Botanical Inks

Posted by Sarah Jane Humphrey on

It is always fascinating to speak with other creatives and discover their unique processes. We have sold Oak Gall Ink in the shop for sometime now, and frequently hold workshops using this ancient and curious medium.

Interested in learning more, I thought it would be great to share a few thoughts with the founder of Creative Roots Naomi Hannam, who supplies our Oak Gall Ink here at Botanical Atelier.

Q. We absolutely love your oak gall ink here at Botanical Atelier, what inspired you to first start making inks?

I have always loved learning about plants and the abundance that surrounds us in nature. I make baskets and love to wander the hedgerows foraging. As my knowledge of edible and medicinal plants grew, so did my interest in foraging for colour. I noticed that when I left a rusty nail on some oak in the wood pile the oak would stain blue/black - I went from there! My learning was lead by my curiosity and after research I started experimenting with the alchemy of making inks and natural dyes.

Q. Can you explain the history/origins of oak gall ink?

The use of this beautiful ink can be traced back to Roman times with documents such as the Magna Carta and the American Declaration of Independence being written in it and artists such as Leonardo da vinci using it to make his drawings. The acidity of the ink slightly corrodes the top layer of the parchment - causing it’s name ‘indelible ink’ as it can’t be rubbed out.

Q. How did you learn the process of making ink by hand?

I worked it out! I read a lot on the internet - but often recipes felt overly complicated or used materials which needed to be bought or that were not easily accessible to me. My creative work centres around celebrating the abundance of nature and play - so I did exactly that and came up with a recipe that works beautifully!

Q. Has your technique changed over time, or does the process need to stay strict to a particular formula?

I work intuitively and I’ve never been a fan of measuring and numbers. I use wild foraged galls, rain water and found objects to make the ink - so there are so many variables. But thats what makes the ink so unique and beautiful! 


some of Naomi's botanical ink

Q. Other than the oak gall ink are there any other inks that can be uses for drawing?

If so do you have a favourite?

You can make a lot of different inks and create a wide spectrum of colours. Different plants have different levels of colour fastness and many are less reliable to the test of time as oak gall ink. Last year I started making ink from Dahlia flowers which make’s the most amazing colours that can be modified using acids and alkalis to create a great array of different colours!

Q. You teach workshops in Cornwall, what do you enjoy most from your sessions?

I love teaching and empowering people to make their own materials. I find ink making and drawing is a perfect workshop for engaging people’s curiosity and sense of play. I love making quills and brushes with people on my workshops and watching them draw with the inks they have made. Ink making is exciting - we make potions, forage and learn. I love watching people’s sense of wonder coming to life!

Q. What can someone expect to learn during one of your Ink workshops?

I tailor my workshops to the seasons  - we usually  explore the context and history of ink making, make oak gall ink, craft quills and drawing apparatus and have time to explore drawing and mark making. On longer workshops there is time to explore a greater range of ink making techniques as well as how to use modifiers to change and develop different colours. There is always tea, coffee and biscuits! Participants always leave with a bottle of their own oak gall ink.


Q. If anyone is interested to learn more about your craft, where can they find you?

You can find out more about my work via my website or my instagram @naomi.creative.roots

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.