Friday, May 10, 2019

A matter of concentration

Our senses, especially the sense of taste and smell are very sensitive to different concentrations. For example, the amount of sugar we like in our tea or coffee is a matter of concentration. There are many more examples, so we are all familiar with the effect consciously or intuitively in our daily life. It can be the same when we are dealing with mordants

The basic idea that mordant can be prepared in different concentrations came to me a long time ago from one of Michel Garcia videos. In this video he demonstrate how to prepare an Home made Aluminum Acetate in a series of concentrations but only about a year ago I started to take my own steps in this direction to complete and create a variety of options for my printing technique using Tanin blanket as described in one of my previous posts. 

In Garcia's video the series of consternation are created one from the other.

For my needs it was not practical each time I wanted a certain concentration to create the whole series of concentrations to get the one that I want. I needed to find a way to prepare each of the concentrations separately and independently so I had to go back and refresh my memory with  basic chemistry and learn the general concept of solutions and the way they are constructed - from solvent and solute or in simple words - fluid and solid. I must say that in that point I regret not being a good student in chemistry classes in high school because it is really basic knowledge. Anyway, with some help from my friends who have science knowledge and some more reading I got the theory and start to  understand the general concept but still the practise was completely another story and it needed a lot of work of trails and errors.
In the beginning I created seven independent recipes for seven different concentrations of the same mordant and tested them and their results on my fabrics. Later this seven recipes were eliminated to three main recipes. This three will give the most differentiated results from each other.

When you look at the different results of different concentrations the most striking results are the change of the different shades of the background - from light shade background to the darker shade  (I have a pile of printed fabrics with and without natural dyes that I still have to photoshoot and I will do it soon and will present more examples) but playing with those consternations can influence the prints themselves and can create different style and atmosphere to the prints when its come to colours from plants, the depth of Tanin effect from the leaves (besides the blanket) or the intensity of the discharge effects.

It's been already more than a year that I'm practicing this method by myself and in classes and my approach to mordant change completely. I no longer using the method of measuring the mordant ingredients in the way related to 'weight of fabric' but instead I measure it in a relation to the concentration I want to achieve. Then if needed, I can alternate the volume of the solution according to weight of fabric.

The concentrations concept is opening so many possibilities which give many creative tools but also the process by which the fabric is processed in the mordant solved many errors which I had faced.  ALL metals that being used in the mordant (In my work I'm using only iron or both alum+iron together) are completely fixed to the fabric and the fabric can be well rinse afterwards. As opposed to the common method of 'dipping' the fabric in iron bucket for example, right before printing and not fixing it to the fabric as part of the mordant process, in my opinion and experience this method is much more stable and reliable for botanical printing because there no metals that are not fixed and non of the metals is moving freely on the fabric while the bundles being cooked. This is something that in my experience showed that it is a reason for many failures as the blankets could 'steal' the drama from the fabric to themselves.
Now my fabrics are always the one who receives and the blankets are those who give which is how it should be when using a carrier cloth but it isn't always happening  when using the 'dip' method.

It is also amazing to see how the blankets come out from the bundles. Almost totally clean and white and I can use them again immediately without any treatments like cleaning or washing.

As I mention earlier I tested this method already in several of my classes since last year but for not causing confusions to my students I chose only one recipe of one concentration in each class according to the location and the vegetation available and according to the season. My students  practiced this method as part of their learning process of the mordant in the classes themselves and many are already using it regularly in their work. From their feedback they are very happy with it.
Finally and after this long path I feel confident to share my three recipes in one class. All the students I'm going to meet this summer will benefit from it and my old students from last year have all the basic needed to open their own research by themselves.
I'm happy to share the idea of constructions also here as a food for your thought even if it is not possible to describe in writing all the specific details.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Some ideas of plants for Discharge or Reverse Discharge

My last post about Oxalis resembled the way acidic leaves can leave their acid on the fabric and this acids will react as a bleach. It can discharge the background color or in reverse, it will resist the dye to bond to the fabric.
Oxalis was a good example to give. Their name conceals within itself their secret and it was also the Oxalis season here in my corner of the world which is now almost gone. I was busy exploring their opportunities in my research of plants for my work but as you can see it is time to say goodbye. 

Now looking for more plants that are acidic and can do the same.
I'm sharing here some of those plants I found interesting and worked well with this technique. Some will be a surprise, some you maybe already familiar with and of course there are always more. Many many more. I continue to find them the more I try to work with different plants.

