Day 11 La Maison Verte

Morning anxiety/heart palpitations even worse today. Just trying to breathe through it. Having others around made it worse. The odours from the plants seems to have intensified it. Working through it all (sorry about all the “it’s”). Was nice to have a few bundles to open this morning. I tried to open them outside but with the wind it was impossible. To be able to see what leaves have worked and not I really need them to be not blowing off. Some nice results, especially with the paper.



So love the papers when they are wet, wish they could stay that way, like when you are indigo dyeing, I love the mix of teale and indigo colours you get as the fabric changes colour.


Here they are later dried along with the carrier cloth and two other pieces. I didn’t do a good job of tearing and trimming the linen, it is also now smaller than the other two. Even the new cotton strip is distorted compared to the others. I was going to reuse the carrier cloth that I used to dye the paper but I think I will leave it. I have plenty more cotton sheets.



New one on the left, used a carrier cloth dipped in iron, no vinegar


detail of linen


Carrier cloth the paper was dyed with


The paper, now dry


Finally heard back from Artvango after I sent them another email. They will email my order today. Good thing they confirmed what was being sent as they had me down for 5 metres of linen gauze at about £11 pounds a metre, I just wanted .5 of a metre. Just hope the postage isn’t too much as I am not ordering much but I don’t think with the postal system it matters, seems you can order 30kg for the fee.

The other ladies are going to Troyes tomorrow so I will tag along. Guillaume offered to take them to the station, I had assumed we would have to walk. There is an art shop there so I will see what paper they have and grab a few sheets. I could also get some ink for the monoprinting but still feeling like I will give that a miss. I will try and plan in Paris for a day next week. To make the best use of the day I will have to plan it carefully and book ahead for any museums I want to visit.

Meet Graciela Siles and Sandra (not sure about the spelling):



Graciela came down with this jacket on and had some fun in front of my work


The beginnings of Graciela’s work. She works with collage and installation, very interesting work.






Day 10 La Maison Verte

Today things changed. I now have two Argentinian ladies here. They are very lovely but it is taking some getting use to. We are using a translate app to communicate which is great but very tiring. Interestingly  they seem to be night owls as well. Thought I would be able to clear up the kitchen and start dyeing when they went to bed. Anyway I put a pot on the stove and am trying to work around them.  Hard when there are people using the sink for food stuffs and plates etc. There is no ventilation in the kitchen and one of them closed the window I had open just an inch. Luckily my pot is not smelly except for when I opened the lid. One of them did try to wash up my dye pots (with my liquid in) even though I did try to get across to them to not touch them. I did also communicate that I could move them if necessary. Didn’t realise how late it was when I put the bundle on, about 12.45. It’s now 2.50 so I will probably turn it off and go to bed soon. So strange to be up at this time and have others up working as well. Will be interesting to see what time they surface.

Hardly anything done today and really not feeling well. I have a horrible headache brought on by the smell of the fresh plants. Not sure if I just picked something extra aromatic or that it’s just a build up in my system, probably a combination of the two. Now that I have to hang out more where my plants are I have to pack them up. When I opened the bag earlier to get them out to make up a few bundles, the smell gave me strong heart palpitations which is what was happening to me yesterday. Never experienced anything like this before. Not nice. Will try to get some walking done tomorrow and maybe do some visiting. I definitely need to get out of the house plus feel like I am achieving something at the same time. The other two people get here on Friday. Not sure where they will hang out. The kitchen is hardly big enough for the three of us here now. So so glad that I had the place to myself for the first 9 days. It’s so hard to concentrate now.

While waiting for my bundles to cook I had a big tidy up which was satisfying. Only problem is that I have discovered that I have contaminated nearly all my fabric with lovely orange rust stains. One of the drawbacks of using a vinegar and rusty iron mix. It must have come off my hands. Surprised I haven’t damaged my clothes, or maybe I have and I haven’t noticed.

