Monday, 10 April 2017

Henna on wood

Todays post is about an art fail. I still love the end result but I made several mistakes along the way, little things I knew better at the time and ignored my own cautionary council.
Recently I made a hennaed wood box. And I loved how it turned out in the end, the thing that bugs me is that it could have gone better. When you henna wood (or anything for that matter) the key is patience, henna takes some time to work and stain properly as well as heat, a little acid and sugar. The acid (eg lemon juice) releases the lawsone, that's what stains your skin. The heat makes the stain stronger, the sugar prevents the paste from drying too quickly and flaking off prematurely before a good stain is achieved. 
So far the basics, I have a lot of pics in this post and we will get to the rest as we go along. First up is the beautiful box without anything on it. This was a wine box at some stage, now it houses different treasures.

In the next few pictures you can see the henna design on the box, I had to leave the sides to dry in between so I would not smear the design as I worked along.

The following photo shows the front and bottom, the front was dried when I signed the bottom and you can see the henna on the edge flaking off a bit. Here is one of my mistakes, I had done henna on wood before and I had added sugar and had then trouble taking the henna off the wood without scratching the stained surface off. So I left the sugar out, resulting in paste cracking and flaking off as it dried. I also have to admit I was a bit of a miser here, I used some very cheap henna I had from a few years ago and had not stored properly. You have to store the powder in an airtight container in the freezer, else it looses its staining power...

Now you get to see the box after all the paste was taken off, the stain is usually quite light after paste removal and has to oxidise a little to mature to a darker shade.

However, below you can see that the henna stained the wood differently all over, depending on how and where the grain was positioned. I don't know enough about wood grain directions and its influences on stain absorbancy to make an educated guess about what happened here. In part I made the paste maybe a little too wet and so the moisture started "bleeding" into the surrounding areas, leaving the design fuzzy and with very little contrast, and in another part the wood grain messed it up, too. On the bottom of the next pic you can see how the stain is "supposed" to turn out, nice and sharp, a lovely shade of reddy brown.

Well, once you start the henna process you are commited to it, and as we are dealing with organic materials here there will always be unexpected aspects to the outcome. I left the box to mature for a few weeks, the stains took on a nicely browny shade instead of the initial fresh green they were before.

And then I sealed it inside and out with several layers of clear satin waterbased varnish. I usually thin my varnish with water for workability and so it takes more than just one coat to achieve a proper seal. The box looks slightly yellow in the next few photographs, it is not. But you can compare the outlines to the first few pictures with the paste on and you can see what I mean by fuzzy outlines, especially on the sideview. The outlines should be sharp and crisp.

I have stained wood with henna before and I will see if I can do another post for you, showing you what the outcome usually is. All in all I really like my little box, I like the design and even the "mistakes", it is a pretty reminder to not take shortcuts with this sort of thing... and maybe research woodgrain information for the future. Until then I might give wooden items a coat of acrylic paint and do the meh di design with acrylic paints also, that makes for quicker drying times, too. And greater colour variety... maybe even glitter?

Would you like to see the treasures I have in my box now?

1 comment:

A Mynah Production said...

Dang, this is a mistake?! It's gorgeous! ...just there a way to keep the raised dye there? I think I like the way it looks at that stage too.