Thursday, 31 January 2008

More on madder and something on inks

This is just a brief update so that you all know I am still alive. I have been away on holiday to Madeira where apart from chasing up lost luggage I took photos of dragon trees ( on the left ,one species a baby, on the right native dragon trees) and spent the rest of the time lazing by the pool reading-the Kite Runner-amongst others. ( However I also read through Medieval Paints and Inks of which more later)
Since I have got back I have been trying to get my madder dyeing right and thanks to both Dorothy and Leena for supportive comments. I was really starting to tear my hair out when a new delivery of dyes arrived including madder and a new batch has produced a lovely bright orangy red. This has been a very wet autumn and my studio converted from a brick garage is a bit damp and I wonder whether the madder had deteriorated. I am also now dyeing the merino in 100g lots in slow cookers of which I now have four which leaves my five hot rings to mordant and dye my other commission of 600g of welsh wool in 6 different colours for a school project in a nearby town as well as dyeing 400g of merino tops in indigo as a first stage to getting a green with dyers greenweed. I dyed the merino in indigo first and then put it straight into the mordant bath and no surplus indigo was rinsed off -amazing!
I decided to overdye some of my huge amounts of orangy brown merino in indigo to give a lovely warm brown, as brown is something I am usually very short of especially a warm brown, the rest will end up in packs and kits as I have quite a lot of workshops coming up.
The new delivery of dyes included dragons blood . I was expecting a resin but it has come as a bright red powder very like lac. hmm interesting. Well off to start to read 40 Centuries of Ink which also arrived while I was away but not before I am off to see Leighs blog ( see comments) as she has sent me an enticing message!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Workshops and stuff on madder

A not too brilliant photo of my most recent workshop .

I find it really difficult to take photos and do the teaching and stuff and so tend to just quickly point my camera and click. The workshop was called Leaves of Gossamer Felt . The students played around with creating semi transparent layers, with gossamer light felts , adding fabrics and other fibres and yarns and as always I wished I was doing it too! I thought it was a light easy relaxing workshop because making felt with merino 100's is very easy-a little bit of rubbing and hey presto it is done , even Enys who grows my dye plants and who comes to winter workshops because she can't garden has to admit it is quick. Enys is famous for being completely impatient with felt demanding "is it done yet"? , after she has rubbed for 10 seconds or so. Some of the students however felt that I was a bit deluded about it being easy, but soldiered on and made beautiful pieces which I forgot to photo and were very pleased to find that there was a pick me up in the form of a locally made bara brieth ( a traditional Welsh rich bread) in the afternoon. The students ranged from complete beginners to experienced feltmakers, some made small pieces, two a wall hanging, and five made fine felt scaves, one so fine it really was like a cobweb.

I came back feeling unusually exhausted. Is this my age :( or the time of year or do I need a holiday? However I was pleased with the way the fine merino took the colour and also how open and easy to use the fibres were. I didn't do enough purple however and prehaps rather too much yellow and as always I can think of a 100 and one ways I could have done things better.

I am having the most frustrating time with dyeing merino( 64's or 23 micron) red with madder for my medieval hat maker. The problem is that scaling up from dyeing 100g to 350g at one go does not seem to be working. So far I have produced oranges, orange brown, a small amount of red, a bright orange and as I have spent the last five years really getting on top of dyeing with madder I am feeling very cross & frustrated. 100% madder dyeing 100g of merino in a slow cooker set at 80 degrees C produces a deep red, 100% madder dyeing 200g of merino in the same slow cooker mordanted the same way and everything else the same produced a dark orange. I am so frustrated at this I could jump up and down and scream. I wish I lived in time past where I could blame someone or something for casting an evil eye on my madder bath and I have eyed my springer spaniel accusingly. However I have to acknowledge that I am doing something but what?!

sigh! the life of a natural dyer can be hard!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Merino 18.5 micron ( Merino 100's)

