Friday, 6 November 2015

Making a Picture from an Oak Leaf Contact Print

Having failed to get leaf prints from dry oak leaves so far this autumn, I picked up some more colourful, leathery, freshly fallen ones and had another go at repeating the contact dye process.   Being short on good silk and optimism, I used a section of cheap tubular noil silk jersey that has been in the back of the cupboard because it still smells faintly of cerecin.
This time the leaves printed really well.  I laid the cloth out damp to admire.
"That's a muddy old colour."  My companion, Elinor Gotland, wrinkled her nose and stepped back.  "Ych y fi, Beaut!  Planning to wear it out on a date with a fishmonger?"  
Just to head off another diatribe on the foolishness of buying anything but pure habotai silk, I jumped in fast.
"That smell will fade once it's dried out. Actually, Elinor, I think the fuzziness of noil jersey has a more autumnal effect than a fine silk print.  The whole thing almost looks like a tree to me."  
Following which thought, I made a frame out of old copper piping with shiny new right angle bends and stretched the tubular silk jersey over it, backed with an old wool blanket.
"Look, Elinor, I've sewed a dry oak 
gall on down the bottom and made it into a picture."
"Take my advice, Beaut, leave art to the artists."
"Joseph Beuys said everyone is an artist."
"Mmm, well, Andrew Graham-Dixon said not everyone should exhibit.  Anyway, contact dye prints come down to chance, they aren't artistic expression." 
"Now I've needlefelted on a gall wasp.  I wonder what that could possibly represent?"
Gall wasps are really almost too small to see as they hover under the oak trees.  They don't sting and their tiny nasal song is somehow soothing, not annoying, like a gnat's. Standing in the woods, I was wondering what they could be saying to each other, but looking on the web, all I found was the explanation that bigger insects flap their wings more slowly giving a lower pitched buzz, so presumably, the gall wasp's particular sound is just a function of very tiny wings beating fast.

Talking with gall wasps remains impossible for me, though through the logic of an interweb search, I did find an article on what insects perceive as they fly. When I saw the flight diagram, I didn't need to read what this behaviour signified, the pattern communicated enough. So here's my picture, it's called Language 1:  Gall Wasp.
"All about sex, is it, Beaut?"
"Romance, actually, Elinor."
"You'll be doing tragedy next, I expect. How about Lady Macmoth? 'Out, out, brief candle!'"


  1. That's brilliant! The gall wasp trails really bring it to life, I reckon. Fun, innit?!

    1. Thanks, I loved doing it. I've got some rough wool simmering with oak leaves now, but Sod's law suggests that striving for a particular effect is bound to end in tears.