I am making inks from plants in the area of Concord/Lincoln.  These include: trees such as oak, walnut, elm, maple, birch; ink cap mushrooms, pokeberries, ferns, and other flowers and leaves.

Researching medieval ink recipes, fibersheds, the agency of plants, plant communication, chemistry, printmaking, and font design.

These inks will be used in the production of field notes, field broadsides, and other works in the Field Station during the residency period.


7/4  Steeped Hemlock ink
Hemlock Bark
ethyl acohol
crush Hemlock bark into small pieces with hammer, steep in rainwater for 3 weeks in solar oven, strain out bark bits, simmer to concentrate, add ethyl acohol to preserve
7/17  Sap Green
Buckthorn Berries
ethyl alcohol
smash berries, boil alum in water, add to berries, add ethyl alcohol to preserve

08/01 Weld ink
strip all seeds leaves, and flowers from Weld plant, steep in water (do not boil) for at least 24 hours
strain all plant parts
boil 1 T alum in water, add to ink (brings out yellow)
grind calcium carbonate with morter and pestle
add to ink to make a lake
add ethyl alcohol to preserve

08/01 Sumac ink
pluck sumac drupes at full ripeness, and strip all berries from drupe
steep with leaves for a few hours
simmer down to thick paste
add ethyl alcohol to preserve


Stinging Nettles and info on mordants

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29th May

Today I visited Cherrie Corey’s garden and we gathered stinging nettles from all around her garden.  Now I am boiling the leaves and roots separately, with no mordants right now.  If this doesnt work, I’ll try a copper mordant with the leaves and maybe tin with the root…


Some good info I found while researching stinging nettle root dyes:

Mordants: water-soluble chemicals, usually metallic salts, which create a bond between dye and fiber thus increasing the adherence of various dyes to the item being dyed

Brightens the colors obtained from a dye source

Darkens/saddens hues, produces blacks, brown, gray

Copper vitriol
Improves likelihood of obtaining a green hue

Produces bright colors especially yellows, oranges, reds

ink plant search

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21st May

some plants to make ink out of:

Madder    dig pencil thick roots anytime,

Weld, July
Dyers Knotweed (at Gaining Ground?)
Japanese Knotweed?Stinging Nettle
Shaggy Ink Cap mushrooms
Oak Galls
Woad, after the leaves reach about six inches in length, June or July
Goldenrod, late summer
buckthorn berries

lots of good stuff on native american dye sources here

more dye plants
Sumac berries and leaves (blueblack)



Solar Cooker Ink

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15th May

finally got the solar cooker up and running and the sun disappeared behind some clouds.  Hopefully tomorrow will work.  Need to make some reflectors to increase the solar energy.  measure and plan tomorrow…  bring cardboard for mockup…

birch bark steeping in solar oven May 2013

desk, May 2013

Deb leaf printing

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13th May

Artist, tinkerer, and collaborator Deb Todd Wheeler came over to the Field Station today to inspire and make leaf prints from walnut, elm, and pine inks…

early leaf print from walnut ink April 2013

deb todd wheeler ink drawing May 2013

Glycerin as a Preservative

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7th February

“It is also used in the production of watercolor paints, printing inks, and cosmetics.”

“extracts made from Vegetable Glycerine typically have a shelf life of 14-24 months whereas alcohol extracts can have an extended shelf life of 4-6 years.”

“You can make a simple, herbal glycerite by simmering herbs in a mixture of 60% glycerine and 40% purified water for two to three hours. We have generally used about 1/4 cup of cut and sifted, dried herbs per 1 cup of glycerine/water solution. When you strain this solution, bottle it and store it in a cool, dark place. It retains its effectiveness for two to three years.”


“It seems that you can use glycerin as a preservative when you use 50% glycerin or more in a product.”

” foot lotion recipe with 25% glycerin, and it feels great on my feet…but it feels awful on other …

more ink recipes

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4th February

iron gall ink

walnut ink   black walnut ink

butternut ink

lamp black ink

fermented pokeberry ink

shaggy ink cap ink  more about the mushrooms

other wood/berry/dyes


bring in: 100 proof vodka, cornstarch, ethanol, salt





thickening ink

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3rd February


PLUS-9090 is basically ink that contains certain inert or opacifying materials with no pigment. It is clear (creamy color) ink base that can be added to plastisol to extend the ink and get more volume out of the ink.Since Extender Base is a balanced ink – any amount can be added to plastisol. The more Extender Base added, the less opaque the ink will be.

Although Extender Base will make an ink less opaque, it is generally not used to specifically make an ink more transparent. For that purpose see TRANSPARENT BASE. It is designed more as a “bulking” agent and will basically provide more mileage from an ink at a lower cost because Extender Base is less expensive than pigment ink. If used to make an ink more transparent to print color-over-colore, the secondary color achieved may not be …

Lets Get Rusty

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1st February

If you want to make metal rust faster…

Method 1:

“Wet down entire piece with chlorine bleach, sprinkle lightly with salt, and allow to sit until it dries. Spray the piece with water, but lightly so the dried salt/bleach mixture doesn’t rinse off. Just wet the surface down. Let sit overnight.

The next morning, mix up a pint of FRESH hydrogen peroxide (standard 3% stuff found at drug stores) with a tablespoon of muriatic acid. Spray this mixture onto the piece. Allow to dry. Once dry, spray once more with this mixture. Let sit overnight.

Next morning, rinse completely with clean water, and you should have a decent rust by now. If there are areas that need more rusting, go back to step 5. Once you are happy with this rust, let it sit for a few days, lightly wetting the surface with water …

to thicken ink or not to thicken ink?

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1st February

Try using cornstarch, boil off excess water, leave ink out in air to evaporate(stir occasionally), extender base will thicken and make more transparent, pva glue( dries flexible, acid free), magnesium carbonate, molasses, ground chalk,