First Art from Beyond The Great Transition: Eco Collographs with Healing Sumac and Turmeric, Light and Emily Dickinson

Picking up from where I left off before The Great Transition – which has taken all of six months and still living in some chaos – I was very happy to find a few hours to make a batch of eco collographs. I was overjoyed to discover that there were four staghorn sumac trees – Rhus typhina – in my new garden and they are right now aflame with autumn colour and I’ve already frozen a bag of leaves and fruits to dye with and sometime soon, I hope.

I couldn’t find my watercolour papers so in desperation used cartridge paper pages torn from a sketchbook. A couple of years ago I started off this book by dyeing a batch of the pages with tea and another batch with turmeric. Then couldn’t take them any further.

Sometimes, you just have to wait.

Turmeric is well-known for its healing properties.

I didn’t know about the medicinal properties of sumac. Vitality Magazine carries an article listing its various healing uses by Michael Vertolli, Living Earth School of Herbalism.

The berries can be used to make a refreshing summer lemonade, apparently; but note that some folks can have an allergic reaction to sumac, particularly those with nut allergy, as sumac belongs to the same botanical family as cashew.

I love the glow of the turmeric in the second print, above. It reminds me of stained glass and that not all light is white. Also known as polychromatic light.

And believe it or not, looking into the issue of Light led me to Diotima of Mantinea and his Ladder of Love. I will dally awhile with Diotima and write about the flirtation in a future blog.  Meanwhile, Hammeringshield – a collection of essays, one of which deals with Light, looks like an interesting read.

Light and Love.

And it seems I have another one for my Herbiarum Vocabularum – Sumac.

The great 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson created an herbiarum, I have read (, which “… took the form of an album of dried flowers paired with notes that she assembled as a young woman, described in a New York Times review of a 2006 facsimile (see illustration) in this way:

‘In page after page of these richly detailed reproductions, the young Dickinson comes to life — in the delicate flourishes of the handwritten labels that fix the more than 400 specimens to the page, in the graceful and exacting way she arranged the plants throughout the album and in the selection of plants themselves, most of them picked within walking distance of her home in Amherst, Mass.’

The review then goes on to explain the significance of flowers to Dickinson’s work. She “sent her friends more than 30 poems accompanied by pressed flowers and bouquets. Flowers, both as physical objects and as the subject of her writing, became one of her primary means of communication.”

An insightful biopic of Dickinson which I watched recently is A Quiet Passion.

Dickinson also wrote many poems in which she used light as a carrier. Compare There’s a Certain Slant of Light, Under the Light, It’s Like the Light.

And enjoy the fabulous Barbara Bonney (one of my favourite singers) performing Copland’s 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson. I’ll have to have a go at singing this cycle myself.

Enjoy whatever of the above, discard the rest.  I’ll be back soon, lighting my way with Chinese lanterns.




About AnnIsikArts

Artist/Writer/Chess Enthusiast/Musician (Singer)/Gardener
This entry was posted in Aesthetics, Art, Artist Sketchbooks, Collage & Assemblage, Eco/Natural Dyeing and Printing, Nature Journal, Printmaking, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to First Art from Beyond The Great Transition: Eco Collographs with Healing Sumac and Turmeric, Light and Emily Dickinson

  1. Susan says:

    Creating a herbarium was a thing people did in those days, a 19th century thing to do. We unfortunately are lost in technology. I do love seeing your eco prints.


    • AnnIsikArts says:

      Hi Susan. Thanks. Yes, we are lost in technology, but ironically, it is how we got to know one another. Balance is always the thing, isn’t it? I love your beehives. I could keep bees where I am now and have at times thought I’d like to do that; maybe next year, when we are settled … Loved the pictures of your exhibition. And hope that the hurricane didn’t cause too much trouble for you. We sat behind hurricane shutters for a week on Grand Cayman when Mitch was in direct collision. I still have the tracking map and indeed have used a facsimile of it as a cover for one of my art books. We were lucky as Mitch veered off at the very last moment, but caused devastation on Honduras. 🙂


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