Gotta Love Grass Stain

How many times have you stained your clothes as a kid, rolling in the grass?  How about spilling wine down the front of your shirt?  Or some berry pie? Would you ever think they could be used to make photographic prints?

Photographer Malin Fabbri just released a book exploring the process of making anthotype prints, which was first developed by Sir John Herschel in 1842.  While I eagerly await my copy of the book, I find myself marveling at the possibilities.

As a mom, I know all about stains.  Grass stains.  Berry stains.  Grape juice stains.  Ketchup stains.  You name it, my kids have probably worn it.  After reading the process overview on Fabbri’s web site,, I rummaged through the fridge, the back yard and the grocery store searching for stain-makers.

Today’s experiments are:

  • Swiss Chard
  • Beets
  • Red wine
  • Grape juice concentrate
  • Turmeric
  • Tomato
  • Carrots
  • Dock (an evergreen weed common to my neighborhood which is hard to get rid of, non-toxic and very likely a cause of my kids’ grass-stained knees.  Why not put the weeds to use?)

With winter upon me, my options are a bit limited.  In a few months, the garden will be blooming and the trees fruiting.  By then I will have read my much-anticipated book cover to cover to find out what has been tried and documented already.  Oh!  The possibilities!

The emulsified paper is now drying.  The next step will be to put it in the sun with my experimental image and wait for it to fade. It could be hours, days or weeks, depending on the plant.  Keep watching as the experiment unfolds!  In the mean time, send me your ideas.  What organic stains should I try next?


About heather

A third-generation, informally trained photographer, Heather Siple has been taking pictures since she was old enough to hold a point-and-shoot steady. Her work has appeared across the US and internationally in museums, galleries and publications. Siple is the founder of the photo group ArtLane PCG .
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2 Responses to Gotta Love Grass Stain

  1. Lynn says:

    Hi! I have to say “recycled” mango has been the hardest stain to remove, especially from bibs and baby shirts. It stays that nice, bright orange. If straight mango doesn’t give a good enough stain, mix it with a little HCl to break it down.

    And, of course, there’s always black walnut next year, and poke berries.

    Have fun!


    • heather says:

      Thanks! Mango might be good for two different colors – one for skin and one for the flesh.

      You’re the second person to suggest black walnut today. I will have to wait until this summer for that one.

      I’ve been thinking about poke berry. They have a nice, deep purple stain that doesn’t last long at all. In dyer’s terms it is a “renegade dye.” It should be very quick to make a print. Question is, will the print still be there in a week? Stay tuned and find out!

      Today I made test sheets of cranberry skins, blueberry skins, holly berry and red bell pepper. I tried skinning the holly by blanching and turned a sickly orange-brown in the pan. I may try pulping them whole next time, but I’m done for today. Red bell pepper made a very nice, even coat of bright orange. Cranberry made a messy, muddy purple when it touched the paper. Some sort of reaction because the pulp in the bowl didn’t change color. I tried 4 kinds of paper and got the same reaction each time. The blueberry, by contrast, turned brown on paper and in the bowl in about an hour.

      Yesterday’s batch of tests is still all the same colors they were when I first brushed them on. I’m waiting another two days to try printing to make sure they are really, really dry.

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