Sunday, June 1, 2008


I sent in a proposal to the museum to teach a children's calligraphy class this Fall called "Let it Be Written" Each week for 8 weeks, the kids ( 11-13 yr olds) will explore the museum galleries to see how writing has been used through the centuries and represented in art. In the studio, they will get to try their hand at some things they have seen.

I thought during one session, it might be fun for the kids to make their own ink and then use it to write. From Cyberscribes, an Internet calligraphy discussion group I belong to, I found a recipe for Thousand Year Ink.

I put two charcoal briquettes (not the ones infused with lighter fluid) into a plastic bag. Then I bashed them to a fine powder with a hammer. I was pounding the bag on the floor and noticed small holes as I was working and charcoal dust sifting through the holes. So I put a paper plate under the bag and continued pounding. It was very difficult to get a fine powder. I may have to see about using a combination of hammer pounding and transferring to a mortar and pestle.

When the powder seemed fine enough, I measured out 2 tablespoons into a plastic cup using a plastic spoon. The grind still didn't seem to be fine enough. I may have to dedicate a small spice grinder to the task. I ended up using the handle end of the hammer as a pestle to bash little bits into dust.

Two teaspoons of honey was measured out using the plastic spoon. The honey was mixed with the charcoal dust forming a thick black paste. The directions said to form the paste into a flat square. It could be used at this point or left to dry into a solid cake. I chose to let it dry and put the paste into the cover of an Intuition razor cap. The paste is now resting comfortably on the kitchen window sill.

I thought to speed up time in the studio, I would have the charcoal pre-bashed. However as I was working some safety issues came to mind. I suppose it would be a good idea for the kids to wear gloves just so the soot doesn't get all over their hands and clothes. Puffs of dust rose into the air as I was stirring, so it probably wouldn't hurt for the kids to wear a dust mask.

I hope we get some good sun as the directions said the cake should sit in the sun for several days to dry. Maybe by the end of the week, I'll be able to write with it.

Any of you made your own ink? Got an easier way? (besides buying a bottle, smart( ! ) ) Teachers can you see any pitfalls? I'm sure one bright little spark will try to taste the mixture. It won't kill them, but it will taste gawdawful and perhaps make them sick. (Charcoal is sometimes used in poison ingestion to absorb the poison.)


  1. About one gazillion years ago I took a medieval bookbinding & calligraphy class, the most memorable part was whipping an egg white into glair with a FEATHER... for AN HOUR...
    At which point I realized I am all about the destination, sistah, and not about the journey. I felt the sting of your comment "besides buying a bottle of ink smart (!)" comment but I'm OK with that. I'll just brush it off by going outside and scooping poop. :-P

  2. Alright, in the middle of that rant there should only be one "comment" comment. I was so excited about the prospect of scooping I didn't proofread closely before posting. Silly me.

  3. I'm with Alesia...not in the pooper scooping, but in the getting to the destination. I'd buy a nice bottle of India Ink...or better yet, use a marker. :)

  4. My dearest Al, that smart ( ! ) comment wasn't directed at you. Though you are one of my favorite and most admired smart ( ! )es

  5. Yeah, um... although I think it would be interesting, too much darn work! It will make kids appreciate a good old bic.