Faerie Narrative: A Suite of Two Eco Prints

eco-print-on-cardboard-backing-paper-ii-25-february-2017What the photos don’t show are the mica-like specs embedded in these papers, which are the cardboard backings of watercolour-faced boards, separated into sheets by peeling when wet.

Some of the specs are pink. They glitter constantly reminding me of tiny lights in the depths of a wood. This alters the scale of the pieces. The stalks (bramble still with their dead and dried fruits attached) become trees. The tiny red maple leaf print becomes undergrowth. The conical indentations are actually Pussy Willow buds on their stalks (yes, spring is coming). They have acted as resists in the dyeing/printing process. What are they? Fire torches – a procession through the forest.

eco-print-on-cardboard-backing-paper-25-february-2017Where am I today? Why, I’m in the realm of faerie.

The prints are mirror images of each other. They were part of a mixed fabic/paper batch boiled in a dye of alkanet and red onion skins.

Narratives of faerie and of mirror.

In these, I’m reminded of the illustrations of Arthur Rackham.



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Eco Print on Watercolour Backing Board Sheet using Found Bramble Leaves, Eucalyptus, Found Japanese Red Maple

Eco Print on Watercolour Backing Board Sheet using Found Bramble Leaves, Eucalyptus, Found Japanese Red Maple

Another from a recent eco print batch. The paper ground is one of the layers from the cardboard backing that fell away, after the boiling process, from my eco printing experiment using watercolour board.

The wet cardboard fell apart into separate sheets. I peeled apart those that didn’t.

Cardboard is a conglomerate of sheets of paper adhered together usually with a starch adhesive. Here’s a link which explains in greater depth, without in any way striving to entertain, the making of cardboard.

I like the chalky (starch?) and archaic look of  the print above. Together with the indentations from stalks and other ghost prints, it looks like fossil remains. The stains around the edges are from the agrimony in which this batch of prints were dyed.

Yeh, so, Derrida? Well, I got this strange feeling when I was peeling those wet sheets apart. I almost expected to find things sandwiched between them. Definitely, I wanted to. When  later I used the sheets as grounds for the batch of eco prints that included this one, and was separating them after the boiling process, I missed one of the leaf sandwiches.

When I came across it later, I got the idea that it was my hope and expectation – my mind – that had created the find. It was like I’d slipped in time into the future to make the print that I’d come across later in the past. Another oddity in this, is that this phenomenon of slipping in time into the future seems also to have happened elsewhere a couple of times in the very recent past.

We like to watch University Challenge on TV. For non-UK viewers this is a quiz show between student contestants of universities/university colleges. So the questions relate to advanced levels of the whole spectrum of academic subjects.

Peculiarly, twice last week I answered questions correctly that were wrong. Uh? Yep. My right answers were wrong because I gave the right answer to the question that was going to be asked next. In the situation, this is a bit too extraordinary to call a coincidence. The following example (which are genuine UC questions) illustrates why:

1. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, what relation is the murdered Tybalt to Lady Capulet?   My answer would have been: Butane.
2. Alkanes are hydrocarbon compounds with only a single carbon bond. The first four members of the series are: methane, ethane (molecular model above), propane and which other? 
My answer: Potable.

My answer to question 1 (butane) was the answer to question two and my answer to question 2 was the answer to question 3.

(Incidentally, the above are the first three questions out of a short UC test of 10. I got 7/10 right – not bad for an old dame).

This oddity I made me think about how we access answers to questions when we go looking for them. Or access meaning. And peeling.

Derrida was an Algerian philosopher who developed Deconstructionism, also known as Post Structuralism, a method of interpreting text. Scholars are going to groan and possibly froth at the mouth here, but to me, in the proverbial nutshell, Deconstructionism means that the interpretation of text is a subjective matter.  And lo and behold, I find I’ve been deconstructing all my life. And not just text, though to a Deconstructionist, everything is text.

So, when I start feeling strange when peeling two sheets of wet paper apart, it’s like I’m on a walk and I’ve come to a crossroads where there’s a signpost. In this case, one of the signs reads: Peeling. So off I trot down the road to Peeling. And I come to Derridaville.

Tomorrow I might take the same walk, come to the same crossroads with the same signpost, and it will lead to another ville. I might even find myself in the meta-ville of Revealing. As peeling can equal revealing.

Deconstructionism would have us on a sort of Möbius Strip kind of walk. There is a constant, or meta-constant, however that Deconstructionism doesn’t embrace. The purpose of textual interpretation is to find one’s way home.  It might involve slipping time. I’d better read some Hawking.

Define home.

Somehow I have to manifest this in artwork. Poo! For now, it’s time I slipped into a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.




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Eco Print/Encaustic Watercolour Postcard IV


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Eco Print/Encaustic Watercolour Postcard III


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Eco Print/Encaustic on Watercolour Postcard II


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Eco Print/Encaustic Postcard on Watercolour Paper I


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Dramatic Narratives: More Eco Print Experiments

Bramble leaves in conversation wth a Plane tree leaf

Bramble leaves in conversation wth a Passion-flower leaf

Nature in conversation. It is happening all around us. I think the pre-industrialised world could hear it. Indeed, we were part of Nature’s conversation. We knew it. Because we knew that we also were Nature. Then along came The Enlightenment – oh, if ever a word was a lie – and we divorced ourselves from Nature; Nature became something separate, a commodity, to be exploited, to its exhausted limit. The limit is on the horizon. And thus, so are we.


