Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Using Throw-away Pictures in Collage, Part 1

I love making collages, and I have a little secret for you: even though I am known as a fiber artist, I consider everything I do to be collage. I absolutely love the gathering and sorting of snippets, whether they are pieces of fabric, found objects or paper ephemera. Old pictures are no exception.

I have an entire box full of what I call throw-away photographs: you know, the ones that used to come in a pack of printed film (yes, pre-digital era!). When film was developed, they didn't just print the good images; you got them all, and it was up to you to throw them away. I started saving them for use in my workshops so that I could pass them out to all the students to try our techniques. Over the years, I have made some amazing work with these throw-away pictures, so I thought I would show you how I alter them.

A recent grouping of pictures pulled from my box
First, you'll need an old, crappy picture to practice on. You will also need very fine grade sandpaper and a damp paper towel. Down the road in this process you'll see how the little spray mister is used, and how I added color. But for today: first things first!
This black and white picture of clouds is a good one to use. It has little character by itself, but also has a lot of areas ready for scratching up with the sandpaper. Don't get bogged down picking an image. Just grab one. Even a magazine image or a page from an old book will work, as long as the paper isn't too fragile.

I usually fold up a small piece of the sandpaper, then use it to scrub, scratch and draw on the surface. The direction of the scratch marks as well as their length will become visible later, so have fun with this part.

Next time: adding color

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stir Crazy and Wanting Spring

A page from my sketchbook, and a
reminder of spring, even in black
and white!
After weeks of slogging through the end-of-winter doldrums, the latest snowstorm stopped me dead in my tracks. I admit it. It the time of year in Ohio when I can no longer wait for spring to arrive, and I have officially gone stir crazy.

I was productive for weeks, doing my sunprinting and working on several new art pieces while also finishing up some pieces I have had laying around in my studio for quite awhile, including Bluebell / First Place.

No, I haven't forgotten about my Grandma prints. Did I mention that I have been housebound by the weather? On the desk by the front door is everything I need to get the images of Grandma enlarged, so I can make a giant collage that I will then print from. I just haven't been motivated to run across town in this horrible weather.

Bluebell / First Place was started as a collage made
during a playday with artist friends. Time to finish it!

So, I am reassured, as signs of spring appear under melting snow. Here's hoping!

My husband experiencing the end of winter blues.
I, for one, can't take much more.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunprinting, Chapter 3

A sunprint made from a negative transparency
of platic fencing. I am using this print in my
new quilt, below, Turtle Spirit
 Despite the winter weather, I have dreams of summer and sunshine, and cyan printing helps me remember that warm weather is coming again.
My last post promised to show you how to turn a cyan toned sunprint into a sepia toned one. Why would you want to change it? Well, because you may need a different color for what you are doing. If you tone to sepia, the print will be lighter in tone, and you can also paint or otherwise add color to it, if you want to. Alternatively, you could use setacolor paints, which allow you to print in every color of the rainbow. In my case, I am printing several sizes of my grandmother using various techniques, then sewing them onto a quilt she made that I recently repaired and recreated.

For sepia toning, everything you need is in your kitchen.
While there are other ways, this is how I turn a cyan print into a sepia toned print:
You will need 1 - 2 T. of baking soda
2 C. hot (but not boiling) water
Glass or plastic pan to fit your image (size matters only if you're working with watercolor paper; fabric can be scrunched)
8 - 10 teabags (black tea, orange pekoe, Lipton's)
Wooden spoon
What to do:
Dissolve 1 T. of baking soda in hot water in a glass or plastic pan. Let the water cool slightly, then agitate your sunprint in the mixture until the color begins to fade. Quickly remove and rinse in clear water. This happens very quickly. You now have a yellow print, the interim stage. You might want to try a test print before you do more. Let dry. Iron flat, unless you are working with a paper print.
Note: You may need up to 2 T. of baking soda, depending on how many prints you are working with, and how large the pieces are. Multiple prints will begin to exhaust the baking soda chemical reaction, and you will need to add fresh water and baking soda.
Yellow print, the interim stage: it looks like
nothing is there, especially before it dries.
Make a tea dye bath:
While your print is drying, bring the tea kettle to a boil, and steep 8 - 10 teabags in 2 C. of water for 10 minutes. You can adjust the color by adding more or less water, more or fewer teabags. After 10 minutes, remove the teabags and discard.
Pour the tea dye bath into your tray or pan, and submerge your yellow print. Leave it there at least 10 minutes or until it is the color you want. Play around with determining the color tone you want in your test print. Also, if there is any sediment in your tea dye bath, or if you are scrunching a large piece of fabric, the color may be uneven. Stirring while the yellow print is submerged will help keep the color more even if you are concerned about that.

Sepia-grandma and cyan-grandma. Now I have more color options.
I will make a series of these prints in various sizes to create a collage composition for my piece. More to come! In the meantime, I am finishing the composition on Turtle Spirit, which also incorporates sunprints.
This is a detail shot of my design wall showing my newest piece,
Turtle Spirit, in progress. The side panels both have sunprints
appliqued in place. The turtle, though blue, is an indigo dye, and
not a sunprint.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunprinting, Chapter 2

On the left, two sunprinted fabrics; on the right, the same
image on paper.
If you read my last post, you'll see how I used the sun to print the images of my grandmother you see here. Since you can only really see the quality of the printed image after it has completely dried, I waited. It's winter, and my drying rack is next to my furnace, so I didn't have to wait very long! I ironed the fabric and had a look.

