Lake Pigments

By Art, Botanical Dye, Botanical Ink, Experiments, Play, Process

I recently did an online lake pigment workshop with Natalie Stopka (I’d recommend) which was super informative and fun and has opened up a whole other dimension of exploring plant colour. Being able to transform exhausted dye baths into pigment powder colours is very useful since storing them can be difficult and often leads to mold and in my case rows of jars of murky liquids whose labels have fallen off.

The process is so alchemical and beautiful. There is frothing and fizzing and pools of deep colours as the pigments are filtered. Nothing is fixed and there are are so many changes, colours that start bright purple can end up pale pink.

m a g i c

Ink for Marion

By Botanical Ink, Experiments

Marion asked me to make an ink for a stamp she as carving. The inks I usually make are watery, reduced to concentrate plant materials boiled in water. I am curious, I like to experiment and investigate so I cannot help but to research, to try to find a way to make an ink suitable for printmaking.

I read recipes that require ingredients I do not have. I know an ink for printmaking would need to be viscous, thick and have a deep colour. Eventually the solution is part cheat as I find some old but still usable transparent printmaking extender. I make charcoal with willow which I mix with the extender and more or less it functions to print the stamp Marion has made.


By Botanical Dye, Ecology, Experiments, Process

The creation of the geodome for Sueños Botánicos meant quite a lot of leftover material from the off cuts as I formed triangles. I dreamed up the dome as a place to sleep, to contemplate our relationship with plants, to the world around us whilst cocooned inside plant colours. A patchwork quilt was then in some ways the obvious solution to make use of the waste.

I did not know how to thread the sewing machine without help before I started. * So thank you to my budding seamstress daughter and partner for their help. I also had no idea about how to make a quilt. I am amazed at what you can do with some YouTube tutorials. I wish I had the link to share but can’t retrace my internet steps. Darleen from America set me on an easy make triangles with two squares technique in a couple of minutes, for which I am eternally grateful.

I really enjoyed the process, the adventure. Finding solutions for problems of how to do various stages as I came across them. And also for the learning process and acceptance of imperfection. I like to be tidy and do things well. I have a bit of a perfectionist problem which leads to procrastination and paralysis. I embraced imperfection with this quilt. The points of the shapes do not meet. The thread is sometimes (often) tangled. I used different coloured threads because I was too impatient to wait until I could source the same coloured thread again. The material puckers in places. But I love it. I love that I created this beautiful tactile object. I love to wrap myself into it. I love that the imperfections are woven into it as part of a visible learning process.

Circle of samples dyed with cochineal


By Ecology, Experiments

I was not interested in making colour with anything other than plants.

I was aware of cochineal and its history. I have seen the chumbera prickly pears cacti wither succumbing to their insect parasite. I have marveled at the cochineal insects in my garden, I initially thought them to be a strange fungi.

I read about cochineal as I investigated the history of colour. The source of bright pinks, reds and organges from Mexico that were traded throughout the world. Both the cochineal and their cacti host are considered invasive species here in Andalucia. Initially this had surprised me, the chumbera seemed so ubiquitous and settled in the landscape. I am learning, I am also not autochthonous.

I am not interested in making colour with anything other than plants. Then a neighbour cuts an infected cactus and I find myself with cochineal and curiosity.