The Spiral Path of Words & Color continued


Ink Dyed Paper: 5 Top Tips

The methods for ink dying paper are as simple or complex as you want to make them.

When I started out I used a shallow plastic tray and layered pieces of of paper. Each layer had splashes and squirts of ink between. Then I left them to absorb the liquid. I experimented with scraps of paper, envelopes, book pages…

early ink dying: recycled envelopes, printer paper, tissue paper, book pages.

Essentially that hasn’t changed much, only now I’m devouring entire books and working on a glass topped table so I can heap the inky pages directly on there. I just scaled the process up!

Trial & Error.

I cannot overstate how much it’s trial and error process. It’s the only way I work: unscientific, intuitive, learning as I make it up as I go along.

For every gloriously bespeckled rainbow I make there are blurry messes, torn pieces (wet paper is so fragile) and muddy overworked colors. But that’s how we learn, right?

Five Top Tips to Paper Dying.

These are the five main things I’m learning through my paper dying experiments:

  1. Ink can be brushed on, dripped on, poured on, splashed, sprayed, squirted or flicked onto paper (wet or dry) with any manner of implements. It’s all A LOT of fun. There are NO wrong ways.
  2. Different types of paper will take up ink differently. Right now I’m using almost exclusively old book pages and sheet music (ranging from circa 1920’s to 1970’s), the paper from each book has it’s own distinctive foibles.
  3. The type and dilution of the ink both make a difference. It’s not just the intensity of the color, but how much it soaks in. Quicker or slower drying time effects the tide marks it leaves, the surface finish too (less water can dry with ink with dusty pigment traces, or a sheeny finish, or a distinctive layer of shape as well as color). All of these permutations have a beauty of their own.
  4. Sometimes the pages stick to each other as they dry, especially at the edges. Gently brushing the stuck bits with water then leaving them a while usually resolves this. I found some inks are stickier than others – they work just fine but need diluting more – which leads me to…
  5. More layers with more diluted ink work best of all. It’s the soaking of the water that creates the best patterns as it carries the pigment through the paper fibres. It’s the layers that make for the most intricate effects. Already dyed paper, left to dry then splashed, dripped and dunked in water or ink, can come to life in all manner of ways. Sometimes pigments reactivate or react. Things like this can happen…

Happy Accidents.

I’ve been leaving batches of papers to soak together, letting more magic happen as color seeps through the pages to the layers below. By arranging them haphazardly so one piece part covers the next it encourages the seepage patterns to happen more.

Unplanned is the overarching theme.

After some hours of marinading, sometimes I’ll turn the whole pile upside down after a while so the moisture seeps back (carrying the color) back the other way. Peeling apart the layers and adding more pigment, or just turning them so the pieces in the middle get some air to dry.

Wet paper wrinkles and the lines that form become channels for the color to settle. Stripes and fabulous organic patterns like an animal print appear.

organic patterns in ink and water

Lately I’ve taken to layering in stencils and texture plates between the papers to pick up extra patterning. plastic and bubble wrap works well, as does fabric, yarns and fibres (which of course soak up some of the color, transferring their own distinctive prints)

paper dyed with stencil layers

Next time: what becomes of these papers?

Or you can get the answer to this question ahead of the others – join the cool kids in my email list — hop aboard right here!

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The Spiral Path of Words & Color


Happy Blog-iversary to me!

I began this blog to keep a (slightly) ordered record of my creative doings and makings. I figured the self-accountability of posting about my various colorful doings would prompt me into more regular habits. At the very least, it would create an ordered timeline of events I could take a backwards look at and track this meandering journey.

In fact that’s become a bigger part than I had reckoned on.

That was SEVEN years ago.

Much of my early blogging was to document my experiments in dying paper.

The idea arrived in my mind as I was pouring another bucket of colored water away, post-fabric-dying process.

Fabric dye remains ‘active’ for a relatively short time. Leaving cloth to soak for a long time will allow it to absorb deeper into the fibres, giving richer more intense colors, but the major part of the dying magic occurs in the first half hour or so. That pretty colored water will do nothing else. I got wondering – this is no good for fabric – but what about paper…?

In the passage of these 7 years I forget how I evolved to using inks instead of recycled dye water… something to do with the salt in the dye water being corrosive to the paper, and (more likely) the very dilute colors not suiting my bright vivid world. But I come back to these experiments again and again.

Way back, my first experiments were with an old dictionary. She’d already lost her cover and was very loose at the bindings. She was ready to become art paper.

Earlier this year I began playing about with these old book pages and something in my creativity woke up. I began what’s turned out to be an epic adventure into paper dying.

Revisiting ink dying with the remaining pages of that dictionary from years ago.

