Tag Archives: eco 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.

 

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

 

 

 

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

Magical world of Faeries on ecoprint

Who is not entranced by the mystical world of faeries? Whether your first introduction was Tinkerbell or you’re  intrigued with the myriad of myths, legends and sightings of such fleeting “little people”, it is a fun world to enter!

Faeries ( or Fairies)were a favorite theme of my twin sister.  As children, we imagined them in the ancient maples that populated our farm in upstate New York. We would take what figurines we had and play among the stone walls and foundations of the huge barns. We invented names, places, personalities, and made “faerie houses” from all manner of rocks and twigs.

 

Detail of a woodland faerie

So I have enjoyed re-inventing our world of not just faeries but the birds that also populated our country playground. Chickadees, sparrows, finches and tiny house wrens all flocked to our suet feeders in the winter when the snows made life challenging for all!

bird on rose branch

My eco printed silk seemed to call to me to peek closer into the world of nature. As a painter, it was just an additional step to begin creating my hand painted designs among the imprinted silk. The challenge was to keep a soft hand to the silk and yet have control over the silk dyes-not always an easy thing to do! So laying out my plant matter to create designs with open spaces for my birds and faeries, I began to paint. And I am still creating versions of them both.  The possibilities are endless. Yes I could simply paint an entire Faerie world on a single canvas, populated with tiny birds, magical creatures and such. But the challenges of working with silk intrigued me. My hand painted figures dance with the movement of the silk-something that cannot be achieved on canvas.

Four Faeries in the roses

The birds continue to flock to my feeders even in the more temperate climate of North Carolina. And while I paint and design, I see tiny faeries everywhere-dancing on the dust motes, peeking out from behind the roses leaves and perhaps playing tricks on the free range chickens. Join me in this magical world of no worries, playful fun and enjoy the art!

 

Faeries and their little bird friend on Cotton dipped in indigo!

 

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

Art Shows and the ART Studio

The months of April and May have been been “art show” months with several shows each month …..a great way to showcase my work in person! I was hardly able to unload the vehicle  in between shows 🙂  But any way you look at it, if you go to shows you need a place to unload and a place to work! Check out the Silk Art Studio images below 🙂

An outdoor art show
Theresa at Artsplosure in Raleigh NC

 

So what does the studio look in May? Notice the awesome clothesline?

View of studio from afar
View of studio from afar
Inside workspace
Inside the Studio
View of silkstudio
The outdoor work area

Next blog will be all about my Indigo adventure 🙂

 

 

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!