Tag Archives: how to ecoprint

Tutorial-Creating beautiful Collages with Ecoprinting

How to Create an Ecoprinted Collage

This is a simple, easy to do technique that comes from the heart of Nature and enables the ecoprinter to create as many as 4 silk scarves at a time in a single bundle! The results are random, unstructured and created by layering (or piling) leaves haphazardly onto the surface of your fabric. It involves one (or two) mordants, 2-4 silk scarves (Or larger pieces, folded) no plastic or any barriers and of course your dowels and a container to simmer the bundles.

So What is a Collage?

Usually we hear it in the context of mixed media Art. Most  school age children have done a visual art collage at some point with tear outs from magazines, newspapers, or in painting, etc to form a single theme in a single picture or painting. The more formal description from Wikipedia is “Collage is a technique of an art production, primarily used in the visual arts, where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole.”


A typical Collage example from the Internet using photos, tear outs and words to convey the message

What is an Ecoprinted Collage?

Most Art collages focus on a theme. Ecoprinted collages focus on a feeling-that awareness that comes from a walk in the woods and observing Nature’s botanical bounty all around you! Your palette is whatever random leaves are available and the technique is purposefully simple to allow that feeling to encompass you fully. It eliminates that struggle with a design element or searching for the perfect leaf!


This is your palette!


This is also your palette!

           
These leaves are also your palette for this technique!

And what can you accomplish with this technique?

And this:

Several Collaged batches of Silk

You can opt to use just 2 scarves or go for 4. You can try just 1 scarf and fold it over if you are not feeling adventurous. The point is to let your inner artist take over, push any OCD tendencies aside and let Nature do her thing! To help you out,
I made a 10 minute video to share! My YouTube video shows the entire process from start to finish!

So sit back and enjoy! Then try it!  https://youtu.be/NpqX10Qeyig   
If you like them, please give me a thumbs up and subscribe-it’s an incentive for me to create more!

UPCOMING Workshops

Find my  workshops on my website! My next studio workshops are 1 day classes in Oct and Nov.
Oct 12, 2019  is 
perfect for newcomers to the art of ecoprinting!
Nov 16, 2019  is an advanced class in using color and dye blankets to your ecoprinting! “Ecoprint in Color”

Upcoming Shows
There are a number of other events-shows and workshops all through 2019.

As the official silk painter at the Village of yesteryear at the NC State Fair, you can find me with other artisans in Raleigh NC Oct 17-27, 2019
Follow my page on Facebook for the most up to date news and information!
November  starts more traveling!

Thank you!-Theresa

 

Tutorial-How to fold large fabrics when ecoprinting

Every so often I enlist hubby’s help and get him to record something I am doing. Recently, after several requests, I made a series of short YouTube clips on “How to Fold Large Fabrics when Ecoprinting” But wait-there is more! It also describes the process while using a dye blanket 🙂

IIt is all in my very recent newsletter and the home page here has the sign up box. But for those not yet on my list, I will see if I can replicate some of it here in this blog!

So why would you want to work large? For me it’s all about garment making.

In the 7 short videos I show how to use a dye blanket to create the borders. It’s not a tutorial about dyes, mordants, etc-you can use whatever you are used to-whether it is natural dyes or synthetic dyes.  It’s about folding and I show you two methods.

I will warn you now that I am in competition with the rooster below-I don’t know why he chose that time to crow (actually there are 2 of them crowing) But hey, it is an unedited tutorial complete with bloopers-and there are a lot!

 

As often as I look at YouTube, to actually put something up there is a lot more time consuming than I thought! That is one reason nothing is edited. I have noticed that video #1 is the most viewed which seems odd as the rest continue the process! If you want to see how it turns out you have to get to #7!

A few more large pieces

At the end of each clip is a link to the next one. Keep looking as YouTube pops up additional videos and they may not seem in order!

Link yo YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMuNDkCc46I&t=5s

Enjoy! Give me a thumbs up and like them and it motivates me to get another done!-Theresa

Consistency in Ecoprinting

My recent newsletter!

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 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/