Messing about with mandala process – tea staining and layers 

Since boiling our journals a few weeks ago with tea and rusty metal .  I have had great fun messing about with my mandala process  – playing with permanent and water soluble pens and layering with tea, gesso and gel medium 

I have joined a woman’s circle in Edinburgh. One of the aims is to get us to move more and get in touch with our inner self . Staining and layering my mandalas is part of this process. I am still sitting still to draw but , an getting up, making tea , steeping , drying and making bigger marks. This feels  more intuiative and freeing something that was tight. 

I love teal and turquoise, the only pens I have these colour are water soluble. I can’t boil these designs but dipping them in a tea / rust mixture adds a lovely transparency to the marks . The designs are more effective when drawn  on printing paper and drawing on both sides. I like the lack of control and the inability to predict exactly what the final product will look like. 

I wanted to see if I could stop the ink running in some areas so I  added swirls of white gesso and gel medium.

I have been adding all sorts of other materials to add interest and water resistance  – gelatos, stabilo pencils , oil pastels and wax crayons. 

The gelmedium protects the ink but it still runs a bit , the gesso is more effective but is harder to work on top of afterwards with the pens. 

Today I started adding gold pen and paint for fun – but I like the contrast and texture that it adds. I also added thin acrylic paint through stencils which was more effective at protecting the water soluble pen as a technique 

Everything isn’t always successful but I am loving the process

On the one above I rubbed off the gelmedium and gesso and drew on top with a blue pen 

A selection of designs showing different experiments. Stencils , painting acrylic paint and an over worked piece showing gold paint. 

One of the objects I make with my mandalas are pamphlet stitch journals. The flower journals below are ripped to make soft stacked edges . I boiled the top one in tea again after I made it with a strip  of rusty metal I found in the road . This added the dark colour at the centre. 


Making  my tea stained journal

When I was living in Oxfordshire I would meet with a group of friends and we would mediate and produce art lead by Debbie Howard. The group is called ‘Soulseedsessions’ which is how we tag our work on social media . This last week we made a tea stained journal. This took several sessions to complete 


The first part of the project was to select a variety of different papers with which we had an emotional connection. I have been working with my mandalas, and feeling disassociated so I decided to see if I could work through these feelings. 
I chose a variety of circular based images, faces, adverts , my drawings. I had a bit of a frustrating time with some of my medication recently so I added a prescription script and a medication instruction sheet. This is the first time I had done this process so I included all different types of papers – photographs , hand drawn mandalas, photocopies, different magazines etc to see what happened to the inks etc in the boiling. 

We tied the pile of paper up with string and packed in 6 tea bags ,  2 or 3 teaspoons of termeric and bits of rusty metal between the pages. The parcel was wrapped up in fabric and tied again. The rusty metal was added to release brown marks within the journals 

The journals were simmered for 30 mins in tea and a splash of vinegar. The vinegar releases the rust from the metal. 

During this session I felt like I was accessing something earthy and elemental – I told my family I was being a witch( lol)

 I had routed through my paper stash and work making a right mess , I collected far too much stuff. The next stage was to go through the stash and draw or write on them with different pens, oil pastels, gelatos and paint – making swirls , arrows or writing single words that had some meaning at the time. 

I expected the vinegar to stink out my kitchen but it was pleasently fragrant when mixed with the tea and turmeric 

After 30 mins I took the parcel out of the liquid and let it drain in the sink till cool. I squeezed out some of the liquid and then peeled off the sheets – I have a big selection of towels that I use for art/ craft and I spread the papers out on these to absorb the liquid 

The images that were the most affected by the simmering were modern magazine pages from a weekly newspapers. My new inkjet did not get distressed or the photographs. Older magazine papers or the fashion magazines didn’t seem to be affectedeither . The gelatos, permanent markers and oil pastels survived very well. My uniball eye markers were not distressed at all – which was a bit annoying because I added a lot of them expecting them to disintergrate a bit 

The papers take on a different feel when they are dry , quite hard and leathery. 

I travelled down south for the next stage as part of a trip to see family. 

