My dear friend, ex-OCA student and total guru on all things Dartmoor, Julia saw my plea for info on FB about the plant samples I had collected outside HMP Dartmoor and sent me this:
Row 1 hawkweed or hawkbit / willowherb (Epilobium) / dock (Rumex)
Row 2 Redshank (Polygonum persica) / either buckler or male fern / polypody fern (polypodium vulgare
Row 3 blackberry (Rubus) / hogweed (heracleum) probably / cotoneaster I think!
Row 4 Polystrichum moss probably / Knapweed (centaurea nigra) / either bent grass or meadow grass – at a guess!
in response to this:
for which I shall be eternally grateful.
Apart from the plant material I also collected some soil for my print making.
This is the view from the entrance to HMP Dartmoor which has the trees from which I gathered my material and my monthly leaves (to the right).
Making the dye:
I boiled all the plant material except the Dock, Redshank and Cotoneaster berries in water to which I had added 1T malt vinegar, salt and the juice of 2 lemons in the hope that they would fix the dye somehow.
I then put the 3 remaining ingredients plus the soil in a pestle and mortar and started grinding away. I used these three ingredients to give some texture to the paste.
When the mixture had boiled for about 20 mins, I separated the liquid & blended the solids & this is what emerged:
Th ground paste looked like this:
I was quite surprised because , although the dye was a pink colour in the basin and on the paper:
when it emerged from the basin, it turned green almost instantly:
I printed from the paste onto medium cartridge paper and photographed the images when they were dry:
I then photographed the reflected LED light on the wet prints:
and the photograph becomes the object rather than the print.
Finally, I made a negative from a B & W image and put them on top of the dyed sheets and have left them in the greenhouse exposed to the sun’s rays. Of course this has now ensured that we will have no sun until next summer!
I moved the combination of negative on dyed sheets and in doing so, shifted the alignment. The inevitable ensued: no print on the dyed sheet but … fabulous imprint on the glass:
While the dyed paper remained resolutely unaffected:
Too impatient to try the solar gram again, I reverted to the cyanotype. I overexposed the first one leaving it out in 3pm sun for 2 hours, and just about got it partially right with the second one which I exposed for 2 minutes in an overcast 3pm absence of sun. I had tested the UV quality by seeing how long it took my husband’s glasses to turn brown – almost instantly – in those conditions.
Reflections on the experiment:
I was quite disappointed with the lighting conditions in the space where I photographed the prints because I could not get the white balance right as the light was coming in from 2 different sources & consequently the print backgrounds. e.g. Figures 8 & 10, are not a consistent colour. I could redo them and control the lighting better but the colours of the dye would have changed.
On the other hand, I had some accidental effects which are rather pleasing as in Figures 12 & 13 where there is a two-tone effect. The ‘gold’ effect in Figures 13 – 15 are created by the LED lights reflecting off the wet paste on the prints. These images make the photo a different object from the print which is quite a discovery for me.
The change in dye colour was also disappointing particularly since the stain on the paper towel has not changed 24 hours later – I don’t understand that.
On a second experiment 2 days later with the same material, I added salt crystals to the fresh prints in an attempt to fix the dye, even though I had added salt and vinegar to the pot while making the dye, but it had no fixative effect.
Notes on making dyes:
Fellow student Gesa Helms recently sent me a link to “How to make dyes from scratch” (Citylab) which has a fascinating take on dye foraging and making stating: “Jason Logan says we have become disconnected from it (ink), much like we are from our food. In fact, he compares the ink revolution he hopes to inspire to the locally sourced food movement.: (Citylab)
“It’s like when you have a carrot and you learn about the farmer who grew it and all the soil conditions,” he says. “It tastes better, but it also has a depth of story, and I think all my inks have a little story with them.”
That story is often attached to a sense of place.” This is also the thinking behind my Dartmoor dyes: in combination the ingredients which come from immediately outside HMP Dartmoor make up the dye and carry a part of the history of the prison with them:”“It’s really fun to pick a spot in your neighborhood and think about what ingredients, if you were to distill them, might be the essence of that place,”(Citylab)
Fabriss, M.: 2012. Anthotypes. Alternative Photography.