JODIE CARNEY, a Jersey artist currently studying in New Zealand, has completed some zinc plate etchings of Jersey agricultural scenes that aim to encourage more interaction with local culture and native plants.As she is currently living in New Zealand, she has made the paper from traditional Maori flax fibre extraction techniques and the ink from black walnut husks.
She writes: ‘The conceptual premise behind the mechanically reproduced artwork images is humankind’s increasing disconnection from the natural environment – and a latent, earnest, desire to reconnect. The subject’s focus comprises mechanical implements that are used in Jersey’s modern form of agriculture.
‘One can see in the images industrial patterns of repetition, imposed on preexisting natural habitats for the purpose of more efficiently harvesting grown produce. I endeavour here to create art objects that exemplify our yearning to reconnect with things other than manmade. Things that claim inherent ability to encourage more natural categories o interaction.
‘To that end, the images reproduced here reference conventions of Renaissance artworks. The Renaissance was an artistic period that particulary delighted in nature’s spontaneity and ephemerality. The materials used to produce the pictured intaglio prints were sourced and processed as naturally as possible. Ink created from black walnut husks. Paper is derived from flax fibre.
Recipe for black walnut ink base:
Making the base for the black walnut ink consists of 4 main stages: gathering, preparing, boiling and straining.
• Black walnut trees can be identified by their round fruit, which drops in autumn and has an ochre, fleshy husk when fully ripened for ink making – it matures from light green to a dark brown.
• To create approximately 1 litre of ink you need gather several dozen of these fruit; allow them to ripen until they are dark brown, at which point you can shed the husks and cover them with water from 2 days to several months (the longer you leave them the darker the ink will become) in a stainless steel pot or one that you do not mind potentially discolouring.
• Bring the husk/water mixture to a boil and then simmer for several hours until the required consistency is achieved – the result should be the equivalent of fountain pen ink. At this stage you may add rusty objects to react with the natural tannins and darken the ink further.
• Pure ethanol may be added to prevent moulding of the ink.
If you wish to create a printing ink from this previously described ink- base you would need treat it as the pigment/ solvent component of a coloured varnish – which foundationally consists of pigment, resin and solvent.
• Resin binds the ink into a film, and to printed surface. To replicate binding attributes natural thickening agents such as gum arabic and glycerine can be added whilst reheating the ink- base.
• Solvent enhances ink flow for ease of transfer to the plate. In the instance of the walnut ink- base the fluidity of the water should be sufficient, provided the right amount of resin is added that it does not become too tacky.
• Pigment controls the colouring and opacity of the ink – if your ink is too light tonally after the resin materials are added you will need to add more tannin (grinding the husks using pestle and mortar and drying them should be sufficient as tannin mixture).
* Being a water based ink you will not need to use harmful solvents to clean your printing plates. Provided you do not mind your plate potentially discolouring slightly – and have used natural ingredients such as gum arabic and glycerine for your resin – excess ink is easily removed with water.
Recipe for flax paper:
Making the mulch for the flax paper encompasses both processing method and cultural practise.
• As you will be sourcing your ingredients directly from the plant it is important to consider both the cultural significance and correct harvesting technique of the flax.
• In Aotearoa, New Zealand the Māori teachings describe the inner leaves of flax fans as the children for example, the young leaves that are not to be cut. Therefore only the two outer leaves of each fan may be extracted.
• Using a sharp blade cut at an angle that is downward from the top of the leaf, at the base of the plant. To make one sheet of paper from flax fibre you will need approximately several dozen leaves.
• To extract the fibre, or muka as described by Māori, you may use a sharp blade, or mussel shell, paua.
• Soften the leaves by soaking them for an hour, and then gently applying pressure and running the blade or paua shell along their underside (the dull side is the underside).
• Create a cut half the thickness of the leaf at the bottom of the leaf (furthest from the tip) on the underside that his just been softened.
• On the topside of the leaf (the shiny side is the topside) rest the blade or paua shell and again gently apply pressure along the entire length to strip the fibre from the main flesh of the leaf. Any remaining flesh can be stripped with the same blade/ paua shell by gentle running it across both sides of the fibres.
• Soak the fibres for anything between 2 hours and a week to soften them.
• Use a blender/ pestle and mortar to grind the fibres into paper mulch.
• Using a deckle and frame, the same measurements as your desired paper size, strain the mulch. A rocking motion, or padding with your hands, allows the mulch to settle more evenly – at this stage you can add more/ less mulch to acquire the desired paper thickness.
• Leave the paper to dry on the deckle for about half an hour in warm/ dry conditions, then gently roll the paper onto a sheet of felt/ wire rack to dry thoroughly.’