Monday, 7 October 2019

The Great Ink Experiment

It started as it often does, with Vickie on a quest for knowledge. Actually, it is more an exploration, a voyage of discovery of possibilities, and she's been on it all her life.

"What would Peter be like if I could mold him completely in my image?", that sort of thing!

Vickie is constantly learning and taking in knowledge of anything and everything. I have often said she might die one day but she will NEVER grow old, as she is one of the youngest people I know, mentally.

Hence my entire married life has been lived in the context of a grade 8 science experiment and I have often felt that I might be one of the exhibits.

This time the subject was inks. She often uses them in her art and wanted to explore the possibility of making her own.
Example of various inks with w/c - India, walnut, acrylic

Step 1 was to scour the Internet for info which led her to the idea of making ink from acorns (as opposed to oaks). Thus the experiment began.

The first phase was the gathering process, which was made exponentially easier when we discovered that our friends, Dan and Lucie, were sitting on a veritable ink mine of acorns. In short order we had several pounds of them. But, there was a bit of a problem in that all she wanted were the caps, and so we drifted into acorn Processing phase, where caps were separated from the acorn via a rubber mallet and pulverized in the kitchen Ninja (which, by the way, made a heck of a noise!).

Then we entered the Extraction phase. This was accomplished by dumping the cap particles into a stainless cookpot along with a couple of rusted nails (for added flavour) and a bit of vinegar plus a small bunch of cloves to preserve the batch, along with copious amounts of water. This witch's brew then had to simmer for 3 days and, since it gave off a rather pungent odor, what better spot than in MY workshop??? Actually, while the smell was strong, it was not unpleasant.

Now we come to the next phase, Filtration. Using paper coffee filters (mine) and a filter basket (mine) and numerous plastic containers (also mine), the pulp was extracted.
She has yet to find a viable use for this stuff, but it's just a matter of time! BTW, the colander is also mine!
Now the big moment! Would it actually work as ink??? We dipped a piece of paper (mine) into the concoction and voila!
ignore the "cut/cut" copy - the ink is the brown stuff on the right
At this point we knew that the fluid we had obtained would colour paper, so now the question was, could we concentrate the colour? To do this, more boiling was necessary to evaporate excess fluid. The original strip is sitting, half covered, in a window (blocking MY view) in order to test light fastness. Finally Vickie was satisfied with the consistency and colour and it was time to test it to see how it reacted with watercolours.

The test strips are at the bottom and as can be seen, the colour has darkened and it makes a beautiful graduated wash, lifts almost entirely (apparently this is a good thing - she says she still needs to add gum arabic - I don't know why she couldn't just use Canadian gum, but apparently this stuff is the ink equivalent of  "eye of newt"), makes a lovely edge (she says) wet on dry (???) and spreads fabulously wet on wet (more????). Also, it interacts with watercolour perfectly!

So the experiment appears to have been a total success, and I can look forward to many more brewing vats appearing in my shop in the future.

When all is said and done, she ended up with about 3/4 cup of ink....I now understand why others charge $18 for a small bottle! Incidentally, if you want to check out her earlier experiment using the rock sludge from my lapidary shop to make watercolour, check out the earlier blog post.

Of course, this isn't the final destination. The voyage of discovery continues and where she goes next is anybody's guess, but when she gets there, it will be on the blog, so stay tuned.

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