November 29, 2018

Eco mark making

After last years experiments with cyanotype, eco printing and nature art, this  next year we are taking the process  to the next level to produce finished pieces from all this experimentation.

It is time to try out new fresh leaves and mordants  in the eco steaming mix.   Starting so late in the year last time there were only  brown brittle fallen leaves which worked really well but in a limited range of colours.

With such a long drawn out Autumn this year it has been much more satisfying collecting more varied  leaves to steam with.  It has also been possible to be more measured in selection rather than just collecting what was available.

I have extended the mark making into using rusty objects.  Using the same paper and mordants the results are not disimilar to that produced by organics.

..........the slugs and snails quickly  finished working their way through the pages for a new handmade folding book for the North West Book Artists .

Nature art is always a long term plan and process in the making.  This slow methodology  seems to agree with my temperment of long evolved thought and method in final production.

November 12, 2018

Eco Printing

As all know it takes longer to make than  it does to talk about it. Thinking also takes up much more time than talking, but the  longer  it all takes  the better the final outcome.  This process is not for the impatient.

Whilst working on a project in a local wood over the past year   I have been totally absorbed by the overwhelming experience of natures colours.  The results below are my attempts at eco-dyeing by steaming paper and leaves.

Herb Robert

The first steam was 75% successful the 2nd was equally so.  The third was better and the fourth will be based on studying the outcomes of the first 3.   Over the winter I intend to produce a chart of leaves and their colourings as a guide for next year.

(Most  instructional  blogs talking about the process are American or Australian and use leaves from their indigenious trees that we do not have,  unless found in botanical gardens.  Therefore experimentation is the word at the moment using native UK trees.)

I found this very cheap steamer in the supermarket sale it has 3 tiers so will take upto 6 rolls of material

The steam and fumes from steaming vegetation is very heady if not toxic so is best done in a well ventilated place away from the kitchen as you cannot use the steamer for anything else anyway.

A leaf maybe  a particular colour but this does not mean this will appear after steaming.  For example beech leaves can leave anything from cream through to orange, brown and or pink.  The most colourful autumnal maple leaves come out consistently a smudgy black.

Rolls of paper and leaves in their wrappings after a 1 hour steam, maturing over 4 days.  You can tell the success of the batch by how much colour seeps through the wrapping

As I started quite late in the autumnal season my window for collecting tree leaves was limited to falls which varied considerably in the outcome. This summer I tried  fresher material but in the end it was more down to careful mordenting all the materials than the timing of leaf collection. 

Put waste leaves back into the garden to mulch down

The longer you leave the steamed bundle unwrapped  eg 4 to 5 days the better the results.

October 30, 2018

Scent and colour of Autumn

A period of soft  after glow of autumn  seeds, fruits, nuts and transforming leaves. The scent of damp earth,  wet trees and ......leaves.  If only it could be bottled,  but then I suppose it would not be so special.

 Inspite of the long drought  this years crop of seeds, nuts and berries does not seem to be overly diminished.  Maybe in size but certainly not in quantity. Tall Beech trees are alive with the excited voices of  Tits and Finches feeding on their favourite beech mast.  Ash and Sycamore are leaning with the weight of winged seeds.  Barely had I finished the above sentence and the arctic  blew in and everything changed to dreary days and chill winds.

Despite the cold wind the trees are still holding onto their leaves   and now the sun has returned there is still a glow.  Loosing leaves reveals the true shape of a tree from the perfectly formed domed oak to the erratic expression of the hawthorn.


Many birds start to collect in large flocks of multiple families to search for food during the winter months. Many of them look like little brown jobs unless you are lucky enough to catch a blurred photo of one.

I also witnessed my first ever if small, murmuration  of Starlings over fields in Irby.  Many of the birds will be youngsters but the formation was perfect in its oscillation.

Waxing lyrical over autumnal colours leads me on to the exciting experiments I have been conducting over the past two weeks,  dyeing  and staining paper and cloth with rust.  The random quality of the image is what appeals the most in the process.  They  slowly emerge  over a 3 day period in a similar contemplative way that an idea might. The chemical processes  involved are quite complex and depend totally on the interaction of substrate and metal.  The more natural the more impact the result.

Combined with eco-printing it will be very interesting to see how things come together in a serendipitous way.