Still have to put up the photos from yesterday. The lovely paper I bundled with some fabric last night has dried and the colour isn’t as good (always better when it’s wet) but I still really like it:


Freshly unbundled


Today I made a sheet of silk paper with gummy silk cocoon strippings. Unfortunately I can’t bundle the paper as it can’t get wet, it will go sticky. I wanted to see if I could do the hapa-zome with it. The first sheet looked a bit too thin so I made a tiny piece a bit thicker to give it a try. It seemed to work fine. The stem was a bit juicy and the paper got a bit wet in that spot but it ironed dry fine without taking away any colour:


I also tried to use my walnut ink to print some leaves with. I decided I didn’t want to roll my little roller in the stuff so I went about making a stamp pad. I read somewhere about adding glycerine to the ink. I didn’t like the sticky feel and it’s taking quite awhile to dry properly. I also thickened it a bit with gum arabic but it’s dicey. Will try some different leaves tomorrow or when I get around to it:



I cut up some kitchen slightly spongey cloths and adhered them to a thin plastic box lid, sort of worked

I have 3 bundles to open in the morning. So I guess it wasn’t a totally unproductive day. Oh and yes I got to stock up on some food. The Argentinian ladies cooked for me which was nice. I have a dish I can cook in return but one of them is gluten free and I need to make a cheese sauce. With no shops it’s not that easy to remedy. Good excuse to go and visit a few people who invited me to visit and maybe they will have some corn flour or something suitable.

Day 9 La Maison Verte

Today I have found myself posting on FB, when really I that stuff would be better just being here. It is so much easier to post as I go on FB. I am having an issues with getting my iPhone photos onto my laptop, a lack of space. Its been a constant trial the whole trip trying to get rid of things off it. The memory on my laptop is the same as my phone so you can imagine its tricky. I have been learning about resetting caches and moving and other technical issues that i don’t really  have the time for. I have to deal with it to an extent because when it gets full up I can use outlook or photoshop. It doesn’t take much to send it over the edge and makes using the photo app next to impossible. So i often have to air drop photos from my phone to the laptop to get them onto the blog. I have my photos saved in the cloud but to see them on my laptop it still chews into the memory. I have a hard drive for all my camera photos and most of my other data. I guess I could post to my blog from my phone but there are some things i can’t seem to easily do. Its so much easier thought to be able to sit down at the laptop. Anyway, enough of that. What I will do for today is a cut and paste from fb over here so i have a record of my thinking for the day. I will put the photos up later and might just see if i can do it from my phone. I really need to get to bed soon. It wasn’t good going to bed after 4am last night and then I couldn’t sleep, have been up since 8.45. Doesn’t seem to matter what time I go to bed or get up I seem to get a new lease of life late at night. If I stopped actually working though I would fall asleep. Haven’t actually sat down and relaxed since I’ve been here, except going to the pizza night last night, but i wouldnt exactly call that relaxing.

A new phase will start tomorrow when we go to pick up the new residents from the train station around 1pm. I think this first lady is a photographer and she is bringing a lady companion. Not sure when the other two arrive, I will ask tomorrow. I think her name is Gabriella and she has been here before, so that is good, she will be familiar with the house and the garden.

Here are the FB posts from today:

As the weather has been colder and not so pleasant I haven’t had as much ventilation going through the house and just realised I am feeling a bit effected by the dyeing, prob more the iron and alum. It just hit me
. As using plants I am not familiar with have also been worried about toxicity issues. There is no exhaust fan. Apart from hand basin in the bathroom there is only one sink in the kitchen. Having others joining me tomorrow will make these processes a bit tricky. It also dawned on me that painters would be doing there wash ups in the sink as well. There is turps in the cupboard. Not very good occ health and safety. Maybe it’s time to change activities for a few days.

Having your studio basically in your kitchen makes it all a bit tricky. With others arriving tomorrow it will have to change anyway. Have only been making a handful of bundles a day. Was going to do another one tonight so I have something to open in the morning but I have restrained myself.

