Category Archives: Nature Crafts

Painting with pomegranate juice

It’s been some months since I have written and I hope you don’t mind the wait while we have been moving countries. We are in Berlin now and enjoying the remarkably great weather since July. I’m back into my teaching (and loving it! If you are a pedagogeek like me, you might enjoy my education journal that I keep), Miss K is enjoying Kita tremendously and our family has finally settled into our new home.

Before we left Australia a few of my posts for Mrs Winter Creates were put on hold because of the move. I’d like to share one of them with you now, fully written some 3 or so months ago. It is about a subject close to my heart – natural pigments. I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to blogging more here about the projects I’ve been focussing on in our new apartment.

I am so excited to share my newest project with you.

It could also be considered one of my oldest projects.

About 15 years ago when I was studying fine art at university, I began experimenting with fruit juice (mainly pomegranate, tamarillo and berry juices), calc, alum and rust to create abstract and minimalist paintings. I saw the transformation of their colour as alchemical and at the time I did not fully understand the chemical reasons behind the colour changes, thinking it rested solely in the oxidisation process. This whole experiment is something I have been meaning to get back to since that time; recently I have been taking the time to do so.

Painting with pomegranate juice - Mrs Winter Creates

Painting with pomegranate juice – Mrs Winter Creates

I am working with a number of different ripeness’ of juice and rind of pomegranates in the process and have also used lemon juice in parts of certain paintings to gain some colour variation. In these paintings I have strong lilac, purple, yellow, pink, browns, prussian blue, cobalt and magenta. I remember being able to get a green as well, but as of yet I have not rediscovered this process.

Painting with pomegranate juice - Mrs Winter Creates

Painting with pomegranate juice – Mrs Winter Creates

I prepared some of the paints about a week ago and have kept them in the fridge to preserve them. Once Miss K goes down for the night, I sit and experiment; it is like a meditation. Sometimes Mr Winter and I sit together working, he reads or draws and I glide a wet brush against watercolour paper with intention.

I like to sit and watch the colours change. Many begin as pink or red; they dry and a hint of a future hue appears. The paint pools in a corner or edge, there is a grain of seed flesh that creates punctuation to a field of colour. Subtle variations of hue can be observed in every dried mark, that is the beauty of plant based colour. It leaves me in awe and in love.

Painting with pomegranate juice - Mrs Winter Creates

Painting with pomegranate juice – Mrs Winter Creates

These paintings do change with time, they become more muted over the years and tend toward a yellow-green as they mature. The change itself speaks of a natural transformation of organic elements, yet a strong impression remains. I considered preserving the paintings against UV rays and other ageing elements, but this would be dishonest to the process; and the process is central to the work.

Painting with pomegranate juice - Mrs Winter Creates

Painting with pomegranate juice – Mrs Winter Creates

I love natural pigments and dyes. I would probably be quite satisfied dedicating my life to learning about and using them, though I believe soon enough my teaching and philosophy itch would set in.

 

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Easter basket on retreat

Last weekend Miss K and I went on a weaving retreat South-West of Perth near a town called Dwellingup. The land there is thick with native forest and a river courses through it in a meandering fashion, splitting for a rocky island here or becoming the perfect wading pond there. The water is low after a hot summer and a continuously warm autumn. Our group of children under five and their respective parents found this to be perfect for water-play needs, especially at a spot called Nanga Mill – where the crystal-clear rivulet weaves in and out of rocks, on top of pebbles and lusciously squishy clay beds nestled with stunted tress and reeds that hang over and make it feel like a fairy glen. I did not have my camera so I guess, dear reader, that you will have to visit this wonder for yourself.

Needless to say that with all this natural beauty to explore, I did little weaving during the day. I did, however, get the chance to begin an Easter basket on night.

The beginnings of my Easter basket - Mrs Winter Creates

The beginnings of my Easter basket – Mrs Winter Creates

A few days now after our return I have finished the basket. I ran out of the dried Watsonia leaves I collected at Nanga Mill (it is a very persistent weed unfortunately, but wonderfully suited to weaving once soaked a little), so I had to finish with some dried leaves I found lying about the garden.

Self-made Easter basket - Mrs Winter Creates

Self-made Easter basket – Mrs Winter Creates

I wasn’t entirely sure about my embellishments. I used the dried parts of a King Protea (the one from the photos from this post)…

King Protea embellishments on the Easter basket - Mrs Winter Creates

King Protea embellishments on the Easter basket – Mrs Winter Creates

…and a cotton rope plaited as a handle.

Plaited rope basket handle - Mrs Winter Creates

Plaited rope basket handle – Mrs Winter Creates

I attached to handle to the side carefully, though only one side looks well. That is this one:

Grass and rope basket - Mrs Winter Creates

Grass and rope basket – Mrs Winter Creates

The dried parts of the Protea I also used as a dye-stuff for a silk scarf I thought might do as the basket liner, though it may prove too bulky.

Silk scarf dyed with King Protea parts - Mrs Winter Creates

Silk scarf dyed with King Protea parts – Mrs Winter Creates

The colour of the scarf includes lovely earthy pink tones to, though this isn’t so apparent in the photos.

I’m looking forward to having the basket full with all the necessary ingredients for the blessing on Saturday. I will write about what is included in a traditional Polish basket in a later post (I find myself writing this a lot lately).

If you would like to make your own Easter basket, it doesn’t take too long and you could use my tutorial here to get started.

 

Onion dying Easter eggs

The last week before Easter is upon us.

This weekend just gone we were on a weaving retreat in the beautiful bush and river-land South-East of Perth. Miss K seems to have blossomed from that short reverie; I look forward to sharing more about it very soon.

