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Released in collaboration with Toolshed in March 2023, this book builds on artist Ellie Irons's decade-long practice of making watercolor paints from the berries, blossoms, and leaves of the plants who green urban and disturbed habitats. Part field guide and part instruction manual, it is also an ode strengthening human partnerships with weeds. It is accompanied by an online component, Feral Hues on Estuarial Fill.
The book was developed with support from Toolshed, Oak Spring Garden Foundation, and Basilica Hudson’s Hudson as Muse artist residency.
In the book, alongside paintings, drawings, and a prompt for “vegetal attunement,” readers will find a step-by-step guide to making watercolor paints from foraged plant parts, a color chart of the various “feral hues” the process produces, and four limited-edition Risograph printed postcards featuring Irons's Transect Study paintings.
Growing out of a year of fieldwork in the post-industrial riverfront town of current-day Hudson, New York, the book also profiles seven weedy plants Irons encountered while working there. Ranging from Pokeweed (pocoon/pèkòn/Phytolacca Americana) to Japanese Knotweed (Hǔzhàng/虎杖/Reynoutria japonica) these plants–whether native or migrant–root on “manufactured land” lying in the Mahicanituck/Hudson River’s once and future flood plain. Short essays on the naturalcultural lives of each plant are accompanied by paint swatches, photographs, and identification and harvesting tips.