Bugger stuffed up number 6 in my strips. Started unbundling it and it didn’t feel quite wet enough as I hadn’t left it long out of the pot. Thought Maybe it was because I had gloves on but my instincts were telling me something was wrong but I chose to ignore it. Started carefully unrolling and could see the fabric under the iron blanket was pretty white. My first thought was that I hadn’t even cooked it. But I was sure I had. I know my chest was feeling funny from the fumes but I didn’t think I was losing it. I peeked in and could see there was colour. Thought I should just roll it back up but unrolled a bit more then it was too late to put it back together. Because this was the only one of these strip set bundles I had steamed it obviously needed a lot more time compared to smaller bundles I had steamed. It would have been amazing. So many of the leaves were taking and there was all manner of colours. Different to the others because it wasn’t in an iron water or walnut vat like the others. Made me realise too that maybe with a lot of the others I had lost definition because I over cooked. It was too different I was thinking to add it to the rest and contemplated keeping it as a sample and reminder. But I decided to dunk it in some iron water and see what happened. Well it looked terrible. Then decided to rinse it and some of the developing leaves bled. Oh well this is all about the what if’s and experimentation, isn’t it ??? Anyway after all that I decided that I may as well rebundle it and “what if” some more, couldn’t hurt. This time I stuck it in a weak iron vat I started that has some alum soaking water in it. It’s no wonder I’m starting to feel sick. Even in my studio area where I’m doing the bundling the smell of the fresh leaves is effecting me. About to pack them up and try and force myself to leave the leaves for a day. Earlier I was feeling like I had had enough and should cancel my fabric order. Feeling better now just hope I’m not poisoning myself. Didn’t take any photos before I iron dunked and rinsed it. Who knows what it will look like when I get it back out of the pot. Been trying to replicate the tones of the first one on the far right but it’s not happening.

(add in photos of failed attempt and series)

The linen is behaving dye wise pretty much like the other sheets. Distorts when rolling more because of its density. It’s very stiff. Not sure I would want to sleep with it. Maybe it hasn’t been used much.

(add in photo)

The felt was very disappointing. Was going to overdye but decided to leave it. I used all the leaves that I thought would give me more red /orange colours but it didn’t happen. Still have the other piece so will dye that before I go messing with this one. The texture probably doesn’t lend itself to good prints.

(add in photo of dyed felt)

Just need a third one now. The last one I was thinking was too subtle. I tried to green it up more by putting it into the alum iron vat but it just seemed to not want to darken before I unbundled it, but I quite like its subtlety. Wondering whether to go for something completely different for the third. Now I’ve washed the linen in a very hot cycle it might take on colour better. Thinking about adding stitch but it scares me. I really like the simplicity of these pieces, it’s just about me wandering around the garden, discovering, exploring, contemplating, coming into and out of memory, trace etc. I have some ideas to give this work more layers but I don’t want to start something I don’t have time to finish. I can have some fun with some of the smaller pieces but these bigger ones I don’t want to complicate. Hope that’s not a cop out. Those that know me well will probably say it is

(add in photo of two linen pieces)

Decided that I am not tearing up any more of the linen. I just made a mess of it trying to get another piece the same size as the two I am working with. It does not like to tear and distorts like crazy. After looking at the torn threads and feeling the waxy plasticy surface of my last piece, I even wondered if there was synthetic in it. So I did a burn test and no its not synthetic but more likely a linen/cotton. So i started googling french linen and think what I have is high quality sheeting called metis, which is 65% linen 35% cotton. Apparently there was a lot stockpiled before WWII. It sells on eBay for around $73 an x-large king size sheet (new) which is what I prob have, I paid about $7.50. So I am not wasting any more of it, it needs to be handled differently and definitely not torn, which is the only way here I can really deal with it. Anyway I just want to have a little experiment and I have done that. I have a few pieces I can experiment with so all good, just no series of work happening with it. The piece I tore (and trimmed by hand) to match the other two should work ok. I don’t feel so bad now about paying dollars to have it sent home. If I get to another market I will buy another sheet.


Day 8 La Maison Verte

Do need to sort something out with my sleep. Another late night. Had an enjoyable evening in a nearby village. A bakery there had a special pizza night celebrating their 10th anniversary (i previously thought it was their 1st). Amazing pizza and met a few people I could converse with. Enjoyed the drive over, through a few little quaint villages. I would really like to be able to see more of France… next trip 🙂

A few surprises today from the dye pot. I won’t keep posting every little bundle, is getting a bit tedious, will still take photos though as a record to refer to later. I am going to forget the processes I have used so will need to take stock tomorrow and make little notes to put with each piece so I don’t forget. This was the biggest surprise:

IMG_1747FullSizeRenderI kind of like how lots of things are not printing, I never know what to expect. I try to scatter evenly leaves that I have seen print well in-between the unknowns but its very hit and miss. Was amazed when this orange showed up. This bundle was steamed and was predmordanted with a quick dip into an iron acetate mix (rusty nails with vinegar), previously i was using iron water that didn’t contain vinegar.

