06/07/2013 by syrbal-labrys
I like playing at archaic things. No, I do not do SCA, thanks and do not want to talk about it. But I like other archaic things. Like fountain pens and ink in pretty colors. And gardens and flowers instead of fake blossoms that fade in the sun. That’s why, last week, as I watched a beautiful purple iris melting down it’s own stem after a hard rain shower, and watched it stain my shirt as I brushed past, I decided to experiment.
How to make this pretty flower into that rather messy bottle of blue green ink?
I began by gathering iris blossoms that were just beginning to look a bit crushed and done. I put them in just enough water to cover them and mashed them up a bit. Then I simmered them very slowly until the flowers looked cooked and faded. I strained out the flowers and then put in MORE flowers, this time darker blossoms still. I repeated my cooking and let it sit cooling over night. I took out the stewed blossoms and fed them to the earth worms in my experimental earthworm composter. I poured the deep blackish purple liquid through a coffee filter…which took almost all night again.
I’d read that a very old ink, sometimes called “Florentine Green” was made from iris flowers…this name makes sense to me since the popular perfume and cosmetic and potpourri ingredient, orris root, is made from something called a Florentine Iris. Alum, the common ingredient in pickle recipes, is added to the deeply colored water ….as a fixative? In any case, it transformed the purple liquid into a deep blue-green shade that comes out quite gently on paper! I put it back into a small sauce pan and cooked it again until it was reduced by half and cooled it down, then, as I do when making herbal decoctions I want to keep, I added some vodka as a preservative. And then messily transferred it to that sterilized ink bottle with a funnel that was not quite the right size!
Then I looked at it in fear for a few days. Finally, I wrote a card to a friend with a dip pen I own…oh my dear and UNfluffy Founders of America….how the hell did you write those beautiful papers??! Thomas Jefferson IS a god…of ink and paper! Because a blotchy mess I made, yes. Even a blotter would not have helped me. Next? I took the ink cartridge out of a dry calligraphy pen and stuck the modern pen tip into the bottle. Now, that produced very nice readable words. Finally, I took the plunge. I emptied the nice turquoise blue Pelican brand ink out of my little Stipula eye-dropper fill fountain pen. I washed out the barrel and scribbled the nib dry. I filled it with my home-made ink and held my breath….would it clog my pen, would it work at all?
It worked! I can’t really get a good picture with my little cellphone of the ink against light paper…but it is smooth and quite readable using a modern fountain pen! No blots, no blobs, no mess; but since it flows so well as it is, my initial thought of boiling down my ink further is on hold for now. Now, if I weren’t so bloody worn out with garden work of the non-fun sort, I’d collect the rest of the iris blossoms and try for a DYE.
Next June, right?