Life spirals around in familiar patterns – have you noticed this too?

The paper I’ve been using recently has also been from retired dictionaries. I remember these books from when I was a kid, they were falling-apart-old even then.

I’ve also got this 2 volume set of ‘The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary’. Huge books with multiple pages of regular sized print reduced into one. Barely visible words, the books actually come with a magnifying glass.

They’re so weighty [2 volumes of 4000+ pages!] They really feel like they’re holding the mass of an entire language.

I remember finding these books fascinating as a kid, but they were barely ever used, they’re just absurdly impractical. Instead they served as a doorstop for a while, and eventually found their way into a box of stored things in a damp garage. An unhappy demise for any book. Many years later, re-emerging, covers tatty and box almost destroyed, but pages miraculously almost intact.

This year these two gigantic tomes transcended into their latest incarnation: ART.

Afforded the freedom that this quantity of paper – literally thousands of pages from these dismantled books – I’ve really explored the ways the different types of paper take up different types of ink.

I’ve become obsessed!

I’ll show you more of these experiments next post, and what my plans are for these colorful pages!

Meanwhile, if you want to be first to know – and get a special discount on what I’m making – join up for my monthly-ish newsletter.

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Collections


I love sets of things, I love arrangements & collections.

When I hear a song I love, I have to scurry off as soon as I can to find the album it’s from, find the artist, track down the other tracks. Fall in love again.

When my eyes are magnetised by a piece of art, I race to seek out the artist and soak in everything else they’ve created.

I’ve done this with authors and poets, actors, directors, blogs and my current jam: podcasts. I get hooked. I have to absorb all I can until my attention is hooked someplace else. 

This energy directs me, and now I’ve identified it, I can see how it plays out in all kinds of ways.

I’ve had attachment to all sorts of obsession, with habits and ritual, with a certain style of living or eating or being, with a form of minutiae that maybe only I notice, but it’s place in my days has been critical. For the moment. Then gone.

Sometimes it’s a few days, sometimes a few years, or anywhere in between. The more life I live the more context for this observation and the more patterns I can see.

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Right now I’m channelling this obsessive method into making. I’m filling every moment, pouring every ounce of energy into making, and will do so until the next hook catches me. That maybe tomorrow – maybe next year – I’ll show you when.

It’s manifesting itself right now as a collection of paper and fabric collages, I’m calling the Peacock & Mermaid collection. This is part two. I don’t know if there will be a part three – I might get called away by another muse.

All of the pieces shown here are available in my Etsy shop. The first part of the collection sold out the first day – so hop over quick if you’d like one of them in your home!


Would you like to get sporadic updates on my thoughts and drawings delivered right to your inbox? Hop onto my email list right here.

(and I’ll send you my ebook A Year full of Color as a thank you for joining)

Your email is utterly safe to me. It will be hidden in a secret place, I will feed it tea and biscuits as required. 

Mermaids & Peacocks


colorwheelI’ve just spent a month dwelling in a color I love so much: blue-green, and I have to admit it wasn’t easy to move on!

In this year full of color, as I journey around the color wheel, I’m devoting each month to a single color, and April was all about teal, turquoise and sea-shades of aquamarine. These are the colors of a magical world inhabited by peacocks & mermaids. And me!

At the end of each month I add the fruits of my makings to my Etsy Shop — there are only three of these in existence, so catch ’em while you can!

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Mounted on 8 inch square canvas board, these are layered collages of hand dyed paper and cotton & silk fabric intricately detailed with little weeny glass beads and stitching. 

They are ready to hang as soon as they arrive in their new homes. 
Welcome to the underwater realms of my imagination … 

Thought forms


This is one where I’m beginning in the middle. I’ll catch you up on the beginning next, but let’s start off here, just coz I feel like it.

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Thoughtforms are a series of relief collages I’m making from the dyed paper (way back… remember the dyed paper?) IMG_3421a

and the don’t-know-why-but-compelled-to-keep-making-them funny little colored rectangle things.

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So these loose ends are also finding each other and forming into slightly more coherent entities.

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Thoughtforms are continuing that recurring theme: trains of consciousness & patterns of thought. More on that later.

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I’ve made 6 of a series that will total 9, 3 are still in progress. These 6 are on display (and for sale – if you’re quick before they get snapped up!) at the Upstairs Gallery

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Each one is named after a fragment of text found somewhere in the piece, serendipity giving them eclectic names such as: Spacecraft, Puddings cakes etc, Fortitude and Adversity amongst others.

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The next series will include more textile elements, but the overall feel will be similar.

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Still with that one theme leads to another, one thought folds round a corner and opens out into a coiled up spring, some buttons and a rivet, stitched onto the overarching idea of something else.

