I been longing to conduct and share the ink making process with the invasive plants found in Richmond Nature Park. Invasive plants are species that grows rapidly and vigorously to the extent that they crowd the native plants, taking up their space and nutrients. An easy way to understand them is thinking of them as weeds. In this case, the species are most likely brought in by birds from nearby cultivated berry farms. These cultivated plants are designed to be strong and takes over the park. As mentioned briefly in blog post 2, the Nature Park has been attempting to re-establish the native vegetation by cutting and removing these invasive species in hopes of giving others time to grow back.
Therefore, these invasive plants are perfect materials to play with and does not harm the park’s biodiversity. The park staff were kind enough to harvest some cultivated blackberry, cultivated blueberry and of course, the common dandelion for me. (A big thank you to them!)
I brought the plants home to shimmer and soak at leisure. They were promptly cut up and heated with vinegar plus a pinch of salt for preservation. To my confusion, after boiling, cooling, and an overnight soak, the liquid created little to no colour pay off. In the past, I worked with hyper-pigmented plants and flowers, guaranteeing a smooth process. This time the plants are more stems and not species known to produce saturated inks. I was considering alternative pigment additives but also adamant in aiming to preserve the true essence of the plant material.
After some more research and chemical brainstorming, I found the magic ingredient that activates low-pigmentated plant materials: sodium carbonate or commonly found in washing soda. It acts as a stain remover which logically makes sense as I am trying to extract the colour from the plants into the surrounding liquid. Its chemical compound is similar to baking soda, creating a beautiful fizz when added to the vinegar base.
I gave it another shimmer and overnight soak to be safe. Followed by extensive straining and filtering, a bit of gum arabic is added for fluidity and a clove for extra preservative; these beautifully rich inks are ready to be used for our upcoming workshops and events. Now on my walks, I do not only marvel at the colours of the vivid flowers but wonder at the possibilities hidden in the barks, the dried twigs, and the overlooked bushes in the corner.