Gabriella Hegyes: Printing from the Land (A)

Part 1:

This two-day workshop in the Blue Mountains was an opportunity for me to print in completely different ways to what I have experienced so far.

Clay Printing:

Starting with a block of potters clay each we rolled it out and pressed items into the surface.

By lightly rolling on acrylic paints we were able to cover the surface without destroying the design.  Here’s my block and a couple of prints:

Due to the delicate nature of the indented clay, and the risk of destroying the design, we printed on fine tissue paper or calico.  Both took the images well.

Although we had collected twigs, leaves and plant material I decided to use a bunch of items from my stash instead.

They feel to me like single layer ‘collages’ and I really like the effect.  The hard-edged items; scissors, chain and cogs – produce a sharp print which contrasts well with the more flowing areas of crocheted doily and open-weave sinamay.

The clay plate was later cast in plaster, creating an image in reverse relief.

The plaster now becomes an artwork in its own right and can be coloured, varnished, waxed, etc.

Plant Dyeing:

Using an aluminium pot with plenty of plant material and water we brought our ‘stew’ to the boil and let it simmer for around 45 minutes whilst we prepared our parcels for dyeing.

We layered fabrics and paper with a lot of trapped leaves and twigs, and some rusty metal pieces.  The length was then tightly rolled, tied and wrapped in a final gauze layer to stop anything falling out.

I’ve done natural dyeing quite a lot but never with this quantity of material encased.  The results should have been excellent but for a couple of errors.  There were 15 of us and each put around 6 rusty pieces into our parcels, way too much iron mordant – guaranteed to give us very, very dark results.  In addition, the parcels were boiled for too long, around 2.5 hours – 45 minutes would have done it.

Note: The class after mine made the relevant corrections and their results were terrific, so I can have a go at this technique at home now.

Despite our mistakes, my samples aren’t bad, a bit dark but passable, and I learned what to do next time.

You can see that the mordant (rust) just took over and obliterated any oranges and greens that should have come through.  Never mind, there’s always another time.

Wax rubbing:

We took some lightweight paper, rubbed it on a tree with a coloured wax crayon and then flooded the paper with inks.

We then did the same thing using a clear candle rubbing.

I thought I heard Gabriella say that we should iron this last sample onto clean paper to remove the wax and see the effects left behind.  So I’ve just done that.

Oops, ruined it!  Now I’ve just got waxy splodges all over it.  As I understood it, the wax is supposed to dissolve into the paper you are ironing it onto and leave you with clean marks.  Ummm….. not in my case.  I should have just scraped the wax off while it was hard.

OK, that’s it for now.  Look out for my next post with more techniques.

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Teaching: Felting for students

I had a HUGE day yesterday.  I was engaged to teach 41 year 9, 10 and 11 girls how to felt.  I’ve done it twice before and know how enthusiastic (and boisterous) the girls are.  I love doing it because it’s impossible to guess what results we will see at the end of the day.  I teach the basics, I give them some general subject ideas and off they go and design their own project.

Firstly I had to create my own sample as a size and colour guide.  I made a simple landscape with a flower in the foreground.

Above: Close-up of formed, but unfelted, flower head and the whole laid-out piece before wetting down.

Above: Wet fibre ready for felting.  Close-up of flower head and finished piece.

My flowers have disappeared into the background a bit so I’m now adding some hand-stitching to bring them back to life.

The girls had a great time, working in groups and encouraging each other they started by dry felting some components before adding them to their backgrounds.

Just look at what came out at the end of the day:

And a close-up of some of the pieces:

I’d like to thank the school for asking me to share my skills with the girls and I’d like to thank the teachers who attended and helped: Debbie, Julie, Maria and Renata.  It was super fun!

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Printing: Collagraphs

A couple of years ago I did an amazing collagraph workshop with Jet James.  Read more about it and see some of my prints here.

Time has passed and I’ve done many more things since then but I’ve always had Jet in mind.  I love his own artworks, I love the techniques he taught us and I still love the print plate I produced in the workshop.

Yesterday it was time to get it back out and reprint it.

My preference, for my own practice, has always been stylization.  I don’t have either the interest or skill to produce realism in my work.  Simplification, minimalism and the general idea of the subject is where my hand and mind tend to go.  Yes, I’ve spent many, many an hour fighting this and trying to produce work in other forms but all that happens is that I create a brain-block.

