🌱🎨: Discover the world of wild inks. Learn about foraging for colour, unlocking the secret pigments of plants and, best of all, make your own “Wild Inkling” art to take home! Together we’ll explore the world of pinks, yellows, greens, browns, blacks, and purples hiding in plain sight.
🌳👍: This workshop is hosted by and in collaboration with Lower Trent Conservation, so in addition to making cool art with plants, your registration supports our local conservation areas. Double win!
(Also I saw turtles basking in the quarry right beside the workshop site, sooo…. triple win!)
🔗: Link to register through Lower Trent Conservation is here. Hope to see you there! // Covid Notes: The workshop will be held entirely outdoors, based in the picnic shelter. Registration is limited. // 🌈🎥: Interested in making ink but can’t attend? The Colour of Ink featuring Jason S. Logan (Toronto Ink Company) — author of the incomparable ‘Make Ink’ — is now available to watch free online here.
🍄💙: Found these blue-tiful mushrooms in a friend’s forest on Sunday. I ID it as a Lactarius indigo. Lactarius are known as “milk mushrooms”, because when cut they “bleed” a milky fluid. And that liquid can be some fantastic colours! Just look at that blue!!
🍄✒️: I brought home a sample mushroom for some ink-speriments. I used the very technical approach of squooshing the mushroom cap and bottling what came out (bottom right). It’s a lovely colour in the vial, though natural inks sometimes don’t dry as vibrant as the source. But I had a feeling this ink might dry the exact colour of a nuthatch. And it did! Soooo…Lactarius nuthatchii? I’ll keep checking back on this little birb to see how the colour holds up over time.
👩🔧🎨: If you’re curious about wild inks, I’ll be facilitating a Painting With Plants workshop at the end of September. (Workshop will be held outdoors.) More details to come, but feel free to DM us if you’d like the full info when available!
🎨🌿: Nuthatch is painted with Lactarius indigo, acorns, oak galls, and goldenrod. Detailed with soot ink and a quill pen.
🍄☠️: Friendly reminder not to squoosh mushrooms you don’t know. Ontario also has deadly toxic mushrooms and some are fruiting right now. Squoosh responsibly friends.
I’ve been working on this automata in my spare time for weeks. It’s a bit intricate, and has a quite a few moving parts. (Literally.) I had it all working. I handmade wooden gears fercryingoutloud. And during final assembly, as I got it ready for glue-up, the axle snapped in two.
Am I looking for a reason to stop, or a way to keep going?
I ask myself this sometimes, when I get frustrated. It helps me notice whether my brain is helping or hindering. When I’m building something, repairing something, baking something, making something. When something goes wonky, when it gets tough. When the soup tastes like hot garbage or the light won’t turn on or the part doesn’t fit.
Like the Saturday before last, when I hit one too many tool challenges in a row, and decided to handle it by… crying. It happens. I didn’t want to keep going, I wanted to declare everything everywhere stupid and go sulk. But what I know for sure, even while being a grumpy hothead, is that won’t get me where I want to go. Fall down seven times, get up eight.
Okay. It snapped. What I built once, I can build twice. So I exclaimed a few words that would make a sailor blush, and then switched tasks. All that’s changed is what I’m working on next. Take a moment to grieve, then drill out the old glued-in dowel. Source a new one, get sanding. I can rebuild him. Better, stronger, faster!
As much as I’m working on making this automata, I’m also working on my ability to keep going. Every maker I know has finely honed this skill in themselves. They work on it at least as much as they work on their craft. They work on it by trying again. And again and again. And maybe one more time after that.
All the speedbumps I know how to go over, it’s because of Past Me. Sometimes she gives up, sure. Yes, I’m a hothead, and I can bail with the best of them. But everything I know how to navigate today is credit to her. I’m super grateful for every time she kept going. Even and especially when it suuuuuuucked. I want Future Me to be able to look back on Today Me and say the same thing. I want to make her proud.
Woodburned this little scamp on the weekend. I wasn’t sure what to draw, then I looked out the window and fifteen thousand chipmunks went running by…
There are so many chipmunks here that I suspect our home sits on a bedrock of swiss cheese.
It would be so wonderful to know what goes on here, under my nose, beneath my feet. The rabbit warrens and chipmunk tunnels. Where the voles and moles and mice live. Snake dens, toad hidey holes. I glimpse only little flashes of tails disappearing, a crevice that doubles as a front door, a dug out doorway into a slopeside home. The original earthship builders.
The presence of chipmunks reminds me that I’m perched on an iceberg. The earth below is teeming with life, and I walk obliviously on a hundred rooftops. Tunnels and dens and caches and retreats and sanctuaries. Under my feet, life goes down and down and on and on…
Burned on local cherry wood, an offcut from the work of @mysticwoodcarving (now @rhizaecosm).
Every year I’m way behind on giving my plants proper supports. It’s always a mad dash of posts and strings and in the end it looks like an overgrown harried spider is trying to grow tomatoes.
Not this year I thought, as my peas blossomed and quickly and optimistically climbed into thin air. This year, this year, I shall build them a proper trellis. After a bit of research into maximum heights, and considering the other posts in the garden, I settled on this experiment. Ripped down 2x4s for the framing, scrap plywood for corner bracing, and chicken wire for climbing. I retrofitted the structure onto the existing raised bed by drilling in dowels to the corner posts.
Got it all built and installed, and then, almost as an afterthought, double checked which variety of peas I planted this year.
Grows to about a foot tall.
On the plus side, I’m super on top of things for next year. 😂
This year marks our first car tent “greenhouse” experiment.
I like to prototype with whatever’s at hand, to see early on if an idea has legs, or if we should change course. No point running far and fast towards a dead end. 🚧
🎪-🚘=🌿: I’d really love to have a greenhouse here, but we don’t have one, and I’m not sure exactly the best spot to build one. We also don’t have a garage. But that means we do have a car tent. So maybe that double negative can equal a positive?? No garage + no greenhouse = greenhouse!
🎪-🚘=🐔: I put up and take down the car tent frame each winter. But sometimes the car tent spends its summer vacation trying out different jobs. Our first summer with chickens, it was our chicken run. I really don’t like the car tent, but I sure like how it helps me prototype my dreams!
🎪☀️: This year, the car tent is seeing how it feels about life as a “greenhouse”. Our driveway might be the sunniest spot on our property, though our gravel driveway isn’t exactly arable land. So I built half the car tent frame on the side of the driveway. Then we wrapped it with leftover clear vapour barrier plastic, with the original car tent doors on the ends. I took all our large pots, plus some generously gifted us from our neighbours, popped them inside, and potted up our more heat and sun-loving seedlings. That’s a pepper’s POV in the photo. It’s noticeably sunny and toasty in there, and the plants seem to be thriving. So far so good! Now I just have to remember it doesn’t rain inside the car tent…
(🍓: That’s a foreshadow shadow on the plastic — chokecherry shrubs I hope to harvest later this year. More experiments coming!)
Always worth a look around to see if something you already have is secretly something you don’t. 💡
🥔Tuber-u-lar experiment! My favourite flower might be the potato. Before we grew some of our own potatoes here, I’d never seen a potato flower. And maybe it’s because I find them so enchanting that I leave them be, and enjoy them as long as I can. And maybe it’s because I leave them as long as I can, that last year, one potato plant formed an extra surprise: a potato berry!!
The little green “berry” is the fruit of the potato plant. And since it’s not really how we grow potatoes anymore (by planting the tubers, we grow clones of plants instead), and is at least a little toxic to eat, it doesn’t get much fanfare or cultivation.
🐝: But if the weather is just right, and the variety isn’t sterile, and if you have some bumblerbees around, your pretty pretty potato blossoms might get pollinated, and you might end up with a potato fruit!
And if you’re the curious type (🙋), you might just wait patiently until that little green fruit is ripe, and lurk around your potato plant checking until the day it drops to the soil. And then maybe you lovingly scoop it up, and pop it in a little container to dry out and you put a wee “potato!” label on it. And all winter you walk past it on a shelf. And then when you start your seeds in early spring, maybe you crack that now dried up potato berry open. And though you don’t know what you’re doing, and you can’t really tell, maybe, maybe, you see seeds in there?? And you pop the potato berry pieces into soil and cross your fingers and then on THE BEST EARLY SPRING DAY EVER you see li’l baby potato plants!!
It is an awfully long way from sprouts to spuds. So I don’t know if these little potato bebes are going to survive all the way to the garden. But holy potato berries am I excited to try!
❄️🌱: Happy up and down and round and round start to spring folks! // For more info: Since we refer to the tubers we plant as “seed potatoes”, it’s dang hard to google this subject. (Search engines lump “potato seed” and “seed potatoes” as one). If you want to learn more, try potato apples, potato tomatoes or TPS (True Potato Seed). But not “TPS Report”, because you’ll need the right cover sheet for that.
This ink sample sheet is now ~5 years old. I made it to test if putting glossy or matte top coats over homemade inks would help preserve their colour (spoiler: nope).
🌳✒️: I made this sampler before I made some of my favourite inks — sumac, oak gall, soot… But it’s proven useful as a tool to see how some inks will age. Some natural inks start out incredibly vibrant, and shift over time to different tones. Buckthorn berries with lye are one — settling from a vibrant green to a mustard yellow. Environment and circumstance play a role too. The wild grape here has settled to more of a rust, while in other paintings I’ve made it’s stayed a bright purple. And that’s fair — I weather a lot faster when left in direct sunlight too.
🎨⌚: It’s a curious reflection and exercise in resilience. The inks will still be there, years later, still present on the page, just not the way they were. Knowing that, though I really enjoy the moments when the colours are vibrant and exciting, I try not to paint around particular hues. (Contrary to Robert Frost, gold is happy to stick around, while nothing green can stay.) So, instead, what’s the crux of a critter? What’s the deeper part that persists, when the superficial stuff goes… squirrelly?
🌱🎉🔄: Making homemade inks also doles out joy over and over. Much more than the intemperate high of a shopping spree. The joy of foraging for the plants, the joy of cooking up their colours, and of exploring their interactions as they run together on the page. Three joys for the price of none. And then the fascination of watching as the created image grows and changes alongside me. It’s not such a bad thing, this evolution and impermanence. Less like a moment lost, more an unfolding adventure.
Failures: Past, present, and future? I fail all the time. Up, down, sideways. Also, I don’t believe in failure.
That is click-baity though because of course I do. I’m a present day human. I’ve been trained my whole life to believe I fail at every turn. As a female, I fail just waking up as a shape. That is, of course, garbage, but here we are.
⚽🐍: Okay, so here we are. A world of moving goalposts, and impossible ideas of “perfect”. But next comes the choice. The choice to suck the fear of failure right out of it, like a toxic snake bite, and spit it away.*
(*My analogies are getting grosser, and also I think you are definitely not supposed to do this. “Cutting and sucking the wound only serves to increase the risk of infection.” Thank you for coming to my snake bite PSA.)
🥔📺: I believe I failed only when I don’t try again. If something didn’t “turn out” immediately, and I sat down to wallow in TV and potato chips. Now everyone needs recoup time when the seed doesn’t grow, the sides aren’t square, or the code is borked. Potato chips are tasty, and sometimes there’s an inspiring tutorial on YouTube. But fall down 7 times, get up 8.
A bruised ego can heal, and come back tougher. Letting your ego get bruised can be like training for a fight — kicking a coconut tree to toughen up your shin, a la Van Damme.**
(**OKAY THIS IS EVEN WORSE THAN THE SNAKE BITE THING. Don’t kick coconut trees kids.)
🍐: Yesterday I tried making pear jam. It didn’t set cuz there wasn’t enough sugar. Fail… But now delicious goop for my oatmeal.
👩💻: I coded a layout that didn’t resize correctly on every device. Fail? No, just needed some tweaks. Now I know more.
🎁: I’m trying a new way of long-term potato and pear storage. Will it work? Shrug! Today might be the first day of a long slow fail. I hope not. But I won’t regret the fail if it comes. I’ll regret not trying.
Maybe I’ll end up with a box of sprouty spuds, and a mushy mess of pears. But maybe, maybe I’ll be biting into a luscious pear in the dead of winter, savouring the taste of trying.
Here’s to failing and trying again, to correct handling of snake bites and respect for coconut trees.
Junk art! What do a box of cat food, a bit of sumac, offcuts of wood, and a smashed photo have in common? This hummdinger of an art piece!
📏🐈: First upcycled + DIY picture frame… complete! I made the picture frame from scraps I recut on the table saw/by hand, a piece of broken glass I recut, and cardboard from the boxes from Oliver’s cat food + Neil’s office chair…that I recut. Recut, remix, reward! 💚 (See previous post for parts prep.)
🎨🌱: I painted the hummingbird with inks I made from plants: buckthorn, wild grape, avocado pits, goldenrod, sumac, grapevine charcoal.
♻️💪: So satisfying to bring it all together in something more than the sum of its parts. Upcycle for the win!! Have a great weekend makers!
📺: “Junk art” is a reference to Beau Miles’ “Junk” series on YouTube. Highly recommend, two thumbs way up 👍👍