The same image printed twice. On the left, no clamped glass was used.
As you can see in the picture, above, I ended up making two prints on fabric. Why? Because I forgot a crucial step in obtaining a crisp print, especially when using transparencies, and especially in the winter: I forgot to cover my fabric with a piece of clear glass clamped in place. The resulting blurry print on the left is blurry, in part, because I failed to clamp the glass on top, making a secure contact print. (It's also blurry because I did not iron the fabric flat enough before printing it.) After it dried, I realized my omission, and immediately reprinted the image, as you see on the right. The result? Even though my fabric is old, when printed correctly, it still gave me a decent print. That has been my experience over the 25 years I have used this process, and is also why I never hesitate to buy yardage when purchasing pre-treated fabrics.

The same image on treated paper.
While I was at it, I grabbed an old but unopened package of treated sunprinting paper I picked up at a recent library sale. These are the Super Sunprint Kits often found in museum stores. I clamped the glass on top of the paper as described in my last post, opened my sliding back door, and let it sit on the threshold dangling over the snow to catch the sun. It was later in the day, and it was dangling, so you can see that there was still some blurring that occurred as a result of the position of the sun and the minor movement of the substrate the paper was clamped onto. I got one very clear print on paper, and the two blurry ones are interesting, and will still be used. You may notice that the print on this text-weight paper is not as dark as on fabric.

The print on the left is on fabric. On the right, is a print
on high quality watercolor paper.
Each surface gives a slightly different effect. Notice how the contrast is increased on the watercolor paper print here. When rinsed, the background reverts to white, and since the image I used had a lot of negative space, it produced a crisp print.

Mother Shrine uses a sunprint.
In Mother Shrine, the cyanotype print on fabric of my mother is also in high contrast. The difference between this one and the watercolor paper print is that the image of my mother is printed on fuschia fabric instead of white or aqua, therefore the contrast is lessened, though the image is still clear.

You may be wondering where the variety of pre-treated fabrics and paper come from. Although you can purchase cyan printing chemicals and treat your papers and fabrics yourself, I have always ordered mine from Blueprint Printables. They have been around longer than anyone else, have consistently high quality products, and great customer service. You can even send them yardage of your own fabrics to treat. Tune in next time to see some examples of that, and about how to turn a cyan print to sepia.
Cyan print on the left; on the right, a cyan print on watercolor
paper turned sepia. It's really easy!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunprinting, Chapter 1

The transparency of my grandma and me.
I woke up this morning, a cold winter day in Cleveland, and the sun was shining brightly. I got excited, but not for the reasons you might think. I have been waiting for a day to do some sunprinting, and, even in the winter, today was the day.

I got up and quickly pulled a few items together. I have been working on a piece about my grandmother. Usually, I run to Kinko's or Office Max to get a negative transparency made, usually two of the same image to be sure the sunlight is thoroughly blocked in the dark areas. This time, I wanted to try printing it out on my very old inkjet printer, and happened to have a compatible transparency to use. It came out pretty well.

Although I want to try the newly reformulated Liquid Light, i.e. Jacquard Solar Fast, I already have some, albeit very old, pre-treated sunprinting fabric. I cut a piece to size in the dark, quickly ironed it in the dark, then pinned it to a board with the negative transparency on top. To take it all outside, I placed a piece of plain paper on top to keep the fabric from being exposed too much while I moved it.
The transparency pinned to the
sunprinting fabric
Everything covered with plain paper

I checked the timer feature on my phone, then ran out into the garage, where the sun was shining right into the doorway. In this part of the country in the winter, the sun is low and not as bright, so sunprinting can take a bit longer. On a hot summer day, 3 minutes of exposure is plenty. Today, I allowed 4 minutes, and checked it before allowing another half a minute. The only variable here is that my fabric is very, very old, so the print may not come out as desired. I also did not use a double transparency sandwich, so I may get a lighter print. No matter. I am seizing the moment! The print is drying now, so stay tuned to see how it turned out.
Yes, sunprinting in snow weather!
After exposure, the print is "set" by rinsing it in
lukewarm water until the water runs clear. Here
is the fabric on the drying rack. One it is rinsed,
it is "set". You can't wash out what was there. At
the drying stage, it may look like nothing happened.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

New Year New Schedule

My sketch of oranges, inspired by a postcard Jill brought
to art night.
I have been having a lot of fun with my new schedule this year. With the support of my art group friends Jill Milenski and Gail Crum, I spent the first few weeks of this year reorganizing my schedule. Last year I did quite a bit more sketching, thanks to Jill's influence. She is such an amazing painter, that seeing her work on a regular basis inspires me.
Gail and I co-taught several classes together at Small Studio, and since we meet nearly every Monday night, we are constantly interacting and supporting each other's goals. Gail excels at her assemblage work, and it is fascinating to work together with her each week, since our approaches are quite different. All in all, meeting together regularly has helped all of us be more productive.
Among other things, my new schedule includes taking at least 10 minutes to write in my journal, and 10 minutes to make a sketch. What fun!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Twice the Fun with Transfers

Gayle's mending tape transfer of ancient text
onto hand painted fabric
I have been having fun with transferred images since I was a little girl playing with Silly Putty and the Sunday comics borrowed from the newspaper my daddy was reading. I learned early on how lighter fluid squirted on the back of a magazine picture would transfer it to another surface. (You might cringe at thinking about lighter fluid, but I grew up in the 1960s when many people smoked, including my parents, and they always had a container of lighter fluid to refill their  lighters.)
I love the layering possibilities, and how personal images and photography can be transformed.

I will be teaching an introductory Image Transfer workshop at Small Studio in May. I hope you can join me to learn these fun techniques!