I don't know about you, but I am ready to leave 2017 in the rearview and click the do-over button on January 1st. Normally I am more inclined to refresh my life in the fall and I am not a big believer in New Year's resolutions. I have some frustrating issues with my health and some other troubles that while they will pass, stole my energy and inspiration. I am at my happiest when answering the question "What if?" by creating something. So, I decided to take the advice of two great artists. Chuck Close said "Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work." Pablo Picasso said "Inspiration exists, but it must find us working." In other words, get off your butt whether you feel like it or not.
This time the spark came while standing in line at the grocery store. There were huge displays of poinsettias, and people are always asking me if they eco print, so why not give it a try? If nothing else it would be five bucks worth of entertainment.
|Giving me a house plant is always dicy, I tend to enjoy them for a bit and then-off with their heads!|
As you are aware, they have a reputation for being poisonous. The truth is they are more irritating than poisonous. The example given on various plant sites was that a fifty pound child would need to eat 500 leaves in one sitting to die. Cheery thought. Anyway, this would explain why a cat we used to have ate them on a regular basis and seemed just fine. The puzzling thing is they are reported to be absolutely vile to the taste buds. The reason is they contain (here are your big science words for the day) diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin like detergents, both bitter and mildly poisonous. The red color comes from red pigments called anthocyanins also found in red cabbage, blueberries, and raspberries. You can use poinsettia leaves to demonstrate ph just as you can with red cabbage. Since the white sap of the poinsettia can irritate the skin it is probably best to stick with red cabbage with young children, but high schoolers might get a kick out of beheading mom's house plant.
|Wearing gloves to protect my hands as a precaution.|
I used one scrap of silk crepe that had been treated with alum and one with steel wool which would also have been exposed to vinegar and salt as part of that process. I used both leaf colors and laid them face up and face down to see if one side printed better than the other.
I steamed the rolls for an hour and took them out for a rest, about four days.
|I love peeking in the steamer to see what is happening, but I try to remember that they may not look the same at the end of the process.|
The first one is the alum treated sample. The red in the roll above changed to purple over the four days. Love the purple, the yellow is rather alarming. I may rip it in half and do a black bean dye over it to see if I can tone that down.
|The leaves did make a more distinct print out the veined, or underside of the leaf, as most do.|
The second sample is the silk that had been exposed to steel wool, salt and vinegar. These colors are much more appealing to my sensibilities.
I guess in all of this I was hoping for a pink or red, and if I played around with other mordants, I might just get it. Of course the next question is, "Is it permanent?". As much reading up as I have done, I can't answer that. Since it is the same pigment as red cabbage the answer might be that it needs another rinse in something else, and a possible color change, to make the resulting color last. The plan is to let the samples hang next to the studio window and expose them to our moderate (almost non-existent) winter sun and watch for changes. The best way to do that is to rip each sample in half and keep one in the closet while the other hangs out. I may use the rest of the plant in samples with other mordants or techniques and see what happens.
|It looks pretty good even if its backside did get removed! Kind of like putting the bad side of the Christmas tree against the wall.|
Merry Christmas and I hope 2018 turns out to be a year of wonder and inspiration for you!