Progress with the strips:


The view while driving towards dinner:IMG_1718

The oven the pizzas were cooked in:


Day 7 La Maison Verte

Very tired and haven’t felt up to updating the blog. Have been putting a few things up on FB, seems a lot easier at times but really want to keep the blog up as it will be a great record for when I get home. I will also go back over FB when I get home and do some copy and pasting as that has also been an excellent record of my trip.

Had a slow start to the day. Have been enjoying the now regular occurrence of opening three little bundles every morning. Nothing like a nice little routine, will have to keep that one up. Been working later into the night and not enough sleep, so don’t want to be too far out of bed tonight. After the bundle unwrapping I have typically been finding myself getting stuck on the laptop and not getting a lot of work done. Been trying to sort out some supply order and think i have it mostly sorted. Decided to cancel the order with Intaglio printmakers, would love some of there very cheap nice paper and some etching ink but I can get by without it. The postage is a bit much… only because i want a few things and apparently I could get 30 kg of stuff sent for the same price. I think it will be the same for art van go, so will just stick with that order. I have ordered some fabric and some screen printing ink for doing some mono printing. All stuff to get back home or donate at the end… which is what would have happened with the paper. I wanted to make some little books, which i could possibly leave in the botanical gardens shop to sell, but really i don’t think i will have the time. I should have a few cards I could leave though if they are interested. I still like the idea of getting to Paris for a few days but feeling already like my time is running out. I thought about going around the middle of the month, but that is next week already and this last week has gone way to quickly. It would only be two days out if I went, so I won’t rule it out. It’s been really nice just being here, a few anxiety issues but I am working through that. Still have to write out a bio and project statement but trying to not think about it. Hopefully I should be able to just revamp something else I have written… in fact sure I already gave them something that should say it all, just need to rejig the proposal…. doesn’t stop me from getting anxious about it. Still anxious about the other artists arriving but everything time I think about it I just take a few deep breaths and then I feel ok, trying hard to not futurize/catastrophize 🙂 .. The last two days I have been spending some time working in my studio space so thats a good start in helping me migrate from the kitchen, but i am still in here at the stove and my dyeing.

I will post some photos of my bundles and really need to add in some comments as some interesting things occurred that I would like to record but feeling too weary at the moment, so will add to it later:


Day 6 La Maison Verte

A few photos of dyeing from yesterday, i resisted opening the fabric bundles, wish I had taken a photo of what they looked like when I took them out of the pot, the outsides at least changed dramatically, which much darker green showing through. The green is more a result of the alum. The main leaves that have successfully printed are our beloved eucalypts, we are so lucky in Australia having an abundance of this plant. Mindful that this fabric is probably a poly cotton, even harder to print than plain cotton. It didn’t dawn on me until later that cushion insert covers would likely not be cotton. The results with the iron blanket are interesting and i like the oak leaf print. I will move now onto some cotton sheeting and see how that goes. Yesterday I got a hint of a nice red onto cotton rag paper from a local tree leaf and got quite excited but it did nothing on the fabric. The paper was steamed and unmordanted. Also with the paper the colours all just merged with traces of prints (apart from a clear rose print and some of the sage). Interesting though and lots to work with… just need to get some more paper ordered, or maybe I just tear up what I have into smaller bits, only thing with that is it doesn’t work so well with larger leaves…. but does that really matter, its more about a feel of the place and traces, not so much about a story of the plants themselves.



This was the iron blanket (unbleached pdf calico) and was used folded over the top of the small piece below this is the outside


Inside of iron blanket, didn’t expect the print to permeate so many layers. The idea of the iron blanket is to reuse it. Not sure if I will as there are some nice prints. Maybe I will tear it up then i will have small pieces I can reuse in the dye pot and other pieces that can go into the work.


Front (dyed with iron blanket)




Interesting that the print from the eucalyptus neglecta has printed through several times during the rolling process, layering itself through the fabric


Front sid


Reverse side

New notes added 9/9

Whoops, just went to add some more photos to yesterday and couldn’t find the post… looks like I forgot to publish it. Will add a few more photos and hopefully come back and do some more editing in next few days:


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.

Day 4 La Maison Verte

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.


Another good use for nettles

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.


