OK, so I collected one more soil sample from near our house and cleaned it. This one will be called “Baringo Beige.”
I soaked some soy beans overnight, added water to them in my blender and whizzed the daylights out of them. Pouf! Nasty stuff! I can’t imagine actually consuming soy milk (apologies to those who feel they have no choice–no wonder the consumable recipes add sugar)!! I tried sieving the stuff through a cloth but that was too fine and the soy milk was passing through too slowly for my liking, so I tossed aside the cloth and let the fine sieve do all the work.
Then, ready to begin painting the mud on my silk fabrics (the pink ones, remember?), I carried all the stuff I needed down to my studio and got set up. I had a few things from the kitchen to use as found objects for stamping, and set out my paint and stencil brushes. I had only a few hours in which to work, so I tried to keep things as simple as possible.
As I began working with the soy milk and soil mixtures, a few things became immediately apparent. There’s an intimate relationship between dry soil and liquid soy milk. Get too much soy milk, and it will bleed into the fabric, possibly smearing any stamping or painting you do. Get too little soy milk in the mix and you will paint or stamp too much soil onto the fabric, more than is needed to color the cloth. That excess soil is simply wasted, so that’s not very economically smart.
Then, as I worked, the completed sections were drying out, clearly showing that the color I was painting was not the color I would achieve on the cloth. At least, I don’t think it is. I have to wait a few weeks before laundering my printed cloths to confirm this.
Otherwise, the stamping and painting was simple and fun to do! Funny how such activities bring out the child in each of us! I used a small rectangular bottle for the rectangles in my first print. It had a recessed bottom, so only the edges of the bottle bottom carried the paint solution. A curious side effect of this was that a vacuum was formed every time I stamped, and when I lifted the bottle, little splatters popped away from the printing. I tried rolling the bottle more gently, but then realized that I did not mind that extra fall-out at all and simply let rip!
I then used a round stencil brush to mark the dark circles onto the print, this with a different mud. Finally, I selected a smallish, inexpensive paint brush to lay in the short red slashes. I would not recommend using an expensive fine arts paintbrush as the mud is going to be pretty hard on those. Children’s inexpensive and poor quality brushes will work just fine. If you want to do more delicate work, you may have no choice.
The soy milk is sticky and you can feel that if you get it on your hands and it begins to dry. I worked without rubber gloves and managed not to get much of either the soy milk or the soil onto my hands. If you’re going to be seriously getting into dirt, you probably ought to have a tetanus inoculation first. Anyway, it’s the stickiness of the soy milk that gets the job done. That’s what is going to cause the mud to adhere permanently (I hope!) to the fabric.
OK, so I spent a couple of hours printing my first cloth with mud. In the back of my mind, I had been wondering whether it might be possible to do something like an immersion dye bath to cover an entire piece of cloth more quickly and possibly more evenly than would be possible by brushing the fabric with the solution. When I knew I was finished for the day, I dumped all three of the soy/soil color solutions back into the tub of clean soy milk and gave that a good stir. I picked up a large piece of pink silk and dipped it in, and smushed it all around to get the soil onto it. Then I wrung it out and threw it down on the verandah in the hot sun. We get instant drying here, only a few miles north of the Equator.
As might be expected, there was too much soy milk and too little mud! Disappointed with the immediate outcome, I fell back on Googling to see what else I might learn. I was also not very comfortable with the idea that my muds were going to dry lighter in value than I wanted. From Judy Dominic’s work, I took a hint and made up a nice pot of VERY strong tea. I twisted up my fabric again and dunked it into the tea, and weighted it down with a couple of salad plates. I left the pot on the verandah overnight, and got up this morning to a somewhat more interesting fabric than what I had to begin with. Next step is that I’m going to paint more mud onto it, leaving plenty of room for the variations in this piece to show through.
I keep wondering whether I really want to work with 25 yards of pink silk. If the mud does its job it should tone down and brown up the pinks, but will that be enough? On the other hand, the pink could be a unifying quality that would ensure that all my fabrics would work together.
Stay tuned, and I’ll let you know how this next piece turns out. Read more . . .