Natural Pigment Inks

By 6th March 2022 May 11th, 2022 Creative Practice
  • My set-up involves using a small oil burner, a candle, and the natural material (which I grind in a pestle and mortor), which I steep in ever-evaporating water. The set-up and process is good – it enables me to test materials and colours in small quantities to get an idea of what I could expect. I was encouraged to cook up big vats by some tutors but I felt this was potentially very wasteful; I absolutely did not want to waste electric and materials and time to be left with vast quantities of unusable pigment – which I think is a very valid point.

  • Beginning with a cinnamon test, I’ve been tweaking things and repeating moments as I’ve been going along, to get an idea of how each decision affects things.
  • You can blow out the candle, but the residual heat continues to make things evaporate – and so learnt that I needed a pipette to save the last few drops if needed. I also learnt that I needed to work quickly when the time came!

  • I continued to test spinach (first fresh, then dried), carrot, juniper berries and rose. Fresh spinach works better, but the resulting pigment has an odd uneven consistency to it – thought about using vinegar or something instead to break the compounds down? Carrot did NOTHING no matter what (which really surprised me). Juniper berries left a sticky, gloopy mess (which, I later realised was due to the high sugar content of berries) and so considered that oil may have been a better carrier liquid. Rose, however, felt the most successful, leaving a beautiful deep, dusty, pinky-brown that was a joy to use as a wash. And it smelt lovely. Rose is an absolute winner so far.

  • Using these basic tests, I felt I had learnt enough to explore this area a bit more methodically and so chose to build on these initial tests for my Module 2 minor project.
  • I chose to draw inspiration from alchemical journals and include alchemical symbols within my note-taking, researching the most common and agreed upon symbols. I did wonder if this inclusion was guilty of ‘trying to hard’, or being ‘cliche’ or ‘naff’… but thought I’d roll with it and see how it felt to do. I enjoyed researching into the symbols and the relationships between them. Really interesting.

  • Through doing, I saw the value in using symbols to describe things like water, the evaporation process… the things you find yourself rewriting a lot. The symbols infer the thing you’re referring to without cluttering the page. The same thing goes for easily noting if a substance has magical or planetary associations. However, I soon thought how little I actually like the inaccessibility of writing in code. It’s just exclusionary for no real reason? Why am I actively doing that, when I care so much about making things accessible? I did, however like the idea of capturing the season and moon phase along with the date. I think that’s a more meaningful, nature-connected way to record the time. I’ll keep that bit moving forwards.
  • After some deliberation with paper stocks, sizes and potential ‘book’ formats, I chose to create A3-ish size loose leaf sheets on handmade paper. I chose A3 because it felt large enough to hold information, and because mystical books like the Voynich Manuscript seem to be in a larger size. Loose leaf, because it meant I could shuffle things alphabetically or in colour/tone order once my experiments had concluded, and because I felt it could lead to a really interesting exploration into alternative bookbinding methods. And the handmade paper because it fit the aesthetic and it has a really lovely absorbent quality that would highlight the depth of tone but also the washes and textures of brush/pen strokes.

  • However, I soon regretted not doing it in a smaller, pre-made book, as I was becoming too precious over how ‘perfect’ the pages should be, and how uniform each page ought to look. I also found the A3 loose leaf pages too unweildy, and not portable, and not as ‘readable’. I became quite stressed because I couldn’t shake how concerned I was being with layout and visually appealing drawings… which missed the point?
  • After doing a rose+water ink test and a rose+vinegar ink test, I chose to abandon this iteration. Good idea in theory, not in practice. Think I’ll restart using a smaller, more portable notebook that allows me to loosen up and focus on process rather than design… which is more important to me and the things I’m looking to achieve. That book will help me develop a ‘final’ recipe which I can copy over into a final book, or perhaps even a set of recipe cards?

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