Saturday, August 11, 2012

Guest Blogger Margaret Braun, Printing with natural dyes

Time for another guest writer and another PBI class. Margaret Braun is an artist in Edmonton, Alberta who has been to PBI three times, and last year was my roommate. This year she was in a class that I think would have been really fun, making dyes with natural and easily obtainable materials. Margaret has agreed to share a little bit about it here on my blog.

Stirring and Stirring and Stirring the Brew...

You may wonder, why bother using natural dyes?

Well, in a course at Paper & Book Intensive (PBI) 2012 entitled, "DIY Screen Printing with Natural Dyes and Materials" with Denise Bookwalter we found out! What fun it was!

Seemingly alive, the organic inks reflect the light in interesting ways. The subtle colours seem to harmonize with each other. One-of-a-kind colours become more mellow, softer, and more beautiful with the passage of time. There is something primitively satisfying about picking weeds and re-routing them into your dye pot to make something useful.

A couple of Margaret's prints from the class:





Concerns for the well-being of our planet can promote avenues for an alternative resource to printing. Vegetable-sourced colours do represent a realistic alternative -- using berries, leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, bark and insects. A mordant (we used alum) can help the dye colour become permanent.

The screen-printing process offers artists a way to produce multiples without the investment of a press and other large apparatus. The basic equipment consists of the screen (a wooden frame with a fine-mesh fabric stretched over it) and the squeegee. This is a rubber blade set in a handle with which the organic ink is pulled across a prepared photo-based screen. The mesh transmits an even coat of ink which adheres to the paper below the screen.

Basic Ink Recipe:
  • bring water to a boil in a pot over a stove burner
  • add plant matter of your choice (chop or break apart plant fibres) and stir occasionally
  • turn down the burner to simmer until you get the desired strength of colour - stir
  • strain
  • add mordant into the coloured liquid until dissolved - of course, stirring
  • sprinkle starch into the pot as you would when making gravy - more stirring
  • continue simmering until ink becomes the consistency of a thick gravy - continue stirring
  • remove from stove and let ink cool - stop stirring
Remember: Not all natural plant materials are safe to use. Search your local library for books or the internet for advice.

Natural dyestuffs produce unique colours that may vary widely from dye lot to dye lot. The temperature, growing soil, cooking times, volume of matter and other elements will cause variations. Most natural dyes are soft shades that reflect the natural world around us -- greens, yellows, blue, browns, grey, soft rose, peach, deep burgundies and a range of violets. Whether it is from the garden, grocery store or the other side of the road you will be sure to discover amazing colours! Most of all, experiment and enjoy your journey of your own personal discovery on a road of many colours!

1 comment:

Rhonda Miller said...

Thank you, Margaret, for writing this for my blog!!