Mad In Pursuit Notebook

geraniums on linen

The Geranium Experiment, Continued

Wed, 11.19.2014. [continued from 11.13.14] My problem with learning from books is that some very good books are so advanced that they assume I have some basic skills that I don't. So... I just need to try some things out.

Like I said last week, what I want is cloth that not only contains natural color, but also captures some vague imprint of the botanical matter. Texture! The materials at hand were the geraniums in our garden box, facing certain extinction anyway during the imminent cold snap. My plan was to make an "eco-print" bundle (using a piece of old damask linen) and stand by for glorious beauty.

My choices for processing the bundle: cold-processing (like I'm doing with my autumn leaves... setting aside for 3 weeks or more), steaming, or boiling. I opted for a double dose of steaming. I also used a syringe to add some green tea... just because I heard tannic acid helped.

Here is the original geranium bundle:

geranium bundle

And what it looked like yesterday morning, after 5 days:

I have to confess: I fell in love with my geranium bundle. I kept it on my sunny bedroom window sill and transfered it to the bathroom overnight. It had a wonderful earthy geranium fragrance and, briefly, it was my pet.

Since it was very close to completely dried, I decided that yesterday was the day for the unwrapping. We made a thing of it. Our first reaction was... yikes. Here's Jim, removing the, uh,"botanical material."

geraniums and linen

Second reaction: ugly. It looks like a paint rag. The leaves made no "leaf" impression and the petals just made big blotches, like a rash. Lesson #1: Steaming was probably the wrong choice -- it diffused the color rather than capturing an imprint. Lesson #2: maybe the geranium flowers should have been rendered into a small jar of dye (like I did the cranberries). I don't find blotches lovely. The preliminary result (photo below) did not make me feel in communion with nature.

eco-print geraniums

I rinsed away the geranium scum and hung it to dry (photo below). It still looks like a fragment of tablecloth excavated from a restaurant devastated in a flood. In a hot climate. New Orleans.

eco-print, geraniums on damask linen

So (I tell myself), any textile artist worth her salt would look at this result as a fascinating beginning -- the first step in making a storyful, complex cloth. Maybe a tea bath would help. I have onion skins... and a pomegranate... ok, back to the alchemy lab! [Cont'd here>>>]