going deep, back to ecoprints

I stopped doing ecoprints a few years back. Honestly, it had started to bore me, as i *did* get “predictable” results, knowing what local plants did print, and the effects i could get. Then i was quite frankly, COWED by all the splendid, wonderful experimenting and marvellous, amazing results that others were getting! I couldn’t figure out how people were doing what they were doing, and at the time, it seemed to me that only people with a lot of discretionary cash could afford the goods, dye materials, travelling to classes and workshops, and free time, perhaps a sour grape reflection, but “valid” at the time, for me…

Methods and materials were being closely guarded–and i DO understand the point that teachers make a living from teaching these with their years of experience and skill level, and should be recompensed, so don’t think i’m kvetching because the process was only being taught in paid for classes. (I would KILL, i WOULD kill,  to take a class with premier ecoprint teacher Irit Dulman.) I too have been in that position, as a student, and as a teacher. I never asked anyone who had done the classes to break the chain by giving me for free what the teacher had been paid for, so tried to puzzle it out.

I tried a few things that i thought were the process, but didn’t have a lot of success. It wasn’t that i was stupid, or unwilling to experiment: things just didn’t WORK. But i was “sloppy” in a sense. Now that i’ve learned properly how to prepare fabrics and threads and then dye with natural materials, that knowledge, based on historically accurate, well researched and proven methods, can be applied to ecoprints. (I’m still not a perfect dyer/mad textile scientist, but i’m improving every day 🙂 ) If however, i see ONE more post about vinegar or soymilk as “MORDANT”, i will puke a twice iron dipped catalpa leaf, with a nice frothy TO chaser…………….

Recently i joined a group that is big on sharing method, without spilling teacher secrets, or fighting about who “owns” the process, something that was nastily prevalent in the beginning. (I’ve never seen such an insidiously/assiduously “policed”–sometimes quite maliciously– practice before, as ecoprinting, contact printing, leaf printing, whatever term makes your boat float without “offending” anyone…) The people in this group share generously, indeed that is the POINT of the group, to SHARE the knowledge, the experimenting, processes, thoughts, ethics etc. Oh sure, there are still divisors between the purists, and the “anything that works” camps, but it’s reasonably civil, as the admins do a fantastic job. (It also helps that you can turn off commenting as an admin, or on your own posts 🙂 ) (I tend to do that when people go waaay off topic, or give me the same answer over and over, or just didn’t read the actual post and are tossing in two cents that makes no sense…)

I have a few ideas i explored before and want to return to them with the ecoprinting. They were successes at the time, and nope, i didn’t share the process at the time, and won’t now either 🙂 because as a talented friend once said when i asked something specific about her work : “Every dyer has her secrets”. THAT is valid too.

I have bags of premordanted fabrics ready, from the basic tannin/alum, to rhubarb leaf, titanium oxalate, iron, soda ash, alum alone, combinations thereof of whatever, all suited to the type of fibre (cellulose vs protein) and on the stove is a batch of pomegranate readying for use.  I’m still doing the Summer of Madder (Study) and its adjunct project, but the ecoprinting will be incorporated into that as well.

And since DogFaced Girl and i have got so lazy and so fat over the last year, it’s a perfect time for walks to gather materials, relish the summer, and enjoy the short Calgary summer as best we can. Exercise, fresh air, science and joy at their finest!

And here’s a funny little one, tossed into the current almost exhausted madder pot:

Iron turned the colours pink and purple!




6 responses to “going deep, back to ecoprints

  1. Hi Arlee, great post! I think you are unique in what you’re doing in surface design and you yourself can teach the technical/ technological side of textile art as well as creating “the message” with your art, the meaning, the Art…
    anyways, I would love to share a studio with you, both as your student and as a companion for experimenting. Talking of which, if you ever think of traveling to the Baltic Sea area, I will be glad to have you as a guest at my home and share my studio with you. And there is lots of valuable botanical stuff growing all around, you can do some experimenting))) Sorry to leave such a long comment. Elena

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elena, i know it would be a pleasure to work with you! Thank you for the kind words 🙂 Going back to ecoprints means too that i’ll be trying not only my tested local plant materials, but new ones as well–learn something new every day, and you know you’re not dead!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As someone who had tried a version of eco printing long ago before the internet even existed and it was just referenced as plant dyeing and printing I really get how being successful with it takes skills and much experimentation. There were so few books or teachers back in 1972. And what there was available could Be horribly flawed. My attempts were more often then not, unsuccessful. The process became too involved to keep me working at it. As you wrote, it seemed like one would have to have money to spare for travel, instruction ,supplies etc. sharing without giving up the secrets…hmmm…that sounds like frustration waiting to happen! But I get it. Like any art or craft it takes practice, study, and gobs of time to perfect something. Getting paid to teach others seems fair. That some will share freely probably wouldn’t stop many people from attending a workshop that costs. I find it to be so much better to learn hands on side by side with someone who knows the process. Long winded here I know, but good that you have a group to share and explore with. I am watching from the sidelines and cheering you on all the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Learning with someone by your side is indeed the best way: i really enjoy the few days i get once in awhile with two local friends, who have much experience in natural dyeing and ecoprinting.


  3. Oh im with you going at it on your own takes much time and practice. I too dont have the extra bucks to get to a workshop but id love it if i did. And yes its frustrating at times but I just keep plugging away with reading what i can and coming to my own conclusions by reading research and trial and error. I think this is why im less inclined to share all my secrets too and constantly tell people to do as i did or pay someone to teach you. Im a little put off when an aquantance asks me for details but then shares their results with no credit for my shared knowledge. I dont always post everything i do. I agree with you about not sharing for free what you paid a teacher to learn. Ive heard crazy stories of teachers looking on their phone at a teaching site for reference as their teaching! Sheesh! Im fonally at a place where i get the results i like!,im also finally living somewhere where i could have a firepit outside. I just have to make it and get a big cauldron! Its almost yoo hot to dye outside or inside for that matter. Im really looking forward to fall and accessing all thats available here! I always appreciate your candor and enjoy seeing all you do!

    Liked by 1 person

    • SO many new things to try, and many old ideas to be new again 🙂 And people who ask generally get a brief answer from me, polite, but brief. I have had one person on my FB page ask a couple of times how to do something with never a please or thank you………..


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