Friday, 27 March 2015

Taking a small step from printing...

I had a lovely day with Maz recently, dyeing some bits and pieces. Nothing particularly remarkable - this was bib-and-braces dyeing, stuff that's going to have something more interesting happening to it. But in the interest of process...

I dyed some cotton yarn I bought at an op shop recently. Unlike most op shop finds, it was labelled, Twilleys of Stamford, and there were 50g two balls, more than enough to do something interesting with. I often rescue interesting cotton yarns from op shops as I have a long term plan to weave something with them, once they're dyed.

It's turned out rather more... orange... than I expected, considering how much pink it had. But it will be wonderful woven with another couple of colours.

Then I did a whole lot of cotton fat quarters and slightly smaller pieces, thinking I will probably print on them.

The smaller pieces will either get used for testing prints and/or cut apart for fabric packs or used in a quilt I'm currently cutting from my dyed fabric scraps.
Finally, I dyed a couple of silk habotai scarves, which were kept pale because I definitely over-dye or over-print them.
Basically, a useful day rather than a terribly creative one, though space dyeing is always fun!

Monday, 9 March 2015

A little bit of printing does you good #3

I've also had a play day with Claire recently. Honestly, my life is all play, play, play.. (I wish).
We decided to work with printing inks using stamps and blocks. I had my Permaset collection; Claire brought Derivan printing inks.

Our  main interest was trying our compressed sponge to make stamps, because we'd both bought some, literally, years ago and had never done anything with it. Basically, it comes like a piece of thick cardboard, so you can cut it with scissors or a craft knife. A craft knife feels weird as the medium is a bit bumpy, but it worked OK.

I stayed with trees, because these play days may as well contribute to something I'm meant to be doing! I'm always interested in positive-negative effects, so I cut out my stamp in a way I hoped would allow me to play with that. Well, dummy, cutting the shape from one end  means the edges will move around... Note to self, make sure the outer shape has four solid sides. I don't think I'd want to cut anything really intricate - my tree centre is a bit unstable and needs care when printing.

This is how the stamp looked once it had been expanded in water. That is such a fun process - the cardboard-like material just miraculously grows into a sponge. I could watch that all day.

We dried the sponges out as best we could and off I went, stamping my basic shape first with blue and then adding olive green. This was just to see how to printed and how dry it needed to be.

You can see the sponge has that lovely bubbly texture of a kitchen sponge. When it was a bit wet, it tended to push the ink around, so you lose the texture, as you can see on the right hand side. But I think it does need to be a bit damp to print well.

And here's a negative version, stamping with the surround and the centre. I blended the colour into layers when I put the colour on the stamp.

Then I tried using all three, and this is where the way the background moved around was a problem. I'm not sure it's a medium that works for this anyway, as there's too much of the same texture. I didn't bother adding the tree centre.

 Just a trio of the three kinds of print...

I noticed that you tend to get more repeat prints from the sponge than from other media, each print getting paler and paler. That's probably because the sponge is wet, so the print media doesn't get trapped in it as much. So I decided to play with this process to try to get some depth.
It works OK, clearer in the flesh than in a photo. Just fun to try, really.

Last of all, I made a print with Maz's stamp again, to contrast the printing inks with the thickened dye. This one's on cotton quilters muslin.
You can see how much sharper the print is. I'm going to try making the dye thicker, to see how that affects the process... sometime! 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

A little bit of printing does you good #2

My second lot of printing was a play day with my friend Maz. We decided to do some screen printing with thickened dye, which is something I want to do a lot more of. I've done quite a bit of breakdown printing, which is making patterns with thickened dye on the screen and then printing it with other thickened dye or the thickener, so the pattern slowly breaks down. But I haven't used thickened dye in the same was as I'd use printing inks. Well, it's not the same way, because the consistency is different and the way the colours interact is more like over dyeing. Plenty of opportunity to make a mess..

Before our play day, I decided to  experiment with a product that my friend Kirry gave me. It's called Mask-Ease and you can see it here, as well as a stack of other places, including You Tube demonstrations. Basically, it's a system for putting a solid, reusable resist on a silk screen, without losing those pesky little bits or having to wash the screen for hours to remove it. I kept my design simple on purpose, because my paws don't always behave as they ought and part of the experiment was to see whether this process suited me.  The yellow medium is very soft but I still found cutting the stencil slightly challenging and it took me several sessions. But if you have paws that behave properly, it would be a breeze!

And transferring the image, which had those little fiddly bits was just fantastically easy. The whole process is way easier than most other methods, so I'll certainly use this when I want to print with little fiddly details.

Here's what the Mask-Ease looks like on the screen. (This was actually taken after printing, hence the green tinge to the screen from the dye). The design is repeat in both directions, so I can use it on a large piece of cloth.