Virginia Creeper is one of my favorite. I experimented with it the first time with my students in Florida last summer as they were growing everywhere near the AYA FIBER studio. Later I found them also here in Israel and students also brought them to my classes in the Netherlands so it is a plant that grows in hot climate as well as in cold climate.
I made many samples to explore them but eventually it became two different designs.

In my classes in Whitbey island we were very surprised to find that the Lavender is discharging. Here are two example made by my students. (I don't remember to whom they belong but if you recognize it as yours let me know and I will add your credit).

The ability of Sumac to discharge is already well known as well as very rich tannin plant which is not always the case. Some plants that are discharging have no tannin at all like Virginia creeper and some of the plants that rich in tannin will not discharge at all. This two example belong to my students from Whidbey and than I use the Israeli sumac which is a bit different for one of my designs. 

Here again like the Virginia Creeper, I found out the ability of Antigonon flowers to discharge during my class in FL and later found the same plant at home. It is so beautiful but I'm aware that as much as it is common here it is not growing in cold climates. 

This print with the dogwood I made in the Netherlands. There is a big tree growing just in front of Dorie's atelier so it is very easy to get and there are many more in this area as well in other places like North America and more. I love this effect as it has something very special in it. Not just discharging.

There are so many more and I just can't cover them all here. You just need to continue try different plants and you will find them yourself. I even manage to get it from Eucalyptus bark and if you have a discoveries of you own you are welcome to share it if you like here in the comments.

Did I already said how I dislike this graphic tools in Blogger? Its a real torture to write a post with it. I will have to find a more "modern" platform.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


If you are somewhere where the Oxalis grow wild or you are growing them in your garden you might want to print with them.
It is the oxalis time here in Israel and they just everywhere calling me to work with them. I really love the shape of the leaves. They look like butterflies and the flowers make such a nice color.
Since I already made a lot of experimentation with them this season I thought I will share my observation and discoveries.

The oxalis are here every year in the end of winter and in the beginning of spring. Their period is short and than they are disappearing as we get closer to mid spring and will be here again next year. They are consider invasive so I can collect as much as I want.
The flowers gives very bright yellow in dye bath but the stems of leaves and flowers and also the leaves themselves contain oxalic acid and instead of printing color they are actually bleaching and leave a white mark that will stay even if you over dye your piece over the print.
The leaves are bleaching on the back side of them and give different effect from the upper side which is also very pretty.
The leaves come in different sizes. Those who are hidden in the shade can become quite big and those who exposed to more sunshine will be small.

Both sides of the leaves effect. On the right the back side and on the left the upper side

In the beginning of the season the stems and leaves were bleaching very strongly and as the season went ahead the leaves start to loose they bleaching characteristics and it was obvious how they change in only one month.

This piece printed in the beginning of the season - oxalis and eucalyptus and over dyed with madder

This piece was printed a few days ago when the oxalis season is slowly going down. It is printed by Terriea Kwong when she visited me and you can recognize immediately her hand writing on this piece

Printed last week with only upper side of the leaves, Oxalis flowers and more

Same piece as the previous and another one over dyed with chestnut wood. The silver piece printed with the upper side of leaves and the chestnut piece with the back

Since you are working with natural oxalic acid from the plant, it is important to protect yourself while working. The kids in Israel like to gather them and chew the stems because of the sour taste. I never heard anyone hurt by this but still,  it will good to cook or steam your bundle in a ventilated place and when you open your bundles wear mask because you don't want to breath nothing that come up.

I'm having a lot of problems managing the graphics of my posts. Text are changing by itself to a different sizes and the alignment of photos and text also moving by themselves without having the possibility to control it. Any tips how the blogger can work better will be appreciate. I'm an Apple user. Thank you!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Things I want to say

For the last three summers, I have been teaching botanical print in a combination of natural dyeing. In July 2015 in Portland Oregon I gave the first workshop where I presented these ideas for the first 
In 2015, these ideas and techniques were very innovative and my workshop was the first to teach this path.

These pictures show my early work from before I begun to explore the combination of botanical print and natural dyes.

I think it will be right to mention that on the same time two artists created a technique called "Medium Print". The Medium Print gave kind of the same look. Both techniques brought new and fresh colors into the scene of botanical print, both also dealt with creating backgrounds, but the techniques and material used were completely different. I used natural dyes like weld, logwood, madder, etc... While the Medium Print used synthetic commercial dyes. We also have developed different methods of doing. My work has always begun with mordanted and dyed fabric while the Medium Print used the carrier cloth (blanket) to dye the background and the leaves acted as a resist.

