Natural Dyes – Leaf Prints

Kay and Leaf PileDenise Dyeing Leaves on PaperLast week, my friend, Kay Hille-Hatten, and I spent a day trying to do some natural dyeing of leaves onto paper. I had tried this not too long ago, but with less than satisfactory results. Kay found some directions from her book-making sources, and we followed them to the letter. What a difference clear instructions make!

We used all cotton rag paper (Arches watercolor paper, BFK Rives print paper, and Lennox print paper) and painted them on both sides with alum dissolved in water. We gathered lots of plant material (leaves, bark, flowers, berries) and other things we thought would dye (tea leaves and rust). We laid out the materials on paper and covered some of them with another piece of paper. Others we just left without another piece of paper. We then rolled them up on bamboo chop sticks and tied them tightly. We took out the chop stick and placed our bundles in a large steam pot. We kept the water level below the steam vents to avoid too much water on the paper. I think we probably steamed them for about 5 hours before taking them out.

We got some fun results and learned a lot about what works well and what does not work well. We liked using a top and bottom paper to get mirror images of the leaves. Otherwise, you get a design one two sides of one paper, which creates a dilemma of which side to use. Here’s some samples of our results.

Leaf Prints - view 2

Leaf prints - view 1

Leaf Prints - view 3

How to Make Tea Bag Paper – The Video

Tea Bag PaperI recently gave a demonstration of how I make tea bag paper for my collages. It is an easy and fun process. Give it a try. I have several samples of tea bag paper that I made with printed calligraphy, line drawings and stamps of beetles on the left.

Here is the video:

The demo was recorded by Luisa Nims, who is the creator and editor of the online magazine called “Mixed Media Art Magazine.” You can see the article she wrote about me in Volume 12 of the magazine. The magazine can be purchased individually or by subscription through Google Play or iTunes Newstand at ‬

Trip to Japan – Maruni Karakami Wood Block Printing

Printer at work - reducedThe variety of studios that we got to visit while in Japan was amazing. One place we visited was Maruni Karakami, which was a combination of a studio and retail store. They make wood block designs on washi paper (karakami) and then glue the paper onto sliding door panels. They have been in business for over 100 years. We watched one of their craftsman print a wood block design onto a piece of paper that was over 8 feet long. The wood blocks were much smaller (about 12” x 18”), so he had to align the paper to ensure that the repeats align perfectly. It was impressive to watch him work on this large sheet of paper. He was fast and accurate. This photo shows him applying the paint to the wood block prior to draping the paper over the wood block. Afterwards, the paper is glued to the sliding door panels, using glue that is made from funatori seaweed. Wood Block Print - reduced

A Walk into Abstracts…How Did They Do That

ScissionThere is a new e-book called A Walk into Abstracts…How Did They Do That. The book has work by 33 artists and is 183 pages long. There are detailed descriptions for each of the works in the book. I have two of my mixed media collages in this book with my descriptions. There is a tremendous amount of information about various ways to approach abstract work. If this subject interests you and you would like to purchase the e-book, go to this link:

The author is Sue St. John, who works in water media. The cost of the book is $27. I hope you enjoy the wonderful artwork in the book and the descriptions of the various ways to approach abstracts.

Sun-Printing with Setacolor Paints

Have you ever tried sun-printing with Setacolor Paints? I have always wanted to see how this process works. During the workshop with Lonni Rossi, I really didn’t get a chance to try it out, as I was so busy just making the “fabric collection.” I also have a long list of other things I want to try with the Setacolor Paints besides the sun-printing. Actually, the printing process is a result of the heat from the sun. The heat pulls the paint towards the heat source. In the case of the sun-printing, the items on the fabric shade the fabric from the heat of the sun, while the exposed parts get warmer and draw the paints toward that area of the fabric.

My friend, Franki Kohler, and I decided to fabric paint several weeks ago. She was also in the Lonni Rossi workshop. Here she worked on cyanoprint fabrics that were fascinating and a beautiful shade of blue, while I tried several approaches to sun-printing. Franki has a lot of experience with sun-printing and was very helpful.

Sun-printing-1Here’s the three fabrics that I made. The purple fabric was made using a rubber mat made of circles that is used in kitchens. I was able to make it lay flat on the fabric. On the top green fabric, I used different widths of rick-rack, which I pinned down. The smaller rick-rack made a better print, because I was able to totally pin it down to the back fabric. The wider rick-rack wasn’t as successful, because it sat on top of the other fabrics, and I wasn’t able to pin it down as tightly. Too much sun (heat) got under the wider rick-rack. The bottom green fabric was made using a wonderful ribbon from the Paper Source that is the shape of olive leaves on a thin ribbon. This ribbon is probably made from polyester and is easily manipulated. I was able to pin it down tightly. I don’t consider these fabrics finished yet, but I will use them for further experimentation.

Spoonflower Experiments

Layered print on cotton-1I have been reading about an online company called Spoonflower. They produce fabric that has been designed by an individual. Not only do they make fabric, but they also make other products, such wall paper, wrapping paper, etc. I read about them in “Quilting Arts”. The Pixeladies also mentioned them in the class I took on digital fabric design a couple of months ago. So I decided to try them out by sending them 3 images.

The first image is for a 12” square block on Kona cotton (left). I made the image slightly larger to accommodate the quilting and facing. It is a design I created using Photoshop’s layering capabilities. I can’t even remember how many layers I used to make it. I was a little disappointed in the square I received, because it didn’t appear to be as bright as my original image. However, I am still going to quilt it (by machine) to see the impact of the stitching on the design.

The second and third images were intended for silk scarves (right). However, I decided to have 8” square samples made instead. It takes 2 yards of fabric for me to print 3 scarves, Scarf samples on silkand I thought it was too expensive to print it without testing it first. Here are my samples. I have the same concern about the saturation and intensity of the colors as I did in the 12” square above. If you know the secret to brighter colors, please let me know. I will also check Spoonflower’s FAQ section for ideas.

Another Play Day with Kay – Gelli-prints

Kay Hill-Hatten and I managed to schedule another play day together. This time we went to Kay’s house and did some gelatin printing using her gelli-plates and water-soluble inks. We spent all day printing and over-printing. Kay was printing on card stock to make into cards. I brought some of my tea bag papers, tyvek, home-made papers, and other papers made from tissue papers. Some were pre-painted and pre-stamped.

Gelli-print papersKay cut a number of beautiful leaves from her yard, but we ended up not using them. We had so many other things to use as resists for the ink: ribbons with little leaves, yarns, cut-outs made from Tyvek, rick-rack, and circle ribbons. We did some stamping. We also made some stamps from the foam blocks that you heat and then imprint a design into it. We had so much fun just creating new papers.

Here’s a photo of some of the papers that I made. Most of them need some more work. I think the more layers you have on them, the better. So we are planning another play day to add some additional mediums to them.

Play Day with Kay – Tea Bag Party

My friend, Kay Hille-Hatten, and I had one of our play days recently. Kay casually mentioned that she had been saving tea bags for her paper book making processes. She makes exquisite books (and jewelry and gourds). Like so many other things, we were working in parallel on similar things. I also have been using tea bags. So we decided to get together and share some techniques using tea bags and stamping. Basically, I take my stack of little tea bags (mostly Earl Grey) and iron them onto WonderUnder. This gives me a base for stamping, painting, spraying, silk screening, and printing. Sometimes I paint the WonderUnder first to have another design underneath the tea bags.

Kay showed up with a marvelous collection of stamps and inks. So while she was ironing tea bags to the WonderUnder, I started playing with her stamps. She showed me several techniques to creating perfect stamps on my tea bags. I especially liked her collection of Kanji stamps. Kanji is the adopted Chinese logographic characters used in the modern Japanese language. I also had some other Kanji of different sizes that worked well with her stamps.

I had previously spent some time drawing beetles, flowers, and butterflies onto the tea bags with micron pens. I ironed the beetles down onto one piece of WonderUnder and stamped some more beetles from Kay’s collection of stamps. I will probably add some paint to this one after I finish adding beetles. Somehow a little butterfly showed up in this one, too.

Handmade collage papersAnother technique you can use is to cut the tea bag/WonderUnder paper to 8.5” x 11” and use it to copy things from my computer onto it. It gives such a great patina to whatever you copy on it. Here’s a photo of some of my papers.

After I finish my embellishments on the paper, I can use it for collage work. I have the added benefit that once I take off the backing, I can either iron it down to a dry surface or I can attach it using acrylic mat medium or some other glue. The only problem is that sometimes I like the paper so much, I don’t want to tear or cut it up for collage.

Ice Dyeing – BR-R-R

Ice DyeingAs I said in the last blog, my first exploration is with ice/snow dyeing. I finished dyeing a one-piece Union Jack blank that I bought from Dharma Trading Company. They have some fabulous pre-made blanks for t-shirt, scarves, shawls, dresses, pants, hats, and anything else you might want to dye or paint. They also have simple instructions for doing the ice dyeing. I had to do the ice dyeing instead of the snowing dyeing, because we live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We got a little frost the other night, but that is as close to snow as we usually get.

I got interested in doing ice dyeing when I bought some t-shirts that were dyed by my good friend Susan Helmer. She is a member of the Artists 7 group that I am in and is a very talented silk painter and jeweler. I had also seen an article in an issue of Quilters Newsletter that used the dyes in a liquid form.

Ice Dyeing - Union JackAnyway, my son Jake likes the color green. So I used powdered procion dyes starting with Chartreuse. Then sprinkled Leaf Green and Evergreen. I finished up with Loden, which looks like a greenish brown. I also put a piece of fabric (pimatex cotton) under the Union Jack at the bottom of the pan that was collecting the melted ice and dye. You would have thought that I would get muddy colors on the fabric that was in the drip pan, but the color variations were fabulous on the fabric, too. Here is a photo of both the Union Jack and the fabric. I love them both and am going to do some more ice dyeing in the future. I love the intensity of the color and the variety that I got. Needless to say, I have already ordered some more blanks to do some more ice dyeing.


I just love this time of year. After the rush of the Christmas season, it is the perfect time to play in my studio. The weather does not make it too inviting to go outdoors, but allows me to focus in my studio. There aren’t too many art shows going on that will take my attention away from creating art. I can try out new techniques and play with the products that I have. It also gives me a great excuse to buy a few new products as well.

In addition, I’ve got two workshops planned. The first one is with the Pixeladies, Deb Cashett and Kris Sasaki, starting the end of January. It’s an online course on textile design using Photoshop Elements. The second workshop is with Lonni Rossi scheduled for March of this year at Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California. Lonni is a fabric designer and produces some of the most beautiful lines of fabric available. I am sure both of these classes will spark a new flurry of new artistic activity.

I have many other activities on my hit list to try out. First one is ice/snow dyeing. I promised my oldest son that I would make him some one piece pajamas (Union Jacks). Instead, I found a white cotton version from Dharma that I can dye. So I am going to do ice dyeing. Then I found a product for dyeing in the washing machine called Idye. (I don’t think there is a relationship with Apple.) Another process to try is marbling on fabric and possibly paper, too.

I am going to continue making papers for my collage projects. One of my favorite processes is to use tea bags (used) as the base paper. Then I stamp, paint, silk screen, spray, splatter, use molding paste, photocopy, etc. Once I have new papers and new fabrics to play with, I will focus on my mixed media projects. I know that it will be a great year!