Workshop: The Mono Printed Brushmark

Experimental Printing Techniques

Vivien Haley Agate

Vivien Haley, Agate

I’ve mixed feelings about this one day class I attended yesterday.  The finished works shown by the tutor, Vivien Haley, were spectacular, beautiful colour schemes, innovative patterning and quality outcomes.

Should I have felt a little put-out that the samples she brought along were actually digitally printed rather than hand printed, when she was teaching us a hand printing class?  Probably not, but I did.  To be fair, she did have 2 gorgeous scarves that she had hand printed but her focus is firmly in the realms of digital printing.

Vivien Haley Fan Coral

Vivien Haley, Fan Coral

Vivien Haley Seven Fishes

Vivien Haley, Seven Fishes

In her defense I should add that she isn’t just playing at designing and producing a few lovely pieces, teaching from time to time and considering her talents as a ‘serious hobby’.  No, she is trying to eke out a modest living and endeavouring to promote her name and art style by selling on-line and through art shows/expos.  Therefore she needs to produce a quantity of quality, hard-wearing, desirable items in a range of colourways and digital printing is the way to achieve that.

When designing, she primarily concentrates on mark making and shape making.  Realism isn’t her thing.

She uses cut wood, cardboard, old x-ray film, plant material and whatever other fairly flat items she comes across.  She works shapes and patterns with acrylic paint on cartridge paper and later scans them into a computer.  Components are isolated, repeated, resized, re-coloured, reoriented and regrouped to form a unique unified whole.

Obviously the majority of her process was well outside the scope of the class, so we concentrated on making marks and patterns on paper which, frankly, I could have done equally as effectively at home or with friends.  However, it was a day out and I spent some dedicated hours mucking around with paint and paper.

Vivien demonstrating with wood and plastic transfer sheets

Vivien demonstrating with wood and plastic transfer sheets

Drawing on painted cardboard, printing plant matter, simple cut shapes.

Drawing on painted cardboard, printing plant matter, simple cut shapes.

A few of my samples:

VH-3Left to right: 1) paint transfer from glass, with a netting resist. The piece was relaid a second time slightly moved to create the ‘broken line’ effect. 2) Cardboard shapes, painted and used as stamps. Gauging the amount of paint required to create brush marks. 3) Repeated lino stamp I previously made with a cardboard cutout.

VH-4Left: A range of cardboard stamps & repeated plant material. Right: a bigger, less dense version of image number 3 above, with a more definite focal point of interest.

VH-5Here I repeatedly used the same wood block to print, alternating between 2 brushes – one with lighter brighter colours and the other with black or blue.  The brushes were never cleaned and the block was overlapped time after time, creating an integration of the various colours.

I think there is some scope to develop this type of printing/stenciling/stamping but I find it difficult to visualize unified outcomes (for me).  The idea of just messing around and making all sorts of patterns then selecting small sections and using the computer to formulate something workable from individual components could be interesting, but without the means to print out cloths myself it’s not somewhere I want to go at this stage.

Overall, a nice day, average teaching and techniques.  Something to keep at the back of my mind I guess.  You never know what you might want to do in the future.

Works by others in the class:


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Making denim paper: Stage 2

PPA-DP7Back at Primrose Park I liberated my pulped-denim vat, gave it a good stir and started making paper.

My aim was to produce some quality A3 sheets but it didn’t go too well.  My couching cloths were slightly too small so I borrowed from someone else.  What I didn’t realize is that the cloths make a huge difference to the paper result.

I use old sheeting cut up and hemmed as my cloths and I thought I borrowed similar ones but it turns out that mine have a slightly more open weave (possibly just more worn!) and this enables the air and water to pass through easily, so reducing the amount of air bubbles that become trapped when turning the paper out of the deckle onto the layered cloths.  Out of 10 attempts to turn out A3 sized sheets I only managed 2.

I decided to reduce my paper size to a slightly smaller square shape and return to my own cloths.PPA-DP8

No problems there and I was happy with a dozen sheets.  Here you can see the paper once I left it to dry – quite a lot lighter than the concentrated pulp in the tub.

Normally the pressed sheets are turned out onto boards and dried flat in the sun but as I live a distance away I bring them home pressed but still wet on the cloths and dry them on my spare bathroom floor.  They then go under my book press for a few days to flatten, ready for printing on.

With still over half a tub of pulp remaining I can see myself with a ton of blue paper in the future.  Perhaps adding some dye will be fun and increase the variety.

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Making denim paper: Stage 1

This was a strenuous, fun, NOISY day!  My first experience with transforming an old pair of jeans into paper.

PPA-DP1The jeans were cut up, all seams, studs and the zipper were removed.  The remainder was cut into postage stamp pieces and weighed.  450gms to turn into paper.