The year before my first class in Portland, was devoted to all kinds of experimentation with botanical print and natural dyeing. I was looking for a way to develop a new direction with the botanical print that I was already working and teaching for three years before. In those early years, I used methods such as printing with iron pipes, infusing leaves with iron water and iron blankets, etc... I've tried every possible way I knew to combine natural dyes into the process and eventually, after a lot of experiments, I found that the best results for this combination were with iron blanket. The iron blanket technique was revealed to me by Terriea Kwong when she came to visit me in Tel Aviv. At that time the iron blanket was a method used only on white fabrics. 
During this process and investigation, I've also found the ability of the leaves to discharge. It was a surprising discovery that could only be discovered while working with pre-dyed fabrics because there are nothing to discharge on white fabric.

These pictures shows my path to find the right method to combine natural dyes with eco print. These pieces are all made using iron pipes method and was dyed before or after the print.

These pictures are the first prints in which I discovered the ability of plants to discharge. Both made with iron pipes method.

These pictures are my first experiments of printing with iron blanket on a pre dyed fabrics. and the use of tannin in the work. 

And here I want to share a great frustration I had. Not even two days have passed since this unique and innovative workshop in Portland, and to my amazement, I found out that all my work and my achievements, all the inspiration I received from colleagues and all the results of my experiments were published on botanical print groups in FB as a simple formula. A kind of "cake recipe". A post that gives no credit and no minimal respect for the long way and the long process that has created and opened new horizons.

I will add now details about the method I taught in this particular workshop and the workshops that came after at the same year.
All fabrics were mordanted with alum and dyed with a chosen dye. The leaves were laid on the fabric and were covered with iron blanket. Another option was to dip the fabric in any kind of tannin solution and to continue the same way as described above. This option with the tannin gave a darker background around the leaves. Today, it might sounds obvious, but then it was a novelty in the field.
I've learned about the chemical reaction of tannin and iron in Michel Garcia video and the most from my natural-dyeing teacher Leentje Van Hengle that I also owe her most of my knowledge regarding mordants and dyes. 

These works were created by students in the mentioned workshop in Portland - July 2015. A class that its content was shared online days after the class was over and later has been copied and retaught by the organizer of the workshop herself.

Darcel Daigh

Eileen Scuba Coffey

Lisa Kan

Eileen Scuba Coffey

Beate Krieger

And now, I want to write about my present work. 
In the last year I have extended and developed this path and created a new visual language which I have been sharing with my students since late last summer. I can see it already begins to flow slowly into the net, again in a form of formula without any credit. I want to give some background about my latest development.

Sometime during winter 2016 I started to question the previous technique, especially the use of iron blanket with the dyes. I've already taught many classes with this method and with my formula that was shared online, there were already many people working with it. As time past something began to bother me more and more. Although the technique I taught brought depth and details, all other works I saw online based on this formula, looked like an empty stamps of leaves with no depth. With some exceptions of plants used such as Sumac or Ginkgo that can give a nice discharge on dyed fabric or Eucalyptus that gives a wonderful color that blends nicely with the color of the fabric. Walnut is a good example of a plant that can actually print itself without any help or support and there are some more. The rest look like silhouettes and ghosts leaves. 
In the beginning, I've tried to solved the "problem" by painting the leaves with natural dyes extracts. This brought back details inside many leaves and gave very colorful results but I had doubts regarding this path. It looks artificial in my opinion, even if it was done completely with natural ingredients.

Here are some examples:

Last summer, when I was teaching a class in Canada, I've had a student that made a wonderful mistake. We've used community buckets and somehow Norman Blanchard got confused between the bucket of iron and the bucket of tannin. The fabric accidentally was dipped in iron and the blanket in tannin. He did it the opposite way. 

At first, I took it as a mistake, but later on, I've found myself waking up in the middle of the night and it hit me. I've realized that this mistake is similar to a technique I've used to work with in my early days - dipping the fabric in iron water, placing leaves and then roll. The difference is that it's connected to the way I'm working now days.
Immediately I've started to investigate this mistake and to push this discovery a few steps forward. After a period of experimentation, I got a broader view of the possibilities this path can leads, and I've started to teach and experiment it with my students late last summer.
Besides developing it to a higher level, I've also added more layers to this basic technique by adding different dyes to it. Sometime mostly as post-dyeing. Today, I got to a point that this technique is solid, clear and has many possibilities. Of course I'm not saying that there is no way to continue developing it, there is always a way! 
I name this technique:

"3D Print with a Reverse Discharge"
Note: If you are going to try this technique and  produce work according to it which you are going to share on any social media or anywhere else in public, you should credit me! use this name to describe it. Use this #3DPrintRD hashtag and add link to my blog -
Thank you!

