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Gordonstoun Oaks - Mighty Oaks Project

Last year two of the iconic oak trees at Gordonstoun School were deemed diseased and felled for safety. These trees had been standing proud in the grounds since the school opened and were very much a feature of school life. The school , which is a charity, decided to use the trees as a focus to raise funds for a new scholarship and contacted several local artists and makers to create from them.

I was invited to the school and it was decided that I would make drawing inks for use in the art department and for sale along with a local woodturners dip pens.

This was originally to be from the leaves but enthusiastic staff and students collected leaves, bark, acorns and lichen from the trees and this raw material which passed onto myself in many bags in boots of cars.

I started by separating out the various materials and putting the leaves and bark to soak in large 5 gallon tubs for the winter to extract the tannin and dye stuff. I knew these would yield some results if steeped long enough having previous experience with both for natural dyeing. Acorn ink was a common black ink in earlier times before indian ink took over so I was also confident of results with them.

Lichen is a historic dye source and I have managed pink, red and purple as well as various browns in the past but they require careful identification and often complex processes to achieve. This would be a pure experiment to translate the lichen dyes into inks as ph and oxygenation alters them significantly and I had no idea what changes would occur with distillation, thickening and adding thyme oil.

(Thyme oil has antibacterial properties which inhibits mould growth in natural inks and I have used it with walnut ink in the past)

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