Look closely; can you see it?! This endeavour was close to the heart for me…
Don’t you just marvel when things just come together? That’s how I feel about discovering this method of making art and why I love, love, love Eco Printing. Let me share my personal story with you…
It started early:
My life has always involved making things, from an early age on. I also love nature, and for that reason I became an illustrator (I can’t believe that was 40 years ago!). I wanted a career that allowed me to support myself and create beautiful things. It served me well for many many years. I painted many scenes with the beauty of light coming through the trees. This is one of my favourite streams near me.
But then I discovered something even more interesting but still in the same direction…
Eco Printing involves the use of nature’s leaves and other elements to print permanently on fabric and paper. Historically I believe it started with this wonderful lady. It’s not exact, or completely predictable but so interesting as it does depend on so many factors, many beyond our insistent control .
I grew up with nature hikes each weekend, cottaging and appreciating the natural element. Never had I thought that all that pretty ‘material’ dropped at my feet could be an art supply.
Perfect Reason to go Outside:
It’s healthy to get out, breathe and admire how amazing our world is. Slow down a bit, take a close look, take a walk! Each leaf, each tiny cell, like us, is such magic. Collect leaves, find out what kind they are, look up! Make a collection! Study the species and how they print.
Being creative does not really hinge on the fact that you can draw. There are so many ways to express art and admire amazing design, shapes of leaves, intricate lines of texture… The hard work has been done, you just need to be able to appreciate it and work with it.
And so much Free Colour!
Maybe you have never mixed oil paint or watercolour but here it’s all in a perfect palette! How can it have all the vibrant hues and subtleties?! I just have to stop and glare! Many just drive by in a rush but I call it my treasure; my palette of colour for this Eco Printing, and it’s free at no cost growing in the ditches and road-sides. I have never realized how many types of trees, bushes and plants are creating our natural backdrop.
That Strange Allure!
I’ve asked myself; what keeps me so interested in this Eco Printing? I think it’s that factor of the unknown result; somewhat like playing the lottery or the slot machines! You imagine some amazing magnificent print waiting in that bundle you made, some mind-boggling combination of colours and shapes that can only be achieved once!
No matter what marks you get, it’s so satisfying as you seem to break the ‘secret codes’. You may whisper some sweet encouragement to your bundle hoping that ‘ever amazing one’ is next. Hmmm, maybe it IS an addiction…
Oh well, too bad! There are much worse vices! I find my supplies on the ground, they are not made in some far off factory from questionable materials. I can use an old sheet, linen tablecloth or wool sweater.
Taking a look back to some old practices of dyeing and easily found elements is refreshing in our crazy rushed artificial world. Some tea or some little bugs can bring their natural dye into the mix for stunning colour.
I like a challenge; as that is what makes us keep trying. That exciting element of surprise; trying to anticipate the magical chemistry keeps us Eco Printers coming back for more! Nothing that is easy usually has much value.
Opening a special gift!
How satisfying it is to open a bundle after steaming & see such amazing details permanently printed on fabric, colours that are not as they started.
Science meets chemistry which meets design and just maybe a bit of luck! How can this be?!
Supplies are easily found or made with up-cycled materials. Vintage fabrics and even paper get a second life. Mordants can be made with alum and soy milk as well as iron water with just some rusty junk. There are no hard-fast rules…
So many changes are always going on, colours change, tannins develop. You can even make sure that you have a supply by drying for future use.
You can use what you print in so many ways. Old vintage natural fibres work the best and allow for endless uses. You don’t need any fancy equipment and it can all be done at home ( even in a microwave)
I also grew up making my own clothes and those for my children after watching my resourceful mom. She taught me how to take care of my family with many ways of making, even upholstery. A new jacket from an old wool jacket. I wish I could have shared this with her but I bet she’s keeping a close watch.
I hope you are inspired to join in this unique way of ‘making’ and also love Eco Printing! Go, take a walk and see what you find.