foraging homeMADE wild inklings

Wild Inks

✒️🌱: Testing and bottling wild inks to bring to Saturday’s workshop. This is the scrap paper I put down to protect the counter and do quick checks. Isn’t it pretty??

Every splotch and blotch on this paper came from a plant, and can be made at home. From wild grapes and acorn caps and chokecherry berries and…

Some of these colours last longer and truer on the page than others. But what makes them beautiful isn’t limited to how they look on paper.

🐾🌱: Using wild inks reminds me of tracking animals in the winter. When I come across the tracks of a coyote or a bunny, it’s like hearing their echo. Like they’re there. And when I open a bottle of ink I made from a plant, I see sumac’s red panicle in winter and the sphinx moth I met on the grapevine.

🐞⏳: In searching for colour, I learn about the galls of aphids who have been living between sumac and moss for over *48 million* years. How to whittle invasive honeysuckle into a pen. How to find the pinks hidden in avocado stones and buckthorn bark. It’s adventures inside of adventures.

Wild inks are a little more… wild than what you’ll find in the store. A little less vanilla. They’re wilful and ephemeral and full of surprises. And that’s okay. I’m here for the ride. Besides, nothing gold can stay — though that wild grape purple lasts a good long time. 😉

Have a great week folks! 💜


D-I-Why Not flora foraging homeMADE news + announcements wild inklings

Painting with Plants Workshop

Join us Saturday September 30th to Paint with Plants at the Seymour Conservation Area!

🌱🎨: 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.


foraging homeMADE homestead wild inklings

Checking the Jelly Snares

I made wild grape jelly for the first time a few years ago. Y’know how when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail? Well once you’ve enjoyed homemade wild grape jelly, everywhere looks like a place to grow wild grapes… Old display stand? You could grape that. Extra bit of fencing? You could grape that.

🍇🌳: We haven’t planted any grapes here. They were here before us and they’ll probably be here after. Wild grapes are all over Ontario. Once you start looking for them you see them everywhere.

🧗‍♀️🍇: But we’ve set up a few places here to encourage wild grape to bear fruit in spots we can actually get to. Grape likes to climb, so sometimes it runs right up to the top of a tree. Where it dangles my jelly dreams out of reach. Look up, way up, and I’ll call Rusty… and tell him we’re out of jelly.

🍇🚧: But grape also likes to move side-to-side along a nice fenceline. So a couple of years ago when we installed a new fence, we also coaxed the grape growing nearby onto its wires. I checked it today to find it is very happy in its new home! Grapes on grapes on grapes. Enough for both us and the wild critters to snack on. Jelly is back on the menu boys!

🍇=🥒✒️🧵: In honesty the jelly is mostly for Neil, but I use wild grape to make a couple of other things here too. The leaves are perfect to pop in fermenting pickles, and I use the berries to make ink, and the vine to make drawing charcoal. In a pinch, I’ve used the vine as twine.

🍇☠️: A word of caution — wild grape is all over Ontario roadsides, but so are pesticides and poisons. Many cities (including ours) spray their roadsides, so be very very picky about where you forage wild foods. Toxic lookalikes like Canadian moonseed also exist. There’s no shame in enjoying a nice homemade strawberry jam on toast if you don’t feel you can forage safely. Strawberry jam is delicious.

Hope you’re having a grape week folks! 💜


D-I-Why Not foraging fungi mushrooms wild inklings

Magic Mushrooms

🍄💙: 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.


insects and arachnids wild inklings

Wolf Spider Spring

“Wolfie the Spider” here is painted with homemade inks from the woods and the kitchen: wild grapevine charcoal, saffron bits, oak galls, soot, buckthorn bark, beet skins. Fine lines are detailed with a quill pen made from a wild turkey feather. Find more wild ink art here.

The first signs of spring here flash by like ghosts. A chipmunk dashing from the deck to the feeder. A couple of crows snacking on sumac. An eastern comma butterfly perched on a post to warm its wings.

And then the drips of spring come quicker and closer together. The first turkey vulture, the first sap in the bucket. Buds on the poplars. The first crocus. And then one day the sap is yellow and full of bugs and the driveway is more mud than ice and the sun is stronger and the green has returned.

And in that mix is one of my favourite sounds of early spring: the purring of the wolf spiders.

Sitting on a rock, I hear the dry leaves pulsing around me. Purr purr, purr purr. It’s a love song played by vibration. To woo potential mates, male wolf spiders drum on the dry leaves with their pedipalps. Singing with their feet, hoping a lady wolf spider digs their vibe and decides to make little wolf spider pups with them.

🏃‍♀️💨🕷️: I recognize spiders are not everyone’s cup of tea. They weren’t always mine. When I was little, I was terrified of them. I remember when it began. My parents were sweeping out the garage, and I was holding the dustpan. I can see it — the large spider running for its life ahead of the broom. Ahead of the broom, over the edge of the dustpan, up the handle, up my arm, into my shirt.

I shook for an hour after it was gone.

🕷️❤️🏃‍♀️: But that was then and this is now. If I was about to be swept up, I’d run for my life and into the nearest sleevehole too. We fear what we don’t know, and I have gotten to know spiders. We are now good friends, and a spring afternoon spent with wolf spiders is spent in excellent company.

Happy Spring!



For more on purring wolf spiders, I recommend Listen to the Dulcet Purr of the Wolf Spider (Smithsonian Magazine)

A short video from our woods:

D-I-Why Not foraging homeMADE wild inklings

Wild Inklings: 5 years later

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.

See the inks in action over on our Wild Inklings page.

Happy March folks!


D-I-Why Not foraging homeMADE wild inklings

Junk Art

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 👍👍


fauna wild inklings

Bunnies, bees, and armpits

🐇🌱Bonus bunny! Painted with plants. (Buckthorn, wild grape, oak gall, avocado, and sumac.)

🚁🌻: Before the bunny, I actually started off painting a cool hover fly that Neil photographed in the garden (pics 2 and 3). I noticed it not only looked very bee-like, but it was interacting with the flower in a very bee-like way. So I fell down a whole rabbit hole (hehe) learning about hover flies, and how they are a super important pollinator! Adult hover flies feed on nectar and pollen, and are “often considered the second-most important group of pollinators after wild bees.” (🤯) So they don’t just look like a bee, they be like one too!

☣️💪🐍: Critters mimicry of each other is so fascinating. In Thomas Halliday’s book “Otherlands”, he describes how slow loris, when threatened, imitate a spectacled cobra. They raise their arms up behind their head, shiver, and hiss. From this position they can also access a gland in their armpit which, when combined with saliva, produces a venom “capable of causing anaphylactic shock in humans”. (🤯🤯)

I didn’t even know it was possible to have armpit envy, and yet, here I am.

🐇📚: Well look at that, cute bunny, you’ve tricked us into learning about hover flies AND a different kind of “pit viper”. Well played little lagomorph, well played!

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend folks. Happy August!


wild inklings

Sketchy Pigeon, Full of Gall

Painted with plants — a sketchy pigeon, full of gall.

Sketched this pigeon last night, to try out a new oak gall ink! I’ve been collecting oak galls one and two at a time for a few years now, and decided I had enough to make a batch.

(The story of making the ink is even more colourful than the pigeon, and I’ll pop it up here at some point. Spoiler: At one point a mason jar containing 4 years worth of galls shatters…)

I’m really happy with how the gall ink turned out. I may try reducing some of it further, but as it is now it layers to a nice respectable black. Thanks gall wasps!

This pigeon is a mutt of a few different ideas at once. I wanted to try using my inks for something more stylized and a little looser. So his look is a bit conflicted, but I’m going to take some seed ideas from here and make another. More pigeons to come!

Pigeon is painted with all homemade inks. The inks used here are made from wild grapes, oak galls, grapevine, avocado pits.

Make ink, make art, make everything.

Have a great week folks!


foraging wild inklings

Oak galls

Why build a nursery for your baby when you could have an oak tree do it for you?

The adult gall wasp lays its egg in a growing part of the tree, like a leaf bud, in the spring. The oak responds to the activity by forming a growth around the disturbance – a gall. The gall contains the wasp, but also… contains it. The little wasp egg gets a snug little nursery, both shelter and food – free room and board — as it feeds on the still growing and nutritious walls of its home. When the baby wasp is all done growing up, it chews a little round exit hole for itself (seen in the photo of galls above). Off the wasp goes to begin the cycle all over again.

There are many insects, fungi, bacteria, etc that result in the growth of galls. Large oak galls like the ones shown above are likely made by the Amphibolips quercusinanis wasp.

These galls often fall to the forest floor, bright green with red spots when fresh, drying to papery brown. They’re one of the treasures I keep an eye out for when I’m out for a walk, as they’re a key ingredient in a historic natural ink. I find the wild turkeys are great friends to me in this quest, as they seem to leave the gall behind when they dig up the forest floor. See the photo below for an oak gall as I found it, in a perfect tiny clearing. Thanks turkeys!

Mixing oak galls with iron salts results in a rich black ink (albeit one that sometimes eats through paper). It’s a project I’ve had percolating for a few years now, and I hope to make a batch this spring/summer. Collecting enough of the right galls has been a slow but very enjoyable process. And I almost always remember that I put a papery delicate gall in my pocket and don’t crumble it to dust by jamming a chilly hand quickly in a pocket later on the same walk. Almost always.

“Let there be gall enough in thy ink”

~William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


Read more about oak galls, wasps and ink at: