Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rust Printing with Pat Vivod

What does one do for excitement in Illinois when the summer +100F temps continue to soar, play in water of course. Not in a sparkling cool pool, oh no! But with a garden hose, a few boxes of tea, and rust!!

Pat and I met at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville  while she was working on her MFA in Printmaking and Textiles and I was completing my BFA in Art & Design/Textiles and BS in K-12 Art Education.  For the next few years, we exhibited together during Art East, Madison County's annual art tour. Pat would be displaying the most beautiful silk scarfs and large wall hangings, all dyed and printed with rust, tea, berries and walnuts, while my art focused on handmade paper from plant fiber and book arts. At the time, I had just started teaching art at Oakville Middle School while working on my first masters degree. During each exhibition, I listened intently to Pat's newest discovery, and even managed to write a few notes on rust dying in my journal, but didn't have the time, or brain space, to take on another art form. Yet in July of 2012, I finished my second masters on a Friday and planted myself in Pat's garden studio bright and early the next Monday morning. What a glorious way to celebrate!!

Silk scarf folded and wrapped on metal pipe
Leaf resist pattern exposed as scarf was unwrapped
My first silk scarf - Pattern made from leaf resist, tea, vinegar, and rust

At Pat's suggestion, I had purchased and read India Flint's Eco Colour, as well as Jenny Dean's Wild Colour. As an avid gardener for many years, many of the plants used in dying were already in my garden. Pat had been experimenting with Eco Dyeing after she had taken a workshop with India in 2011. While we were waiting for the silk to rust, we also Eco Dyed a few bundles of silk, wool and cotton. Those bundles were put aside for three weeks to cure and will be opened on a future blog post. 

With a basic understanding of chemistry and experience with an indigo vat, I scribbled down notes as Pat shared her expertise. For more information about Pat's beautiful artwork, read her blog, Sentimental Pentimento.

My second silk scarf - Pattern from leaf resist, tea, vinegar and rust on indigo dyed silk scarf

There are many variants when rust printing. I am just a novice, but did learn that no two pieces will be the same and the overall design depends on: the type of fiber; how the silk is folded; where the leaves or other materials are placed inside or on top as a resist; the various types of tea used; where the tea is sprinkled on the silk; how the folded silk is wrapped on the metal; the amount of rust on the metal; the humidity; the day/night temperature; the length of time the silk is wrapped in plastic on the metal; and any other berries or plant fiber used in the design that may add their own colors.

Pat Vivod washing tea and leaf fiber from one of her silk scarfs

I brought along a hemp blend cloth given to me by my English sister-in-law, Wendy Evans, who picked it up on one of her around-the-world adventures. It probably came from Africa. Pat allowed me to pick out any rusted metal I wanted to use and I chose five of the sun bursts seen below. 

Farm equipment used to make sunbursts on hemp blend cloth
Layers: plastic - metal sunbursts - hemp blend cloth soaked in vinegar - tea - salt - more vinegar - plastic - bricks and walnuts to hold down plastic
Bricks and walnuts hold down plastic overnight
Tea and rust print on cloth uncovered and placed on table to hose off with water
Final print on hemp blend cloth from Africa (turtles pre-printed on cloth)

After three days in Pat's garden studio, I took my supplies, cloth and notes back home and set up my own garden studio out of a few make-shift crates, a skid, a few bricks and a bit of plastic.

Although I don't have the cool rusted gadgets that Pat owns, I found a few things sitting around that had plenty of rust - our burn barrel, the grill found on big trash day, the four claw foot tub feet from a yard sale, and bits of pipe and chain from who knows where. I began with a piece of pale yellow silk from my stash. It was smooth on one side and bumpy on the other.  

I soaked the silk in vinegar and folded it lengthwise as I attempted to make a few designs with used Earl Grey tea leaves, unused Lipton Tea leaves, fresh sassafras leaves, and boiled down walnut "tea" before I clipped it shut with clothespins long enough to tie it to the burn barrel. Once it was tied in place, I covered the barrel with plastic and waited about five hours. The temps were well over 100F. 

Silk cloth soaked in vinegar, folded with tea  and leaves then wrapped in plastic for about 5 hours in 100F+ sunshine
Removing the hemp twine 
Twine marks and rust
Before it was opened
My husband, Peter, helping to open the folds and remove the leaves
Leaf resist, black tea and rust print
Opened cloth before rinsing
Cloth rinsed with water to remove tea and leaves
Silk washed and dried on the line. 

Pat was a wonderful, patient teacher. I was so excited by the success of rust printing on silk, I decided to spend the next few days testing rust on paper. But that just have to wait for the next blog post.


  1. Thanks for the lovely story! I'm looking forward to the bundle opening and especially INDIGO GO!

  2. wow, that looks interesting. Beautiful results!

  3. Thanks for your comment, Brita.

    Thank you, Pat, for your help and generosity! Yep, setting up the indigo vat in my studio garden today. It should be up and running for us to use this weekend.

  4. fantastic results...well done. Pat is great isn't she! Wow lucky you to be friends with her, visit and have so much fun!xxlynda

  5. Forgot to ask....how do you do your indigo vat? I have just grown some and am not sure yet where to go next but l want to do my own Indigo vat! any hints ?xxxlynda

  6. Very interesting post and great pictures!
    Thank you so much :) I'll be waiting for your next.

  7. I've enjoyed reading about your first rusting adventure....and I'm sure it won't be your last! Your scarf came out beautifully!


  8. Thanks, all. Sorry I didn't reply sooner. But teaching seven classes each day soon fills up time. Lynda, I may have responded on FB, but I use synthetic indigo, not the actual plant. If you want to know how to set up a vat with synthetic indigo, please let me know.