Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Natural Hand-Dyed Paper

Dying paper at home is an easy and inexpensive project you can complete in one work session. Your hand-dyed paper can be used for card-making, gift tags, bookmarks, soap and gift packaging, scrapbooking, paper maché, collages, magnets…anything you can think of. I have been using my hand-dyed paper to make gift tags, which I give out with each pendant purchase in my etsy store.

The finished gift tags/bookmarks you see here I made using paper that I dyed with coffee, tea, turmeric and cinnamon. Simmering the natural ingredients found in my kitchen gave my tags not only a rich, earthy yellow ochre hue, but also a nearly edible aroma.

For my most recent batches, I used the water left over from boiling beets that we ate for dinner and a combination of hand-torn watercolor paper and die-cut manila tags from the office supply store.

First I used the beet juice alone to die a few batches as I slowly reheated the liquid in a sauce pan on the stove. I dipped both sides of my paper in the beet juice, then soaked them until they sank (about 5 minutes.) You can dye multiple pieces at once.

After spreading crumpled aluminum foil on a cookie sheet, I set my papers out to dry in the oven on about 185 °f. You do not need the aluminum foil. I used it to create a splotchy texture.  It helps to have two cookie sheets going at one time so you can stagger your work – while one pan is drying, fill the other pan with your next batch of paper.

After I dyed all the paper that I wanted to have pink, I kept the beet water just under boil and added powdered turmeric and a black tea bag. This time I did smaller batches because I wanted my paper to have darker red splotches on one side.

To get these splotches I soaked the papers on low heat just long enough for the ones floating on top to dry partially. If they soak too long they will sink to the bottom and the splotches will be lost. You can use a fork to pull the papers out of the pan, or the string (or wire) that comes attached to your tags. 

Drying the papers on the crumpled aluminum foil leaves a very interesting random texture and drying them directly on the oven rack or a cookie cooling rack leaves interesting stripes.

For a smoother color, try drying them directly on a cookie sheet, but I recommend testing a sample of each paper type first to assure that your batches won’t stick to the cookie sheet after they are dry.

After paper has dried, press them under heavy, hard-cover books to flatten them out. A thick layer of scratch paper or a felt pad placed below the books on top of equal sized small dyed paper stacks will help you press more paper at one time.

For the artwork on my tags, I used a combination of store bought and hand-carved rubber stamps, with various inks, including water-based pigment pads, solvent-based dye pads and Dick Blick relief printing inks rolled out with a brayer directly onto the stamps.

Next, I decorated my tags with cut paper and hand-dyed sand. For my final touches, I stamped or brushed color around the edges and looped ribbon through the holes.

Combine any medium you want to create your artwork, but keep in mind that these vegetable dyes are not completely colorfast, so consider that when using wet media.