And so, when I unbundled these latest eco prints, they reminded me – they spoke to me – of this. They said, “We are here and you are here. And we are in conversation with each other.” And I thought, “there can’t be anything better than this.” (For somehow, being in conversation with Nature is the same as being in conversation with the Great Loveaka G-d – it’s a form of prayer, more real, more dynamic, than gathering in dusty, musty buildings once a week reciting creeds.

Unbundled isn’t quite the right word, as these prints were sandwiched between two ceramic tiles and bound with rubber bands and string, then boiled in Alkanet for two hours. I mixed the fabric with watercolour paper postcards and other grounds, just to see.

eco-print-iii-on-cotton-lining-fabric-17-february-2017The fabric is from a Paris street market. I call it lining fabric because it came in a bundle that had been cut to the shape of a jacket. The jacket clearly never got finished. I wonder why? An incomplete narrative.

eco-print-iv-on-cotton-lining-fabric-17-february-2017They are also over-dyes, as I’d tried eco printing them before and so they carry the marks – or scars! – of former attempts to converse with Nature. Seems I got better at it. I hope. Because it’s what I want. Not making pretty patterns merely, but images that remind me of all the above.

P S  The Passion Flower leaves are from a climber we planted last spring in front of and to grow up the front of our allotment shed. It’s covered one side and has even continued to grow through the winter. A few beautiful, intricate flowers even blossomed on it last summer. I didn’t realise it was evergreen and was astonished that the leaves print bright yellow.








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Below the Line and Back of the Cosmos – Some Eco Prints on Watercolour Board

eco-print-xii-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017I have art papers and supports of every kind and in every size, just about. Examined under a microscope, some will be found to be dusted with the sands of Dubai and Grand Cayman, the Isle of Sheppey, the D-Day beaches of Normandy, the Moon.
Sand from the Moon?

eco-print-xiii-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017No, my art materials and I have not been to the moon, sadly – that would have been my most memorable poetic walk – but some of the materials in my studio date back to the time I held a moon rock in the palm of my hand.

That was at university when I was doing my fine art degree. I’d gone to a public lecture in the Physics Department. It was delivered by a guest speaker from Geneva – the European Space Agency – Cern – Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire – now Organisation Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire.

eco-print-viii-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017The lecture was about Halley’s Comet, which means it was 1986. That’s when the comet was last visible in the sky. As it turns up every 75-6 years, it’s possible to see it twice in a lifetime and there was one man in the audience who stood up and announced he’d seen as a boy its previous appearance, which must have been in 1910-11.

eco-print-xi-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017What’s Halley’s Comet got to do with moon rocks?

Well, nothing. The lecturer went on to talk about the work of CERN in relation to moon trips and had brought the rocks along to show us.


eco-print-x-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017He also talked about an idea to colonise the moon for the production of oxygen to transport back to earth, since we were struggling to produce enough here on earth, due to deforestation, the expanding global population, pollution …

The costs of colonisation were prohibitive however, so the idea was going nowhere. I wanted to stand up and ask why the cheaper solution, of leaving the trees alone, was not an option.

eco-print-ix-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017I didn’t really hold the moon rock in my hand. They were sealed off in a glass case and all we were allowed to do was to file past them at the end of the lecture.

I thought they had a kind of atmosphere, however, which was a bit odd since the moon has no atmosphere.

eco-print-vii-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017I wasn’t thinking of that kind of atmosphere, though. And I think these eco prints have an atmosphere. Each print has been made by sandwiching leaves between a pair of two watercolour paper boards. The process transfers the dye from the leaves to the watercolour paper and creating on each board, a mirror image of the other.

I like the way the leaves react with each other, sometimes orbiting, sometimes attracting sometimes repelling one another. Some seem to be disintegrating, burning up like meteorites entering the earth’s atmosphere; others are little more than ghosts in the background, like the cosmic microwave background from the beginning of time, that is only now just passing by as I write.

Image four has a moon presiding over it. A chestnut moon. It’s actually a print from a green eucalyptus leaf. Other leaves I used in this suite were maroon-coloured bramble, a chervil-type leaf, fern and the lovely and surprising yellow is from St John’s Wort leaves, from a bush in our garden. I scavenged the others from nearby woods, slipping and sliding on paths made muddy by recent rain.

eco-print-v-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017Maybe the chemicals in the rain helped get such definite transfers of the leaves’ colours onto the paper. Then, the watercolour boards were thick and so when I placed tiles either end of the pile and secured it – with a lot of rubber bands – I was able to get a really tight sandwich.

I boiled it for two hours in an agrimony dye I’ve had for a couple of years and not used. I like that it’s stained the edges of the paper and here and there, bled further into it, creating muddy tributaries.

