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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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!)

Happy endings


Ingredients:

  • Paper. I can recommend a HP940C printer manual, but guess anything made out of paper would do just as well 😉
  • Procion dye. Super vivid colors. I used Magenta and Yellow.
  • Brusho. (Or any ink). I chose Brusho for it’s intense colors
  • Spray inks – like dylusions or Ranger color wash. Or any ink in a spray bottle
  • Water – spray bottle or brushed on to merge colors
  • About a week for inter-page drying and adding ink/dye to the uncolored bits. Building up the colors in stages prevents murky colors
  • Sunshine and a washing line for quicker drying (optional)
  • Suspended expectations. This project steers itself!

Here are some of the results…….

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(More on how this came into being here)

papery things


The dyed printer manual has really got me thinking about all the other redundant paper lurking in the house and office – future dying ideas………..

  • All instruction manuals – speshly those ones relating to things long broken, gone or forgotten
  • Phone directories; the Yellow Pages would be a fab base for warm-colored dyings
  • Newspaper, magazines (but not the very glossy type – unless there’s time to give them a very thorough scrumpling to break the surface up)
  • Old bills and receipts, tickets, shopping lists, that kinda stuff
  • Paper bags

Added to previously explored and sucessfully played with……..

  • Old envelopes
  • Out of date manuals/instructions, insurance docs (they send me all this art paper every year!)
  • Diary Pages – the calendar pages, the lists of international holiday dates and all the extra stuff that isn’t actual diary & the unused pages!
  • Maps
  • Sheet Music
  • Misprints from the computer – y’know when it fails to feed the paper and you get the top inch on one page and the rest on another. Both of these!

Any more for the list? Yeh……there must be! All suggestions welcomed 🙂

dripping with extra texture


Another part of the process with the now familiar printer manual: Scrumpling!

Both before and after the inky stage, scrumpling the paper helps it dry unevenly

Uneven drying makes for gorgeous textural effects.

With sharp folds the fibres of the paper is damaged just enough to make it super absorbant, and make for darker lines and patterns.

The inks run to and through the chanels formed by the creases

unlikely treasure


..buried in the paper recycling box (I was scuffling about for envelopes and scraps to dye) – when I found this:

No. Haven’t uploaded the wrong photo.

It is the manual to my faithful old printer. (11 years old, some bits have fallen off, but still working, I digress.)

The treasure is in the 7/8 of the pages which are printed in languages foreign to me, almost entirely text-based, on nice absorbant paper.

I love using printed paper especially when the forms of the words aren’t distracted by their meaning.


All it wants is some color…Beginning in drips



Water and ink, drippier and drippier


Then the bit where my inner-kid gets all excitable


Gasp!


Ta-da!


A good swish of dylusions yellow to soften the purples, then on to the next page while this dries!



I’ll post more as they dry and develop 🙂

and up to date!


Continuing the catch up

Day 11 is an either way up day. I like these days the best! I did this with white oil pastel as a resist to the splatters and splashes of watercolor and acrylics.

Day 12. Watercolor again. Not in the delicately conventional manner with subtlety and fragile grace. No. Slopped on with an inch wide brush. And some more theraputic splattering.

Day 13 watercolors on a background of collaged torn up paper. Sprinkled with water for added dappliness.

Day 14 fell right in the midst of my obsessive dyed paper thing making episode. One side of the page is encrusted in left overs!

Day 15 has a paper mosaic running right across, then watercolor and ink sploshes.

Day 16. Zing! How these colors make me grin like a wide-eyed fool! Alternating between yellows and turquoises (watercolor and ink), splashes and drips, water swish, and speed drying with hot air dryer to chase the puddlings about the paper.