Now to meet the beater:

PPA-DP2It’s a monster machine, very noisy when in operation and apparently worth a small fortune.
Clockwise from left: 1) The prepared beater with water already in the channel.  The hanging hose is used for draining when the process is complete. 2) Ensuring the rotating struts are clean, ready to turn and grind the denim to pulp. 3) Once the beater is turned on the denim pieces are slowly added.  The handle to the left is wound to increase the water movement pressure and grinding process through the water wheel.  As the denim becomes softer and starts breaking down the resistance is increased and the denim disintegrates into smaller fibres.

PPA-DP3These photos were taken towards the beginning of the process and on the left you can clearly see the pile of denim squares being slowly pushed around the channel.  On the right …. well, what has happened here?  PPA-DP4

The jeans were given to me washed and rinsed.  I then washed them another 4 times with no soap to ensure I would avoid any soap suds.  Who would believe how much soap could still be in the fabric?  I spent the first beating hour constantly removing as much foam as I could.  In addition, colour was coming out of the fibres and I was anxious to avoid accidentally dyeing the floor, the mop or my clothes.  I ended up having to wash my sweatshirt part way through as it became spattered with blue dye.

PPA-DP5Clockwise from left: 1) Unclogging the wheel when there is a backlog of fibre trying to enter this area. 2) I removed some of the semi-pulped denim to add back at the end.  This will add some texture into the finished paper sheets. 3) The fully pulped denim (after 2 1/4 hours) ready to be removed from the beater, drained and stored.

PPA-DP6Once removed from the beater into multiple buckets I strained the pulp into one, with a small amount of water.  The courser semi-ground fibres were mixed back into this.  So I’ve now got a huge container, labelled (heaven help anyone pinching any of it after hours of work) and ready to form into lovely sheets of paper.

I’ll split my pulp into batches, form some paper sheets from this original colour then experiment with adding dyes to create a variety of papers.  I hope that by adding yellow I’ll get a decent green, I’d also like to attempt a darker blue.  I guess I’ll try some red and see what type of purple comes out but that’s not my preferred colour.  The next dilemma will be what colour to use when I print on it in the future.

The next stage will come in a couple of weeks when I get back to the Centre to create my paper.

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Soft ground etching: My first plate

For my first plate I decided to imitate what Matthew, the tutor, had taught us.  I have a bit of a habit of running away on my own and trying things that don’t necessarily work very easily, but as this is so new I’m trying something fairly straight forward first.

I prepared my plate to waxed stage as per my previous post.

Zinc-Etch-6My dried and pressed plant material was laid over the wax, the waste plastic was placed over this and it was run through the press.  Now came the hard part.  As much of my dried flower heads were very fragile they stuck to the wax and I spent a frustrating 25 minutes trying to locate very fine particles and removing them with tweezers.  You can clearly see some pieces of very delicate leaves still sticking to the plate on the bottom right.  I had to be painstaking with the removal or the etching would be ruined.

Zinc-Etch-7I finally got it into the acid bath.  After a 5  minute stint, followed by a further 3 minutes, it looked about ready.  I rinsed and then removed the excess wax.

Fingers crossed that I was careful enough with the tweezers and haven’t ruined the plate.  Hard to tell until the first print.

Zinc-Etch-8Having filed and smoothed the plate edges (so it wouldn’t tear my print paper) I proceeded to ink up, rubbing it into the etched areas, and then semi-wiping back the blank non-etched areas  My goal was to produce a print with sharp imagery and a faintly coloured background.  The first result, above right, came out quite well.  The paper is only cartridge proofing paper which had been quickly run through water and dabbed dry.  Obviously it’s crinkled but the idea is only to assess how well, or badly, I’ve inked the plate before moving to better paper.

Zinc-Etch-10Moving to BFK Reeves, soaked for 10-15 minutes before drying between towels, I took my first print.

I felt that my initial sample had too much of an overall blue look background so rubbed this one back significantly more.  Just look at that sharp, sharp, sharp imagery!!  Great start.

There’s a small edging problem.  Even though I rubbed away the ink from the filed edges it is still captured and is giving me an inked edge.  Not sure I always want that.  I refiled and smoothed (I’m hopeless with the abrasive file and the sandpaper) then re-inked, changing the colour.

Zinc-Etch-11Mixing a deep yellow with a touch of black gave me my favourite olive-green.  To this I added some of the original blue from the previous print.  The plant etched sections were printed with this mix whilst plain blue was applied lightly to the upper blank plate section.

I’m very pleased with this as the delicacy of the dried plants has been enhanced by this slightly softer colour scheme.

