Day 5 La Maison Verte

Doesn’t look like I can add photos into comments without installing a plugin which with my wordpress plan I am not entitled to do. So in response to a question about the fleece I am uploading some images here. I happened to see Erika this morning and asked her about the sheep breed. Her neighbour who owns the sheep inherited them and doesn’t know the breed. All she could tell me was they have black faces 🙂


As you can see the fleece is very messy with no defined locks. I purchased a dog comb this morning and after the fleece is dry I will attempt to get some of it useable.

Later in the day:

Finally got myself together this afternoon and did some productive work. The wool got dried and I tried to comb some of it but its next to impossible, it seems like it’s the parts of the fleece that you would be discarding, and it may well be what it is. I wish I could get hold of some decent fleece then I could give some to Erika to show her the difference. Kinga said her boyfriend was going to help repair the wheel she has then I can show her and Erika how to spin, I am a bit rusty but I am sure I can show them the basics, but with this fleece it won’t be easy, however I would rather spin it than felt it.

I bundled up some paper and attempted to steam it in the little steamer I purchased at the flea market on Sunday. I didn’t expect to get great definition as I had nothing to weight it with. Also I am not experienced with steaming, apart from one failed attempt at trying to steam some large pieces of paper on a tray on my BBQ. I have always used a dye vat. I probably steamed it for too long as some of the pages still didn’t look wet after 2 hours, so I kept it going for at least three. Probably didn’t help that I opened  it straight away but I needed to go to the garden before it closed to ask Guillaume a few things and wanted to take it with me to show him what I had been doing. The paper used was 250gsm somerset and some cheap 280gsm proofing paper I purchased at the Intaglio Printmakers in London for use at the workshop in Shropshire, but never used. At the workshop I just ended up using the provided cartridge paper and fabric. The somerset is so cheap over here. I am about to order some more and have it sent here…. more stuff to get home. It will be nice to have some bigger pieces of paper though. I had to tear up all I had so I could transport it and for the Shropshire workshop we were told to bring a4 pieces so a lot was torn that size. That was a hard task, regular size printmaking paper doesn’t divide easily into A4. The idea was to make simple books from a4 sheets. In order to do that here I will need to find a metal ruler and cutting mat. I have gotten into a good routine of just folding my paper and tearing it with a butter knife, very portable, but with making those little folded books you really need to slice the paper. There are quite a few artists around the place so you never know I might be in luck. Or I might just tear it to make cards.

The prints are interesting, what I thought would work didn’t and I got a few nice surprises as well. There are a few leaves I will definitely be seeking out. I thought the red was coming from the Eucalyptus leaves which I know will produce red on protein fibres but I think it was also coming from another leaf. I think it’s one I have seen at home in Mount Stuart but can’t remember the name of it. It’s a large tree that looks a bit like a Eucalypt but the leaves turn red in autumn and all fall off. I really hope that’s what it is. Hopefully I can find the tree again tomorrow and if I show Guillaume the leaves hopefully he can point me in the right direction. I was excited to try the Ginkgo leaves as I have seen some lovely results on the internet from people using them but the leaf didn’t even leave a mark on the paper. I have bundled one up with the cotton so will be interesting to see how that goes. I have been very patient and haven’t opened them yet, I will leave them until the morning. I used some old cotton that was covering a cushion. Come to think about it, it’s probably not cotton, at home cushions would be more likely to be covered with a poly cotton, didn’t even think about that when I started using it. Look’s like it has printed something. This time I boiled them with a little bit of alum in the water (I only have a very small amount that was given to me in Shropshire, I will be ordering some but waiting to hear back from the supplier as to the type they have). In one bundle I used an “iron blanket” which I haven’t tried before. I boiled up a piece of cotton with the rusted iron bits to make the “blanket”, but as I haven’t used one before, just seen what others have been doing on the internet, when I went to lay it on my leaves I realised I couldn’t place it without changing the way I wanted my leaves to print. I usually fold so I get a mirrored image but realised that if I put the iron cotton on top that I couldn’t do this, my non-spatial brain hadn’t worked that out. I am not sure how others use them… I have posted in a fb group on natural dyeing to see if anyone can give me some tips, along with questions regarding European dye plants. I really need to find something to add to my pots. I can’t use a lot of whats in the garden for vat dyeing as I am only taking small samples, so I need something that grows in abundance. I have done some googling and only really coming up with small shrubs and plants I can’t identify. I did discover that sage produces some nice greens… and that was on steamed unmordanted wood fibre paper, so I could possible do up a little pot of sage to add as a background colour. The little sage sampler included several varieties they had in the garden.


