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Dancing Under the Urban Canopy

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Learn how to make ink from foraged materials


Tacoma Ink Company

It all began with color. The color of the leaves, the color of the sky, the color of the water collected in puddles, the color of water splashing forth on the beach. The question became, how can one bottle these magic hues? Is there a way to capture the color of the clumps of moss hanging off the branch of the tree? That's where it all began.


Then I found the book - Make Ink - by Jason Logan. Get this book and read it. Experiment with different foraged treasures: leaves, copper wire, avocado pits, fire pit ash, it doesn't matter.

One important note: some of these inks and the ingredients are harmful if ingested. At least one ink (copper-vinegar blue) releases toxic fumes and should be handled cautiously. Always wear rubber gloves and eye protection and have a well-ventilated area to use if you are making copper blue!


Also, buy a big pot, a strainer, a funnel, and a wooden spoon from Goodwill. It's best to keep your ink out of your soup.

A few recipes

These are some of the recipes I have collected (from Make Ink and from other sources). 

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Maple Leaf Brown

Bring to a boil and let simmer a large amount of dried maple leaves in water until the liquid is a rich, deep brown (several hours). Let cool. Strain. Simmer again for 30 minutes to reduce and concentrate the ink. Let cool. Add a small amount of gum arabic (available in art supply stores). Add a clove to retard spoilage.

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Copper Blue

In a large wide-mouth jar add copper scraps (old wire, old pennies, etc.). Add white vinegar and salt. Place somewhere that has good air circulation (a detached garage, old shed, under the porch). Stir daily. A rich blue will form in a few weeks. Strain and bottle. Wear nitrile gloves when handling.  

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Charcoal Black

Collect charcoal and grind down to a fine powder (mortar and pestle or coffee grinder). Add equal parts (3 tbsp) water, charcoal powder, gum arabic. Then add 3 tablespoons more water. Strain through a coffee filter.

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More info on the book:

Make Ink: A Forager's Guide to Natural Inkmaking

by Jason LoganMichael Ondaatje (Foreword by)

From designer and artist Jason Logan, founder of the Toronto Ink Company—a citizen science experiment to make eco-friendly, urban ink from street-harvested pigments—Make Ink delves into the history of inkmaking and the science of distilling pigment from the natural world.

Foreword by Booker Prize-winning author Michael Ondaatje

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