Eco Printing in Harrison Bay State Park
Everywhere I go I am inspired by nature and the numerous options for experimenting with the eco print process. The possibilities are literally endless. Since I became a full-time artist I have been able to travel more and I have been eco printing with new plant materials grown in different environments. Usually my husband, Bo, and I take off on our adventures with our Keystone camper, our G3 fishing boat and our hiking gear. I throw in my "Eco Print Road Trip Kit" and we are off to the woods, lake, or mountains. It is such a joy to be able to have these great environments as my outdoor eco printing studio.
In case you don't know what I am referring to when I say "Eco printing", here is a description. This particular eco-printing process includes sandwiching plant material between layers of fiber/paper, stacked between ceramic tiles that are bound with rubber bands. These bundles are placed in a hot water/dye bath that contains iron and simmered for about an hour and a half. This process causes the tannins in the plant material to react to the heat, water and iron and release the tannin to transfer the image to the fiber/paper. I lovingly call it backyard science and I never get tired of peeling back the paper to reveal the image that has been created in the dye bath.
Eco Print Road Trip Kit
That is why I love taking my simple eco-printing tools along with me on road trips so I can experiment with botanicals in all kinds of natural settings. Regardless of my surroundings, I can always find ways of creating with what the universe has made available to me. Eco printing can be done with simple ingredients that you can find locally, and you can get started very inexpensively. I am proud to say that I put together my "Eco Print Road Trip Kit” for around $30. Here is what I'm using to create in the wild with electricity: my $3.99 stew pot with lid and $5.99 hotplate purchased from Goodwill, tongs, 6" ceramic tiles (4 of these), rubber bands, iron pills (Flintstones+Iron in this case), towels, water, a tray to collect plant material, and paper. These simple ingredients are all I need for my instant outdoor eco-printing studio with a view and this simple tool kit has been part of creating art in Wyoming, Texas, and various places in Tennessee.
A couple of weeks ago my husband and I loaded up our camper and our fishing boat and headed out to Harrison Bay State Park to spend a few days camping and fishing on Lake Chickamauga. We love going down there to fish because the bass are big and we have had success catching them. My life fish "the one that got away" is still in that lake and I am on a mission to find it. A couple of years ago I lost about a 7 pound largemouth bass right at the boat and that has kept me coming back for more!
We enjoy camping in our favorite spot overlooking the marina with a nice view of the lake in this 1200 acre park on the shores of Chickamauga Lake. There are many beautiful hardwoods that are native to the Southeast in this park and the trees and flowers were beginning to blossom and bud out. There were hickory blooms, baby blackberry leaves, wildflowers in bright yellow and dogwoods everywhere. Much to choose from for eco-prints.
There is usually plenty of fodder and plant material around the campsite to collect and use for printing. I like the challenge of using leaves and blossoms I have found on the ground. It makes me think of my grandmother’s saying "do the best you can with what you've got". I enjoy the process and it is especially exciting when something spectacular occurs with found objects and simple ingredients.
Eco-printing this time of year produces very vivid greens and yellows most of the time. There is simply no tannin in these baby leaves. However, there is such beauty in their simplistic and small details when they print on paper. I wanted to share the process I followed with you - kind of like my recipe, in hopes that you might want to try it for yourself. I can't wait to see what results you get in the wild.
I filled my stew pot about 3/4 full of hot water and 6 Flintstone vitamins +iron, placed it on my hotplate and turned it on high. I allowed the water to boil and stirred the water to ensure the vitamins were dissolved. I layered plant materials between layers of card stock and stacked them between two 6" ceramic tiles and then bound them with rubber bands on all four sides and around the middle. I placed this bundle in the stew pot and put the lid on to boil for 60 minutes. I removed the bundle with my tongs and placed it on the towel to drain for a few minutes. Once it was cool enough to handle I put my gloves on and carefully dismantled the bundle one layer at a time. I removed the rubber bands from the bundle while keeping the stack intact between the ceramic tiles and placed this stack on the table. I removed the top ceramic tile carefully and slowly peeled back each layer of paper to reveal the print beneath. It was magical!
Please let me know if you try this method and send me pictures of your results! I will be sharing more recipes and techniques via my online community and would love for you to be a part of it. Please sign up for my newsletter to receive the info and to learn more about eco-printing in the wild!