Day 3 at La Maison Verte

So far not a very productive day. Finding it very hard to get motivated. Feeling a bit like it’s just another place with the same techniques and nothing really new and exciting happening. Feeling very self-conscious and embarrassed that I can’t speak French, but that’s just the way it is. With my poor working memory languages are difficult, just remember unfamiliar sounding names is hard enough. From the safety of the house its like it doesn’t matter, but whenever I see someone walking by through the kitchen window a pang of anxiety sets in. Crazy I know but thats what is happening. I have managed to make some walnut ink so that is something positive. Not sure that I will use it though. At one stage I ended up turning it into sludge so had to reconstitute it, although the colour was quite good, but very thick and mucky. Took me quite a while to strain it but I wouldn’t have wanted it any thinner as the colour would have been too light. After adding some alcohol to preserve it got a bit thin and the smell from the alcohol is horrible. The second bottle I added less alcohol and I have half a small glass left that I have left without alcohol at this stage. The only alcohol I could find was an ethanol based one which was 90% alcohol, it smells lethal and makes me nervous even having it in the house. Maybe I should have just used some of the vodka I found but that is only 40%. It was just a little experiment and bit of fun. I also have small glass of leftover sludgy stuff which I might try to print with. I found some glycerine in the studio and I read on the net that you can add that to make it a consistency to print with onto paper, I will give it a try and see what happens. Which reminds me I still need to order in some supplies. Not sure why I keep putting it off. Guess I am worried about having too much stuff to deal with at the end and don’t want to waste too much money with leaving supplies behind and with sending stuff home. I am very keen to bring home the sheets I bought, the fabric, whatever it is, is amazing, I just love it. But those sheets are huge and very heavy. I also bought a few smaller similar items at the most amazing place that Val took us to in a village near her. I paid similar prices for much smaller items, I went with tea towels instead of sheets as I was worried about the cost etc. It has been like with each purchase the prices have gotten better.

I have also kept the walnut matter that I strained off and have put it a pot with other cleanup sludgy matter and covered it will water, along with the white linen looking cushion cover I strained it with and a piece of petticoat I cut from the hem and used to do a final strain of the liquid. I would say there is more dying power left in it so will keep it and use it as I go along.

After I finished cleaning up I went searching for rusty stuff. All I could find was an old frypan with grid holes in it that was with some pots a previous artist left behind (she was experimenting with eco printing onto various textiles). I spotted some rusty bit attached to the top of a ladder but try as I might I could not wrench them off. I submerged the frying pan thing into a bigger pot of water and left it on the stove while I went for a wander. I had messaged Kinga earlier reminding her that I needed rusty bits, she had said she would get some to me) but didn’t get a response. I shouldn’t be bothering her so much, I should have asked her yesterday what her time frame was with getting stuff to me. I decided to collect some leaves as well and take a gps recording of my walk.


Was great to get out of the house and do a wander. I saw a few rusty looking objects on some old farm vehicles but really couldn’t wander onto people’s property without asking and as it was getting late and probably peoples tea time I didn’t want to bother anyone and with my anxiety around conversing with people the timing really wasn’t right. I did try to unscrew something off an old fence but like the ladder it just wasn’t going to budge. I enjoyed gathering a few leaves which made me feel a bit more connected with what I was doing.. . whatever that is… reminding me that I need to my bio and write a project brief … a task that is definitely adding to my anxiety.. nothing unexpected there, I always knew being here would have those types of issues for me… with having to actually make something and have an exhibition. Keep reminding myself that at this stage I have plenty of time and there is no benefit in panicking… yet!! But as we know the mind doesn’t always listen to reason.

While collecting one plant, I will post a photo of it, the damn thing didn’t like having a leave broken off and one of its seed pods spat at me with liquid and seeds. I let out a little yelp as it got me in the face and by surprise. I was waiting for something horrible to happen, but it didn’t, my eye felt a bit funny for a while and I was pretty creeped out by it. If anyone knows what it is please leave a comment.

As I picked the leaf one of the seed pods spurted liquid and seeds into my face. You can see some of the seeds cradled in a leaf at the centre bottom right.

As I was on my way back I saw a familiar face from yesterday, thought it was a guy who works at the garden but think it is Kinga’s boyfriend (they could be one and same person), I asked him if he had any rusty stuff and he said he thought there might be some in his mother’s garden and would get Kinga to follow-up for me. As I walked back I found a big rusty horse show in a well structure near the walnut tree which I know belongs to Kinga’s boyfriends mum Nicole… hence that’s why I thought the guy I was speaking to must be Kinga’s boyfriend. Anyway I took the horseshoe and sent Kinga a message later asking her to let Nicole know I took it and will bring it back at the end of the residency. Don’t want anyone to think I am a horseshoe thief.

