Day 13 La Maison Verte

Just realised I didn’t post about yesterday’s activities, probably getting a bit confused as yesterday morning I posted for the previous day. The time seems to be going way too fast. My pace of working has definitely slowed since Graciela and Sandrulia arrived. I have also been in a bit of pain with my lower back/hip since Troyes and have been taking anti-inflammatories to keep it at bay, think today it is on the improved. Have also been catching up on a bit of sleep which is a good thing.

The biggest developments from yesterday were my experiments with soy mordanted paper and fabric. I like the changes in colour, with more reds tones and softer shading but with the paper I had problems with the paper delaminating. On one piece that I steamed, one side of the paper completely adhered to a glazed ceramic tile I was using. The paper was a heavy weight proofing paper that had worked fine with the alum. The problem wasn’t so bad a lighter piece of somerset (cotton rag) paper. The somerset was also boiled not steamed and only left three hours opposed to overnight with the steamed piece. Not really having success with the steaming but that’s likely related to my equipment not being ideal. I like the colours on fabric. One piece the prints were more blurred, but thinking that could be related to it and another alum piece being steamed for a few hours before being put into an iron bath. I wasnt happy with the steaming so decided it needed something more. The last piece I did with the soy that was boiled from the beginning didn’t have the same problem. I hope all that makes sense but trying to get this down as quick as I can so I can get on with the days activities.. it’s nearly 2pm and nothing much happening yet… which is not an unusual time frame for me. I have committed to cooking tonight, which is a big thing for me as I get quite anxious cooking for people I don’t know well, not to mention the other challenges with using this kitchen. I also think the other two people are arriving today but I have had conflicting information about that. Guess we will see them when they get here.


This piece was soy mordanted and placed in iron water dye pot (now contaminated from a lot of bundles and alum). It delaminated slightly. There are some nice colours happening but I don’t like the splotchiness that happened. This could have been a result of the combination of the cotton gauze it was wrapped in and the fact the paper is slightly textured.


The following papers were steamed in my tiny steamer in-between a thin glazed ceramic tile. The soy piece was on the bottom and totally stuck to the tile and delaminated leaving a tissue thin paper. The soy is sticking like glue to the papers. This paper was a lot thicker than the somerset but wasn’t cotton. The other pieces were mordanted with alum. I like the way the colours were contaminated by the soy paper, hoping I can exploit this in some way by indirectly using the soy to effect the colours on the alum mordanted papers.



This is the soy piece still adhered to the tile.

Here are the fabric pieces from yesterday:


These are both cotton and soy mordanted. The one on the left was wrapped in an iron blanket. It’s hard to tell from this shot but the fabric is a darker green than fabric batched in a similar way with alum mordant. The one on the left is very different to the alum, with reddish tones and the green being seen. This one however has a faded appearance, I am not sure why. I did rinse them both quite heavily in warm water to try and get rid of the soy residue and smell. After ironing they have gone very very stiff and smooth, they feel like laminated fabric. I need to find a way to get the soy out without ruining the fresh prints.


The long strip on the right is a new addition, nothing much different to report here. I did use a few different plants including one that has given a darker green that I like. Just hope I can find it in the garden again. Alum mordant, contaminated iron water vat.


Detail showing new green leaf, the other side of the leaf printed a darker green.


Linen, soy mordanted. I did steam this for a few hours with the papers but was worried it wouldnt have enough background colour so stuck it with the one on the right into the iron vat for about an hour and then left it in overnight. This has also ironed stiff like the other two soy mordanted pieces, but surprisingly not as stiff, which is interesting as the linen is a much stiffer fabric undyed.


The fabric on the left was batched with the linen that was soy mordanted (on the right). Having been steamed for a few hours could attribute to the bleeding that has occurred. I also think some of the warmer tones in this piece is due to be batched with the soy piece… a similar thing happened with the papers.

Day 12 La Maison Verte

Guillaume kindly took us to the train station to get the train to Troyes. Despite being a rainy day I really enjoyed the day. The town is the capital of the Department/region. In the centre the buildings had a very medieval feel to them. Felt a lot like a few villages I saw in the UK.


Lots of churches. In particular I liked a church dating from the 12th C. (multiple additions and restorations since). Most of the inside of the original church, which had completely painted (murals) walls, was whitewashed in the 1700’s. The info I read didn’t explain why. There was also a beautiful garden at the back of the church, which was lovely even in the rain:


Another highlight of the day was visiting the tool museum. I will post just a few photos of the building and some of the display cabinets, of particular interest was the bookbinding tools:



This was part of a display on the ground floor separate to the main tool museum



I found this photo fascinating, a glimpse of the people, all so different.


This girl particularly caught my eye, her hair, her stance, hands, clothes. My imagination went wild, just realised another reason I may have been attracted to it is she reminds me of one of my daughters friends from when she was in primary school.

Only downside of the day was that my hip went on me just after arriving at the train station ready to head back. Could hardly walk and in a lot of intermittent pain, which became more constant as the evening went on. So far on this trip, despite lots of walking, they have been pretty good. Since arriving in Ireland where I had a car I have walked a lot less so my fitness has reduced slightly. I did a lot of walking yesterday which probably aggravated things. Still not good today, hope it improves soon. Luckily I have some anti-inflammatories I bought in Spain, would need a prescription otherwise. I did fall down the stairs at the house 4 days ago, so that also may have unsettled things. It’s a rainy day again today so won’t be doing a lot of walking.

Nearly forgot to mention that I also had a trip to the art shop. Was very restrained and bought one piece of Arches bfk 280gsm paper, 2 small tubes of block printing ink… what a find that was, so pleased I didn’t order anything from the UK, would have paid $40 for shipping and had ink that I wouldn’t use. I just wanted to have a little experiment so this ink will be great. I also bought a chunky graphite pencil that hopefully won’t bleed. I have about 10 different pieces of graphite or pencil and most of them bleed. However, the graphite on the paper I boiled Tuesday night didn’t bleed off. I also found some lovely single page cards that I will send off as gifts. In total I spent less than $25.


Last night I opened 2 little bundles from the day before. One was just a small sample.. just to have something in the pot really 🙂 .. And the other was the walk I did around the village Tuesday evening. I took my pencil for a walk and collected leaves along the way and sandwiched them as I went. The paper was not mordanted. I like the way the graphite marks interact visually with the marks from the plants. As I was gathering plants I wasn’t as familiar with (as I have become with some of the plants I am choosing from the garden), they didn’t always mark and are more hit and miss. I like this. I was starting to feel that I was controlling the process in order to get more distinct marks on the paper/fabric. That is nice but I want this work to be more about the walking and discovering…. I just can’t find the words to really explain what I mean at the moment… art speak just isn’t working for me right now.


These were boiled as a concertina bundle, unmordanted and wrapped in a little gauze cloth before tying.


I am thinking that I might join all the samples together to make one large long piece. The paper work is also exciting me as well and I want to explore some more. If need be I can get another sheet in Paris next week. Was thinking of creating a line with the paper depicting my walk. I am getting better responses from the paper, especially the pieces I am rolling not folding. All the paper I had with me is either a4 or concertina folded so I could transport it. For this work I can tear up the paper I bought yesterday and keep it flat. Ideas are brewing which is also a good thing.

No bundles made up yesterday. Needed to give the plants a rest.



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: