After MUCH experimenting with Eco-printing, I was finally ready to bring everything I’d learnt into my classroom. I’d collected the flora, I’d bought the alum, made the rust, cut the paper – I was ready! Then Victoria was thrown into the much loved, 5 days snap lockdown, that would eventually last close to 3 months. *sigh*
So I waited, and waited and waited to get back into the classroom and try this printmaking technique with my students. Eventually, we were back and it worked just as well as I’d hoped.
If you’d like to give this a go in your classroom, you’ll need:
- An electric frying pan
- Alum powder
- Rust (rusted nails, bolts etc) (optional)
- Tea bags (optional)
- Onion skins (optional)
- white vinegar
- FOLIAGE – flowers and leaves
- Baking paper
- Cartridge paper
To get started, you’ll need to mordant your paper with some Alum. You can purchase Alum powder here. It’s not expensive and a little goes a long way.
Add about 4 teaspoons of Alum to a bit of hot water to dissolve and then fill up a bottle to create about 2 litres of alum/water solution. Use a paintbrush to distribute the alum solution onto a
sheet of paper and spread out your foliage in an interesting design. Place another sheet of paper over the top and repeat the process until you’ve made a sandwich of about 4 or 5 sheets. If you like, use a sheet of baking paper in between each sheet to prevent shadowing – i.e. all the leaves and flower dyes transferring through to multiple sheets. I got each student to make their own 4-5 sheet sandwich and then tied each one up with some string.
Here’s the fun part – stack all your sandwiches on top of each other and place them in your electric frying pan. Make sure you pop a bit of chicken wire or something to keep your sandwiches off the bottom of the pan.
Pop something heavy on the top to keep it all down – I used a piece of brick – and fill up the pan with the remaining alum/ water solution. If you’ve run out, just make some more.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. What you add to the pan at this point will affect the colours in your prints.
Try adding rusted nails, onion skins, tea bags (different flavoured teas also give different results!) and see what you get!
Boil for around 2 hours. Remember to keep checking on your pan ins case the water dries up and if this happens, top it up with some more alum/water solution. After 2 hours, pop in about 1/2 cup of vinegar and leave to sit overnight.
When you open up your bundles, take care – the wet paper is quite fragile, so you want to try and avoid rips and tears. Scrape off all the leaves and petals, and if you can, pop each sheet of paper under some cool running water to get off all the last little bits.
Pop down each sheet on some scrap paper to dry.
When the prints are dry, you can really have a play and see where the designs take you. You can highlight details with fine liners, markers, water paints and pastels.