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This weekend artist Cat Lewis of Colourfield joined us at Global Gardens to lead a workshop on berries and nut inks.

Cat encouraged us to collect a range of leaves and berries at the garden and experiment with them as inks. We harvested blackberries, elderberries and grapes as well as weld and woad leaves from the dye patch.

Plants in the dye patch: Weld, Woad and Madder

We macerated the berries and leaves, adding water and/or alcohol to the plant juice. This formed the basis of our botanical ink. Some of the plant juice was very faint if applied alone. However, Cat introduced us to a number of mordants and fixatives which altered the qualities of the pigment. Sodium bicarbonate for example brightens the pigment, whilst tartaric acid and iron intensifies.

Cat also introduced us to a number of tannins including black walnut and oak galls. She explained how gallic ink is one of the oldest inks known, made by fermenting oak galls. When iron is added, gallic ink becomes water resistant and enduring - which is why we can still read manuscripts from the middle ages. Many of the drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci use iron gall ink. We also learnt about gum arabic - which can be used as a binder although it is very stinky!

Oak galls and Black walnuts

Some beautiful pieces were created...

We look forwards to exploring more with the dye patch at the garden.

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