Staghorn Sumac; exploring botanical inks

Staghorn Sumac; exploring botanical inks

experiments with natural inks..

The allure of botanical inks was initiated by an invitation to ECHOES vol II as hosted by I considered what I could create that would relate to their theme. This brought me to reflect on the former event I participated in with MAP (the NAC Block Party) where I sketched the image of a doe. Using strings of seed beads fashioned to appear as lavender, this “lavendoe” merge included the accessories of a reclaimed antique glass doorknob, key, and keyhole.

{•”heartemis; lavendoe” | painted at the National Art Center during the Block Party event hosted by Music.Art.Ppl }

During contemplative walks along the river to clarify my ideas I encountered the staghorn sumac. Their vibrancy and rouge colour piqued my curiosity into their medicines and various applications. When I read that the fuzz on their branches are reminiscent of a stags horn (thus its name), I intuited that this was meant to be my next sketch.

{• visit this link for a Sumac Lemonade recipe •}

I learned that the berries were a source for natural dyes and decided to incorporate their use in the canvas. Gathering the plants respectfully; an extension of gratitude in making an offering then taking only what I needed. I practiced conscious & responsible connection with the plants I foraged. Next I took my clippings home and brewed my first batch of botanical inks.


{• visit this link to make your own sumac inks •}

Harvesting the berries was tactile—their soft bundles left tasty tangy imprints on my fingertips that surprised and delighted me. I deepened my understanding of the stag, highlighting the shedding of their antlers in Spring. I inquired within myself what concepts, feelings, or things was I leaning towards shedding? What could fill that space it left?

I reflected on the qualities of sumac & it’s use as an element of sour in recipes. Then using vinegars in the ink making process was so intense and acidic! I immersed myself into those culinary themes, buying myself a pair of lemon earrings to decorate myself in those concepts.

{• I love my Lemon earrings by Muriel J. Fahrion of Outta Thin Air Studios •}

Next in the process was the act of using those botanical inks to dye strips of fabric that I would use to illustrate the antlers shedding. I stitched flowers with written loving affirmations to echo the new statements I wished to anchor within.

{• tests on birch panel and fabric with sumac ink •}

I settled on a round birch canvas & it was no surprise that this evoked feelings of a kitchen table! I prepared the surface with layers of fragrant coffees. The process made me feel like it was a session of warm loving conversations.


Using blue acrylic paints I brushed on a balsamic crescent moon; this emphasized the correlation with shedding and closing.


{• subject source: I use pixabay to acquire all my reference photographs •}

Soft chunky wools and seed beads that I wove onto thick papers provided the texture of the antlers with strips of dyed sumac fabrics draped throughout. I traced the portrait outline on a canson illustration board as it provided the best surface to hold delicate pastels.

Since this event was casual and friendly I wanted to incorporate an element of interaction with the guests that night. This led me to prepare an array of dyed fabrics to write personal messages of their own to add onto the final canvas.

{• written invite for the guests to participate •}

{• suggested affirmations;  written on my fabric flowers •}

{•  written affirmations from guests; to be included on the final canvas •} 

{• the beginning of this sketch session •}

{• thank you coblou for capturing me in process <3 •}

 I arrived on site at SAW and recognized that their immersive decor had such a beautiful echo of the sumac shapes/colours I had been feeling. It demonstrated to me how interconnected we all are and the creative musings I had been capturing in my work felt like part of a collective process. 

{• Painting under moonlight & stars was a treat •}
{• closing this sketch session •}

{• hello moon!  Kim Valentine was the artist who fashioned these atmospheric pink banners •}

I was offered access to their green room to hold my supplies and take breaks as needed. They had goodies set out and one that struck me as especially intriguing was lemon zinger tea which I sipped on the entirety of the evening. It left such a harmonious impression on me to share all those key moments of insight and genuine appreciation in community. 

From this point I have the luxury to complete my sketch at my own pace. The lemon tea left such a warm feeling that I had to buy some for myself to brew while I continue the sketch work on this dearly special Stag. 

I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave your questions or comments below. 

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