For a while I was obsessed by making ink. Inspired by a book I saw (and immediately bought!) I went on a quest to find Oak Galls. This didn’t prove to be too difficult. Living near to Bushy Park in Middlesex, Oak Galls were all over the place. I had never heard of these tough little nutty looking things before. Researching further I found out they are formed when a wasp lays eggs in the bark of an oak tree and the acids produced deform the future growth. The little hole in the end is where the young wasp has left. You can also make ink out of juniper berries (smells like gin!), avocado stones (they make pink ink!), copper (gorgeous turquoise blue) and I even made some ink out of a piece of abandoned rusty gate I found by the Petersham Meadows on the banks of the Thames. The little label in the photo is written with the ink I made.
Are you inspired to have a go?
Crush 3 or 4 oak galls (you can pick them up at your nearest oak tree). Simmer in enough water to cover them plus 1cm on top. Throw in a rusty nail (this will ‘fix’ the ink on the paper). Keep simmering until it looks dark enough then switch off and leave to cool. When it has cooled, transfer some to a small bottle or jar and add about 10 drops of gum arabic (you can buy this at your local art shop or click the link here to buy online) until it is inky consistency. When you draw or paint with it, you will see how this ink darkens as it dries and is fairly permanent. Don’t forget to let me know how you get on with a comment here or over on Facebook.