They turned black and hard, like they had been smoked over an open fire. The leaf patterning was obliterated, except when held up to light.
I forgot about them. Then yesterday the idea came to me that I should boil them furiously in a pan of water.
I thought the wax might melt and float off.
I had nothing to lose and that’s exactly what happened. After a few minutes on the boil, I lifted each print out with tongs and laid them flat, then dabbed the water out with a kitchen towel. Lo and behold, the pattern had returned.
I then ironed them dry. Not all of the wax had lifted, but almost, and the boiling distributed more evenly what was left in the paper. I was astonished that none of the colour had lifted. I thought it might all wash away. So the process also confirmed that the botanical dyes are permanently fixed into the paper.
I love the colours – the acid yellows, the smoky atmospheres. The pink is from the recycled sari silk yarn I used to bind the bundles. The black leaves were the last of the leaves of 2015 from my Japanese Maple.
In reality they are dark red and I had frozen a bagful, without knowing whether they’d give up their colour on defrosting.
In eco printing, the colour of the leaf or flower doesn’t necessarily print the same colour. It’s all about the chemicals that make up the colour, how they respond to what they are exposed to, including the material they are bundled into, the water they’re boiled or steamed in, the mordant added to the water, et cetera. In this case, I added vinegar to the water, increasing the acidity. When I have access to more leaves I’ll try adding alum (adding alkalinity) and see what happens.
I think I can let these go. I’ll frame them and sell them as a duo in my Etsy shop.
Anyone done the same or similar salvage work to a failure?