Plant dyeing trials & tribulations

For a long time now I have wanted to experiment with plant dyeing papers for use with my calligraphy. The perfect time was the weekend of a football grand final.  So with a little help from my friend and brilliant textile artist Kirsten Ingemar I have finally gotten around to it with mixed results. Below are the outcomes with mostly all happy accidents.

I have used plants from my own garden, boiled them all up together with just the tiniest bit of iron sulphate which immediately turned the hot-pot a silvery black. David cut down and sanded a rake handle for me to use to wrap my papers around, interwoven with leaves and bound with rubber bands.

I am no expert but I am happy with the results and am now looking forward to experimenting with other mordants and papers.





Full sheets

The process

 Waiting. Waiting. Waiting!

 Rinsing before unrolling. Then rinsing each sheet separately.

I really enjoyed this process. I was like the proverbial piggy when the unfurled papers revealed themselves.


ronnie said…
oh what fun! but do tell gemma - what paper have you used in them thar sheets? (I've been itching and twitching to get to dye work... its been all I can do to keep my hands out of a pot!)
Gemma Black said…
Ah ... now there's the rub Ronnie. I don't have a name for the paper BUT it was pure white with a slight dimple surface. I reckon it was about 120gsm - 130gsm so not really a heavy weight. The size is about A3. And in this pot I did 12 sheets with room to wrap more sheets on ... :-)

Now that I have had a little success in the next batch I am going to use some 180gsm Arches watercolour paper and try another mordant like copper sulphate and then I'll trial some alum.

The rubber bands left the most extraordinary marks - like barb-wire, so I shall use them again.

I bought this stainless steel pot from Big W. Cost $19. No way was I going to use my scan pans :-)
susan bowers said…
These results are fantastic Gemma. Like so many I have been keen to try some plant dying but have not been all that captivated by the array of colours. The results you have achieved by adding the iron have given a brilliant effect and will encourage me, down the track, to have a go. Thank you SO much for sharing this insight and your wonderful results. x
Gemma Black said…
Wow, Susan, talk about coincidence. I have just had a little gathering of arty friends and the four of us are preparing for an exhibition in February. They came to my place to meet each other (I am the common link) plus to see the artwork I have of each persons work.

We did an art walk around the house and they all loved (of course)your three stunning works that hang above our bed. I am still very much in love with them ... the iris sibiricus, the penstemon and the agapanthus.

I am glad you like the plant dyeing results, thank you for the kind words ... now I am off to the hardware store to find some copper sulphate. Thanks Susan!
Roann Mathias said…
Awesome!!! Love it that you are combining this process with calligraphy!
Gemma Black said…
Thank you Roann. My intention for experimenting with plant dyeing & pot-boiling paper was always to create grounds for lettering. This is what interests me most. I have experimented in the past with layering plants interwoven though full sheets of fine art paper and soaking them in "the bath tub". This had some effect but not nearly as wonderful as the pot-boiling method. I must say I am loving it and I am hooked.
Jane Blundell said…
These are gorgeous! Another textile artist you may consider contacting is Pam de Groot- she does felting using plant dyes that look very like your papers. Her blog is easy to find.
I wonder how light-fast the colour will be on paper?

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