I feel like a mad scientist…

Finally got around to taking some pictures today of some of the mud work I’ve been doing.

The piece of clothing is a vest that was mudded with MI swamp black and GA orange along with some oak bark juice.

The mad scientist part has to do with looking for any differences using my tap water vs distilled water, the effects of soda ash and soy milk on plain cloth vs cloth mordanted with soda ash, the use of muds vs pigments, and the effects of microwaving before rinsing. Of course, no matter how much I try to keep things the same, there are always extra variables that creep in especially since I don’t like to measure and I’m doing other things so timing isn’t always the same and …

I took the experiment pics in the shade so they may not be as brilliant as they could be, but they are true to each other – does that make sense?

I am not versed in using pigments so I erred on the side of caution and went light on the amount used – therefore, the very light colors (a black and red were used that were close to the MI and GA colors – at least in powdered form!).

Overall, it seems that the soda ash, whether in the mud or on the cloth, makes for the strongest color after rinsing. The soy milk on the whole looks darker in the pictures, but what is happening is more dirt is left on the surface after the simple rinsing I gave it – the soy is holding the dirt. Where the dirt is washed off of the soy areas, it is much lighter (as expected after only one day!).

On the fourth cloth (mordanted w soda ash and microwaved before rinsing), I had the brilliant idea (at the end, of course!) to see if soda ash and soy together would make a difference. The two rightmost columns in the distilled water soy row (right side rows 5+6 from the top) show the combination soy and soda ash – it seems to have smoothed out the color compared to just the soy, but not much different from the soda ash only.

Also on the fourth cloth, I definitely had too much water in the dish – it was actually boiling, rinsing out some of the surface mud and making a dark solution to dye the cloth overall. The second cloth shows a bit of overall darker color, too – I need to find the balance between keeping the cloth wet enough so as not to burn up and too wet. It might help if I wasn’t so impatient and would let the cloth cool off between heating bursts – wouldn’t need to keep the cloth so wet, perhaps.

My conclusions at this point: soy milk, given sufficient time, will hold color nicely. Soda ash added to either the mud or the cloth first holds color nicely without the element of time. Neither one gets it as dark as the Mali bogolanfini.

Still working on that…

2 Replies to “I feel like a mad scientist…”

  1. Great series of samples. Keeping the painting as simple square areas was brilliant. So easy to compare. It sounds like adding the soda ash to the mud is the easiest and most effective, so far. When I steam in the microwave, I wrap the cloth in light paper and roll it up. Then I place it above a bowl of water, making sure the wrapped bundle does not touch the water. There must be some microwave steamers available for veggies, but this works for small pieces. I set the timer for 4 or 5 minutes, then let it sit inside of the microwave for awhile without opening it. It gets some extra steam that way. Then I repeat. I don’t get the cloth itself wet.

  2. Good idea about the steaming. I have had a couple students burn their cloths in the microwave – since those incidents I tend to be more damp/wet than dry with my cloth, just to be sure…

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