Painting Plants

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Painting Plants (originally: Blauwe Maandag / verfplanten.nl) is a research project focused on making paints and inks out of plants and how to make these suitable for different printing techniques. The project was started in 2011 bij biologist and artist Naan Rijks, and is executed inside the Amsterdams Grafisch Atelier (AGA). In 2013, scientist and teacher Jeroen Snijdewint joined the project. In 2017 Lucila Kenny, experienced in natural dyeing of textile, joined the team. Currently, more than 30 species of plants are being cultivated, all containing either dyes or pigments.

The research is divided in the different steps which lead from plant to dye. This starts with the cultivation of the plants. Next, the pigment has to be extracted. The third and final step in the process is mixing the pigment with a binder.

With every step, new research questions arise. A small selection:

  • “Do pigments in the different organs of a plant have a function, like the purple in the roots of Alkanna tinctoria or the yellow in the ligules of Helianthus annuus?”
  • “Can we come up with techniques to simplify the extraction of pigments from plants, chemical or some other way?”
  • “Which binders work with which pigments, and are suitable for the different printing techniques?”

The research is being conducted in and around the AGA. In the kitchen of the AGA Painting Plants created a small laboratory set up for the extraction of pigments and the creation of paint. Experiments with printing techniques are conducted in the workshop. Together with neighbours we started a cooperation, the PlantageLab. In this courtyard both crops and painting plants are being cultivated, and is room for humble ecological experimenting. Some painting plants are edible, others are not. Precaution is important: poisonous painting plants exist as well.

This website has different functions. First and foremost as inspiration and motivation: via recipes, both for the cultivation of the plants and the production of ink. The scientific background is described as well. This is also where the research progress of Painting Plants gets published.

Everything we do is completely open source. We’re open to collaborate.

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