This was the entire bundle with the sage concertina on top


All the sage leaves


Not a lot of definition but some interesting colours, the slight bluish tinge may have come from some stray purple oil paint I discovered was all over the vinyl covering on my work table, wasn’t happy about that,  A few small smears got onto my papers. Had to use turps which I hate, to clean it off the table cloth. Seems to be better definition on the parts of the paper that weren’t so wet, but don’t think I like the white, its seems that some of the colour has bled from being steamed too long. This was a very cheap proofing paper but seems quite robust, I will order some more. Wish it was available  in Australia.


The reverse side. Keep in mind that the papers are still wet in these photos. The lighting is quite bad in the house or I would have photographed them again dry, hard to tell how much the colour has changed but it seems only a bit lighter.

A sampling of other prints in the bundle:


Eucalyptus Gunni (cider gum)


This is a ginkgo leaf but no evidence of a print, what you can see is from leaves printed behind and through from other pages


This is a promising leaf, I picked it because I loved the definition and it looks interesting on the other side. This should also be a good leaf for the hapa zome technique, not sure what the plant is will try and find out tomorrow


These are leaves from the deciduous tree I mentioned, pretty sure they are producing the red.


Rose leaves, one of the more defined prints in the bundle

I did another sample with the hammering technique onto the thin cotton I bought to see how it would look. Not very happy with it, need a closer weave fabric. What I do like though is that the print shows through to the other side, in fact the reverse side is nicer. I wanted them to hang so they looked floaty, it would be good if they were reversible, I hadnt thought about that, even though it makes sense that they are two sided. Will have to give that some more thought. I am sure I will be doing a variety of experiments and they dont all have to be the same fabric.


Side that was in direct contact with the leaf


Reverse side

The fabric also hasn’t been washed, you can probably see from the photos that it has a sheen to it which is probably sizing. I should wash a strip and then see how it goes. If I want to use this in the main work then I will have to get some more. Could be a lot easier and cheaper to just use the thin cotton sheets. I will rip some up tomorrow and see how they go. Also thinking of doing a work from smaller dyed pieces that I will cut or tear up into smaller pieces and then sew back together into a strip. Not that small. At least I am starting to get some ideas in my head…. not really new ones, have been going over and over this for such a long time it seems. Trying to let go and just let it evolve.

Time now for bed.

6 thoughts on “Day 5 La Maison Verte

  1. All very interesting! Brilliant exercise for the/my reading brain cells.
    Can’t you use (or get) ordinary methylated spirits for your alcohol component?
    Nettle soup is lovely. I remember making some years ago.
    Have fun with it all.

    • Thanks. Couldn’t find any methylated spirits. I have continued to use the ethanol based alcohol I bought but using it at a weaker solution. It’s all serendipity as I don’t have any way to measure things. The ink isn’t working that well with any of the nibs I have , well I do have one working enough to write ok. I was hoping to be able to write with it on fabric and it does work. However it makes a lovely wash and works very well with a brush.

      • Work looks good. Red tree sounds interestin. Would like to see a photo of the tree. Perhaps try to identify. One cup of tea a day made from gingko leaves is supposed to be good for the brain cells! I make some every now and then.
        For you is white spirit a better, smell wise than turps? Would do same job.
        Pictures look good. You seem to be really getting stuck into it all.

  2. Thanks. Unfortunately it wasn’t the same tree and the dyeing results haven’t been consistent. I have used the same leaf again in three different bundles and will open them in the morning. The best result was on paper so if these fabric ones don’t show interesting results I will try again on paper. The paper is currently soaking in an alum mordant and I will bundle it up tomorrow. Haven’t really been doing a lot, its all pretty slow going but it is going. I have to remind myself that I am here to learn and experiment and it’s not a workshop where you have to work quickly. The plant I am experimenting with is called cotinus cogigria var red purple…. well thats what Guillaume noted down for me, he was having trouble typing into my phone and I haven’t had a chance to follow it up yet.

    • Going very slowly though. Takes me quite awhile to get going in the morning, well it’s usually the late afternoon 🙂 Once the other artists get here I will have to try and work more during the day to not disturb people at night, but maybe that would actually work better. The only noisy thing I have been doing is hammering plants and I decided that was too noisy for the neighbours so trying to just do that in the garden, which also means getting over there earlier.

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