Organic Designs

Create your own organic designs on t-shirts, aprons, and wrapping paper using inked slices of fruits and vegetables.

| July/August 1980

Take a chunk of apple, half a squash, a hunk of mushroom, a sliver of cucumber, and a slice of onion ... what do you have? Well, most folks would consider such an array of ingredients to be either the start of a compost pile or the basis of a very unusual summer salad! But if you slap a little acrylic paint onto those pieces of produce, you can—even if you've never been able to draw a straight line—try your hand applying organic designs to textiles.

The idea isn't new. It's been around since the North American Indians used natural materials and dyes to stamp decorations on their bodies, clothing, and tools. And you can probably remember the old school trick of cutting out a simple design on a potato, inking it, and printing the pattern on paper (or on your nearest school chum).

Nature Patterns

By taking advantage of the natural artwork found in the middle of fruits and vegetables and in the veins and outlines of leaves and flowers, you can print some interesting motifs on T-shirts, jeans, curtains, aprons, window shades, wrapping paper, walls ... or on most anything you can reach that doesn't fight back. A set of small tubes of acrylic paint (enough to print several T-shirts) shouldn't cost much more than $5.00, and—for patterns—you can use anything from apples to zucchini ... so available designs will be limited only by the season.

Take the time, then—whenever you cut open a fruit or vegetable—to rediscover that the beauty of such edibles is more than skin deep. Look at the delicate lines in a cross section of cucumber, or the concentric rings of an onion. Slice a crookneck squash lengthwise ... does it remind you of a dandified penguin or a dancing dinosaur? A rhubarb leaf print resembles a magnificent miniature tree, and half of a mushroom topped with a slice of cucumber looks like a flower in a pot. Pieces of onion, lemon, and zucchini can be combined to make interesting border designs, and halves of apples and asparagus look exactly like ... apples and asparagus!

How to Proceed

After you've picked out the types of greens and groceries you want to use, slice them (varying your designs by cutting through the top, bottom, or middle of the fruits and vegetables) and let the sections dry for about an hour. During this time, they'll shrink slightly and their internal patterns will become more distinct.

Cover your work space, then place several sheets of newsprint or paper towel between the layers of the to-be-printed T-shirt or what have you ... so that the ink can't penetrate from one side to the other.

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