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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Additional techniques added a WOW factor to the leather and everyone had gorgeous results!
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!
Below is the art studio transformed into a workshop space for my participants (we also hold painting workshops in here of course)
April and May are the time the heirloom “rescued roses” bloom at our location!
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!
So I am off to unload my car, (which looks like I moved half of my studio!) but adding
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
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!
Who doesn’t love the Holidays? And the optimism a new year always brings?
Regardless of how you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever your Holiday, the message is the same. And my message is for Peace, Happiness, Good Health and Prosperity for all my followers (and non-followers!) and their families!
I did not initially make the decision to create and sew my own garments with my hand dyed or ecoprinted silk. The creation of the fabric designs alone is labor intensive but I enjoy the process and it is no problem to roll up my shirtsleeves and hand paint, dye, collect leaves and botanically print them onto my fabrics. But how many scarves do you need at a show? You have to offer more than one thing and clothing was perfect! My skills were adequate-I had sewn clothing off and on for years. But hiring sewers to do the construction work seemed to make sense while I concentrated on creating the fabric designs. What I had not considered was my deadlines. No one will ever work as hard as yourself and eventually I knew that in order to compete and have clothing ready for my shows, it was time for me to bite the bullet!
Thus was born my own clothing lines. No matter what it is called, my own Slow Fashion, Artisanal Clothing, Hand crafted….it fits with what I do now and what I create! Low impact dyes (both natural and synthetic)sustainable and organic designs and clothing created entirely by hand and by me 🙂
So what IS “the “Slow Fashion” movement?” In a nutshell:
“Slow Fashion (Clothing) is the antithesis of fast fashion. It considers the ethics and sustainability of garments, values provenance and artisan skills while focusing on timeless style, comfort and connection. It is about thoughtful, ethical, creative and sustainable ways to enjoy the garments we wear every day while minimizing our material footprint on the world”-from Textile Beat
It does not get much slower than how I do it! I choose certain days to collect my leaves and ecoprint my fabric. (Weather plays a part in this) I choose other days to hand paint my fabric or create designs on the silk. Then I will choose yet another day to sew. In that way I slowly but steadily work on creating my fashions for the shows I attend or for the custom orders I receive.
So the logistics of sewing with silk are simple. It’s hard, it’s slippery and I discovered that no amount of YouTube videos was going to teach me like just doing it! I dusted off my Brother CS6000i. I should add that as a self employed artist I am rich in art and poor in cash. So this very cost effective sewing machine is under $200. For most of us, whether your machine has 16 or 600 stitches starts to become irrelevant in basic, good construction. Re-homing my old skills meant a lot of practice and learning new things in new machines.
But perhaps the best bang for my buck was the Brother 1034D serger I purchased a few years ago! I was determined to master it (my earlier sewing skills never included a serger!) and how quickly you learn anything depends on how badly you want to learn it! This Brother Serger was another “under $200” super investment and I have been able to double my output with some of my garments in the time it saves! I will add that there are some great YouTube videos on using both of these machines from threading to cleaning them. The best ones I found came from Sewing Mastery. (that tip will save you getting lost for 8 hours on YouTube!)
Serging is no longer the “to do before hemming” part of sewing. (ie: serge, fold up hem, sew again) A good tight, serged edge IS the hem!
But there are a few other workhorses now in my arsenal of machines. Nothing beats an older machine-all metal and sturdiness for additional, harder sewing. For instance, the Brother CS6999i cannot handle my leather. No problem.
I bring our my 1954 Singer featherweight. These little workhorses have become expensive and the darling of the Quilting world :-). But you can find them reasonably priced if you look hard enough. With a leather needle, mine can handle basic leather trim and embellishment on my clothing. But when I move into heavier leather and my ecoprinted hides, I pull out the super workhorse! My 1908 Singer 29-4! These were built to last! A table makes it easier to work flat but with only foot power to run it, well, it can be used anywhere! This is for my heavier leather such as my shoes and handbags.
I found that with patience and practice, the silk I most worked with could be easily managed. From 8mm Habotai to 12mm charmeuse to the much heavier silk noil, all require some machine adjustments and tweaking.
But the end results are beautiful garments designed to showcase not just talent but determination, perseverance and pure hard work in an ethical, slow clothing movement. And nothing feels better than to have accomplished it all by yourself!
