What’s Your Anthotype?

A woman with a grey shirt and a colourful beanie and an apron stands behind a table covered with jars and other painting equipment. She is explaining something to the 5 people who gather around the table. A large oil painting of the forest is in the background, set off by the warm glow of a table lamp.

On October 26th I conveyed a ‘Fringe Nature’ event at the FEELed Lab at Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, located on unceded syilx territory. Astrida brought the group together as we introduced ourselves to each other and this place, around a campfire on a warm autumn afternoon. Titled, ‘What’s Your Anthotype?’ this low-stakes, come-as-you-are activity was designed to introduce participants to eco-printing or anthotypes, the historic plant-based printing process that incorporates photosynthesis. 

A selection of colourful autumn flowers - bright yellow, marigolds, orange mountain ash berries, pink clover, and some purple flowers- are scattered on a surface.
Soon to be pigment

Setting up a make-shift workshop in the outbuilding we call the “schoolhouse,” I led a short demo describing how to make a plant-based dye from organic materials. We then began gathering small amounts of leaves, berries or flowers as participants spoke about their own experiences of urban foraging for morels or seasonal berries, and the ethics of extracting and using elements from and of the Land.

Three humans stand at a table covered with paper, pigments, brushes, glass jars, and flowers. They are painting the pigments onto white watercolour paper.
A woman with long brown hair holds a tool that makes pigment splotches on a piece of white paper. In the foreground jars of green, purple and rose pigment appear to be in use.

Utilizing mortar and pestle style grinders and a blender, we worked quickly to create over ten different dyes. Glass bottles labelled marigold, rose, elderberry, mountain ash and green-grass, were filled with home-made pigments and then brushed on to coat sheets of watercolour paper. Once the prints were dry, sticks, leaves and other interestingly-shaped objects were placed on top and then placed under glass. We then moved our prints outside to be ‘exposed’ to daylight. 

Being similar to other photographic processes that respond to daylight, anthotypes are unique with their low carbon-footprint and are part of a slow eco-art movement. With exposure times between two-days and three-weeks, we decided to secured our prints from the elements, and expose them until November 22nd. 

9 picture frames holding natural objects covered with glass lie on a table outside of a wood shack.
Photo developing lab!

I was honoured to create a Fringe Nature workshop for the FEELed Lab within Woodhaven’s urban forest while considering what an anticolonial eco-art workshop might be. I was inspired to hear from participants that they enjoyed being outside, making art together and that they had always wanted to try something similar. Being my first time leading a workshop like this, it seemed like a good place to start.

For a more detailed description of Anthotypes see ‘Elsewhere Participation.’ If you try creating an eco-print at home, consider emailing us an image of your experiment! We will examine the results at our next workshop at Woodhaven in Deember, and post We some examples …stay tuned!

-Tara Nicholson, PhD Candidate and artist

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