Video From LIVE FEEDBACK FRIDAY: Wild Pigment Project

This week, we’ve got video from our live FEEDBACK FRIDAY featuring Wild Pigment Project.

Here’s the Zoom recording:

Wild Pigment Project supports the global art community to use pigments that reflect values of racial, economic, and ecological equity for all, by fostering a network of artists, foragers, designers, craftspersons, scientists, farmers, researchers, ecologists and others passionate about wild pigments.  The project aspires to provide generous resources to facilitate learning about land stewardship through ethically gathered botanical, mineral and waste-stream-derived materials used to make paint, ink and dye.

Head to Wild Pigment Project and enjoy Tilke’s site for so many resources including Pigment People, where many of the people she mentioned in the presentation are listed. There’s also a suggested reading page you won’t want to miss.

Here are the questions (and answers) you asked Tilke in the chat:

Could you incorporate these natural pigments into 3D objects such as in clay structures?

Definitely! In my experiences, these pigments work really well on wood, and can last a long time even if they’re not combined with a binder. They work themselves into the fibers of the wood. You can also use them as paints for pottery, with varying degrees of transformation of hue in the kiln. There’s an excellent book, Natural Glazes, by Miranda Forrest, that discusses this in detail.

Can pigment can be used on fabric? Does it hold? Does it need a mordant?

Soy milk is often used when applying earth pigments to fabric. It’s not something I have personal experience with, but there are many people who do, and many good links online, including this one.

Can they be made colorfast enough to incorporate into textiles?

Earth/clay “dyes” (they’re not exactly dyes because they’re not a soluble solution, just tiny particles, but they can behave like a dye visually) are incredibly light fast if they don’t wash out, because most mineral pigments aren’t fugitive, at all, ever. They can last for hundreds — or thousands — of years. There are things to learn about how to keep the earth/clay particles attached to the fabric, so they don’t wash out, though. Aboubakar Fofana teaches an excellent mudcloth class, I’ve heard! And as fabric paints, the same is true: they’re really lightfast, but you have to figure out how to keep them from washing away.

Have you tried Milkweed “milk” for a binder?

No, but I’ve certainly wanted to! In Vermont, where I’ve spent a lot of time, milkweed is plentiful, and I used to love to experiment with its sticky white sap, as a kid, before I made paints. Where I am now, in Oregon, it’s not as plentiful. People online seem to mention that they think people “used to” use milkweed as a binder. I say, collaborate with the plant if you know any personally, and see how it goes! I think if anyone’s interested in wild plant binders, the best approach might be to explore personally, because plants are so different from place to place. There actually isn’t much out there about natural binders, and I’m in the process of getting to know that aspect of the plants where I live, becaue I suspect that there might be a LOT of plants that could contribute sticky water-soluble paint glue — they just haven’t been worked with in that way yet. Of course, be really careful to learn about the plants before you work with their juices. Poison Hemlock, for example, could cause you very serious harm if you got its sap on your skin or in your mouth. Could even kill you. Cow parsnip can cause a rash or worse. Etc. Remember, as my mom says: “Do be careful!”

Have you used your mineral pigments to dye wool yarn

I haven’t but many people have. Here’s one link that I thought looked good.

How do you use cherry or other things instead of gum arabic?

The cherry gum that’s best for a watercolor binder can be found on an unhealthy cherry tree — one suffering from a tree disease called “gummosis.” You can diagnose “gummosis” by observing big clumps of rubbery reddish sap on the tree’s bark. Sap clumps can also form if the tree is mechanically harmed. Sometimes these clumps are easy to pull off — other times, you need a knife to slice them off. Once you do, the rest is easy — simply put the translucent red clump in a little water — it dissolves fairly quickly — and then mix with dry pigment for paint. All the stone fruit trees — peach, plum, apricot, nectarine — can contribute similar sap. As far as “other things” goes — please see above question.

More details on the pigment residency and how we can subscribe to the pigment library in Washington. Thanks!

The pigment residency I referred to is to be offered by Scott Sutton, aka Pigment Hunter, in Taos, New Mexico. You can read more about it here.

The pigment library I mentioned can be found at Melonie Ancheta’s website. Anyone can request articles from the library for a small fee — subscribers have full access to the library — hundreds of pigment-related articles. Melonie is also coordinating the Pigments Revealed Symposium, ideally in June 2021. Hope to see you all there, whenever it happens!

DONATE if you can to these two projects Tilke has created and supports:
The Wild Pigment Project Equitable Opportunity Scholarship contributes to counterbalancing the inequities created by colonization and white supremacy. The scholarship is open to anyone who self-identifies as a member of an underinvested or marginalized community or population.

Crafting the Future, a collective of artists concerned about the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the fields of craft, art, and design.

(Keep a look out for the chat questions from Tilke that we’ll be putting together for you this week.)


If you are not familiar with FEEDBACK FRIDAY, every week, we speak with dyers, artists, scientists and scholars about our favorite topic, natural dyeing and color. Curated by Amy DuFault, Botanical Colors’ Sustainability and Social Media Director and presented by Botanical Colors’ Founder  Kathy Hattori.

1 thought on “Video From LIVE FEEDBACK FRIDAY: Wild Pigment Project”

  1. I was inspired by Tilke to try and create lake pigments from my used dye baths that still had quite a bit of color in them. I have not been super successful with it just yet. Does anyone have any tips? For instance, I am unsure of how much alum and soda ash I should be using. It is probably variable per dye pot, but perhaps there is a good rule of thumb to start with? Are there any good books or online resources for creating lake pigments? Thanks!

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