Sustainable crafting: How to make natural ivy berry ink

posted in: Craft Tips, Natural art, Natural ink | 0

Picture this… you’re wandering through a forest, basket in hand, on a mission to gather ivy berries. Sounds like something out of a fairytale, right? Well, it’s about to become your reality as we dive into the world of crafting ivy berry ink!

Lucy makes this every year for our Art in the Wild workshops and now you can try it too! Read below for a simple how-to, and if you try this yourself, please share the results via email or Instagram, we’d LOVE to see what you make!

But first, let’s talk for a second about ivy (eidhneán in Irish). You’ve probably seen it growing near your home, growing as a climber on trees, walls, and older buildings. There’s a common misconception that it’s a pest, strangling trees and growing where you don’t want it to. But in fact, it’s quite the opposite!

The dark green waxy leaves on dense vines provide an amazing home for hundreds of species of birds and insects. And as ivy flowers later in the year (autumn), and produces it’s dark purple berries in late winter/early spring, it is an invaluable food source for birds, bees, butterflies and other insects at a time when they most need it!

Fun fact: in folklore, ivy is often seen as a symbol of resilience and everlasting life, clinging steadfastly to whatever it grows on. It’s like nature’s way of saying, “Hey, I’m here to stay!”

How to make natural organic ivy berry ink

Now, let’s get down to business—how do we turn these beautiful berries into a wonderful natural ink? Well, first things first, when foraging for ivy berries, remember to be gentle and only take what you need. As a rule, we always make sure to gather a small amount of berries off of many different plants, so we can be sure we’re leaving the majority for wildlife and reseeding.

Okay, so you’ve gathered your ivy berries—now what? Time to work some magic!

Step 1: Start by giving those berries a good shake outside to dislodge any bugs, and then rinse them under a cold tap.

Step 2: Next you’ll want to take the berries off of the stalks (you can compost the stalks). After this, place the berries in a saucepan and simmer in water for about 45 minutes, on a low heat, using a ratio of 1 cup of berries to 2 cups of water.

Step 3: Add in a tablespoon of vinegar and ½ a tablespoon of salt (per 1 cup of berries) and simmer for a further 15 minutes.

Step 4: Once they’re well softened, lightly mash the berries (we find a potato masher best for this!)

Step 5: Strain out the mixture through a sieve and then muslin (or a coffee filter) to get out the seeds and skins. Be sure to put your ink into a sterilised jar, and store out of direct sunlight!

And just like that, you’ve got yourself some homemade organic ink!

Now, here’s the fun part—putting that ink to good use! It works amazing as an ink wash to add some colour to a drawing, or why not try and whittle yourself a quill from a stick, and try writing with it?! Enjoy the process and let your imagination run wild!

There’s something truly special about making your own ink from ivy berries. It’s like tapping into a centuries-old tradition, connecting with nature, and honouring the folklore that surrounds these humble little berries. And play around with the paper types too, as the different pH of papers can change the colour the ink dries to!!

So, there you have it—your crash course in organic ink making! I hope this has inspired you to get out there, explore nature, and embrace your inner creative spirit. And please do share your results with us on our Instagram page, we’d LOVE to see what you create!

And if you’d like to learn many more ways you can be creative in nature, check out our Art in the Wild workshops!

Happy crafting!

~ Sophie