Under the right conditions, the prolonged contact of the leaf on the cloth can make a beautiful print. This all sounds straightforward and easy enough, but I have been experimenting with this at home with only moderate success.
The odd vague outline of a leaf was the closest I had come to any of the pictures in India Flint’s book ‘Eco-Colour, Botanical dyes for beautiful textiles’ so I jumped at the chance to attend a 3-day eco-printing workshop in the New Forest with Swiss dyer & eco-printer extraordinaire Fabienne Dorsman-Rey.
Fabienne is that most generous of teachers, happily and energetically sharing her experience, knowledge and mistakes for three solid days and carrying on way beyond official workshop hours. The days were spent happily collecting leaves and bundling them in felt and fabric, scribbling notes furiously, taking a ridiculous amount of photos and unwrapping bundles excitedly, all in excellent company and glorious weather.
I was disappointed with the bundles from my first day as there were no discernable prints, but with Fabienne’s support and encouragement day two’s unwrapping became a very happy occasion as print after print revealed itself. I shared my delight with another student who had been similarly disappointed the previous day; hugs and squeals of delight following each unwrapped bundle in quick succession.
Out of everything I learned during this workshop, what struck a chord with me the most is the low-impact nature and the organic, time intensive approach this method dictates, and the open-minded and experimental attitude that is required of the dyer… A leaf here, a bit of metal there, some felt, a dye bath made of weeds, plenty of time, a sprinkle of magic et voila; something beautiful and unexpected emerges. Results can be unpredictable as there are so many variables at work in this kind of alchemy, and in that way I sense it is a bit like feltmaking: Rather addictive!
Home again and in between preparations for one of my own workshops, I have managed to prepare and mordant some second-hand fabrics and pieces of felt, ready for my next batch of printing experiments. I’ve still got a few unopened bundles left from the New Forest which I’ve hidden out of sight to let time do its thing. Autumn is well and truly here now, so my next ‘job’ is to go out there and start collecting leaves.