Go & See Bursaries: Morag Macpherson


Forming part of our professional development strand, the Go & See travel bursaries aim to assist professional artists and makers to visit events and exhibitions outwith the region that are relevant to the development of their practice.

This report was written by Morag Macpherson, who took part in an Eco-print, Dye and Stitch Creative Retreat at the Granton Hub, Edinburgh (November 2019)

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On November 2nd and 3rd 2019, I took part in an Eco-print, Dye and Stitch Creative Retreat at the Granton Hub: Maldevic House, Edinburgh.

This was a two day workshop generously supported by Upland’s Go and See Fund. It was run by Glasgow-based textile artist Elisabeth Viguie-Culshaw and Edinburgh-based bookbinder, Cassandra Barron.

I had already been attending evening classes with Elisabeth at her Glasgow studio learning furniture upcycling, when I realised her expertise in eco-printing textiles, dyeing and stencilling. I was also interested in using these techniques with paper as well as textiles.

I have long been fascinated by this means of surface pattern. It seems like the most environmentally-friendly way to get a print onto textiles or paper. But as I found out at the retreat – its quite a complex – and sometimes scientific – process. Which requires a lot of practice and experimentation.

Day 1 was a beginners guide to :

  • mordants (fixers) ;
  • the leaves themselves and their colour/dye properties;
  • fabrics that work well and why;
  • good mixtures and what colours these produce
  • pots and tools needed for the process

The leaves all laid out ready for printing – some of best printing leaves are weeds; dock leaves, dandelions, geraniums, maple, sycamore, eucalyptus…

My first attempt and enjoying the layout process

Bundles in the pot – sappanwood gives the pink colour

Iron sulphate makes everything acidic. This is what makes logwood dark blue (it looks purple originally)

Results! Onto cotton (left) and paper (right)

Drying out overnight

Day 2 – working with binding, stitching and making a notebook from our eco-printed papers

Using various combinations of mordants and leaves to achieve specific colours. Its not all a random process – sometimes you DO know what is going to come out of the pot!

Using signatures  of plain recycled papers and randomly inserting our eco-printed papers, we made hardback notebooks with leatherbound button-hole stitching.

I have historically been a textile artist whose designs are always printed digitally. This method has been my favoured approach because of the achievements in colour expression – basically there are no limits! Which can be very liberating when involved in the design process, i.e. no technique restricts the final outcome (colour separation from screen printing would be virtually impossible with some of my more colourful creations!)

However I am very concerned about the environmental impact, and whilst digital printing is small batch therefore low on wastage – it still uses chemicals in the printing process. I am committed to moving forward sustainably within my textiles practice and learning more about environmentally friendly ways to achieve textile prints is something I'm working on. I obviously won't be able to achieve the bold, bright colours that I am well known for in my work but there must be some kind of compromise possible. So a lot of future experimentation and random testing with natural dyes and eco-printing will be happening in the immediate future. I may be able to merge some small digital work with screen and eco-printing to reduce the impact of chemical useage but not completely eradicate it, in the first instance.

Repetition is key for this process and a good relationship with my tutor, who I will be bombarding with questions until I feel comfortable with the process.

Morag Macpherson

December 2019