Cycling through a Toronto park in 2014, artist and designer Jason Logan noticed a mark at the base of a tree identifying it as a black walnut. The name blew him away. Years ago, he bought a bottle of black walnut ink in New York; Now he wondered if he could make his own. But it was summer, and the walnuts looked like passion fruit high on the branches. So he waited. Watched.
In late fall, he’s stuffing his backpack full of fallen walnuts in their still-green shells.
“I miss their pungent earthy smell,” said Logan, “and my house is racing to boil [the hulls] upward. I remember the big pot of black noodles I put them in. It feels like they’ve been cooking for a long time. My hands were stained brown, and I remember from those stains I knew this would work.”
During the making of that first batch, an image stayed with Jason, who works as an artist and creative director: “I had a small square bottle of walnut black ink in the box. head. The ink was long gone, but I remember vividly how it layered on the paper, [building] from coffee to chocolate to mahogany. I know I won’t stop boiling until I have that color back,” he said. “In the end, though, it’s amazingly easy.”
A few days later, Jason signed up Toronto Ink Company as a business. He opened a bank account and started designing labels. And that, he said, is exactly that.
Today, Logan makes ink from all sorts of foraging leaves and roots, including peaches and buckthorn berries. Marketing his products through Instagram, his newsletter and regular print ads in Reviews of Paris, he sells about 12 different colors of natural ink, mainly to small art shops in Canada as well as in New York and San Francisco. During the harvest seasons, he also offers inks for sale on his website.
Over the past few years, however, most of his business has come not from people buying his bottled inks, but from companies and organizations looking for location-customized colors. . He also hosts workshops — including a recent virtual class for the New York Botanical Garden — on how to make natural ink.
What does he love most about his job? He can produce his ink in his own kitchen, with family around him. “There is often a rivalry between parenting and art,” where the goal is to get out of the house and into a studio where your kids aren’t working, says Logan, who has three children aged 16, 13 and 10. bother you. Of course, sometimes it’s nice to be alone, but being able to do art in domestic space is what I want for myself. This is part of the reason why the ink he makes is non-toxic, safe for his kids — and everyone else — to use.
And what do his children – who sometimes act as feeding and packing assistants – think of a home where the attic acts as an art studio and the kitchen a chemistry lab. Part-time? Logan suggested that their feelings were “equally split between ‘I love my crazy witch father’ and ‘Why do I smell this awful? “
Logan says that creating ink from raw materials is about unlocking the senses. “It’s about smelling things and picking them up. It’s about seeing some red leaves by the train tracks and thinking, ‘How can I bottle that color?’
That, in turn, changes where and how he wanders. “You start looking for hopeful green spaces under a highway overpass or in a back alley,” says Logan. And then, if you’re looking for harvest colors, “rusty nails can become ink, or a coin with green oxidation on it, or cigarette butts.”
Over time, Logan began researching medieval recipes for ideas. At first, he recalls, they seemed “intentionally difficult to read; Back then people who worked with pigments were like alchemists, and secrecy was part of their job.”
Logan’s own ink making went through a lot of trial and error. “It’s really important to have patience, because you can boil a particular flower for nothing. You can take the same flower and soak it in grain alcohol and still get nothing. But then you can mix the flowers with vinegar and salt and pound them with a mortar and pestle, and after an hour or so you’ll have a nice pinkish-pink liquid. You may need to try a few different methods on the same material and be ready to go.”
In fact, ink recipes often involve vinegar and table salt to create a weak acid that breaks down the material and helps open the color. A few drops of curd oil helps to keep squid fresh after storage. Isopropyl alcohol (or a little vodka) is also a “great tool,” says Logan. “If you drink vodka and add a little turmeric, the alcohol pulls the pigment out of the turmeric and you get a really bright yellow like the yellow in a marker.”
To mix his inks, Logan uses an Erlenmeyer flask. “It’s really helpful to have a vase that you can see through, that won’t break, that you can put boiling water in.” He also just loves their classic look: “The shape and design are amazing.”
Logan shares his tips and recipes for handmade and foraging squids in his book Making ink, in his newsletter Colorand in documentaries Ink color (launching spring 2022). His fans include novelist Margaret Atwood and illustrator Leanne Shapton.
When using inks in his own art, Logan experimented with applying them to ceramic, leather, and textiles. But he always goes back to his favorite newspaper, Legion’s Stonehenge. “I like to buy a big piece of paper and cut it into little squares and play with the possibilities.”
He rarely uses the brush. “Brushes are designed for control,” says Logan. “I think taking away the brush is a way to take away my control and let the ink do its job — seep into the paper, or form outlines, or move across the page. I want to get rid of the scope of the ink. ”
Logan often uses his fingers or the bottom of an inkwell as utensils. “I also have a friend in Japan who sent me a Japanese ink applicator. And I sometimes find things in the wild to use for marking. ” Sometimes, “I would put a puddle of ink on the paper, then add a second color of ink to that arena and watch the ink dance.”
Ultimately, Logan says, “As an artist, what excites me most is how I can disappear, how I can let the material itself become the story.”
https://www.artnews.com/art-news/artists/jason-logans-natural-inks-1234613684/ Jason Logan’s Natural Ink – ARTnews.com