you can read the writing!

A turn of the century gallon of water from Buffalo Springs
A turn of the century gallon of water from Buffalo Springs