Alder Cone Ink

As New Year began with days colder and shorter, our Covid restrictions and curfew, a full house and a very significant change in our circumstances looming, I didn’t know where to start with getting back into a studio routine. A bit like that feeling when you’re staring into the fridge when you’re hungry but you don’t know what to eat.

One day after strong winds I was walking the dogs as usual along by the river. The alder cones blown down on the riverbank caught my eye. Such pretty structures, each tiny thing a lovely little object. I always carry a tote bag for gathering wild greens for the rabbits (hey, free bunny food don’t knock it!) so I picked up a bunch of the cones and stuffed them in the bag.

At home, I dug out Make Ink, a book loaned to me by a friend before the first lockdown. There is a recipe for walnut ink, but it suggests trying alder cones as an alternative. I cleaned the cones and put them in a tin, topped it up with water and left the tin on top of the wood burner for a couple of days. The first test wasn’t bad, but I put the tin back on the fire this time with a few rusty nails chucked in and left it overnight.

The next day I strained the ink through a coffee filter. It’s a really beautiful rich velvety brown, and I enjoyed playing with it in my sketchbook.

It was an ideal way to ease myself back into the studio without having a big idea or even a project to get my teeth into. It got me doing something again, which got my momentum going. In my online workshop Faraway Nearby I talk about how feelings of being stuck, procrastination or overwhelm are a blockage preventing you from getting going. There’s energy there, but there’s no movement. By generating a little movement you’ll start a gentle flow that soon gains momentum. Doing something, anything, will work like a creative laxative!

By taking my own good advice now I find myself in a phase of very creative flow. I’ve had an epiphany of sorts in fact, and in my next post I’ll share what is happening. For now, I need to stay in my own little world.