I also like the embedments created by the stalks of the leaves being pressed hard down into the paper. I like that I can have a variety of mirror images, depending on which way I arrange the cards. Oh and PS, the cardboard backing falls away from the watercolour paper during the boiling process. It falls off in layers, leaving only the first layer remaining.

eco-print-vi-on-watercolour-board-11-february-2017There isn’t a single leaf here that isn’t descended from what the cosmic microwave background has recorded, from that great first explosion of nothing into something. Nonsensical of course, the notion of nothing exploding. You know what I mean. Mind you, our model of the universe is under revision following last year’s discovery (possibly) of a fifth force, to join the four other forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces. If true, Physics will undergo a revolution.

These prints have the atmosphere of etchings, aquatints.

Mitakuye Oyasin,” as the Lakota/Dakotas would say; “We are all related.” Why is it that our aboriginal cultures have always known what science has taken centuries to catch on to?


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Koza Han (Silk Market) Bursa, Turkey: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Adbar

Silk Market (Koza Han), Bursa, Turkey

At the same time I made the eco prints on watercolour postcards at the end of January, I did some eco print experiments on raw silk bought in the silk market – Koza Han – in Bursa, Northern Turkey.

Koza Han (literally meaning Cocoon Inn) dating to 1491 is famous and I was able to get hold of a good quantity of raw silk at a very reasonable price. And make good contacts for future purchases into the bargain.

eco-print-ii-on-raw-silk-from-bursa-9-february-2017Bursa (a few hours due south of Istanbul) has a rich history. It was the first capital of Ottoman Turkey. The city was referred to as Hüdavendigar (God’s gift) during the Ottoman period. Now, it is Yeşil Bursa (Green Bursa) because of its proliferation of parks and gardens and the vast, richly varied forests which surround it. Folks go there to ski at the resort of Mount Uludağ. (Sublime Mountain). The mausoleums of the early Ottoman sultans are located in Bursa. The city’s landmarks include numerous buildings dating to the Ottoman period. There are also thermal baths and several museums, one of which is a museum of archaeology.

From Turkey Travel Planner:  “Nearly all silk would at some point pass through the Old Silk Market in Bursa which was home to dozens of caravanserais known as Hans. Even as late as the 1960s one would see people transporting countless sacks filled with silkworm cocoons to the Koza (cocoon) Han.eco-print-iii-on-raw-silk-from-bursa-9-february-2017
These days, the ground floor level of the Koza Han has been tastefully turned into a lovely tea garden with plenty of seating available.”

I got some interesting prints from my Bursa raw silk. I used the yellow plane tree (Platanus) leaves I collected and froze last autumn, and red Cotinus, green Eucalyptus, red Acer palmatum (Maple) again from a batch I froze.

And I used Kathy Hays’ basic bundling technique from her eco print video workshop. (See yesterday’s blog for a You Tube sampler of her course).

eco-print-vii-on-raw-silk-from-bursa-9-february-2017While these are experiments, I did try to arrange the plant matter into satisfying compositions on the squares I cut from the silk, which meant I could note what the dyeing process added to a particular arrangement.

And figure out why so I can try and reproduce, or eliminate an effect or effects from future work.

This way of working  seems to scratch more than my artistic itches. In the eco printing process I am also scientist/chemist. Alchemist? Witch?

And finally 34e4r.  What?

Keeks at Rookery Nook Diss August 2016The characters in italics were made by my cat -Keeks – who walked over my computer keyboard while I was typing this blog.

34e4r has a certain symmetry, visually, with that e flanked on either side by 4. It has a lyrical sound, too. Try saying it over and over: three four ee four ar. I tried singing it and will include it in my vocal warm-up as it includes three different vowel sounds (ee, oh, ah) and two consonants (th and f).

34e4r is also composition – musical composition. In terms of my work, it expands it to encompass sight and sound. I am already thinking compositionally in terms of sight and sound.  Am I being reminded of this, with 34e4r? To make certain to consider, when arriving at compositions using eco prints in composition with other elements, not to forget to think in terms of sound, of music? Maybe it is a nudge, even, to get on with it.

As daft as it may seem, I have had many experiences to suggest that inspiration and ideas – and prods to get on with it – often come in strange forms, including cat-shaped ones. I mean, it does seem rather much of a coincidence that, while I am in the actual process of writing about composition, my cat should choose to walk across my keyboard, typing with her paws, 34e4r.














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Kathy Hays’ Eco Print Video Workshop and Experimenting on Raw Silk from Koza Han

I keep writing about Kathy Hays’ video eco print workshop in my recent experiments with eco printing and natural dyeing, so I thought I’d post a You Tube video taster of the workshop.

eco-print-iii-on-raw-silk-from-bursa-9-february-2017In my next blog I’m going to write more about recent experiments on raw silk purchased in the Koza Han (silk market) in Bursa, Turkey, using Kathy’s basic bundling technique.

The image to the left is one of the suite. Some of the more interesting marks came from leaves I’d left (hmm – accidentally) to soak in ferrous sulphate solution for a week.

I’ll be arranging more of these accidents, oxymoronically, in future. As long as you survive it, an accident is a gift in disguise.

Enjoy the video.





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