First, I tried the screen on paper. Printing with thickened dye on paper is never as sharp, as with printing inks or other media, but I wanted to see what the design looked like.                                                                It's a stronger line that I'd usually use but it looks much pretty much as I expected, since I was keeping the design simple. The blurriness is just from the dye pooling on the cartridge paper, as it's such a wet medium.
OK on to printing fabric. Part of the point of this play day for me was to explore how thickened dyes differ from printing inks. I printed with yellow mixed with the blue from the earlier print. I didn't tape or pin the fabric firmly, as I wanted to break up those areas of strong colour.
OK, that worked. But the areas of white bugged me, so I overprinted with yellow using another screen I created back here. It broke up the white but in retrospect, yellow wasn't a good colour to use. That's fine, that's what this is all about...
This will have a whole lot more happening to it, if it's going to be a useful piece of cloth. But then again it may just be a sample to experiment on..

Time was passing all too fast and I wanted to try out my other screen.

I made this one the night before, in front of the TV, using my wax screen resist from Batik Oetoro and a whole lot of bits and pieces like paper doilies, cotton reels, wooden craft shapes and the brush I keep for wax resist. Basically, I just stamped and painted around shapes and filled in with texture, all over the surface of the screen. It was more like we do for breakdown printing, but with the wax resist. Fun!

My first print as designed to be overprinted later, once it was dry, so I printed in yellow.
It's lovely and sharp, so you can really see how the screen looked, but it's fairly pale, of course.
For my second print, I added red to half the screen and allowed it to mix randomly with the yellow on the other half. I wanted to see how the colours blended, as this screen would also work for a larger piece of cloth with multiple repeats. I didn't allow myself to get distracted into printing yards of cloth though..
The screen was rather wet, by this stage, which makes me feel we need to thicken the medium rather more for this kind of printing. So I did two pulls to dry it out a bit.
They turned out as quite good prints too.
For my last experiment, I wanted to see what happens if you print wet on wet. You never do this with printing inks, but we've done it with breakdown printing and it goes back to my attempts to understand how dyed colours overlay each other and whether wet on wet is different to over dyeing later, after the first print has batched and been rinsed. First I printed in yellow, so it looked very much like the yellow print above. Then immediately, I moved the screen about 1cm offset and printed in orange. Then I turned the screen 180 degrees and printed in a magenta purple colour.
The colours interacted in interesting ways. Where the yellow and orange met, the yellow acted almost as a resist to the orange, pushing it out to the edges. When I printed with the purple, it turned brown in some places, as I expected, especially where the lines of colour were fine. But the orange and yellow also acted as a resist to the purple in places.While sometimes, the warm colours pushed the purple to the edge of the shape,in others, the purple actually over dyed the yellow. Frankly, it leaves me scratching my head (in a delighted kind of way). I've experienced this before with breakdown printing, with some colours resisting others, but that's such a harum scarum kind of printing process, it's hard to work out which colour is doing what!
As experiments go, it was a useful process and will be more so when I overprint the yellow piece and see how that differs. I can see that this kind of printing will be fabulous on my scarves and on large scale cloth prints. But I'm disappointed to see that, unless I get a whole lot better at predicting the interactions, I'm pretty much going to have to stick to printing inks on fabric, when I want a distinct outline in my colour layers and a lot of control.
Last of all, just for fun.. Maz brought along various print blocks and linocuts. She inherited this one from Mary Beeston (there's some pretty basic info here but just Google her) and it has seen hard use in its time.
It was one of three similar linocuts that belonged to Mary. I'm not sure what she did with them - images of her work are few and  far between on the net - but it was fun to print from one of her blocks.
Maz also brought along a tree stamp, because the girls from Fibrecircle are working on the theme of Trees in our sketchbooks this year. I used it to stamp some trees onto a paper background I'd created when we were drying off the second screen.
OK, that's going in the sketchbook!

Friday, 6 March 2015

A little bit of printing does you good #1

I've been printing things lately and having a ball, as usual.

Printing is my first love. It's not the first creative thing I learnt how to do. That honour goes to knitting, which I learnt to do at age 7 (remember these squares that I blogged about back here?), closely followed by hand embroidery. I did my first printing at high school and I loved it. Unfortunately, I had an art teacher who regarded printmaking as a lesser form of art and you were nothing if you couldn't draw or paint. That doesn't mean he actually taught us anything about drawing or painting... but I digress.

I spent a lot of time as a young mum screen printing things, although I didn't have much money to spend on art stuff back then. Then, after a break when I was studying, I moved into quilting. If you are one of the three people who follow my blog, you'll have noticed that printmaking of various kinds has been slowly creeping back.

My first printing this year was simple intaglio, something I've wanted to try for a long time. Intaglio is a process more often used in engraving or etching. Rather than inking the printing surface, you want to get ink down inside the hollows of your printing surface. So printing involves getting your paper or fabric down into those hollows, which, on paper at least, gives a sort of embossed effect as well. I'd read about a two-colour method, in which you put your first colour down into the hollows of the printing surface and then add a second colour to the part you'd normally print from with stamps or similar.

