Q&A with Eco-Printing Expert Fiona Balding

Some of you have been quick off the mark and have already nabbed a place on Fiona’s eco-printing workshop at the Ragged Life Herts HQ on Saturday, 7th July 2024. However, for those of you who can’t make it or aren’t quite sure what eco-printing is, we thought it would be a nice idea to do a Q&A with Fiona on the Ragged Life blog to shed some light on the craft and share gorgeous photos of Fiona’s work. 

Read our Q&A with Fiona Balding below or book a place on July’s class here

Q&A with Eco-Printing Expert Fiona Balding

Hi Fiona, we are so excited to have you come to the Ragged Life Studio to run a workshop with us. Could you tell our followers a little bit about yourself and your creative life please?

Hi everyone, I’m Fiona – a semi-retired teacher of food and textiles, living in a fairly rural part of Bedfordshire. I live next to a wood where I walk daily and have an allotment where I grow lots of plants – many of which I use in my work. My love of eco-printing began with my love for the natural environment and a desire to incorporate that into my artwork. I started off by exhibiting my work and the main question I was asked time and time again was “how do you do that?” That’s the main reason I began to run workshops. I now have great fun meeting lots of new, interesting people at classes and talks.

Eco-printer Fiona Balding
Fiona Balding, hard at work

How would you describe your style?
Expressive, free flowing and empathetic with nature and the environment.

Eco-Printing workshop in Hertfordshire with Fiona Balding

You seem to play around with a few different craft techniques – which ones have you tried over the years – any favourites?

Going back many years, at school I specialised in fabric printing as part of A-Level Art. Later, when training as a teacher, I was introduced to free machine embroidery and loom weaving, which remain firm favourites to this day. These days, as well as eco-printing, which I do from the end of April to the beginning of November (I need fresh deciduous leaves), I enjoy the precision of bookbinding and more recently have discovered paper making.

We’re running an eco-printing workshop with you this Summer, could you tell us a bit more about that please? Some of our followers will have never heard of it 🙂

Eco-printing is a fabulous craft that uses the natural dyes and tannins within plant materials to create stunning images on both paper and fabrics. It is a magical process and new learners are always amazed and delighted with what they can achieve in a day. For example, the eco-prints below were made using a combination of logwood and brazilwood with leaves from a number of trees, including maple, acer, sweet chestnut, rose and robinia pseudoacacia.

With eco-printing, are there any fabrics / papers that you particularly like to work with? 

Eco-printing loves natural fibres particularly silk and wool. I love sourcing pre-loved textiles, old vintage wool blankets and silk wedding dresses. I also enjoy experimenting with different papers including old maps, textbooks as well as making my own handmade paper to print on. Over time, I’ve experimented with all sorts of eco-print bases.

And how about with the leaves and flowers – have you ever been surprised by how something turned out? 

The whole process can totally change throughout the seasons as the chemical composition of the leaf changes. This means that no two printing sessions are the same as they vary depending on the environment conditions. It’s always a surprise which is one of the best things about it.

What do you like to do with your eco-prints once you’ve made them?

You can make all kinds of things with eco-prints – lampshades, socks, passport covers, greeting cards, Christmas crackers, artwork… it’s amazing how versatile it is as a craft.

Is there anything that you’ve made that was a complete disaster? 

My first attempts at printing were pretty poor. But ten years ago when I started there were no books or workshops on the subject. I started off learning by mistakes. When I found a Facebook group on the craft my processes changed dramatically for the better.

Are there any people / places / things you get your inspiration from? 

I have many Ecoprint friends, from all over the world. We have had virtual events where we share and explain and our ideas and processes. I have always been inspired by this and likewise hope I have inspired others.

How do you approach your creative projects? Are you a planner?

I am a thorough planner. Ecoprinting involves preparation that can take a few days. If I run a workshop preparation starts two weeks before the event, so I need to be organised.

Beginners Eco-printing class with Fiona Balding and Ragged Life

What does your workspace look like?

Starts off tidy but it can get a bit chaotic. I am so excited by the printing process that sometimes I neglect tidying up!

Any words of encouragement for anyone considering booking onto the workshop? 

Do it, you will be amazed and delighted! But it is addictive and you will want to print at home. Eco-printing is very sustainable and I try to have a no-waste policy of reusing and recycling as much as possible. You’ll definitely catch the bug and I hope to see you there.

Thanks so much Fiona!

To book onto our workshop with Fiona on Saturday, 7th July 2024 click here or follow Fiona on Instagram here.

Stay tuned for our next Q&A!

Elspeth x

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