This Toronto artist makes ink with materials he forages all over the city

This Toronto artist makes ink with materials he forages all over the city

From the makeshift kitchen lab of his Toronto home, artist Jason Logan mixes up ink from just about anything he can get his hands on. His fascination started back in 2012, after a trial and error experiment with walnuts he found in Queen’s Park. The result was a beautiful black ink, and ever since, he’s been creating vivid colours from everyday things he finds in and around the city.

Toronto, he says, is a great place for foraging materials. “There’s s lot of half-wild, half-urban spaces in Toronto, which is where all the best weeds grow. Some of the greatest colours come from those neglected plants.”  

In his new book, Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking, Logan discusses his love for the craft, the rich history behind ink and how you can make it at home. Here, we look at some of his favourite inks. 

Turmeric

Yellow is hard to make, since it can fade over time. But Turmeric is a rich source of colour. “The brilliant saffron yellow from turmeric is best extracted with alcohol, which makes the ink almost florescent,” he says. “I usually use turmeric pulp from cold-press juiceries around town.”

Buckthorn

This is a close-up of one of Logan’s ink tests that uses Buckthorn and copper oxide. He always does a trial run to see how the materials will interact, and how they fare over time. Buckthorn, he says, is an old favourite because of how the colours can change. “It can move from golden to green and into purple-ish black, depending on the pH balance.” The shrubs grow all over the city, but are most easily found in swampy areas like High Park. The copper came from an abandoned lot near Sterling Avenue.

Oak Gall

Black, Logan says, is an essential colour. His recipe involves wasps, iron and some medieval alchemy. “It’s the blackest of blacks if you get it right.” 

Copper Oxide

Used by the Egyptians, this version of turquoise is made with bits of copper wire, salt, vinegar and time. Logan describes it as a “living blue,” since it continues to oxidize and change in unexpected ways once it’s put on paper. 

Wild Grape

Purple is a difficult colour to get right. For this hue, Logan used wild grapes he picked at the Dundas overpass. Each stage of the harvest brings something different, he says, so no two shades will ever look the same.