Handmade Experimental Brushes and Botanical Inks

On Saturday, Ross delivered a hugely successful Handmade Experimental Brushes and Botanical Inks Workshop at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft. We were asked to deliver the workshop as park of a season of events to go with the excellent current exhibition Shōji Hamada: A Japanese Potter in Ditchling. Much like Ross…

‘Hamada developed a practice based on using only local resources – from the clay he used to the glazes he created and even his own homemade brushes. During his time in Ditchling, he became great friends with Ethel Mairet, who even wove his wedding suit.’ Ditchling Museum

Ethel was a great exponent of natural dyeing and Ross explored some of Mairet’s recipes from her Vegetable Dyes Notebook with Jenny Dean. For this workshop, Ross demonstrated how to create natural inks using Walnut Hulls and Iron Gall as examples, and talked about some of the history of these inks. We had a great discussion around the fact that the permanence of Iron Gall ink would last longer than the paper was written on, partly because eventually it would start to eat through the paper!

The group had a great time learning how to make experimental brushes from found and grown resources such as sea-salvage, grasses, rope and rose stems and twigs. By creating brushes, both practical and ornamental from these resources, participants were able experience new freedom in their mark-making, due to the nature of the brushes they created. They really branched out, no pun intended, using weird shaped twigs and fine grasses and even a feather!

We were very lucky that the weather was on our side and that it didn’t rain. This meant that participants could move outside and work on larger pieces of paper for the series of mark-making exercises. A2 sheets and long rolls of recycled packaging brown paper (the perfect surface for interesting marks) meant they could really work with expansive movements and broader strokes, allowing them to explore the full potential of their brushes without constraint. One of the great things about the workshop was how each participant appeared to really engage with different aspects of the day. Some were so enamoured with brush making that they spent the majority of their time creating beautiful brushes, others really enjoyed the freedom of the mark making exercises and some wanted to know more about natural inks and the natural dyeing that Ross practices and teaches with Jenny Dean.

The day was a great success, and we look forward to returning to Ditchling in the future. It is such a lovely place to deliver workshops and always stages interesting exhibitions; Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft is always worth a visit.

All images © Jonathan Dredge, text © Jonathan Dredge and Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Karen Lane says:

    Looks like that was a very interesting and liberating class! Thank you for including so many inspiring images.


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