Botanical Imprints

What Is Botanical Imprinting

Botanical imprinting is a direct or contact printing technique that extracts natural dyes from plant materials, depositing them as prints onto natural fabrics (e.g., silk, wool, felt, leather, paper and ceramic). 
Eco printing is a contemporary application of traditional natural dye knowledge. Eco printing is a kind of alchemy, as much art as it is science. Several interacting factors influence the final print: the age and part of the dye plant, the plant's growing conditions, the textile fibre (cellulose or protein), the choice of mordant (e.g., alum, iron), the choices are endless. 

The Basic technique of Botanical imprinting:
Many types of natural plant materials such as leaves, branches, flowers, and barks along with other contact items, (e.g., metals), are bundled in a pre-mordanted textile or paper. The bundle is tied tightly with string then processed in simmering water or natural dye. The process extracts the plant pigments onto the textile or paper, which is then left to cool. Certain natural dyes/plant combinding the use of mordants and modifiers can produce predictable prints as well as "unpredictable" botanical imprints. The key to getting clear botanical imprints, depth and specific colours from your imprints, comes from experimentation. Have fun! Be safe. Educate yourself on this topic there is so much to learn.

A Little History
Botanical imprints and/or Eco-print effects may be familiar to readers from several sources. You may have noticed that in the autumn when rains force tannin-rich leaves to fall and stick onto the wet concrete sidewalk, the direct contact between concrete acids and leaf tannins often causes the leaves to print their shapes, especially in dark grey.

Canadian dye scholar, Karen Leigh Casselman (2004), who coined the term "eco dye" and was mentor in alternative natural dye processes to the well-known eco-print artisan and author, India Flint (2008). Flint's original inspiration was European folk traditions for dyeing eggs with plants. Flint's subsequent use of the term "eco print" has now become standard among international enthusiasts who are developing eco print techniques on their home grounds and reporting their work to growing interest on the internet.