Monday, 5 December 2016

Printing Cards together

We've been hand making our Christmas cards in one way or another for almost twenty years and it's a task I really enjoy. Generally I've made them mostly without my husband's help because I was using textiles and he doesn't stitch. However, from time to time printing on paper has been the medium of choice and we've worked together. One year early on, we screen printed which was very successful and on a couple of other occasions we hand printed from a simple wood cut which also worked well. I've been wondering this year why we hadn't repeated the fun as it's a lovely thing to do together. This year seemed a good moment.

However, because of still on-going moth treatment, access to my workroom (and indeed much of the rest of the house) has been limited so we had to think of a simple printing method that could be done at the kitchen table without many resources. We decided on relief prints to be printed in only one colour for ease and speed of production.

I drew up a couple of designs, dug in the resources I could reach for appropriate printing medium and card stock (A5 folded) and cut up the paper to take the print. Meanwhile, my husband made up two print blocks to give a choice. For this, he used Fab Foam (which cuts with scissors and prints really easily) and MDF which he cut to size, and a register plate jig the same size as the paper. This was well worth doing even though we were only using one colour as it ensured that the images were always correctly placed on the paper and margins were the right size. To keep mess to a minimum, we avoided oil based printing ink and printed using silver or gold acrylic paint which is water-based and washes off easily.

The acrylic paint seemed to work surprisingly well despite its rapid drying qualities which meant that we had to get organised before we began printing, work quickly with short print runs and clean off all equipment straight after each print run. We found that the Galeria range by Windsor and Newton worked best, even though it was slightly transparent especially in the silver. This suited the images we were printing. It may well be that their Extender Medium would have improved this if it had troubled us as it claims to increase the volume of the paint and to maintain opacity.

Some useful tips on all types of print making can be found here and here-  and on a wealth of other websites!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Weaving buildings, stitching circles

I've posted before (here and here) about the series of stitched weavings I been doing recently based on a starkly graphic modern office block I saw last year in Darling Harbour in Sydney. This building along with many others has triggered thoughts and inspired me for more than a year now.

Since our visit to Australia, I've become fascinated by the contrasting impact on the environment of modern life with its buildings, roads, factories and cities and the minimal trace of others such as the aboriginal peoples who have lived in Australia for over 50,000 years. This piece is part of my exploration of ways to represent this in my work. The strips echo the structure of the modern building and the circle, a significant symbol in aboriginal work, represents a water hole or meeting place. The hand stitched lines are intended to suggest their wandering 'songlines'.

The above is the latest piece in this series. I have been working to improve the simplicity and impact of the work, so that the the imagery and contrasting yarns I use are the focus. It's awaiting mounting and framing and a final decision on what to do (if anything) with the warp threads. While I think, it's sitting where I can see it in my work room so it nags at my consciousness.

Two earlier pieces in the series were exhibited in the John Bowen Gallery, Malmesbury until the end of last week.

I wove all these pieces on a simple table loom in strips which I can hold on my knee as I work. I then stitched them together as I wanted to replicate the sharp edges I'd noticed in the building. It was a fairly intuitive almost painterly process in which I reacted to the textiles as they evolved and sometimes unpicked strips that seemed 'wrong'. I then stitched the fine lines and especially the circle onto the woven surface since I wanted them to be finer and more delicate than was possible by weaving in order to suggest the aboriginal 'light touch'.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Cropping black and white

Here I have more 6 cm square croppings of rejected intaglio prints to produce something hopefully useful, this time in brown/black and white.

They are very different these from the ones I posted on Thursday obviously because of their lack of colour but particularly since they don't suggest landscapes to me - unusual for me when I attempt this exercise.

Perhaps surprisingly, I also found it more difficult to find satisfying croppings in these abstract prints than in those I cropped for the last post.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Cropping to advantage

On Tuesday, I spent the morning turning unhappy prints into much happier cards through use of a window and selective cropping to produce small images which I then mounted on hammer finish card stock.

This process brings double advantage and is one I often use on left over photos and small pieces of stitch. It makes something useful out of a piece that might otherwise have ended up in the wastepaper basket and it makes me look at those parts of the print (or other work) that worked well, thus giving food for thought for the next time.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Unease banished!

Following a most helpful comment from Olga Norris, I have rotated the last post's drawing right.

What a transformation ... and a relief! Now I can look at the image objectively. The monster is reduced to just a trace and there is an optimistic suggestion of growth.

This change led me to ponder on how extraordinary it is that a difference in orientation can create such a change in emotional response ... and a further thought about the link between what we see and our imagination.

Also, it brings a tip to remember!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Sketching and unease

The other day, I spent an hour sketching with a friend on a quiet country lane near where we live. It was a lovely, sunny autumn afternoon and the colours of the trees were beautiful.

For some reason I now can't explain, I chose to draw a rock that was topped by a large tree and in part overgrown with ivy. Its roots were intertwined and exposed. It was the pattern they made that enticed me, I think. I drew for a quarter of an hour, absorbed in creating the shapes of the roots and the deep shadows underneath. Then I stopped and looked at what I'd done.

The shapes on the page resembled something most unexpected and rather disturbing. A grotesque face was looking left out of the drawing. Monstrous and Hobbit-like, it felt like a haunting. I found I couldn't ignore what I'd seen. The peace was gone and I didn't continue.

Strange what the eye and brain register. I still feel the same unease when I look at the drawing now - not one for saving, except perhaps as a reminder of the strange ways of the mind.