Gel printing workshop

Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair 16/6/2012

Yesterday I had an interesting and stimulating day at our annual craft fair at Sydney Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour.  Some weeks ago I prebooked a place for myself and a friend in a gel printing class run by Cecile Whatman of Unique Stitching.

Gel printing is essentially a mono-printing method using a set gelatin mix as the base on which to apply paints, resists, textural items and whatnot before covering with fabric, pressing evenly, and therefore obtaining a single unique print.

Having read a bit about it I was put off by the very fact of having to mix up gelatin, get the consistency right and it having a limited usage time.  It seems a bit too labour intensive and hit-and-miss to me.  I’ve heard stories of it not setting or being hard so it cracks.  As I know Cecile quite well I was confident that in a one hour ‘taster’ class we wouldn’t be going down this route.

I was relieved to see that I had been correct and we were each given a Gelli Plate to use.  These seem to be a fairly new product on the market and are a transparent gel block 1cm thick, protected by plastic on either side and currently come in two sizes.  It is easy to use, easy to clean, stable on the table top and gives a good print – when you get the hang of how much paint to use, how to apply patterns and how hard to press your fabric into the plate.

My first attempt (right) had an uneven covering of paint which was too thick in places but a good impression from my plastic embossing plate.

For my second sample (left) I used less paint and a wooden backed rubber stamp to leave the impression.  Not a bad effect.

Then I moved to trying two patterning effects together,  a stencil to mask off some areas and bubble wrap to give texture to the remaining area.  I made a mess of that because I didn’t use nearly enough paint and it was drying fast so didn’t transfer well.

Finally I had a go at single prints, drying between each, and overlapping them to see what would show through from the previous layer.  This worked quite well and I now understand more about how layers of printing, stamping and painting could be built up into some good complex cloth designs.

Obviously in a very short space of time, in a class environment where there is no access to water (so clean up is difficult), with random paints and colours available it is hard to achieve great results but I’m encouraged that at home I will be able to work this much better.  I felt that the fabric paints we used dried a little too quickly to suit me but I have some good screenprinting inks which I’m very fond of and which give good results.  Now I just need to try them with this technique.

I am especially interested in this process as I want to incorporate some printing into my Project 7 theme piece.

Good, in fact really good, small monoprinting samples can be seen by clicking on this photostream by Carl Johengen.

As to the rest of the show, well let’s just say that my purse was quite a bit lighter at the end of the day that it was at the beginning and my new products will be popping up in my future work.


About Claire B

I am a passionate printmaker, paper maker and book artist. I'm a 'forever' student and frequently attend courses and workshops to extend and improve my creative skills.
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4 Responses to Gel printing workshop

  1. Susan D says:

    I tried gel printing a few years ago and it was a total failure. I’ve seen the Gelli plate used on a few blogs, not cheap to buy so I’m wondering if it is worth the outlay because I do like monoprinting.

    • Claire B says:

      I paid $38 for my 10″x8″ Gelli plate which is about GBP25 (sorry can’t find the pound sign) but that might not be what they are sold for in England. I’ll be using it over the next few days so you can follow my progress. There are advantages to both systems, the ready-made plate and the gelatin mix which I’ll write about when I print.

  2. Pingback: More Gelli Plate Printing | TactualTextiles

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