This year I decided I would try to grow a few things in the garden for making inks. I chose 5. Safflowers for the pretty pinks they can give, calendula and marigolds for the yellows, amaranth for the intense fuschia and Hopi black sunflowers for the purple and turquoise colors. I also had to take into consideration that I live in a place where the growing season is short which meant I had to start the seeds in early March inside instead of direct sowing.
The last time I started seeds in my house my cats ate the seedlings before I could save them, so this time I started them in my studio where the animals couldn’t get to them . I cleaned up the work bench, put all my paints and brushes away and set up a grow light and 3 trays of seeds.
I made a plan for the garden which also included a few veggies and our garlic and planted them all the last week of May.
The ink results from the garden have been varied. The marigolds were very prolific and are even now still blooming! Plus, the color is a very intense bright yellow.
The safflower didn’t grow as well as the other plants and therefore it was not a great harvest but I was able to get enough to try a small batch. Read more about that here.
The Hopi black sunflowers were gigantic and also really easy to grow. A few were so big that the heads were drooping over so much that the stalks were snapping from the weight of them. The ink results are not in yet. I have harvested the seeds but I need to research a little bit more for color fastness and ways to get the colors out before I cook them. Stay tuned….
The calendula was pretty and much the same color as the marigolds. In fact they are in the same family, which I didn’t know, so I gave a lot of the flowers to my sister for her cosmetic concoctions.
The amaranth was also really easy to grow and just an amazing color. Hopefully I can figure out a way to keep it from fading too fast. Regardless, the color is dreamy and I can always watch it disappear as a reminder of life’s impermanence. The best part is they self seed, so I will have them come back every year.
I will be doing it all again next year, I might even include woad, dahlia, or madder! The process is wonderful and no matter what I decide to grow, each plant, each season will yield something new.
Now it’s time to make some art.