Flora Wallace - artist
HOW DID YOUR EXPLORATION INTO INK MAKING BEGIN, AND WHY?
I suppose it began about 4 years ago. At the time I was painting a lot with ink, the regular Winsor and Newton shop bought ink. I then got the chance to visit Japan and ended up stumbling across a very old and very beautiful pigment shop in the back streets of Kyoto. I ended up buying an indigo blue and a rusty yellow coloured ink. I had never used such beautiful ink and was obsessed by getting more but had no idea if or when I would ever go back to Japan, let alone find the shop again. Sometime later after I had drained my supply of Japanese ink I was gifted some acorn ink made by a brilliant forager friend called Anna Richardson. It had similar qualities as the ink I had found in Kyoto. It was alive and interesting and had depth and movement. But most importantly it was from East Sussex and had been made by acorns gathered from places I knew well and had connections too which made it even more meaningful to me. The idea of place based ink making became an important part of my practice.
HOE DOES THE PROCESS MAKE YOU FEEL? HAS IT IMPACTED THE WAY YOU RELATE TO OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE?
It is amazingly liberating. It gives me a sense of being a child again, learning through experimentation and play. It is impossible to make mistakes although it is definitely true that some things work better than others. It has also taught me that patience and persistence is crucial. There are endless things to experiment with and endless ways to get different results. For me it is the same feeling as learning the name of a plant and then when I encounter that plant somewhere just knowing the name gives the plant a whole new meaning and character. Making ink has changed the way I see my surroundings. Plants and minerals have stopped being objects and started being materials and tools with which I can create.
WHO DID YOU LEARN FROM, IF ANYBODY, AND HOW?
I came across the book by Toronto based ink maker Jason Logan, called ‘Make Ink’. I then spent the summer exploring and experimenting with all sorts of things from flower petals to nuts, berries and metals. I tried out different ways of extracting from boiling to soaking. I explored how alkaline and acids could
change the colour. I researched, played and experimented more and became obsessed with the process of extracting pigment. At the time I was working as a florist in London at a place called JamJar flowers and also had a ceramic studio which was my main focus. But learning how to make inks felt like it joined these worlds together. I was able to recycle old flowers from the studio and turn them into inks and also explored turning some of my home made pigments into glazes.
HOW DO THE SEASONS AFFECT YOUR PRACTICE, AND DAY TO DAY, NOT JUST IN ART, BUT IN YOUR OWN ROUTINES AND PHYSICALLY TOO?
I am working on a seasonal botanical ink journal by documenting process, time, place and plants during spring, summer autumn and winter. This will culminate in a series of seasonal colour palettes. It is going to be an ongoing project as you can never gather all the colours in one season. The different colours of the seasons definitely affect the way that I feel. Spring brings bright greens, yellows, whites, new buds on trees and things bursting up through the ground. There is a sense of determination and new growth. Im always sad when spring is over.
DO YOU WORK WITH ANYONE, AND IF SO, WHAT’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH THEM AND HOW DID IT COME ABOUT?
I collaborate a lot with my boyfriend Cosmo Sheldrake who is musician and artist. I am currently in the middle of painting the art work for his series of music called wake up calls made using recordings of endangered British birds song. You can find these on his website www.cosmosheldrake.com. We recently collaborated on a piece for an artists recipe book using ink we made together out of oak galls and iron water from Hampstead heath. Oak gall ink is one of the oldest types of inks. It dates back to the 5th century and was the ink used to write the Magna Carter and many medieval manuscripts that are still visible today. We have also just started making music together and have started a band called Don’t and released our first tune called DiD, you can find it on Spotify if you look hard.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING WHEN YOU’RE CREATING COLOURS?
It is important to forage in a non destructive manner. Making sure not to pull up plants by their roots (unless its the roots your after) or harvest all of the berries or flowers as its good to leave enough for the birds and pollinators. It is also important to research the plants and processes. Some inks and their ingredients need to be handled with care as some of the can be potentially harmful if ingested. Make sure to take detailed notes so you can recreate experiments that we're improvised. But it is also necessary to allow yourself to play and try things out that are not in recipe books. Some of my most interesting inks have been made by complete experimentation.
Ink paintings and inks for sale at www.jamjaredit.co.uk, or directly through email email@example.com.