Here’s a wee sneaky peek at the prints I made during print week. They need a good press, and the raggedy edges need trimmed off, and I need to make header cards, and unfortunately a few of my prints went a bit splodgy, but if we forget all that I’m actually quite happy with them. To begin with, I was very tentative with my prints. I used a lot of similar colours/tones, and I was very delicate with my placement of the screen, or paper stencils, or whatever I was using. Eventually I got over that, and started to really embrace the idea of layering. That’s what this week was about – masking and layering – so I used a lot of paper stencils based on shapes from my sketchbook, and a lot of exciting colours, to hopefully produce some interesting overprints. On Thursday we had a little demonstration on using discharge paste, which lifts the dye back out of the fabric, and gives some really interesting effects because it reacts differently depending on the colour it covers. You can see some of the discharge paste’s effects in the blue sample, and the pinky-purpley one too. I enjoyed this week very much!
It’s print week! I’ve been really looking forward to print week, because I’ve always been fascinated by screen printing and for a long time I’ve wanted to learn how to do it. What we’re doing it quite far removed from what I used to think when I thought of screen printing – there are no pretty pictures printed onto cushion covers here! We’ve had to pick a texture from our sketchbooks to transfer to a screen; brush marks, splash marks, swishy lines – anything that’s come up in our sketchbooks from drawing, mark-making, collage, whatever! I made a screen covered in hand-drawn lines/stripes, based on the same sketchbook page I used as the basis for my mixed media work last week. Making screens is really exciting – you get to use the massive UV light exposure unit, and the pressure hose, and there’s a wee bit of apprehension as to whether it’ll actually turn out properly, or whether it’ll actually make nice prints. As it stands, though, I’m quite happy with my screen!
Our prints, along with teaching us about printing techniques, are an exercise in layering and masking. At first, I was trying to be very considered with my colours and the placements of my screen and paper stencils, but really I think I was just a bit intimidated to try anything “outrageous”. As my confidence has grown a bit with the printing process, I’ve begun to use a lot more, brighter colours, and do a bit more interesting (hopefully!) layering. I’ve decided that, well, what can really go wrong? Print some yellow, red, blue, see what happens. If it really looks awful, either put more on top, or tomorrow we’re learning about using discharge paste to remove the dye from the fabric. And if it’s really, really horrible and unfixable, well it’s only a little piece of silk – you can buy more!
This morning I mixed up a couple of dye pastes, so I’m looking forward to using those tomorrow, and seeing if my calculating and measuring skills are really as reliable as I assumed they were at the time.
Also, this week, I’ve spent over £5 on masking tape. Scandal! Must learn to use the stuff more economically.
It’s mixed media week! This means that I’m mostly concentrating on fabric and embellishment. Our brief is based on repetition, and I’ve mostly been looking at stripes after choosing a couple of sketchbook pages (here and here) where I used a lot of simple lines in my drawings. The whole point of this week is to keep things as simple as possible, and there’s not much simpler than lines!
The most exciting new thing I’ve tried is embossing fabric using a heat press. It’s pretty cool. I raided the college shop for anything that might make a nice line, and came away with some paper straws, matchsticks, and corrugated card, and I also liberated some paper yarns from the yarn store.
I laid out my fabric (in this case some rather expensive blanket wool – £22 per metre!) and placed my corrugated card shapes and a couple of matchsticks on top to form some stripes.
I set the heat press to sit at 180 degrees for 30 seconds. Unfortunately I don’t have a decent picture of the embossed fabric – it’s surprisingly difficult to photograph because the texture can be very subtle. Hopefully once the week is over I can photograph my finished samples and show them off.
Rather than waste my flattened-by-the-heat-press paper straws, I decided to use them in a sample, and I really liked the effect that I got from stitching them to felt.
Today, I embarked on a bit of a dyeing adventure. I wanted to dye some of my blanket wool orange, because of the sketchbook page I mentioned earlier, so I mixed up a bath of acid dye using a mixture of “Golden Yellow” and “Bright Blood Red”. On a bit of a whim I decided to throw in a couple of scraps of cotton, and a small piece of viscose felt tied up with fishing line in a vague attempt at shibori. I knew the cottons and felt wouldn’t take the dye well because acid dye is the wrong type for those fibres, but I kind of just wanted to see what would happen. I’m glad I threw them in, because now I understand better how acid dye works on a selection of fibres (not well at all unless it’s wool or silk).
I felt much more comfortable mixing dye today than I did on Monday. There was the initial mind blank when faced with having to calculate percentages and things, but I think I got all my numbers correct. Well, my dye started out looking very wishy-washy, so I measured out more of each dye colour and threw it in, and my blanket wool turned out almost exactly the shade I wanted, which sounds close enough to success for me!
And the week isn’t even over yet!
After a print workshop with our technician Norrie this morning where we learned about making printing screens by masking and stencilling (which is exciting in and of itself!), one of the pieces of homework we were given (is it still homework if you can’t take it home to do?) was to mix up a dye paste on our own, without being supervised. We were shown last week how to mix up a dye bath, and the procedure for mixing a print paste is essentially the same, just with a couple of different ingredients. Vanessa and I paired up to do this this afternoon, after our D’Arcy Thompson museum tour fell through, so that we could just get the task out of the way, really – we didn’t really see the point in leaving it for days, when the idea was fresh in our minds and we were already in ‘self-directed study’ time. Also, I trusted Vanessa to keep me right, which she did! In the dye lab I was very overwhelmed to start with – I got a bit confused about what we were doing, I think because I was forgetting that the dyes we mixed last time were something completely different to what we were meant to be doing this time. After spending a few minutes looking over the very helpful (if mildly confusing when you don’t know where to look) work sheets on the wall, we asked Norrie for a little bit of help, and he very nicely reassured us that we were looking in the right place, and things would probably go perfectly well if we just followed the instructions. And they did! Or maybe I should wait until we try printing with the stuff before I congratulate myself…
First, we measured our dye. Norrie is very sneaky, and asked us to mix 400g instead of 100g (the default on the ingredients lists), which meant we had to do some sums. Nothing difficult, thankfully! Looking for a little danger, we chose a mix with three dyes instead of just two, although we stuck with a 3% strength (3% makes the full shade, so no matter how much more dye you add, the colour won’t get any stronger) to save from having to do more sums!
We added some urea (yes, it is what you think it is), ammonium sulphate, Glyezin BC, boiling water, and indalca, which all sound very scientific, but essentially what these things do is help the dye powder to dissolve, or help carry the pigment, or help thicken the mixture, or possibly a bit of all three (I’m not quite up on all the details yet!).
In the end, we produced a nice wee tub of a kind of foresty-greeny sort of dye. Hopefully that’s the colour that’s supposed to appear from this mixture! I can’t wait to print with it and see how it all turns out.