INKPRINTS of time: A Serendipitous Collaboration

trusting the unforeseen

Late January, a friend and I drove a few towns over to visit the lovely little village of Elora. The shop of LemonTree Interiors & Co was first on our list to visit. As we were parking, I recognized Sophia from her Instagram account. You need to understand that Sophia is a bit of a design “rock star” to me, so I was a tad nervous to introduce myself. I noticed that she was getting boxes out of her car, so I pulled up my “big girl” pants and asked if she was indeed Sophia of LemonTree Interiors and if she needed some help. Sophia gracefully embraced my fan-girl approach and welcomed us into her quaint little shop.

As we entered, I was swept away by the elegant curation of vintage, sustainable and modern decor. Naturally, I began chatting about a new stamping ink that I was working on and then Sophia got a twinkle in her eye and reached into a drawer. She pulled out gorgeous teak stamps that had been hand carved in India and said that she had been waiting for “just the right moment” to unearth the stamps.

I left the shop that day with a few decor treats for myself, a bag full of teak stamps and a sense of excitement for our serendipitous art collaboration which we would later name INKPRINTS of time.

Let me tell you a bit about my process in creating these pieces. Crafting my stamping ink from lampblack soot is a slow and intensive process, but it never fails to reward me with a rich, velvety black. I add in a few other secret ingredients to ultimately form a vegan, sustainably sourced and archival ink. When I paint the ink onto the antique stamps it creates pure “black” magic.

The paper is created by Canadian based company Papeterie Saint Armand. It is a flax/cotton canal paper fashioned from left over straw that is not composted in farm fields. This rough paper is made by mixing the beaten straw with rags. No bleach, chemicals or cooking is required. I hand-deckled the edges to create an unpolished juxtaposition with the black frame.

Inkprints of Time speaks of trusting the process. This series honors the idea that concepts can simmer until “the moment” arrives. For both Sophia and I, the moment arose with a serendipitous encounter that developed into these ink-prints that embrace time honoured traditions and pay homage to slow artisanal process.

To purchase these 14” x 14” framed pieces as either a set or as individual pieces, head over to LemonTree Interiors & Co where you will be delighted and inspired.

DIY Paint using two simple ingredients without leaving home

how to make ink with tea using 2 ingredients in your kitchen

Hi there! As a natural ink maker and abstract artist, I am excited to share a recipe for those looking to dive into the world of natural inks or looking to be creative with simple ingredients and materials without leaving home.

First of all, without journeying too far into the technical differences between paint and ink, I made use of the word “paint” in the title of this post to help reach more people looking to create from home. But for the remainder of this post, I will refer to the “paint” created from tea as INK.

I adapted this recipe from a blog post entitled “Natural Plant Inks” by Jyotsna Pippal, a scientist, an artist and a maker of sustainable and non toxic watercolours. Jyotsna sells her Artisanal Handcrafted Watercolors in her Etsy shop LostinColours.

A few notes about the ingredients:

You may not have distilled water on hand, but you can still experiment with tap water, and then when you find distilled water, you can compare colour outcomes.

You can experiment with different types of tea and their colour outcomes. I used orange pekoe tea for this particular dark brown colour in the photos, but rooibos tea will create a more orange colour.

Gum Arabic thickens, helps with controlling ink flow, binds the ink to the paper and helps preserve. Gum Arabic is sometimes called acacia gum or acacia powder and it is made from the natural hardened sap of two types of wild Acacia trees. You probably won’t have gum Arabic powder lying around, but if you are a watercolour artist, you may have a bottle of liquid gum Arabic. Either way, you don’t need to have gum Arabic to paint with tea ink and you can just skip that part of the recipe. Also, there is no absolute rule for exactly how much gum Arabic to add to ink. You can test different amounts with test strips to figure out what amount works for you.

If you don’t have 99.9% Isopropyl Alcohol, you can also use different purity levels (ie. 60%) or preserve with a clove, or a few drops of wintergreen oil or thyme oil.