Got back to house (with a few more midgie bites) and popped the horseshoe into the pot on the stove. Really need to find a lid for the pot/basin as it had been on high for over an hour and not even looking like boiling, don’t like wasting electricity. I think tomorrow the guy from the garden is going to set up a cooker for me at the garden but am a bit worried that I will go through the gas. The cooker here has three gas burners and one electric which is what I have been using for the walnut ink and now the boiling of rusty stuff. They only have gas bottles and with the stove going all day it will chew through those. The natural dye artist previous did all her dyeing on this stove here and I would be happy to do that but when the other 4 arrive I don’t think it would be appreciated but maybe it would be ok, it obviously wasn’t an issue for the other artist and her fellow artists. I wouldn’t have liked being here with the previous lot, as I have only now got rid of the turps smell out of the house, at first thought it was ingrained but it wasn’t so that was a bonus.


Trying to develop an iron bath to soak some fabric in for an “iron blanket”, need a lot more rusty stuff, hopefully some will appear tomorrow

Better get the photos uploaded (back to my phone app to do that.. a bit of a pain, they load up easy from the app but I can’t seem to add captions and do the editing I need so then its back to the laptop. At least I am getting stuff on the site so that is something. Just need to not spend too much time with it. I already have enough excuses to not make stuff. I should be kinder to myself and go with the flow. It has always been mode of working to be more active at night so I should just go with that. Trying to not worry about what it will be like when the others turn up. Having to fit in with four other people will change a lot about the way i will have to live and work. Not necessarily bad, in fact having others around will hopefully motivate me. The fact they all speak spanish will be another language challenge. I found it a bit uncomfortable at Val’s when she was speaking French with her family a lot of the time. Just felt kind of weird and I had to shut off from it.

Maybe I can add photos near the text that references the pictures, I will try to figure that out, but it just might be quicker to load them all at the end and add the captions. Learning as I go along with the thing. I am sure I will be able to speed things up.

Inserting the photos seems to be working fine, will do that as I go from now on.

When I went out for my walk I went past the recycling area near the Botantical garden. This is where I have to take empty bottles to. I noticed there were two bins and decided to look in to see what was what. The first one was clearly for glass bottles and the second one had papers in it. I couldnt help but notice some old magazines so decided to pull out a few for collage fodder. I was just looking through one of them and it’s a womens magazine from 1958, so interesting, think they will have to come home with me intact.

A few more photos from my walk this evening:


These wretched nettles are everywhere, maybe I should don some gloves and make some nettle soup

Day 2 at La Maison Verte

Picked up by Kinga around 8.45am to go to the flea market at Nogent. We picked up get friend Matildhe on the way. Apparently it’s a bit of a ritual to go to the flea market every Sunday, which is help in a different village each week. I purchased a variety of antique linen (not sure of the fibres, likely combinations of cotton, linen and possibly hemp; a small camping type pot set that included a steamer; some interesting drawing implements and a decorative wax sealer thingy that Matildhe found. She decided it didn’t really have a use for her and didn’t need another decorative item , despite finding it beautiful so I grabbed it, couldn’t resist. Then off to the supermarket for some more food and art supplies.

Still tired from the workshop and travelling so had a slow afternoon trying to delete things off my laptop to make it useable. Feeling very sluggish, achey and sinusey but decided I needed to do something positive to ward off the flatness I was feeling. So I pulled out my booty from today and unpacked some art materials and started to scatter things around my studio space. Started feeling better, just handling some material and paper was instant therapy.

Kinga came around in the late afternoon to take me to the botanical garden to gather some vegetables and have a brief tour of the garden. She showed me an area where I can set up an outside under cover studio which is awesome. They are going to try and set me up a gas cooker there do I can do my dyeing. I am happy to dye at the house but when the others turn up I don’t think it will be so appreciated. Kinga asked me if I thought I might like to mainly work in the garden and for other work use a small studio space attached my bedroom so she could offer my existing studio space to one of the other artists. While I loved the outdoor space I really didn’t want to give up my downstairs studio as I will need an inside space for laying out papers etc. Kinga said that was fine as she could set to the lounge room as a studio. I said I didn’t mind sharing and didn’t want to feel like I was hogging the other studio but she assured me it was fine.