The idea was to journal with the papers into a small A6 journal with a soft cover- the pages were quite thick cartridge paper. 

I had had a severe migraine the night before and was nervy and anxious about participating in the session. Debbie put out a large selection of materials , acrylic paint , stabillo pencils , oil pastels , stencils, Matt medium , bubble wrap and sand paper. She started by getting us to do a few warm up exercises and then we were let loose. 

I had great fun , I was working with friends and I concentrated on circles, moving my whole body , getting paint on my hands and under my finger nails. We had participated in a meditation before making and the phrase let life live through you stuck with me so I scribbled and write it on various pages. 

I brought my Tim Hotlz distress pastels with me because they had survived the first simmering very well. One of Debbie’s exercises had been to write with a paintbrush withthin acrylic – this worked well with my mood of making big messy statements 

On this page I sewed a teabag portrait. 

I must try and work out a way to transfer this energy and ‘manic’ expression to my mandalas. To reinforce the book we stitched the pages together using pamphlet stitch 

We tied up our journals and stuffed them with tea leaves, tea bags , turmeric , beetroot ,onion skins and rusty metal .  Then it was back into a shallow bath of tea and vinegar for another 30 mins of simmering 

Again we left the journals in the sink to drain and cool and then unpacked them. This time placing a piece of kitchen roll in between each page. The journal needs to be placed some where warm and checked regularly. I removed the damp paper and added more in the morning- it took about 24hrs to dry . 

Debbie’s book drying 

My pages 

Examples of pages before and after simmering 

I drew with some different water soluble pens on my way down south hoping that these would distress – they disappeared – top right as did the distress ink spray – blue top left. Even though we stuck everything in with Matt Medium most papers and images were altered with a brown stain. ( I think may be the books could do with completely drying out for 24hrs – we used heat dryers in between pages – I shall be experimenting further) 

When my book was dry I looked up  let life live through you’ and found that it is a line from a poem . A lot of these felt important so I used sections throughout my journal 

Hokusai says

Hokusai says look carefully.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says keep looking, stay curious.

He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,

you just get more who you really are.

He says get stuck, accept it, repeat

yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,

every one of us is ancient

every one of us has a body.

He says every one of us is frightened.

He says every one of us has to find

a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive —

shells, buildings, people, fish,

mountains, trees, wood is alive.

Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter ifyou draw,

or write books. It doesn’t matter

ifyou saw wood, or catch fish.

It doesn’t matter if you sit at home

and stare at the ants on your veranda

or the shadows of the trees

and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.

Joy is life living through you.

Satisfaction and strength

is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

– Roger Keyes

I need to do more work like this to feel more grounded and intouch with my self – I love making my mandalas. But I also need to make a big mess and I am definitely going to do more tea simmering 

Digital layering 

Faber and Faber poetry 

My sister has given me her old diary – which is a Faber and Faber Poetry diary for 2015 –

I am stuck stuck at the airport far too early because I miss read my flight departure … so I am passing time making blackout poems – in the past I have been decorating them with my tight mandalas , but after this last week I wanted to scribble and make a mess again . 

 The poems are grouped in seasons so by starting in January there is lots of dark nights, lights, moons and snow to play with. The restaurant upstairs is playing endless Christmas music. 

Simon Armitage 


This ancient clock 

Thus the quarter struck 

It’s empty in here 

Chimes sing out 

Matthew Francis 

Street lamps 

There was more night 

Waiting for us 

Understand its spaces 

Veiled sisters 

With meaning 

Sentences left for the lights 

Dylan Thomas 

In my craft or sullen art 

Sullen art 

Still night 

The moon rages 

Lovers lie abed 

Their most secret heart 

These spendthrift pages

With their nightingales

Their arms 

Craft or art 

With this one I liked my brother in laws random comments at the top of the page. The comparison with grey, snow and carpet with Africa is powerful – and I love the repetition 

Mark Ford 

After Africa 



Snow falling 

Soft bougainvillea flowers 

Everyone was pale ,pale or grey , as pale grey 

Everyone was pale ,pale or grey , as pale grey 

Faded carpet 

Traffic roared outside 

A faded carpet