Great Oaks from little acorns grow
I'd imagined a big launch for my Patreon membership, but that isn't going to happen.
So I'm going in gently and slowly and taking small steps. I began the process back in January, so having it set up, in this year of years is a huge achievement.
I'm launching with the content that would have been posted for October and November, so you'll have a bit of extra content if you sign up to the Community Tier.
Thank you so much for all your patience and support. I look forward to seeing you over there.
I’ve been wanting to make my own plant based inks, and particularly Oak Gall ink for some time. Since I began exploring my local trees more in 2019, using trees as my subject for Inktober in 2020 (#uktreetober), and creating dip pens from wood with my youngest daughter. Making ink to connect more closely with those trees feels like a wonderful thing to do. I’ve been learning more about each tree, it’s character, properties, value to wildlife, and uses to humans in the past. This has made me look differently at the trees on my patch, made me notice them more and care for them more.
The English Oak tree has been the source of ongoing learning for me over the last few years.
For #uktreetober, I drew a pen and ink sketch of 13 different native trees, but also did some research into each tree.
Here’s my drawings and research into the Oak tree.
‘We have two Oak, the English Oak or Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) and the Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea). Acorns of the English Oak hang down on little stalks, acorns of Sessile Oak sit directly on their twigs.
Oak live from between 700 and 1 thousand years old. Often as wide as they are high, sun-loving they spread their branches wide.
One of the last of our native trees to come into leaf, having both male and female flowers. Pollen is wind blown from male catkins. The female flowers are tiny, the acorns emerging from here. Acorns are an invaluable food source for wildlife.
Oaks are home to over 500 species of insects, invertebrates, butterflies, moths, spiders, bats and birds.
They have a vast interconnected network of ferns, moss, ivy and fungi.
Oaks are intrinsically linked to our Isles. We have had a long relationship with Oak. Acorns were once a staple food, the wood burns hot and would have been prized firewood. They were used as way-markers, many would have had local names. Linked with the legend of Robin Hood who lived outside the law among the great Oaks of Nottingham and Yorkshire.
'Kings of the forest' Oaks were used as meeting places for the passing of laws, and crowning of Kings.
Jays play a big part in the spread of Oak trees, they 'hide' the acorns in the ground. New trees are connected to the Mother trees by vast fungal links.
Galls which grow on the trees have been used to make ink for centuries, the Magna Carta was written in iron oak gall ink.’
I began taking more notice each year of when the acorns and galls appeared on the trees. Each year being different, one year there are abundant acorns (a mast year), the next none. This year we have no acorns but lots of different types of galls. Last year my daughter found an oak apple gall on the floor, we brought it home to draw. A week or so later we noticed lots of tiny wasps flying everywhere, realising that they had emerged from the gall. This year we have seen and sketched silk button spangle gall, common spangle, knopper galls and marble galls.
Using a handful of old acorns and oak galls in my collection (old acorns and galls are better, ensuring that the wasps have all emerged and the acorns are no longer viable as food or saplings), I decided to have a go at making some ink to use with the dip pens we had made.
It’s a magical process turning #pockethitchhikers picked up on a local walk into art materials. With a bit of patience and alchemy I ended up with 4 different shades of ink. From a golden yellow, through warm browns, to a deep purple almost black.
I'm looking forward to taking my inks and my oak dip pen out to sketch the Oak tree we came across a few weeks ago, it will have lost all it's leaves by now.
You can find a tutorial and downloads for making the Oak Gall Ink on my Patreon Community membership page. If you join by the end of the year, you'll receive a Raspberry Thief Community sticker for your sketchbook.