Book Review: Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking

Make Ink Book

How could I possibly pass up a book that would teach me how to make my own ink? Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking by Jason Logan was an insta-buy for me. The swashes of color on the cover alone were enough to get it in my cart. Then, I was at a friend’s house on New Year’s Day and she had a copy of it on her studio table. Getting a chance to flip through the pages of the book had me hitting “buy it now” while I was still standing there.

Make Ink Book

The book has some lovely details to start. The edges have been painted to look ink stained and spattered.

Make Ink Book

How beautiful are these edges? I didn’t notice this detail until I got my copy.

Make Ink Book

Inside, the book features lots of photos and white space and a storytelling aspect to the art and science of making inks. If you start reading the book from the beginning (and don’t skip straight to the ink recipes) it becomes clear that there is as much luck, experimentation and  kismet in coming up with ink recipes as there is science, measuring and careful formulation.

The next thing I noticed is that there is a strong possibility that should I actually attempt to make any inks from these recipes, they may not be safe for fountain pens. Indications suggest that these inks were designed for brush, dip pen and other more artistic applications. However, understanding how inks are made is something I’ve always wanted to know and this book seemed like as good a place as any to learn.

Chapter Two: Make Ink, starts on page 42 and starts with the terms and materials that make up ink. Then provides an assortment of recipes to create your own inks using plants, nuts, bark, spices, metals, and flowers. The recipes do not seem difficult but do require some ingredients I’d be hesitant to put into a fountain pen of any value (shellac, gum arabic, rusty nails, alum, etc.). While none of these things are particularly harmful to humans if handled, they could wreak havoc on a fountain pen.

Make Ink Book

This is the Copper Oxide ink recipe which requires fermenting copper in vinegar to get the oxidized turquoise color. Beautiful color but definitely not fountain pen friendly. I’m all for trying this with brushes, dip pens and other tools though (in well ventilated places, of course). So beautiful!

Make Ink Book

This yellow is made with tumeric. It requires isopropyl alcohol and its suggested to be great in an empty marker to be used with other alcohol-based markers. Must smell quite unusual but the color is wonderful.

The last section of the book shows samples of ink experiments, doodles and drawings showing some of the inks in use. It’s basically just ink eye candy from the author and friends. Some are more interesting than others. Margaret Atwood contributed a little piece. Gary Taxali did a drawing too. So, its a bit of showing off as well. I like the author’s ink swashes best. They look like abstract paintings.

Make Ink Book

The book is full of inspiration and takes a lot of the mystery out of ink making, at least at its simplest level. And it also reminds me why I love ink — any ink or liquid color as much as I do. I like just splashing color down on a page and watching it pool and move and dry. I like watching one color blend into another and create new, interesting combinations. I am eternally fascinated by color in all its hues and the idea of making my own colors feels like breaking the third wall.

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7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thanks for the review and beautiful pictures! I had seen an article with a similar title and not the book, but this looks fantastic. The pattern on the side really makes it stand out!

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