I haven't really got a grasshopper mind, it is just that I usually have three or possibly four projects on the go at any time. Just as a recap I am spinning a shetland /ryeland cross & silk, reading about inks and this is the one that has been ongoing , dyeing and felting with merino 18.5 micron or more commonly known, at least in the UK ,as Merino 100's. The first measurement is the micron width of the fibres, the second I can't remember something to do with how much you can spin with a certain weight of fibre -you can see why we are changing to to micron width it is much easier! The more usual merino is 23 micron or known as 64's.
This is for my next workshop Leaves of Gossamer Felt on Saturday. The picture on the right is a wallhanging made in merino 100's about 134 cm long and 34cm wide. The photograph looks rather dark to my surprise since I took it outside in sunlight and I also had to trim off the wavy edges as other wise you saw bits of bush so so I will retake it when it is situ at the Chiron Centre in Ruthin ,an alternative healing centre ,and a restored medieval building , which is the most fabulous space.
The wall hanging would equally well have made a fabulous stole it is so light and soft as it is only two fine layers thick. A friend of mine describes merino 100's as the nearest you can get to sheep's silk

Friday, 11 January 2008

Paint or Ink, & Chinese ink

I had wondered whether what I made with my concentrated dyes were inks or paints. The suggestion from various members of Natural Dyes Online was that it depended on whether you used brushes or a pen.

below is quote from a paper on Chinese Ink I found interesting.
" Typical artist's colorants are either dyes which form a true solution or may be precipitated onto an inorganic phase to form a lake, or large sized pigments mixed with a vehicle to create paint. In contrast the nano sized carbon primary components of Chinese Ink 10-150nm carbon soot particles, make it a colloidal dispersion or sol ( aqueous dispersion)" (Characterization of Chinese ink in size and surface Joseph R.Swider, Vincent A. Hackley. John Winter Journal of Cultural Heritage 4 (2003) 175-186)

I have really enjoyed the bit of reading about Chinese ink, which is basically soot mostly from wood soot usually pine wood soot,and glue but as the article pointed out the Chinese developed this type of ink into a very sophisticated form which being carbon based is not prone to fading and sticks well to the paper or in earlier times wood. Sometime after discovering wood soot lamp soot which made finer particles of carbon was found to make the very best inks. Apparently the soot and glue had to be pounded 5000 times and I immediately had a vision of some poor apprentice, arms aching, pounding away to make the ink. The glue -made from animal hide- is hugely important. Without it soot does not work as ink and the glue acts as a dispersing agent so the ink flows smoothly and as a binder to fix the ink. There was also some evidence that it stopped fungal growth too. The article did not describe how to make the ink and I shall have to look elsewhere for that but as the ink got more sophisticated more ingredients were added some to disguise the smell and some to improve colour such as indigo I was interested to read. One final point is that Chinese ink when mixed is a paste which is set in wooden moulds , so as time went on making these ink blocks became an art form. The ink block had to be rubbed on an ink stone to create the ink.

All this information will no doubt sound quite basic to anyone with any knowledge of inks but it is new to me so I found it quite fascinating and it has been a help summarising my reading if only very briefly.

On another note David Brightmore whose casual comment started me off on the journey into the world of inks came to see me and my studio today and left clutching my inks for a bit for experimenting . Now that could be really interesting!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Fibres for spinning and a little on inks

Over the last year my spinning wheel has been calling plaintively to me from a corner of my sitting room. Every now and again I dusted it and wondered if I would ever get back to spinning. You have to understand 1. I don't knit ,can't knit 2. I don't weave- hence my love for crochet and only free form crochet. This is because I cannot be creative and count! 3. I am an evening spinner. Until last January my evenings were not really free as I looked after my dearly beloved father and he was usually here till 9pm then somehow I could not get my head round it and then I found ( and this shows how long it is since I spun) my lendrums's string for the single drive band bit had perished which I might add caused me to go into total panic mode but fortunately I was rescued by Martin of PM Woolcraft.
This Christmas DS's firmly plonked the TV into our sitting room, and suddenly here we are back to DH watching TV a little and me watching along with him and spinning! What am I spinning? A Shetland /Ryeland cross that my dear friend Anne persuaded me to buy. I have been washing and dyeing it throughout this winter with I might add the intention of making up packs of it for the wool festival Wonderwool. I gave some to Anne -mistress spinner- to sample and loved the resulting textured yarn so much I decided to do some too! ( quite different from Leigh's ( Leigh's fibre Journall) beautifully spun Shetland !)Plus I love love love the colour I have dyed it. It has been multidyed with extract dyes. Green from Living Colour and logwood purple, logwood grey from Earthues. Then I had a mad moment and ordered some bowmont from Lesley Prior. What am I thinking of I need a new project like a hole in the head.
This alongside the rapidly expanding project looking at natural dye inks!, My now fully booked workshop next week Leaves of Gossamer Felt ( and I have all the packs to do) a commission to dye 1.5kilos of merino tops for medieval felt maker Rachel Frost, a commission to make a bag ( for which I need to dye the fibres. ) Quite mad!
On the Inks. I now have the Artists materials that Dorothy of Dot's fibres to Fabrics recommended in a previous post. I am waiting for a book on medievallpaints and a few people directed me to Forty Centuries of Ink by David Carvalho which I have now ordered too. In the meantime the subject has inspired Natural Dyes Online and Ruth Schooley has kindly sent me a couple of papers on Chinese ink which I started reading today.
One of the interesting comments that came out of Natural Dyes Online is that whether something is ink or paint depends on what one does ie writes or paints. Although the more I think about this the more I think that this is not quite right still maybe my reading will illuminate this. I can't help thinking that inks are fluids and paints originally solid at least in the West.
The other I like is that apparently cornflowers were used to make a blue ink so I will need to grow some cornflowers.
It's getting late so off to bed.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Sold One!

