Inside the Studio

Katrine on natural pigments

Katrine Hildebrandt-Hussey’s shares her recent venture into creating her own natural dyes to add color to burned paper drawings. Using Jason Logan’s Make Ink as a guide, she’s begun working with pokeberry, black walnut, staghorn sumac, and acorn cap ink. These subtle, layered pigments amplify her laborious and meditative process of making.

Photos by Linda Campos

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“A couple of months ago I had a studio visit with a friend who looked around at all the work and said, 'there's no color'. She was right, I hadn't used color in a while, other than some india ink work I had done two summers ago. About a year ago, I picked up a book, 'Make Ink' by Jason Logan, but I hadn't had the chance to really give it a try or explore the ink making process. After my friend's visit I was determined to bring color back into my work and I thought ink making seemed like a natural place for me to start. ”

— Katrine Hildebrandt-Hussey

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“The process of handing burning paper is ritualistic and meditative in action. It is controlled, yet precarious, and for me reflects the duality of life, permanence and transience. Natural ink making is the perfect process to marry to burning; it is experiential, experimental, and etherial. From foraging local plants and materials marking a specific place and time, to mashing and boiling them down, I then create inks that get layered onto the burnt line drawings to create various colors, tones and densities. Each ring or line segment gets layer, upon layer, upon layer, of ink creating the shift from one color to the next. The repetitive process is a meditation. The colors can be rich or subdued and they are not permanent, they will most likely fade and shift in tone over time despite our best intentions.”

— Katrine Hildebrandt-Hussey

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“I came across Pokeberry growing in my garden mid-summer. I collected the pokeberries in a plastic bag and squished them down, then filtered them several times until a bright magenta ink was formed. I have made several batches of the acorn cap ink because it as such an abundant year for acorns. I have achieved various different tones from the different batches I have created and don't know if it is because the caps came from different trees/locations or if it was due to the different times they were collected within the season. Either way, it is one of my favorite tones I have been able to achieve, a lovely cross between gray and brown. The staghorn sumac I collected in upstate NY on the side of the road. I was expecting a reddish toned ink, but was very pleasantly surprised by a lovely purplish gray color they produced. This ink oxidizes in the most magical way as it dries shifting in color from light grey to dark purple.”

— Katrine Hildebrandt-Hussey

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