Think I got a bit flat earlier on after Kinga told me that the other two artists were bringing companions which means I will be sharing the space with 4 others not just 2 as I was expecting. Will totally change the dynamic which concerns me. Have been taking a few deep breaths and telling myself it will be ok and that I just need to go with the flow and try and get as much sleep as possible before then. Sharing the bathroom will also be interesting and adapting to the noise of 4 others in what really is a small house. I am still thinking about going to Paris for a few days so will definitely be leaving that til after the others arrive. On the positive side I never expected to arrive to an empty house, which I am loving despite before I came being worried that being alone with my thoughts for so long could be dangerous until I realised that I wouldn’t be alone and at the time was relieved by the thought that I would have other artistic types around to share the experience with.

Still trying to figure out how to load my photos into the blog. Trying to do it on my laptop only causes it to crash so I have set up the app on my phone and writing this post from there so will give it a go with this post and go back and edit the previous posts later. The issue is with loading up my iPhone photos, it’s clogs up my laptop. I am sure if I was trying to add photos that I had fully downloaded from my camera I wouldn’t have the issue, but so far have just been wandering around with my phone. I did take the camera out for a walk earlier but only took a few photos as I felt I had already taken so many. Once I get up and running and focussed more on my project I will be taking more photos, of the location and my work in progress. Talking of such things, Kinga asked me to provide a bio and a few paragraphs on my project so it could be translated for the catalogue. I had thought I provided something with my initial application but I know that was rushed with only being given 24 hours to put my application and proposal in. The project will probably be a bit different anyway. Think I have a week but she wanted it pretty soon due to it needing to be translated.

Yesterday when I went for my walk I noticed a large walnut tree which had some old blackened skinned walnuts lying on the ground. Of course my mind went to thinking I could make some walnut ink, so today I asked Kinga about the tree and explained it was close to where her boyfriends mother lives. She thought it would be fine and when we were at the garden this afternoon her boyfriend’s mother Nicole was manning the office and she said it was fine to collect the walnuts, at first she was confused as she didn’t think there were any ripe walnuts on the tree but when Kinga explained my purpose she smiled and appeared to understand. After I got back to the house and unloaded my basket of vegetables I wandered up the road to gather the walnuts. I didn’t find a great amount but should be enough to make enough ink for what I might need. I was about to leave the tree when I found an extra stash of nuts I hadn’t seen earlier. Because I was so focussed on looking for black skins I didn’t notice until it was too late that the bonus stash were sitting on a bed of nettles. It was a very uncomfortable trip back to the house!

Some of you reading this may be exhausted by now, that’s if you are still reading so I will close off here. Those of you who know me well will understand my need to give a blow by blow account of my thinking and doing. Primarily this blog is for my own benefit to keep a record of my experiences and to assist me in remembering for later but I do hope it might be of interest to others as well. I also apologise for any typos and some weird highlighting thing that occurred above, I will be editing later but right now I need to prepare some food as it’s quite late. Not use to having to feed myself after 2 months of being fed by others. Also it’s seems that the photos load easily from my phone so will definitely be using the app to at least do that part.

The back of Maison La Verte

Interesting to see the stone under the rendering, have been told the house is a work in progress but no idea as to its age, maybe I will find someone in the village who can fill me in

Detail of the garden wall, there is evidence of repair. I particularly like the detail on the top

Detail of the top of the stone wall



Detail of tiles in the living room


This is a vinyl with a seagrass matting pattern in the front room that is my studio, brings back very fond memories from my childhood. Haven’t seen sea grass matting around for years.

Tiles in the entrance way and foyer area

Basket of vegetables collected at Jardin Botanique de Marnay sur Seine

Interesting wax sealer stamp thingy found at the market, the base is plain



Top of the ceramic handle


Sheets, fabric and a petticoat found at the market


Detail of of one of the sheets, am told it is probably cotton with maybe some linen, I am not sure


Detail of a more coarsely woven sheet, this one is very worn. Was suggested that this is more likely to contain linen than the other 2 finer sheets, again I can’t tell.


This fabric is very stiff, has some natural markings and other marks that look like fold stains. Pretty sure this one is linen but it could include be hemp or a blend