Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Creating Layers in Art Quilts

The beginning stages of my piece, I Hear Voices

I use a lot of photographic techniques in my artwork, not because I am a terrific photographer, but because I work with layering. Using personal photographic images connects well with the intimate nature of my artwork.

I am not the gifted photographer in my family. My husband, who took the self-portrait in the I Hear Voices photograph, is amazingly talented, and very creative in his approach. My daughter, editor of photography books for Lark Books, has one of those very fancy, professional cameras, and creates the most amazing imagery. All of this is lucky for me, because I always have a source for imagery, and people who can help me manipulate the images for my own purposes.

I have taught Polaroid transfer techniques for many years, after learning how to do the process using my (okay, our) slides at the Cleveland Institute of Art. I bougt a Daylab, Jr. and went to work. Since Polaroid is discontinuing the manufacture of the film, I am desperately seeking new sources. I recently joined a group I found online, The Impossible Project. They are in Holland, and are trying to keep the film production going. I hope they are successful.

Chris, my Polaroid transfer on paper

Princess of Dun Aengus, my Polaroid transfer on paper

Now that spring has arrived, I am really itchy to do some cyanotype printing. Cyanotype printing is a very early photographic technique that has not changed much since it was developed in the mid-1800s. Chemically treated paper or fabric is exposed to sunlight and whatever objects or transparent images are placed on top serve as the 'negative.' While I have often used this process to print objects, I really like to utilize photographic negatives for the technique.
Cyan print on cotton of pebbles. I used a color photograph my husband took, enlarged it on a photocopier, then printed it onto a plastic transparency.

For the quilt shown below, I asked my husband to take a series of "body parts" pictures for me: ears, eyes, hands.

I used a cyan print of my hands, which was then layered with sheer silk organza, in the center of the piece.

My Hands Don't Look the Same Anymore, art quilt by Gayle Pritchard

Now that I have my garage studio space set up, I think I will do some more prints. Would you like to see how it's done?
Cyan print on watercolor paper. This greeting card is available in my etsy shop.


  1. Really great stuff. I likes it I do... Thanks for sharing.

  2. Excellent post and yes, I'd like to know more about the cyanotype process.

  3. Beautiful work---I always wanted to do the Polaroid thing, now with the film gone.....the prints are so exceptional. I know that it can be done in Photoshop but I do not want to take the time to learn. I can only focus on so much, and as I age, that *so much* is shrinking rapidly!!!
    Love the greeting card you have on here!

  4. Thanks for posting your thoughts. I will post my process when I do it nextj; soon, I hope. Anne, the thing I don't like about doing these things on photoshop, (in addition to not having photoshop) is I like touching it, manipulating everything by hand. Must be a generational thing.

  5. Thanks a lot, Gayle! You are the queen of blog posts that are interesting! I love to read your thoughts! And your prints and quilts are beautiful! Off to plant more peat pot greenhouses tonight yet. Love, Pomme

  6. Susan, thanks for your kind comments. Since you had a "blog" i.e. your website, before anyone even thought about what that might be, you are the real, true bloggin' Queen.

  7. Your creations remind me of my favorite books where there are layers of meaning and each time I read, I find something new and inspiring. I'm fascinated by the Cyanotype -- I read about it when reading about the American Civil War and the photographers who captured the images of that conflict. Amazing. I'm glad the process is still being used.

    And again, thank you for your guest blog on my site, such great information and I so enjoyed working with you. Stay in touch!


  8. Ah, Dawn! I am touched by your thougts about my work. The layers I work so hard at must be coming through. I am also gratified that someone else appreciates a bit of the history of the cyanotype technique. I think that's part of why I love the process so much. I am a lover of history. There is something very magical about placing random objects in the sun, and watching an image emerge.