I find such beauty in Chinese calligraphy and Japanese sumi-e, and not just aesthetically but in its meditative qualities. But ink practises require ink, and although I know that traditional inks are made with animal glues, there's very seldom any information on whether the product right now is in fact using the original recipe or modern synthetics. Even art supply sites are a little vague when it comes to ingredients and when they do specify, somehow I always manage to find information elsewhere that plants doubt. So, after much too much time searching for something I would want to use, I decided I might as well just make my own. And this is what I do:
I take some leftover charcoal from the grill (because I'm too frugal to buy the ready made pigments) and grind it down in a mortar (if I had a coffee grinder, I'd use that). Because my mortar is a wooden one, I switch to a flat stone version (actually the kind used for inksticks) once the pieces are a more managable size, to get the charcoal pigments as fine as possible.
I then add some gum arabica, which is the plant based version of the traditional animal glue used to bind the pigment, and some distilled water.
Don't use too much binder, as it might make the ink brittle; you only need enough to keep the whole thing together.
Also, it's easier to add a little water at a time, assessing the consistency as you go.
Another interesting thing about making your own inks is that you can change the texture to your own tastes. What I like to do is to either add pigment to the finished ink and let it float there, or mix the charcoal powder in a bowl together with the binder and water - not using the mortar for the final mixing. What I get then is a lovely, clear wash with a dusting of very dark pigments running through it. Now, some of these experiments won't last very long but, for me, who don't sell my original pieces, it works great for adding interesting textures.