My colleague, at the printing station adjacent to mine, was using a brilliant full strength orange for her project and offered me some of her ink.  Zinc-Etch-12We hoped that by applying it over the remainder of the green mix I might come up with something resembling a dried corn colour.  Frankly I was doubtful because her ink was super bright and I was sure it would overpower the little grey/green left on the plate.

So the result is as shown on the left.  In real life it is a little more straw coloured than light green.  Photography is difficult sometimes.

So what shall I do with this plate from here?  It’s a lovely start but a bit plain on its own so I need to decide how to enhance the imagery, perhaps adding some layering and depth to the print.  I can also experiment with more than one colour to give more focal interest.

So here are my main choices:

  • Re-wax this plate and add additional components to it.  They could be etched for a longer time, giving better bite and more ink retention – so darkening those areas.  However, if I make a mistake the entire plate is wasted and I quite like this initial composition.
  • Make a new plate the same size and add different plant material to that.  These can then be printed together in either order, or independently.  I could continue etching more plates and widening the scope of my results.  The issue here is the cost.  Zinc is not cheap.
  • Make new plates from other materials to use as backgrounds to the zinc plate.  My stash of foamex board immediately comes to mind.  It’s inexpensive, easily etched, quickly cleaned and gives very good results.  That sounds like a plan.
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Soft & hard ground etching: Starting out

This is a new process to me involving etching into a zinc plate using 2 types of melted wax and an acid bath.

Zinc-Etch-1The protective covering was removed from the zinc plate, Brasso applied to the surface and the plate was vigorously cleaned several times, until it had a mirror surface.  Whiting and Cloudy Ammonia were mixed to a solution and used as a final clean and to remove any Brasso residue.  The plate was then placed on a hot-plate, heated to 90°.

Zinc-Etch-2Wax was rubbed partially over the plate and then a dedicated roller smoothed it out covering the entire surface.  The plate was removed from the heat, a final couple of rolls to even out the wax and it was allowed to cool.  A spare piece of plastic was roughly coated with wax, and the reason for this will become apparent soon.

Note: To this stage the process is the same whether opting for hard or soft ground etching, as long as the correct type of wax is chosen for the two different effects required going forward.  The process alters from this point and the following information relates to soft ground etching procedures.

Zinc-Etch-3For this example, plant material and a ragged piece of tarlatan were laid over the surface of the wax, the spare plastic was placed wax side down on top, and this sandwich was run through the press.  The top plastic stopped any wax from the zinc plate adhering to the blankets and, as it was also waxed, it avoided losing any of the wax resist on the main print plate.  Great system!  The plastic was carefully peeled back, all the items were removed and the zinc plate was immersed in an acid/water solution.  The plants and fabric had lifted the underlying wax away leaving areas of the zinc exposed ready for the acid to etch those areas.

Zinc-Etch-4After checking the degree of etch depth required the plate was lifted out, rinsed in water and the remaining wax was removed, making it ready for use.

As this is an intaglio process, ink is forced into the acid-etched recesses and it is possible to print very fine lines, patterns and intricate designs.  The printing ink is smoothed across the surface of the zinc plate, this is then removed from the flat surface leaving as much or as little as you decide and paper is used damp.  The press is set to a decent pressure and two blankets are used, along with butchers paper to absorb excess moisture from the print paper.

Zinc-Etch-5An excellent print and a good quality ghost print was also produced from this sample.

Well, that was the demonstration, now it’s my turn to have a go.  This is just the start of what looks to be an intriguing and absorbing print technique, and there are many variations yet to explore.  I’m looking forward to posting my progress.

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Chine collé – The final outcome

SF8Continuing on with my chine collé flower design (see previous posts here and here) I adhered a simple iron-on Wispa Weft to the back of some of the prints and tried to machine stitch around some of the flowers.

I quickly found that was beyond my capabilities.  I haven’t been practicing my free-motion stitching for such a long time and I’m very slow and wobbly, so it’s back on my list of things to work on as I’m keen to add stitching to my prints in future.  OK, back to hand-stitching this time.

SF9I experimented with 2 different threads, a plain deep red and a variegated Perle 5.  My chine collé is a little crumpled due to the method of transfer I used, detailed previously, so the black ink isn’t 100% solid and I’ve no problem with that.  It’s adding to the textural effect.

LP-JSS-1I recently learned how to make a Japanese stab binding book in a class with Liz Powell and my aim for the above print is to make a cover for a slightly more complex version of this type of book than I made in the class.  The idea is to have a separate front and back cover with single bound sheets (not folded) and front and back hinges to enable the book to fully open.  The sample shown here has a soft cover that would be bent back and folded when the book is used.  I want a hard cover, but it has to open up properly.