If you enjoy the idea or art of ecoprinting, my first suggestion for a true understanding and appreciation of this art form is to take a Walk. There is simply no other way to embrace Ecoprinting without exploring the world of the plants you use, up close and personal. The outdoor world you thought you knew unveils little secrets that lead to a better understanding of the “hows and whys” of ecoprinting. I’m not talking about being knowledgeable in “name those plants”. I’m talking about getting up close and personal with the moods of your favorite trees and plants. It’s a world of getting to know the growth cycles from early spring to fall. The imprints that plants share with the artist vary from day to day, week to week..even the time of day! get to know your walking trail.
Carry something like your camera phone and notebook and if you select leaves, photograph them and note the date and time. Become your own eco scientist! I can pretty much guarantee that you will not remember the details unless you record them 🙂
It is probably the artist in me that looks for visual harmony, details and patterns in even the smallest of plants. Look up, look down. There is something of note in your eco journal in both locations!
The additional benefits of your walk are numerous! Beyond the obvious exercise benefit, the subtle influence it has on your soul, your psyche and your mind offers a major calming influence in our lives. In a world of daily electronic bombardment embrace your time without it. I have several blog posts that spend time with traveling these roads. Take a look at them on my website and enjoy that journey with me!
What’s Happening and working with a mordant!
For centuries, dyers have known that natural dye colors are elusive on fabric unless the colors are “set” with a mordant. A “new kid on the block” is a mordant called Titanium Oxalate. And I’ll share my experiments with you!
But first, let me share what is happening! Click on the highlighted links for images and details!
Exploring Titanium Oxalate
It’s a big word huh? Well for those who may not know, the word mordant is derived from Latin and means “to bite.” It is what “fixes” dye colors to whatever fabric you are using and its uses have been recorded back to ancient Chinese and Egyptian times! The two most popular mordants in ecoprinting have been alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) and iron. Titanium Oxalate has become the new star among dyers, yet it too has been around while. Doing some basic research, I found repetitive descriptions such as “These double salts may be applied to textiles and other substances without injury to the texture or material.” and “Titanium salts are now employed in both Europe and America as mordant and dye in the manufacture of leather goods, having proved of especial value for use on chrome tanned leathers” and “Titanium salts are currently extensively developed in replacement of chromium salts for environmentally friendly titanium-tanning techniques used as an alternative mordant for use with natural dyes.” That’s a lot of information (and only the start of it!)
To further confuse things, natural dye and ecoprint Facebook groups are full of conflicting information. Through my own experiments, what I know for sure is that when combined with the tannin in leaves when ecoprinting, titanium oxalate will produce a distinct range of oranges!
So in this photo, on the left is silk with an indigo and iron water blanket applied. On the right is a titanium oxalate and indigo blanket applied. The silk on the right is actually a bit greener than shown in this image. As an artist, it makes sense for yellow and blue to mix and create green., thus the abundance of green in the silk on right.
In the image below, I simply alternated dipping maple leaves and maple seed pods into an iron or Titanium Oxalate solution. Can you see the difference?
For me, this “new kid on the block” is better in small doses. I love the control of dipping leaves where I can stagger the bold oranges in any manner that I like! That is what I did on the two examples below. For me, less is truly more 🙂
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As a long time painting artist, I know of hundreds of ways to create art on canvas and paper. I think nothing of switching from pastels to oils to alcohol inks without too much thought. Without realizing it over the course of years, I had developed an expertise in many mediums simply by using them over and over 🙂
So as I began to expand my silk painting it did not take me long to realize that there were as many methods to add color to silk as there was to canvas! I remember my early confusion at reading about dyes and paints in the big catalogues and trying to make sense out of conflicting information!
And of course I wanted to skip the learning curve and get right into the silk art! Think about it: All those methods such as steaming, not steaming, heat setting, instant set, dye paints, dyes, fabrics, types of silk……the list of what to know seemed dauntless at first!
In college I studied printmaking, so carving my own blocks to print on silk was not a problem. I mean there is a huge industry in the arts devoted to stamping but I wanted mine to be unique!
Carving 5 or 6 blocks of just horses has given me so many options for variety and I know that no one else has those images!
And then of course there was the method I use most often, drawing with resist! I love the water based resists. I am not into suffering for my art 🙂 and melting wax, using the equivalent of oils in resists just wasn’t for me.
So making stretcher bars (from canvas stretchers!) has been a solution to drawing out my designs then adding the dyes. There is something zen-like in hand painting anything and watching silk dyes flow up to the resist lines is very much like painting in watercolors…except the resist acts as a “dam” to control the flow of dye.
And then there are the dyes that required steaming and I found rice steamers at the Goodwill that worked! I went from scarves to clothes and love to work my large pieces into garments!
So in my hand painted silk, I love to experiment. I love the colors, the designs and often incorpoarte both into my ecoprinted! There is nothing more beautiful than silk drying on the clothesline!