I’ll Ink to That!

The Maiwa ink-making workshop is done and it’s been a blast. Best online workshop I’ve done. Really. The videos and instruction sheets were clear and informative, the q&a forum was friendly and helpful, and none of it was done via Zoom. Well, there was an optional Zoom session at the end, but I skipped that because…

The last two inks we made were indigo and iron gall. The indigo recipe was simple and quick, and the resulting ink is really dark to write with while giving lovely shades when applied with a brush.

The iron gall ink was more involved but not complicated. I’ve seen YouTube videos in which gall nuts were fermented, but this lesson kept it simple (and probably less fragrant) by using extract-ready gallnut powder. It is fascinating watching the ink slowly deepen from grey to black as it oxidises.

Since there were no more inks to make in the workshop, I began tidying up, removing anything that hadn’t been useful from the work area. That’s when I found a bag of onion skins I had collected with the intention of dyeing cloth. Onion skins contain tannins, so I decided to see if I could make an ink from it. The process was as simple as simmering the skins in just enough de-mineralised water to be able to stir them for about 20 minutes, filtering out the skins, then reducing the liquid to intensify the colour. It smelled like French Onion soup as I was cooking the skins, so that became the name.

Here are all the inks, in little jars for storing airbrush ink that Paul bought for me. Of all the things needed for this workshop, suitable jars were the hardest to find in Australia. I had bought some bottles with droppers, but the narrow neck makes it hard to dip the pen without getting ink on the handle, and you have to find somewhere safe to put the dropper while you’re working.

The next ink I want to make is walnut ink. So far I haven’t found a fresh source of husks, so I’ve ordered some dried ones from the art store. I’ve also collected some bark from one of the big eucalyptus trees here. I’d like to try the bark and leaves of all the eucalyptus trees here. Next Autumn it’ll be time to harvest madder and forage for acorns.

But I’m also aware that I’ve not exactly used up ink very quickly in the past. In fact, when I gathered all the ink I had ready for the accessories month of the daily art challenge I found that a third or so had dried out – which is probably the most common way I ‘use up’ ink. My back protested after I did some calligraphy exercises on Monday, which was no surprise. I can’t do more than an hour of anything that involves sitting. So it doesn’t make sense to keep manufacturing more and more ink. However, it is cool to know I can whip up a batch when I need to, or when an interesting source material comes along. And the accessories month showed me that drawing with ink is really satisfying, so hopefully I’d do more of that, too.