I would like to describe now the basics which is going to explain the 3D aspect, but I will keep the "reverse discharging" topic to my next post.

The work are being created in steps. The basic step will be to create a basic-print on white fabric. It is made when the fabric is being dipped in iron water, then the leaves are being placed on the fabric and everything is covered with a blanket that carries tannin. So a background around the leaves is being created when iron and tannin meet. Actually, it's the technique that is already known to many but in the opposite order. There is a lot to say about the importance of the background and the post-dyed print. But again, I will keep the details on this topics to my next posts.

Switching sides between iron and tannin brought details inside the leaves. You can get the impression of the veins and different textures inside the leaf. Leaves can be placed now on top of each other, and create a blend image and a 3D look.

These are examples of my own basics before being post-dyed:

And these are examples of basic-prints made by my students in the classes from late summer 2016 until now:
Susana Penaloza donoso

Lucia Higuchi

Eva Don

Wendy Hardman

Adriana Loyarte

Vivi Gauda

Marialil Escobar

I'm always using just the same three ingredients to print. Sometimes (but not always), I mordant my fabrics with alum and than tannin and iron. That's all! As an extra, to get more bright colors into the work, I use various natural dyes.
I never use discharge additives of any kind, all the discharge effects I get are from the leaves themselves, without using any other substance. I experiment with different arrangements of the same process with the same ingredients. It always surprises me how much you can get with just a few materials.

This simplicity was gained with a lot of work and experience. Only in this way we can simplify things into a precise formula that contains all the experience and hard work.
Vision and experimentation are the two important sides. I don't believe in the assumption that everything is just technical. Techniques are being created only if there is a vision. I acquired a lot of experience in identifying possibilities, mistakes, surprises and the way to investigate them further. Many times it requires Sisyphean consistency. My samples work are piling up very quickly in my studio. They are precious to me and they will never become scarves for sale. They documents my investigations, learning and development and always contains even more for later. I will never let them go.

The working side, well... Besides my experimentation in my own studio it also includes traveling around the world and teaching, which might looks very tempting to others, but in reality traveling so often is not an easy life at all. Teaching many people, helping them with their difficulties in understanding and/or with the making, is something that forces you even more to find simpler ways.

So, as I said in the beginning of this post, taking the entire scope of the work that I have just described, rolling it down into a formula and sharing it on social media, in a kind of copy-paste method that doesn't contains all of the mentioned above is a sin to the truth in my opinion.

I think there's a lot of chaos in the botanical print community and it's time to create a more respectful dialogue that brings recognition to the creators and their contribution to this field.
I'm not talking only about myself, there are other artists in this community that I think do not get the recognition they deserve.
But don't get me wrong, I have nothing against my students who teaches and shares what they've learned from me locally or between friends or if my methods are streaming to the internet and inspires or improves other people work.
But I do have a problem with people who are featuring on FB groups all of the content, techniques and ideas of my latest class they've just attended. Sharing my own words and explanations about my discoveries that they've heard from me in the class as their own. I think it is not fair!
You can think my ego is the one who speaks here, but I never teach what other teachers already teach. I always teach my own and I wonder about the ego of those who shares without acknowledging their teachers and what motivates them to "lock" their teachers in the basement. These teachers are artists who are the cutting edge of this field and the ones who are pushes it forward.

I'm getting inquiries from other teachers and artists that feels the same way. being "locked in the basement" by a former student. They are asking me how do I deal with this phenomena and I don't have any answers or solutions to give them.
That's why I'm writing this post. In behalf of those artists I call all botanical prints group admins to establish a more ethical and respectful dialogue in this community. Especially in the groups that you must share the technique you used.

Additionally, I'm calling all of the artists that feels that they're not getting the proper recognition for their contribution to unite together. Maybe together we will be able to create a more ethical codes and conventions in this field.

Above all, I would like to credit India Flint who have opened this wonderful path to me and to the entire world and without her work maybe none of this have been here. Our works became so different but she is still one of my favorite.

And finally, as it is Yom-Kipur today which in our culture it is a day of intersection and forgiveness. I would like to apologize for public incidents in which I burst out of control toward situations described earlier. Sometimes it makes you feel so helpless and its hurts and these kind of things happens and I regrant them.

* If you are my student and I use your work made in my class in this post please let me know so I can credit you under the picture.