Making My Own Inks

I attended a 2-day Zoom workshop through a local Long Beach gallery called Flux Art that was about making inks with foraged and/or cultivated materials. It was by a Northern California artist named Judi Pettite who’s been making her own inks for years (she calls it BioHue), and it was really fascinating. The first session was a basic overview and in the 2 weeks between sessions we were to find materials that we wanted to try making into inks. Judi gave us some tips on what kinds of materials to be on the lookout for, but she also told us to experiment, and try something that we thought might work.

On the Sunday after the first workshop my husband and I decided to look around for possible materials and I found 3 promising candidates: bougainvillea flowers, morning glories and a mysterious yellow weed flower. I put them in mason jars with some water and eagerly awaited what might transpire!

In subsequent weeks I found more materials (American Sweet Gum Tree leaf and berry, jacaranda blossoms, coffee grounds and purple cabbage) and my collection of jars grew. I also covered the jars with cheesecloth to allow for air circulation while keeping out bugs.

After about 2+ weeks of steeping, it was finally time to see what I had. But first, I needed to get some supplies. I needed a stainless steel pan, a strainer, a spoon, and some containers that I was going to use specifically for this purpose, as it was not advised to use the same stuff you use for cooking food. Daiso, the Japanese dollar store, turned out to be the perfect place to pick up said supplies—they had just what I was looking for!

I strained out the liquids from my first three jars from 6/28 and proceeded to warm it on very low heat to evaporate out some of the water.

Purple Bougainvillea flower juice

The results weren’t too out of line with what I was expecting; if anything, the yellow flowers yielded more color than I thought they would. Below is a piece of watercolor paper where I tested out the inks. Not too bad, but I think the purple cabbage and coffee grounds I’ve got going will yield more impressive results! More to come.

UPDATE: I finally tried out the next batch of hopefuls and I’m pleased to say they turned out very well (see picture below). I had to strain the Sweet Gum Tree liquid through a cheesecloth because I let it go too long on the burner and it dried out quite a bit, resulting in the little crumbs seen in the first swipe. Now time to actually make some art with these inks!

Published by stephaniehanart

Artist and graphic designer living in Southern California.

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