Tuscan landscape offers so many reasons for delight that it’s easy to find inspiration everywhere you look. Here I have found the time and mood to make an old dream come true, to explore the fascinating world of plants, their pigments and the techniques by which they can be transferred to other materials: paper, fabrics etc. I started with the paper, of course. I watched some tutorials on youtube but I knew the best teacher was practice so I put myself at work! In a few words, I’ll tell you how I did it, though, chances of failing are not too many, since every attempt has another yet amazing and wonderful result.
So, we need some simple, commonplace materials that can find around the house, without going out and spending too much:
PAPER – different types of paper react differently, have higher or lower capacity to absorb the pigment. But this is not the only variable on which the outcome depends. I tried with two types of paper: 1. – packing paper , thinner and finer and 2. – a thicker and more porous paper, reused, from an old calendar.
PLANTS – You can opt for an intuitive process, as I did, by choosing among the plants and flowers that I found in the garden, or, if you want a more scientific approach, you can consult a guide of the plants normally used for dyeing . Here I have found quite a comprehensive list in this respect. However, it has to be said that there are many factors that influence the final result, in what way and how much the pigment will be transferred to the material: from the hardness of the water we use, the type and amount of mordant, the type of paper, the amount of rusted objects added, and last but not least , the material from which the cooking pot is made of.
MORDANT – as a mordant, I have found out that salt, vinegar or a more specific salt, called alum, can be used and is accepted as a natural fixer. I used vinegar this time.
POT for boiling – you can use an old pot, a bucket a cauldron, whatever is large enough to accommodate the papers horizontally. It’s advisable to keep the pot for this activity only. The material from which the pot is made will also influence the print quality. The most suitable for this purpose is copper.
PLATES – we also need two plates of metal, wood, wire (I used two sandstone tiles) between which we will press our sandwich of plants and paper. The plates should have the size of the paper or a bit larger, otherwise the paper will get damaged when the stack is tied up.
CORD – of any kind
RUGGED OBJECTS – nails, wire, board, chain, any rusty iron object, if added to “the soup”, will help to fix the colors.
Having all these prepared, we can start making a sandwich, starting up with a sheet of paper, adding a layer of plants then a sheet of paper and again a layer of plants and so on until we have a stack of about 10 cm high.
We need to make sure that it stays horizontally in the pot. If necessary, we can fold the papers.. At the end, we put the stack between the two plates, press it tight and tie it tightly with a string. Then we put it to boil for about an hour and a half in a 4:1 water and vinegar solution, adding a few rusty pieces and a stone to keep it pressed under water. I added some artichoke flowers to the water too because I had them at hand, in order to give “the soup” a more consistent color 🙂
Once cooked, the sheets of paper are being washed under a stream of cold water and let to dry. For my projects, I also ironed the paper sheets after they dried up.
My findings after the first experiment: the more porous and thicker paper retained the pigment and the contour of the plant very well. The thinner and denser packaging paper absorbed less but I got more delicate, equally beautiful colors. In the second round, I used the already pigmented water from the first series, to which I added another glass of vinegar and I got more intense prints and colors than the first time.
Eco dyeing it’s surprising every time: the way all the elements interact with each other, due to our intention and under our more or less skilled hands and the fact that we can control only a small part of the process it’s fantastic to me because it leaves room for the wonder, once more, in the face of nature.
And the play goes on! These first attempts of plant dyed papers will serve me to experience various new forms of beads for a new eco jewelry collection, PLANT IMPLANT, to be launched this autumn.
And, meanwhile, do not forget to…
GO GREEN! WEAR PAPER JEWELRY!
P.S I would be very glad to hear about your plant dyeing experiments, recommendations, tips, what to do, what not to do, materials, techniques, etc.