Hooray I have sold a picture. A gallery rang me up today to say that one has gone! :) It is only a small one but it is amazing what a boost to the ego it is!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Inks & Unsold pictures

Hi thank you to both Debbie and Tracy for their helpful comments. ( In the comment section of the previous post) I have read Victoria Finley's book but a few years ago so the information must have gone in one ear as it were and out the other. (sigh) memory is evidently not as good it was and it never was very good! The idea of thickening dyes with yoghurt is a new one on me but sounds similar to John Marshals technique of using soy milk as a binder. All this is absolutely fascinating and I wish I had 48 hours in a day, as I never have all the time to experiment that I want! I am swamped with commissions and workshops at the moment. This is good but the inks have to go onto the back burner for the moment and sadly today I had to pick up my pictures from the most recent exhibition where none of them had sold. I do my pictures because I love doing them, they are inside me and burn to come out so I don't do them to sell specifically but if I don't my house will need to have extendable walls, and my bank manager might not be estatic either!
The one above is one of the unsold ones but I like it so I am quite glad to have it back. Incidentally it is unusual for me in that it has no stitch.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

More on inks and dragon's blood

I have now had a chance to play with the "inks" which have been thickened with gum arabic.
The colours are a little more muted than before and I think slightly dulled which is what Michelle Wipplinger in her booklet on dyeing with the extract dyes says happens with gum arabic but the consistency is different from dyes thickened with gum tragacanth which is what I use for printing and stencilling. I had a friend with me and we spent the afternoon playing with the inks and she found it disppointing that the inks did not move and blend in in the same way as unthickened ones. I quite like the fact the dyes stayed more where they were put instead of flowing into one another! Here is my study of a decaying leaf-part of a series for a wallhanging in gossamer felt of floating leaves. The quite bright orange was a cheat! I made it up by dissolving 1/4tsp of annatto extract in 50ml of hot water.

So first of all I need to make up the gum arabic properly - jsut dissolving it in hot water not heating it. Then I think I need to make more intense colours both the saffron,and the logwood were disappointing and I think Imight have a bash at making a red as the cochineal and tin still went more to the pink so mixing cochineal and madder possibly. Although on it's own madder makes a disppointing paint givng a dull pink

I have now got one of the books recomnended by Dorothy- The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer. This book came very quickly via Abe books the other one on medieval inks has not yet even been acknowedged by the seller which is rather annoying. So I am busy reading and making notes. Sometimes I wonder whether I have bitten off more than I can chew but this is probably becuase I am suffering my third illness in two weeks - this time a nasty cold.

Dragon's Blood.
This one really intrigued me. I was reading up on Mediera as DH and I are going there for a holiday shortly, and it was mentioned that before Mediera was settled by the Portuguese, sailors used to visit the Island for a dye known as a dragon's blood which was a tree resin. I turned to Cardon, the only mention of it here was in passing as part of an old recipe for pink and she called it dracaena cinnabari (balf) but John and Margaret Cannon in Dye Plants and Dyeing said that dragons blood was the resin from sanderswood. It might be nice to know more but I am not sure where else to look. It would be fun to get some dye when I am on holiday, but it is unlikely I thinks as apparently the land was extensively cleared.