About the same time as I started this project I found a source for aniline dyes that came in concentrated liquid form and were available in a starter kit of 12×2oz. bottles, a substantial pallet of colors to work with. When it came to coloring the leaves it was a small step to think of them and there began the process that lead to my biggest challenge on this piece. Let me say here that I’ve never done this before or heard of it being done. I’m flying completely blind here, 100% experimental, 100% fun. If any one knows an existing method of doing this I’d love to hear about it. Otherwise it is my sincere hope that some of you reading this will take up where I leave off and make this process work more easily, better, or both. The watercolor style of dying that I will demonstrate here is the easy part. The harder part is getting a good finish on the piece after it is assembled. The two big challenges here are that the dye will bleed into areas where it doesn’t belong at the slightest opportunity and secondly that you can’t sand or scrape the dyed surface as the dye is very shallow.
This photo was in the last entry but it is re-presented here to emphasize that the assembled marquetry must be sanded flat and absolutely uniformly in thickness before dying to have any chance of success.
This was my setup to begin the “watercoloring”. I have the four dye colors I will use (burnt sienna, yellow G, yellow R and green) brushes, water in the larger container and alcohol in the smaller one. There’s also a cloth nearby for wiping the brush on to remove excess moisture.
This is the technique. Nothing special here, just be comfortable and relaxed and go for it.
This is the sequence I used. Again, it’s all experimental. I can’t say this is the best way because it was about the first way I tried it and it worked. I made the assumption that it would make sense to start with the lightest color and work toward the darker ones. So, I started by flooding the piece with the lightest color I would be using, in this case, yellow R.
Next I touched a few spots with green and just let it bleed into the wet yellow.
Then, still working wet on wet, I pulled the brush across the edges where I wanted the dark color and let it bleed into the wet yellow. Where I wanted it quite dark I repeated this step. It may look like there is too hard an edge on the dark area here but it’s not a problem.
Now it’s time to blend. I tried a few ways and found that I got the best results for this project’s purposes by half loading the brush with the yellow and pulling it from the yellow area into the dark (burnt sienna) area. I tried to avoid the green as I really liked the bleed the way it was. Also you may notice I put a few random dark spots in the center areas to indicate the random holes and bruises naturally occurring on fall leaves.
Here are three of the four leaves that will be on the top of the box with the dying completed. Notice that the water has really caused them to arch. In the future I may try mixing my dyes entirely with alcohol instead of 1/2 and 1/2 alcohol / water as I did this time. There is substantial reason to worry about these pieces losing their very critical shape here because of the shrinking and swelling over the many varied grain orientations and piece sizes.
I used a hair dryer to dry the pieces until they were almost, but not quite completely flat. They will continue to dry after you turn off the dryer due to the residual heat. In these pieces I had no distortion. I did however have that trouble with the “falling leaf” on the front door.
After the dying I re-assembled the whole piece and gave it a sealing coat of spray on poly in the hope of preventing future bleeding with the water based poly I was planning to use for finishing. The choice of wb finish may sound odd but I chose it for it’s high build solids content and water clear appearance. The high build is important because, remember you can’t sand these parts again and as careful as you have been with the prep, there will be little discrepancies that you would like to sand or scrape before finishing … that you can’t.
I hope that this gets some of you experimenting. This can’t be the best or only way to do this . Nobody’s that lucky. I’ll be very interested to see what others can add to my start here. ... or what some one has already done before me.
Thanks again for following and commenting. I’m having a ball and I’m glad you are too.
Please ask questions and don’t be afraid to critique. There’s no bad feedback.
-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/