Making willow leaf ink

Making willow leaf ink

Image: Willow leaf ink made with water from the River Ouse; mud from the riverbank
I have started working on my next art collection about Rivers. River as power, River as life, river as creative spirit. Rivers have always been in my life - the River Ouse, River Cam, River Elbe, River Wye, River Thames and back to the River Ouse again here in Bedfordshire, UK, where I live. 
 
Since starting my year-long programme Rewild Your Soul I have found myself drawn to the forms of the river, veins, blood vessels, neurons, roots, mycelium, lungs. Branching fractals seemed to follow me wherever I looked and I felt drawn to explore them in more depth.
 
I am taking a new approach with my process this time, guided by an art mentor (and dear artist friend). I am spending time on the river bank, sketching, collecting, making ink from willow leaves and playing with mud. I am also swimming in the river and trying to capture what it feels like to be surrounded by the Ouse. I am enjoying this more intuitive way of working and am intrigued to see where it will take me.
 
When creating ink from the willow tree, I gently take a few leaves from the tree by the river bank, asking permission and only taking what I need. The leaves are cut up and gently simmered for a long time in water (I used water from the river!). I test the strength of the colour of the liquid by dipping in pieces of watercolour paper. 
 
Once happy, I sieve it with an old tea strainer into a sterilised jar and add cloves for their anti-bacterial properties and add gum arabic to thicken the ink. The willow leaves have created the most beautiful rust coloured ink. I am in love with it and can't wait to see how I will collaborate with the ink on the page.
I'm looking forward to sharing more experiments with you soon...
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