The day we left for the retreat, I was busily getting ready and dying Easter eggs. I had emptied the eggs and used some to make blueberry pancakes, a staple of our toddler’s diet. I arranged all of my ingredients outside to photograph. I went inside to clean up, I heard some strange sort of cracking sound like loud rain, Miss K squealed with delight. I hurried outside and found this:

Broken eggshells - Mrs Winter Creates

Broken eggshells – Mrs Winter Creates

A gust of wind had descended into the courtyard and blown the eggs from the table. Miss K was happy as she now had a new ingredient for her outside kitchen. Luckily, I had a few complete eggs left. I will use the more complete broken ones for something sweet. I’ll tell you more about that in another post soon as I want to just focus on how to dye eggs with brown onion skins today.

Cold dyed Easter egg with wax relief - Mrs Winter Creates

Cold dyed Easter egg with wax relief – Mrs Winter Creates

The colour you can get with onion skins is so deep and brilliant.

Scratched Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Scratched Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

As a child I was captivated by how such a simple, usually unwanted casting of everyday cooking could do something so beautiful. I remember watching my mother fill a tall, wide pot with water and onion skins. The house smelt heavy as it boiled, but not unpleasant. We would do this the day before Easter Saturday and use whole, fresh eggs that would boil in the dye bath. We did not blow the eggs. After they were dyed their deep earthy red, we would take out sharp sewing needles and scratch pictures of flowers, leaves, hares and chickens onto their surface. These eggs would be eaten the next day after being blessed. One was chosen as the egg used to give blessing to all who sat around the feast table after the blessing. Every person who was at the luncheon would eat a small part of this one egg.

I will also be dyeing eggs the night before Easter Saturday, but I wanted many more as decoration that could last a lot longer, so my method is different. A full egg is also a lot easier to scratch than a blown egg, so you may also like to try with full eggs.

Scratched Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Scratched Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

I also would like to give you some instructions on how to make wax relief designs on eggs in a cold dye bath. You can get highly contrasted images using this technique.

Cold dyed Easter egg with wax relief - Mrs Winter

Cold dyed Easter egg with wax relief – Mrs Winter

You will need:

A tall pot
12 blown eggs – You may like to use full eggs for the hot dye bath
3 or 4 handfulls of brown onion skins
One sharp sewing needle
One long sewing needle (such as a thin wool needle)
A wax candle and matches
String for presentation

It can also be useful to have one of those medicine syringes around to fill blown eggs with water.

Easter egg dying - Mrs Winter Creates

Easter egg dying – Mrs Winter Creates

Hot dye bath method:

1. Fill your tall pot with as much water as easily accommodates all of the onion peel. I usually fill it three quarters full.

2. Place half your eggs into the water carefully. If your eggs are blown, fill them with water. It can be helpful to use a syringe or make the holes on both sides a little larger and hold them under the water in the pot.

3. Bring this to the boil and let it simmer. Take your eggs out when you are happy with their colour. Do not discard the dye bath, let it cool and stand it aside for the cold dye bath which I will explain shortly.

4. Once your boiled eggs are cool you can scratch designs onto them using a sharp needle. The best way to do this is to make many lighter scratches. If you press too firmly you will break the egg. On this one I scratched blackberries:

Scratched Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Scratched Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

Now for the wax relief and cold-dye bath…

5. Light your candle and let it burn until you have a little pool of wax and surrounding wax has softened. Using eye of the long, thin wool needle, pick up some of the softened wax and hold it momentarily in the flame of the candle until it has become very liquid. Use this immediately to make marks on your remaining, undyed eggs. It seems to be a matter of practise and there are a few different methods for making the marks.

6. Once your onion dye bath is cold (perhaps it is best to wait at least a few hours), fill your waxed eggs with water and place them gently into the dye bath.

7. Leave them there for a number of hours or over night. Take them out and let them dry. You can blow out any excess water.

8. Run boiling hot water over them and rub them with a clean, soft cloth to get the wax off and make them shiny.

Wax relief Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Wax relief Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

Miss K loved the eggs.

Miss K with a dyed Easter egg - Mrs Winter Creates

Miss K with a dyed Easter egg – Mrs Winter Creates

She blew them many kisses and was so amorous that one caved to the violence of her affections.

Miss K showed her affection a bit too much for this one - Mrs Winter Creates

Miss K showed her affection a bit too much for this one – Mrs Winter Creates

Inside it was marbled and beautiful.

I hope you also have much luck with your Easter eggs. Please ask me any questions you have and share your work with us if you like!

Coiled basket children’s toys

I was gardening and noticed that there is all this long, dried, leaf material just looking messy on the ground. It is flexible even though it is dry and so I figured it would be perfect to make into a basket. That was a little ambitious as there wasn’t enough for a large, adult basket, so I decided to make something for Miss K instead.

Basket making children's toys

Basket making children’s toys

In the beginning we were going to plant some succulents in there, but then she preferred to rip those up into pieces. The vessel quickly rose to prime place in her private outdoor kitchen.

Basket making children's toys

Basket making children’s toys

These vessels are quite quick and easy to make. You can use many things to decorate  them – feathers, shells, flowers, coloured thread, anything really. I just kept these ones quite plain.

Coil basket making - in Miss K's kitchen

Coil basket making – in Miss K’s kitchen

Making a basket out of found or unwanted material is very satisfying for me. It fits with what my friend once called my ‘wartime mentality’. Make do and mend, waste not want not, all of that jazz. As I couldn’t find any tutorials or how to-s online that I liked, I decided to make my own. This is my first video tutorial and I hope that it is helpful for those of you wanting to try this craft!