The time seems to be going too quickly and progress is very slow. However, feeling like it will come together eventually. I spent some time at the garden today with the director Guillaume (previously I was referring to him as the caretaker, essentially he looks after the place along with the help of volunteers). He gave me a tour of the garden and it really is an amazing and beautiful place. I will never learn what most of the plants are but there are a few I am keen to print with and excited to just walk around and randomly collect leaves and print with them. Was nice to see two eucalyptus trees including one very familiar to me, Eucalyptus gunni, not in the best condition as it has been planted too close to some other trees. The second one I am not familiar with and looks quite different to any I have seen before, Eucalyptus neglecta. It is in better shape so if the leaves looking promising I should be able to harvest a few more. I have been given permission to use whatever I like but to just take a sampling of leaves and to prune from the back where it won’t be noticeable when people are walking by. I was excited to find out that Guillaume had been instructed by Belgian artist Sandrene de Borman with the Japanese hammering technique Hapa zome, which I will be experimenting with over the residency. I was originally going to do a workshop with Sandrene in the middle of this month and initially was only going to be here for 2 weeks, but Patricia the coordinator of the residency program at the time said I was welcome to stay on to be here for the exhibition if I would prefer. So I ended up deciding to stay here longer. Back in April/May I contacted Sandrene and had arranged with her to come to the botanical garden where she is on a long-term residency near Brussels and spend an afternoon going over her techniques and then visiting her atelier to see her work. I was going to do that prior to coming here so I would be arriving with the techniques but I decided that the cost to go there to just see her for 4 hours wasn’t justifiable and decided that I would just experiment myself. So it was great to be able to discuss Sandrene’s techniques with Guillaume and tomorrow he will bring in the piece that he made with her. I would have loved to meet her though and see her work. He has lots of hammers and flat stones at the garden and lent me one to bring back to the house. He instructs children with the technique and he intends to organise a workshop sometime in the future.
I gathered a few more leaves in the garden and then headed back to LMV (La Maison Verte) to wait for Kinga who was taking me to meet a lady called Erica who had some fleece I could have. We walked around to Erica’s place, she has a lovely position overlooking a lake with ducks and chooks and other animals around. When we got there she was working on a small wood carving of a hand. She said she had never carved before but it was looking pretty good. She had the most amazing carving tools. Apparently they were Leo’s (Kinga’s boyfriend), he had found them at a flea market. They were a bit rusty but very sharp with amazing handles and long stems. There were quite a few of them on a lovely material roll. She had a small bag of fleece for me that she had saved from what she had. She had only just washed the rest of the fleece as it was a super greasy but she left mine as she wasn’t sure how I wanted it. I usually work with fleece in the raw, unwashed but this wool is quite dirty and extra greasy, despite already having had one wash. She mentioned that she had tried to make some felt balls with it in the washing machine and it didn’t really felt. She thought it was because of the high grease content and mentioned that the fleece was about three years old. Most of my fleece at home is way older so I didn’t think that would make any difference. Anyway I am in the process of washing it now. The fibres are quite short and it looks pretty messed up but I will give it a go and see if i can buy a dog comb tomorrow to try to get the fibres realigned. She gave me a few stems of a plant that she said was traditionally used for carding. Great plant to look at but it’s very prickly and I can’t imagine I would be able to card with it. Erica suggesting breaking off the stem and inserting a stick. Not sure how that would work but will give it a try. But it’s a bit like handling nettles, not an easy job.
I managed to find a few more rusty bits at the garden, but not as much variety as I would have liked. Now I have gathered quite a few raw materials I will have to get down and start some bundling and get my tray set up to rust some papers. This morning I got Guillaume to look at my fabrics and I decided that I won’t use the linen (?) sheets, he agreed that they wouldn’t print as well as the thin sheets I found in the cupboard which supported my feeling that thinner closer weave would be better. He quite liked some of the very thin fabric I had bought from Art Van Go at the Birmingham quilt festival and thought it would work well. I will test it out tomorrow and order some more along with some other products. I quite it because it’s light and should hang well. It’s quite transparent and not sure if that’s a good thing or not. I plan to stitch other pieces of fabric and paper to it so it will need to not distort too much. It may well work out that the free cotton sheets will be the best thing. I have already ordered some kraft-tex paper to contact print onto. I have never used the stuff but saw some great results at the quilt show made with what looks like a similar product called snap pap, I think it will make some nice book covers. A German lady at the show was doing an eco printing demo thing with the snap pap. At first I thought I must have heard her wrong but thats what it is called. I can only find it available on a german site and I think she sold it in her online shop as well (again in German). From my research I am pretty sure that it is the same or a very similar product.
Erica (the lady with the wool) was asking for some advice with plant dyeing and asked if she could join in when I was doing some, but I told her I probably would only be printing. I would however like to add in some leaves but have no idea what any of these plants will do. There are a lot of oak trees around and other big trees. I might do a bit of research and give some a try. I was a bit reluctant to experiment too much as I mainly have cellulose fibres and don’t really want a mass of brown fabrics. I will have to brush up on my European dye plants.
Luckily Kinga has to briefly go into Nogent in the morning so that will get me up early and give me the chance to go to the supermarket and pick up a few dye supplies and some food. If I had walked or caught the bus I would have ended up staying longer and wasting most of the day. When I get back I will start doing some bundling. I am sure once I start pulling things out of pots and unwrapping bundles I will start to feel like I am getting somewhere.