So my finished book front consists of medium weight cardboard insert  with hinge section, covered by my hand-stitched print.  The print has been ‘aged’ with metallic waxes and satin varnished to a light sheen.  The hinged back has been covered with Nepalese hand-made paper, aged and varnished.  There are 34 inner leaves of my own hand-made paper formed from the offcuts of my excess Kozo paper prints created during my last OCA course.  Everything is recyclable!  The stab binding is a double length of 16/2 linen thread.

SF10Above: Stab binding template.  For this type of construction it’s important to have an odd number of holes to facilitate the correct flow of front, back and over stitches to ensure the start and end threads meet at the finish point.

SF11Above: You can see the stab binding along the front edge, with the back looking identical, and the construction from the top.  This second photo clearly shows how effective the hinges are and how well the book opens up.

SF12The finished book – and those hinges really work!!  I’ll put it in the book press for a few days to ensure it sits flat and true.  The pages were previously pressed so there should be no loosening of the binding.

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Workshop: Paper Felting

Whilst I’ve recently concentrated on making my own paper from some of my old prints (and blank paper offcuts) by pulping, remixing and forming new sheets I haven’t actually tried fusing or ‘felting’ lightweight papers together before.  This workshop was an excellent introduction to this technique and how to obtain interesting colour layers and patterning.

We used Unryu paper throughout.

Mulberry-Unryu-PaperUnryu is a lightweight tissue style Mulberry paper, mainly made in Thailand.  It weighs 25gsm (the most common weight) or less and comes with various inclusions.  Standard sheets include strands of Kozo fibre which add texture and contrasting depth of colour.PF Unryu close up

PF Unryu with bark

37gsm Unryu with chips of Mulberry bark inclusions

PF Unryu fibres & bark

40gsm double-sided inclusions: Chiri bark & mulberry fibres

Other varieties come with metallic strands inserted, plant materials such as leaves and small fronds or very fine bark pieces.  As a result of the additional fibres and plants some of these tend to be a bit more robust, weighing around 40gsm.

We used a four-way colour range which was enough to give us an idea how the colours would intermingle.  Our sheets were all 25gsm, semi-translucent with Kozo fibre inclusions.

PF1Left: colour samples – Deep purple, mid brown, brilliant red and rich yellow.

We started by wetting and layering fairly large pieces.  These were then concertina folded, rolled and ‘kneaded’ by hand.  The package was opened, refolded in a different direction and the process continued.  We went through this several times over a 20-25 minute period and then checked how the layers were adhering.  Once satisfied, the new multilayered sheet was formed into a ball and thrown around to continue the crumpling and interlocking of the layers.  By thrown, I mean gently tossed between hands, lightly squeezed and dropped on the floor several times – although that third point wasn’t actually part of the official process!

The pieces were opened out and allowed to dry.

PF2This first piece was made by adhering large blocks of coloured sheets, just to get the hang of the amount of water required, the rolling pressure, the length of time to form the new sheet, etc..  On the back is the deep purple sheet but it didn’t come through at all.  It’s had a small effect on the red, taking away s little of the vibrancy but nothing substantial.  The brown on top of the red has maintained a good colour and has melded well with the red.  Fortunately the strength of the yellow has been diluted by the colours below and it  hasn’t totally overtaken the piece.

The papers shrink slightly and as they become one, and with the rolling and throwing, they crinkle beautifully adding texture and colour variation throughout.  I left this to dry totally and then ironed it.  The crinkles are still there but the piece is substantially flatter.  I feel that I’d like to try ironing it whilst still damp to get it totally flat  to overprint.

PF3In this second piece I started with a couple of large sheets, several cut holes and many smaller shapes.  Some of the holes were covered by my cut patches but mostly these squares and strips were laid out in multiple areas overlapping and creating colour depth.  Brown and yellow were my main surface colours and they have created a bright vibrant overall outcome.  In the close-up photo you can see the sort of texture that is formed by fusing these pieces together.  Below is the piece laid out wet, ready to start the felting process.

PF6If you compare the layout piece with the finished article you can see they don’t match 100%.  Several of the small patches moved, fell off or became very incorporated so they don’t appear on the final piece.

PF4By this stage I was pretty sick of yellow.  Why was I putting it on the top all the time?  It had been suggested that the lighter colours would disappear altogether if they were topped by the darker shades, so I stuck with this for the day.  It’s now time to turn this idea on its head though.  My next samples will have darker on the top and we’ll see what happens.

There are some pieces of black embroidery cotton embedded between the top yellow layer and the remainder but it can hardly been seen.PF5

Can you spot the shadow on this close-up shot?  There’s a dark wiggly line to the right hand side and that’s it.

This yellow is ferocious in its colour strength.

The day was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed it and now it’s time to have another go using the colours in a different order and including some other lightweight items between the layers.

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