An earlier post (link) motivates my journey toward fabricating my own paints, which stems from interests both alchemical and artistic. My wife is a better gardener than I, and she is responsible for stocking our yard with several classic sources: weld, woad, false indigo, iris, madder, yarrow, tansy, and hopi sunflowers. We attended the workshop to figure out how to proceed working these into dyes (and pigments).
General Dye Making Process
|(1) Prepare substrate (fibers) with mordant. There are different strategies for preparing and dyeing vegetable fiber (cotton) vs. animal fiber (wool). Mordants are a class of materials that ensure dyes remain attached to the fiber (to impart color fastness). Common mordants are alum (common for pickling now), tannin, or iron or copper rich solutions (which will also dye the fiber); sometimes using changing the acidity (with vinegar, ash water) will enable the colors to bind to fibers. Image: for the workshop, six pretreated fibers were ready for dipping (wool and cotton; each with treated with alum, copper, and iron mordants).|
|(2) Harvest roots, flowers, stems, etc.|
|(3) Boil like making tea. Cooking time and steeping process vary. Use dried or fresh materials (recipe dependent).|
|(4) Use pH modifiers to alter color or dissolve the dye. For example, the indigotin molecule from woad/indigo requires basic pH to dissolve in water. Historically, fermented urine sufficed for this, but today most prefer RIT brand Color Remover (as Pat does in the image to prepare a woad vat), ammonia, or even diluted Drano. |
Cabbage & Beet dyes (link) are classic natural pH indicators, that demonstrate how acidity can affect color (very acidic = red, neutral = blue, basic =yellow)
(5) Dip fiber, let dry…
The category of Paint covers opaque mixtures of pigments. The opacity is indicative of the “large” size of the color particles (large enough to scatter light, >0.5 the diameter of human hair). These will settle over time (min to hours) and will have to be mixed prior use...that is...unless additional “binders” are not added to prevent settling. Binders change the rheology of the liquid (in laymen’s terms, binders thicken the paint). Lots of binders and pigments are available, from egg whites (glair), whole eggs (tempera), to biopolymers (Xanthan and Arabic gums).