Tea Ink Recipe


1 cup distilled water (regular tap water is fine too)

1 tbsp loose tea (or two tea bags)

½ tbsp of baking soda

½ tsp gum Arabic (not necessary)

8-10 drops of 99.9% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (not necessary)


stainless steel or glass (these are nonreactive materials) pot, bowl, 2 jars (make sure that one has a lid), stirring spoon and fork

measuring spoons

coffee filter and small funnel OR panty-hose sock (you can wash and reuse) OR a piece of cheesecloth or fabric and an elastic

dropper (not necessary)


-steep tea in boiling water for about 20 minutes

-strain the tea into a jar using a coffee filter and a small funnel OR to create less waste, stretch a panty hose sock over the jar and strain OR stretch cheesecloth or fabric over the jar and secure with an elastic (strain again if you wish into the second jar)

-stir in the baking soda and boil the tea in your pot for a few minutes

-pour the tea into a jar again and whisk in gum Arabic, a little at a time, with a fork until dissolved (if it is not dissolving, heat the ink again but don’t bring to a boil) *you can skip this step if you don’t have gum Arabic powder on hand*

-when cool, add 8-10 drops of alcohol per 1-ounce bottle of ink , OR add a clove, OR add a few drops of wintergreen oil or thyme oil *if you don’t have these items on hand, just be sure to keep cool in the refrigerator*

-secure the lid on your jar, label the name/date on the jar and refrigerate to help preserve (tea tends to go moldy)

-shake before use


Gum Arabic thickens, helps with controlling ink flow, binds the ink to the paper and helps preserve

Alcohol helps to prevent mold

A few final tips:

  • It can be helpful to make ink samples during the slow process of creating inks. I use scrap pieces of watercolour paper, but just use whatever paper that you have available. Be sure to write down the time and other details (I have learned the hard way by thinking that I will remember).
  • This recipe helps you extend the life of the ink with preservation ingredients, but if mold does appear in the tea ink, simply scoop it off.
  • Experiment with the light-fast nature of tea ink by leaving your samples in a sunny windowsill (be sure to label the date).
  • Be sure to label the jar and to keep out of the reach of children or pets.

You may wish to refer to my blog post entitled How to Paint with Natural Inks: Part 1 where I give suggestions as to how to paint with ink. A few tools or supplies that may come in handy are rags, lids or bottle caps, paint brushes, a dropper, a palette knife, a spray bottle of water and even your fingers.

I look forward to viewing your tea ink adventures using my hashtag #natureswildink or send me a photo at

How to Paint with Natural Inks : Part 2

Painting onto canvas with natural inks.

In the few years that I have been on this journey of handcrafting and painting with natural inks, I have developed my own pathways and discovered a few new trails along the way. Recently I was inspired, from a practical perspective, to collect recycled bottle caps and lids to use as ink vessels in my natural inks workshops. But filling avocado shells and milkweed pods with natural inks helps me to establish a much more organic atmosphere as I create in my studio.

In my last post, I focused on painting natural inks onto watercolour paper. But I have had quite a few enquires asking if natural inks can be painted onto canvas. I was directed by a fellow artist (Pamela Bates) to experiment with painting watercolour ground onto canvas. Watercolour ground is a primer that can be applied to a multitude of surfaces. The finish and appearance is very much like cold press watercolour paper.

Although painting onto a canvas with watercolour ground certainly doesn’t have the same magical absorption of watercolour paper, I found that there was an upside. Unlike watercolor paper, I was able to wipe off the ink with a damp rag if I wasn’t happy with the placement. Please note though, that even with a ground, canvas doesn’t typically like water and can create buckling (thank you Lisa Mclinden Art for the tip).

A watercolour painting by Lisa McLinden

Since natural inks are water-based, you may need to experiment with how much water that you add to the canvas.

Fellow artist Carrie Ann Hall has created gorgeous paintings with my natural inks on both gessoed board and unprimed canvas and she doesn’t add water.

natural inks on canvas by Carrie Ann Hall
natural inks on canvas board by Carrie Ann Hall
natural inks on canvas board by Carrie Ann Hall

What about you? Have you had success painting natural inks onto canvas?