So my goal yesterday was to reprint this foamex collagraph plate, keeping the mood I previously created but adding to the colour range.  I chose Pthalo Blue and Sepia.

So, two quite reasonable prints, each with different good and not-so-good points.

Left hand print: The colour balance isn’t great, too much blue which I should have kept towards the upper part.  Great highlights on the lower flowers and also the slight highlighted areas on the vase tops has come out well.  I need to improve on that next time.

The vigorous rubbing back on the lower section, created by crumpled and slashed masking tape, has produced really excellent texture.

Right hand print: Much better colour placement.  Slight error along the top edge where the ink isn’t evenly spread, but not significant in the overall piece.  Not enough rubbing back on the lower masking tape area.  Overall, a nice clean image but with a lack of highlights.  I wonder how additional hand-colouring on this might work?

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Workshop: Liz Powell mixed media

I’ve been lacking in inspiration and drive recently so this workshop came at the right time.  Messing around with a group of like-minded people, using products we all own but aren’t sure what to do with, seemed like it would be fun and it was.  Note: You will see from my samples I’m currently in a ‘brown’ mood!

Liz has many skills and teaches a variety of workshops.  In a few weeks I’ll be doing some bookmaking with her but yesterday was all about experimentation, exploring the effects of layering products, wiping back, adding more, adding resists, buffing surfaces and creating textures.  As I love bookmaking I’m interested in making fabulous unique covers for my books so was eager to see how Liz integrates lots of both physical and colour layers to result in abstract unified designs.


We started by looking at what effects can be produced on kitchen foil using gesso, oil sticks, boot polish, shellac and other colouring agents.  Powders and mediums were mixed and brushed on, cloths were used to buff and blend.

The colours I used adhered to the foil and knocked back the brilliance of the silver.  Crumpling enables colour to be pushed into the crevasses or lightly applied to the peaks.


Using a base of crumpled yellow Unryu paper I added some gesso, various oil based and water mixed products.  Good start but hated the white gesso resist area.  I added some washi paper and tissue over the surface then continued to build up colour layers adding high/low lights where appropriate.  I decided I liked the crumple effect and stayed with it.


Here I used an old sewing pattern as my base, colouring and layering, adding some additional collage and unifying with shellac and oil stick highlights.


This was very thin tissue crumpled and applied to a base with glue stick instead of PVA as the previous samples.  It worked well and had no leakage through the tissue, which happens with glue.

This piece isn’t finished yet as the collaged leaf and elephant paper strip need more integration with the base.

I like the idea of applying more thin paper layers over the surface and then further colour layers.  The collage pieces then disappear into the overall piece and unify better.


Above is some Japanese printed rice paper which has been coloured.  I prefer it before the shellac was added, making it too golden.

We also played with a bit of image transfer using block printing inks.

The Derivan block printing inks are very sticky.  They roll out well and adhere nicely to flattened natural objects such as leaves.

So what’s next? Well I have a textural background semi-prepared (below) and am going to colour the foil before adding more layers.  However, this time I’m staying away from the shellac which gives the golden surface and trying for something completely different.

Let’s see what I can come out with and how well I can disguise the original colour base.  I might even be able to use it as one of my book covers in the next bookmaking workshop.

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Tree theme: Collaging plant fibre

scp-collage-1Working with my semi prepared swiss cheese plant (Monstera Deliciosa) fibre that I prepared here and here I started shaping and mixing the fibre with some cardamom pulp (kindly donated to me by another paper maker, Jill).

Using an old and stained piece of handmade paper by the late Marie Waterhouse – just perfect for this sample – I formed the basis of a tree shape.

Whilst only around A5 size it’s a good start on another technique and has taught me how to create designs using plant material, adhering it on to pre-made and dried paper.  In the past I’ve only worked wet-on-wet.  To help the paper attract the collage I first washed it lightly with water and then applied a heavily diluted glue/water mix to the tree shape.

Whilst this fibre is murderous to pulp (severely testing the motor of my blender!) it has worked brilliantly as a collage – using fibre prior to pulping, which has only been boiled as per my previous posts regarding this plant fibre – and it’s created very good tree bark texture.

Next step in this technique is to create a bigger sample with the addition of some super lightweight plant fibre paper as the tree canopy.

