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.


  1. Thank you for such wonderful enlightenment. I do hope one day to be in one of your classes. Your innovations are inspiring. Jane Ryan

  2. Thanks Irit for your generous sharing and your expertise obviously changed the fabric surface design more vivid.


  3. Thank you for sharing your insights. When I took a class with you in 2017 it felt as if you had opened a door into an enormous secret garden. So much to learn and explore! I hope that I get to attend a class with you again someday.

    I have been experimenting in similar ways with varying the concentration in my dip buckets lately. This post is food for thought, for more experiments this summer. Also
    relearning chemistry lately, both to improve my studio practice, and to help my 16 year old homeschooled son. Exciting times.
    Warmest regards- iris

  4. Very interesting Irit, thank you! The results are beautiful.

  5. I would certainly love to know more about your methods. I heard that you are coming to Australia? I am in Western Australia.

  6. Gracias por sus investigaciones 🧡lamentablemente no termino de comprender 😔Estoy comenzando en este camino de sorpresas hermosas.
    Si están amable.en responderme si estoy equivocada( no seria raro) mordenta su tela con alumbre y hierro o solo hierro en concentración baja para adherir el material organico? Y la manta?

  7. as always........but without beach party.....pity