I used a stamp I'd made a while back, by drawing on a polystyrene meat tray with biro. So easy! I figured if it worked this this very shallow stamp, it would work with any of the surfaces I print from. Fibrecircle is currently working on the theme of Trees ,so I was killing two birds with one stone.

I used acrylic paint, since I was working on cartridge paper and just mucking about, and hey, I had them out anyway for something else. My first prints were on dry paper.

I painted the stamp with a sponge brush and red acrylic paint, and then wiped the surface clean with a soft rag. The only red was down in the hollows. Then I painted yellow acrylic paint over the top, trying to stay away from the hollows. I laid the paper over the top and used my baren and my fingers to work it down into the hollows.

Obviously, there was some mixing of colours, especially in the first print. The second print was more successful. Then I tried diluting the yellow paint, so it was runnier that the red. Wow! The colour is quite pale but the effect is more like I was imagining.

The second set of prints were on damp paper. I expected better results, because it's much easier to get the paper down into the hollows. And yes, I got clearer results.

The first image was using paint with the same viscosity. The second has the runnier yellow paint, and there's a lot less colour mixing.

I think diluting the second colour less would still be effective and I'd get stronger colour.

I want to try this now with other media. I'm playing around a lot with thickened dye, because I love the way it goes onto fabric and I'm enjoying the challenge of working with transparent media. I've done that a lot with paint, but my past screen printing has mostly used opaque media when colours were likely to interact.

This was just a little moment of playing away from the many things I *should*be doing. My later printmaking has been a little more on task.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Some other 2014 stuff

I'll come back to Africa in a bit. Here are some things I've done in 2014 that haven't made it to the blog.

Fibrecircle had a Birthstones challenge in 2014. The idea was to build up a resource that might be useful later on. I'm not sure it's going to work like that for me but it was a useful discipline, making pages on a specific theme all year.

I didn't want my book to be all about geology or folk myth, so each month I looked for a story about the stone. Sometimes it was a culture or time period in which the stone was important, which took me down some interesting byways!

My pages about garnet were mostly geological, but I found lots of fantastic examples of Roman garnet and gold jewellery.

My pages about amethyst also began with geology, but then I looked at all those websites that tell us the significance of birthstones. Amethyst was particularly valuable in many, often conflicting ways! I also found some beautiful amethyst amulets from ancient Egypt.

Bloodstone was commonly used for stone axes in Chalcolithic sites in Europe.
When I came to diamond, I was interested in the many different way of cutting them. There are also so many famous diamonds. I focused on two, the Koh-i-noor and the Regent Diamond, both of which had a bloody past that reflects the history of the times and the great value placed on diamonds.


The story I found about emeralds was fascinating. It led me via the Romans, especially Caligula, to an emerald mine in Egypt near the Red Sea. In turn, I learnt about a French explorer called Frederic Cailliaud, whose amazing discoveries in the region were dismissed as fantasies until recently, when his claims have been confirmed by archaeology. I also investigated who wore the emeralds that were excavated from the Egyptian mines.

Agate was often used for bijoux like snuffboxes, cuff links and small vessels, but throughout history, it was also used for administrative and personal seals. I found some images of ancient seals and then used this as the springboard to create my own seal.

My Ruby pages documented a group challenge to create a Ruby artwork. I made a small book, which I've already talked about here, here and here.
I had a choice with this month so I just had to choose sardonyx, probably the birthstone of the sarcastic. I found out all about cameos, which frequently use the layers of the stone to create wonderful colour effects. 

In September, I found that sapphires were often used for brooches. I became interested in medieval amuletic brooches, a subgroup of the ubiquitous cloak brooch found across all levels of society. These brooches were from the wealthier classes and often had magical or mystical meanings. These symbols were drawn from the medieval lapidaries, which explained the "scientific", "magical" and "symbolic" meanings of gems. Most of these lapidaries are not more, but their contents have been referred to in later texts.

When I came to opals, the most interesting aspect for me was opalised bones found in Australian opal mines. Lots of different fossils have been discovered but the most amazing was the Addyman Plesiosaur.  The remains of this 6.5m long creature are on display in the South Australian Museum.

 Topaz came into its own in the 18th century. I was fascinated by the "stomacher" or "devant de corsage", a triangular brooch on the chest of a dress, ending in a point on the stomach. The other  great user of topaz was Faberge and I just had to record his little piece of two cockatoos. He apparently kept one as a pet himself.
 Turquoise was the last stone of the year. Like diamond, it was used throughout history, famously in North and South American cultures but also in Europe, imported from Iran via Turkey (hence the name). A few years ago I made a small work based on the mosque at Isfahan with it's beautiful turquoise tiles, so I included an image. I also found examples of religious and later secular jewellery in Europe, from the 17th century onwards.
I really enjoyed the process of working so systematically in my journal, and I certainly learnt about a whole lot of different things!