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Or something. Y’know, like it does. The beauty is they can represent whatever you want them to. Or nothing at all if you .

obsessions de jour


Hey folks – Happy Holidays to you all!

We’ve had a lot of dark, gloomy, rainful days here. Not a big grumble, weather happens, but the half-arsed grey wet daylight has severely hampered my ability to any good photos lately. This week, finally I got a few pics of my latest adventures and obsessions!

When time and people permit, I like to pretty much hibernate from around 21 December straight through to a couple of days into January. Not so much a big sleep, but a big re-charge. I spend most of these days actively pursuing colors and shapes in some fashion or another 😉

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Recently I’ve found myself making a whole load of these. Srsly, like dozens of them. Ranging in size from about 1/2 inch upwards to 2 inches, they really satisfy the no scrap is too small to keep mentality!

To what end I can’t be certain, but I mounted a few up on some dyed paper and framed a few in little Ikea box frames.
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Some of them have a very dimensional quality – consisting layers of paper and some with corrugated card – so they work well in a deep box frame. (pics to follow…)

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Hang on… like a deja vu thing going on here… these things remind me of something…
Yes! these things
Curious… I’d totally forgotten about them til typing this post… But do feel encouraged, at least I’m consistent with my obsessions, even if I’ve no idea what they’re for (yet).

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So, dear friends and visitors, whether you’re getting ready to party the new year in, or already have done, I wish you all the very best for 2013.
May it bring you what you wish for, and more 😀

Eph X

words and colors


If you’ve visited here before you’ll have to noticed two of my favourite things are words and colors.

So dying a dictionary seemed the obvious thing for me to do.

Flamboyant through to Flat, multiple ink stains

30 years ago this month I began high school.
Plea to Plough

30 years ago? Lordy!

ink soaked paper napkin squashed between Shun and Side

Equipped with the essentials dictated by the school, I now owned a Pocket Oxford Dictionary.

from Irk to Irresponible. Coffee painted on with teabag.

(At over 1000 pages and a good 2 inches thick, the average pocket size of an eleven year old child negated its title.)

Lure to Machine. Dripped inks and dye water.

Nonetheless this book has travelled with me through the decades.

Abbreviations to A. Squished inky paper

Repay through to Reproach. More inky goodness.

Battered, dog-eared, with scribbled notes in the margins here n there…

from Pylon to Quandry. Squashed strip of inky paper

… the spine went first but now it’s cover has separated totally from its papery wordfilled heart.

dip dyed dictionary

In it’s new incarnation – a colorful version of the former – it will one day become collage ingredients.

Encode to Engine. Colorex inks

As an aside, I sometimes catch a glance of myself in my art room, as if from an outsiders perspective. I’m ironing torn, stained scraps of paper. Phrases like ‘not doing anyone any harm’ in bemused but sympathetic tones echo in my head. I smile. They just don’t understand. Anyway, I do it cos I have to and it makes me happy. Nuff said.

every last ounce of goodness


I’ve been dying fabric for the quilt lately. I’ve been dying fabric for years. It got me thinking: The only stage I don’t like is towards the end when the residue dye – as it’s no longer active – has to be poured away. Why? it’s mostly water. But something inside me winces, it’s beautifully colored water and I don’t want to waste a drop of color.

In my perpetual quest for ways to wring every last ounce of goodness out of every stage in a process, last week I had one of those why did I never think of this before epiphanies.

rolled paper in a jam jar of dye dregs It’s no good to dye fabric with now, but it will dye paper!

Decanting the dye dregs into jam jars, rolling up scrap paper and standing them in the jar.

Then just let science take over: the water soaks in and climbs up the dry paper bringing the remaining pigment in its wake.

When they’re soaked through, or the water in the jar has dried up, or when I just need to clear some space I empty the lot into a bucket to finish intermingling and eventually dry.


dye dreg paper dying

It’s satisfying on so many levels: using up color, repurposing scrap paper, creating patterns for future collages and art works. It does it’s own thing when left to its own devices. It’s messy and unpredictable (just like me) And it’s effectively better than free!

More variations on the theme:

  • Dry paper, water-splashed paper, soaked paper (hot & cold water)
  • Letting the liquid soak part way up, then up-ending the paper so it runs down and creeps up at the same time
  • Pouring more color down the inside of the paper rolls
  • Using paper that’s been part printed on the inkjet so the colors merge and dribble into each other
  • Coffee dregs instead of / mixed with colored water
  • Just water + inkjet printed paper (but not laser printed – that ink won’t run)
  • Scrumpled paper for a veiny effect
  • Glossy photo paper (make good use of those expensive printer mistakes!)