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Tree theme: Collagraph Plate 1

Recently I spent a day photographing trees and plants in the botanic gardens.  I’m contributing to an exhibition to be hosted in the gardens in June and wanted to get a feel for the area.  Although I’ve spent many years attracted to the textures, colours and patterns of different terrain, on this occasion I looked at the same aspects but in relation to plants and trees.

My start point for this trial collagraph was this photo:

bl-plate1aSuch a lovely tree trunk: ringed, with a thin split bark lower portion becoming smooth as you move up the length.

bl-plate1bThe base of the plate is made from mountboard.  An open-weave scrim was cut and torn to create an uneven surface and was stuck to the board.  Modelling paste was applied to create the impression of the rings.  Using a scalpel I carefully cut away areas from the board to create the plant fronds in the background.

An initial print proof was taken, with only the tree itself being inked up.

At this point I was just trialling the colours I would use to bring the tree to life and I was interested in the blank embossing effects from the fronds.

bl-plate1cAbove Left: not enough ink but great surrounding embossing. Middle: ink coverage better but a bit spotty. Right: good coverage with the darker areas towards the edging of the tree giving it a sense of depth and ’roundness’.

bl-plate1dNext I worked on the front fronds, in anticipation of colouring the background.  I’d collected some dried grasses.

Even though I’d pressed the fronds they really weren’t flat, so I inked up some acetate, laid the plant material on and ran it through the press with some spare paper.  A great way of getting ink smoothly onto the surface of things like this, and you can sometimes get an interesting print from the ‘waste’ acetate plate.
The grasses were then ready to be laid over the original print plate and printed in one hit.

bl-plate1eAbove is the waste print made from the above process.  OK, not an artwork but then I was only trying to get ink evenly on the grasses.  Great colour though!  I looked at the remaining ink on the acetate and liked what I saw.  so I took prints of that as well.

bl-plate1fThey’ll be great with some overprinting later on.  However, I digress.  The final prints:

bl-plate1gA good day in the studio and all feeding my brain with ideas for the main project, along with the tea-bag work over the last couple of weeks.

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Paper making & staining: Progress

Well, quite a few days have passed whilst I’ve been playing with teabag staining sheets of my own hand-made paper to use for chine collé and collaging.  As I previously wrote, some staining has been on flat paper and other trials were on crumpled or semi-pleated paper.  All have given some terrific results.

First up, lightweight (around 45gsm) white handmade paper stained flat.  This tended to get very soaked and delicate so after the first time I put kitchen hand towel on top (below right hand picture) to mop up some of the excess and used two layers of the handmade paper together.

tb8This has given some lovely subtle colour changes across the surface with a few darker lines where the teabags soaked to a certain point and then dried with an outline.

Next, let’s look at the same weight paper crumpled in one direction (sort of concertina look).

tb9Even though the paper was beautiful and soft when flat as soon as I started to crumple it to put the teabags on top it started to crack.  You can see on the left where there are small areas broken off.  When fully stained and dried (and dragged around the garden once in my dog’s mouth because I accidentally dropped it on the floor!) I carefully opened the sheets out and ironed them.

I’d hoped to get more of a spider web effect where the tea soaked into the peaks where each bag sat, but that hasn’t been the case unfortunately.  Still a good result and I feel that this would be better with a commercial paper where there is ‘size’ and the pages won’t split.  However, that’s not a test for this time because the whole point is that I’m using my own recycled paper.

Finally to a little thicker handmade paper.  This white recycled mountboard paper is around 70-80gsm.  So fairly robust.  I crumpled.

tb10Actually, I loved it stained and crumpled (which gave me another idea).  I slowly opened it up and could see the first signs of fantastic colour gradations and patterning.  On the right you can see the final ironed piece.

tea-stained-tree-collageSo what’s the aim of this experimentation? 

I’m currently looking at printing and collaging trees and some of the plants I recently photographed during a trip to the botanic gardens.  I think my tea stained paper is working well towards a tree bark collage.

Just for fun I zoomed in on my photo of the ironed paper and ‘cut out’ some tree shapes.  I played with the density of colour and size and was immediately struck by the simplicity, but effectiveness, of this 2 layer computer generated outcome.

So it’s been a worthwhile couple of weeks looking at this and working with the teabags and my paper.  Now it’s time to start looking at some actual printmaking and seeing how this concept can be incorporated.

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