“Being a writer who still uses ink to write out, and then cross out, each early draft of a manuscript,” novelist Michael Ondaatje writes in his foreword to Jason Logan’s incredible book Make Ink, “I had to meet him.” Ondaatje had been given samples of Logan’s inks made from peach pits, clam shells, kerosene — his specialty, and the subject of his book, is creating ink from foraged materials. When they met, “it felt like being introduced to someone with the skills of some lost medieval craft.” The fact that Ondaatje still writes in ink is astonishing, but also, what kind of craft book includes a conversation with the likes of Ondaatje, and artwork by a panoply of creatives (or “visual thinkers”) from artist/illustrator Gary Taxali to painter Hiroaki Ooka* to writer Margaret Atwood? We’ve got bookstore aisles for literary fiction and creative non-fiction, but a literary craft book is a different breed of cat. And one I’m highly on board with — albeit belatedly, as this has been sitting on my desk since September, waiting for me to notice how great it is.
There are loads of craft books so pretty you might happily put them on your coffee table and never do anything more than flip through them admiringly. Others you actually crack open and make things from. As beautifully written as it is photographed and designed, this one begs to be read from cover to cover, like a good essay collection, whether or not you ever attempt to make your own inks (or for what purpose). Especially if you’re the sort who enjoys learning the obscure histories of things — like, say, Oak Gall Ink:
“… an inerasable ink called iron gall, oak gall, or, more recently, registrar’s ink. It was the ink of record for weddings, funerals, and contracts; before that it was the ink found in one of the oldest surviving Bibles, the Magna Carta, and Beowulf. It was the favored ink of da Vinci, Victor Hugo, Bach, and the US Postal Service. This is an ink with a pedigree.”
Oak Gall is black, yes, but like any good dye book, this one is full of recipes for an entire rainbow of colors, to be used in art making or writing, on paper or fabric, presumably. I’m particularly smitten with the aqua blues of Copper Oxide Ink, and although I may not ever make any, I love knowing it’s possible. And look forward to reading every page of this gorgeous book.
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Also, not a book but I recently discovered that natural dyer Kathryn Davey (who I took a class from several years ago) has a full-length tutorial on her blog for dyeing with avocados. I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time and can never find enough info to feel like I know what I need to do. It’s so simple that most dyers, when asked, go “oh it’s the easiest, just boil ’em up and add your yarn or fabric.” But … pits or skins or both? How much dye matter as a ratio to the water? Do you need to worry about mordant? Thaw the pits if you’ve frozen them? Strain it or what? I have so many questions, and Kathryn’s is the most in-depth blog post I’ve seen.
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Happy weekend, everyone! What are you working on?
*Ooka was new to me and I love their work.
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