The start of my journey into working with Natural print pastes and dyes

March 29, 2022

Back in mid January of this year, I went down to London to take part in a two day introductory course into working with Natural Print Pastes and Dyes by the lovely team behind Ceres Studio.

I've been away from my print table for almost three years (I can't quite believe it) due to maternity leave and then the world of Covid. It was such a delight to get back into a print room and play around with inks and samples again, I was in heaven. It was made even better by the fact I was learning this new skill of creating my own print pastes from natural sources - something I've been reading about and researching for some time whilst I was separated from my dear friend - the print table.

Sometimes a forced break can be a brilliant thing, it's so hard to do it voluntarily I have found. Having to step back and reflect on my practice for various reasons has been so insightful over the past year. I'd felt quite stale before my maternity leave and a bit out of sink with my work if I'm honest. However, I am itching to make work again through this new world of natural print pastes and dyes. It is just feeding my mind in so many ways, so I thought I'd share some snippets of what I did over the two days on the course....

The first two printed stripes on linen - Logwood + alum and fustic/lac + alum

 After being shown how to create the pastes ( I was too busy taking notes to take photos of this part) we started sampling stripes of chosen pastes on linen and silk. I chose to overlay all my test stripes to see what the effect this might have on the pastes too.

 

My almost complete test stripes on linen 

After printing a series of vertical stripes using a variety of natural print pastes, we were encouraged to print a set of horizontal stripes across all the colours using three different modifiers such as soda ash to understand what effect they can have on the paste.

The same set of tests but on silk

 

Once our tests were complete it was time to steam the fabric to see the final results. I was quite amazed at the transformation in some of the colours, especially how the hibiscus went from pink to grey and the effects of the modifiers.

  Colours post steam - linen is the top image, silk is the bottom image

With this new knowledge we spent the afternoon working up some of our own designs using paper stencils. I have been working on a few drawings in lockdown that followed on from my Helsinki residency and came up with these two pieces. 

My final designs (which are a work in progress I should say!) and my test stripes pinned on the studio wall at the end of a brilliant day.

 

We printed onto linen once more and some eucalyptus dyed silk for the final pieces of work. The palette feels much softer than the usual vivid brights I normally go for, but I am loving learning this new technique and the effect it is beginning to have on my work and practice as a whole.

I look forward to sharing more with you soon!

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