More leafy fun!

It’s less than a week until I leave for the UK to spend time catching up with family and friends. I have a ton of work to finish before I go, more on that later this week. Today I started work on a special gift with eco-printed pages.

First the rummage in the garden

Then bundling all the leaves and papers. I use ceramic tiles to keep the bundles tight and submerged.

Then off to the dye pot. And this was the beautiful result. I used a dusty pink commercial dye in the pot to tint the edges of the pages pink.

Next up binding and custom covers for this project and so much more! Okay enough procrastinating, back to the studio!

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2 festivals and a workshop

What a busy week! It started Sunday with a perfect afternoon at Chautauqua Institution, warm sun, gentle breeze off the lake and lots of vendors set up for an afternoon of local shopping. I got to visit with lots of friends and move some merchandise, a fun afternoon! 

Hot on the heels of that was the fourth of July holiday and some family time. I often have a hard time keeping track of what day it is in the summer, but a holiday in the middle of the week really messed me up!

Wednesday I headed out to a new teaching venue. The Springville Center for the Arts is housed in a beautiful old church.

I’m teaching a month long class exploring different ways of manipulating and playing with paper. We started out doing some eco-printing. Here’s my sample

I made this one using some heavy cotton paper I use for etching. After soaking the paper in a bath of water containing a little alum, I make a sandwich of leaves and paper, with a ceramic tile on the top and bottom of that leaf/paper sandwich. Then tie the bundle with some gardening twine or big rubber bands, you want the bundle snug so the leaves make contact with the paper but not really tight. Put the bundle in a large pan and cover with water. I added old coffee grounds to the water, but you can use any organic or commercial dye. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least an hour. Some people just steam their bundles, but I never have much success that way. Then unbundle and rinse in cold water. I hang mine on the washing line to dry.

Because I knew we were going to make a mess, we opted to work outside rather than in their classroom space. The workshop participants made some gorgeous papers. We used a RIT dye in denim blue instead of coffee, and I used a big turkey roaster crock pot to cook the bundles. We also discovered that clover from the garden added a bright yellow to those papers.

We also tried dyeing some paper using some other traditional dyes, tumeric made a gorgeous brilliant yellow, onion skins make a beautiful ochre and beets with vinegar in the bath gave us a delicate blush pink. 

We also experimented with dip dyeing using some commercial dyes. We really accomplished a lot in a short two hour class, and cleaned up just ahead of an incoming thunderstorm! Next week we are going to try some monoprinting techniques.

On my drive home I was eating some almonds in the car when disaster struck, I broke a tooth. So Thursday was an emergency trip to the dentist. Not fun. 

Today I spent the day at Bookfest at WNYBAC. I had a fabulous day despite the stupid tooth catching up with friends and I managed to sell enough books to cover my dental bills, win-win!

This was my last festival of the summer as I am heading back home to the UK at the end of the month.

Tomorrow I need to finish up a commission and finish my entry for a book exhibit. Monday that tooth is coming out, it broke below the gum and can’t be saved. And then I need to clear the decks of some restoration work before switching gears to finish an installation. How does summer fly by so fast?

one step too far?

It’s okay, relax, this is not a political post! Instead it is about the scroll from my last post, the one I didn’t think was quite finished. 

Friday night I decided to revisit it. I had a couple of pieces of dyed and printed paper that I didn’t use, so I thought I would try giving one of them the monigami treatment. One of the things I felt wasn’t working was how stiff and heavy the paper was. So I gently kneaded the test strip with some oil, and it softened up beautifully. Additionally the organic dye (onion skins) moved around a bit creating a mellow background tone, but the monoprint pretty much remained the same. I loved how this piece looked, so I decided to go for it and do the whole scroll.

I’m going to blame my next decision on the fact it was late on a Friday after a really busy week, but truth is I could have made this awful choice any time. I decided not to take the scroll apart. This was crazy thinking. Although the paper was quite stiff and heavy, the areas that had been folded in the dye bath were seriously compromised, add to that the size of the scroll, and disaster number one happened. As I worked the paper it tore badly in many places.

Those of you who know my work will no doubt be saying, but you love torn things you can mend, and this is true, BUT, the oiling also seemed to have obliterated the really delicate monoprinted images. It was ruined. 

Saturday I hung it out on my washing line to see if evaporating some of the oil would help. My poor neighbors never know what they might see hanging out there.

When I brought it back in later that day it still looked awful.

Yesterday I decided I would try one last thing to try and save it. I took the scroll apart, and gently ironed each piece of paper between clean sheets of absorbent paper with a very hot iron to try and pull the excess oil out. It was tedious and now my studio smells like a chip shop, but I think it might have saved the day.

As I removed the oil the printing began to re-emerge! I was afraid the all the extra texture added in the monigami process would still hide the more delicate printed images, but I think enough is still there.

So now all I have to do is repair all the tears caused by being too lazy to take the scroll apart at the beginning and then sew it all back together again. 

Lesson learned. Long thread, lazy girl.

Dyed paper experiment.

Sometime in the last couple of years I tried dyeing some paper using plant materials. I put them under weights, put them in the corner of the office, and forgot about them. By the time I accidentally rediscovered them many of the pages were moldy but I could salvage a few. Then I put them in a basket of other papers and forgot about them again.
Earlier this month I came across a call for work for a 4×6 exchange exhibit. You send a work and get a random work returned. So after rediscovering them for a second time, I pulled out one of those sheets of eco-dyed paper and tore it down to size. I started sewing.

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I thought this was okay, but not really wow, so inspired by the splotchy dye on the leaves I thought I would add some french knots.

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This was an awful decision. They were too much. Having gone too far I decided there was nothing to do but keep going, so I added more stitching using a finer thread almost the color of the paper.

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This was better, but I hated the french knots so a good friend and fellow artist Elena suggested I just take them out. Duh! Brilliant! And that was much better, but still unbalanced. I posted a picture on Facebook and several other art friends weighed in. Sometimes you need another set of eyes. Another artist, Anna, suggested adding more layers to the composition. Again, brilliant.
This paper had a mirror twin from where the leaves were pressed in. So I cut out the main leaf to add on top.

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Already I was feeling happier. So I embroidered around the edges and trimmed a little more with a scalpel. Then sewed through the layers.

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So here is the final composition. Better by committee. And off on its way to the exhibit.
One of the most amazing things about the internet is that it brings other artists into my studio. Sometimes you need fresh eyes and its great to be able to reach out to people you admire and trust.