Breakdown printing results, and, rust dyeing

Here is the result of the breakdown printing I did from the screen I prepared a couple of days ago.  I am somewhat underwhelmed by the outcome. 

This piece started at the drop cloth under the screen while it was drying.  Then I printed over it with the screen.  Again, fairly underwhelming.  I like the idea of this style of printing, and I have seen some wonderful examples -clearly it takes time and planning to get good results, although I also understand that part of the appeal is that you can’t plan too much, and there is a significant element of serendipity and surprise.  I guess right now, I am looking to focus on things that will help me produce the sort of work I have had in my head for a long time – and right now, this technique isn’t going to help me achieve that, so I am happy to put it aside.
I did however get to try another one of those ‘must give that a go sometime’ things – rust dyeing using iron sulphate, tannin and lye.  There is an excellent tutorial here, which I followed (more or less).  If you visit, follow the links to Lynda’s (Purple Missus) blog where she tried it too – lots of wonderful photos.
Here are my results
This piece started off as a failed early attempt at breakdown printing using thickened dye – just about anything would make this look better, so I had nothing to lose.
This was the hand dyed piece from yesterday that I monoprinted on from the last of the gelatin plate.  It was already dyed in blue/orange, so this treatment just enhanced those colours.
This piece started off as a traditionally rusted piece which was a bit eye-poppingly orange for my taste, and the contrast with the stark white background was too much.  I much prefer this version.
I need to go and buy a cheapo iron so I can iron this lot – I only have my good one here – the other one is in the apartment.
Tomorrow’s activity – some more rubber stamp carving, I think.

Gelatin plate

I forgot about the gelatin plate, and when I opened the fridge, found this.  It had shrunk to almost half its original size and cracked a lot more.  I should mention that we have a spare fridge in the laundry for dog food, fish bait, dyes and booze – the gelatin was residing in there, not my kitchen fridge!
 I did a monoprint and liked the door shape. I mixed some black and white textile ink to get a charcoal and applied it to the gelatin with a spatula.  Printed onto plain white fabric.  I was rather pleased with this.
So I did some more….
I wondered how it would look on a lightly rusted background
and finally, on a hand dyed background.
I like this gelatin plate printing – there is an element of the unpredictable, especially once the plate starts to break down, but it isn’t completely random and unpredictable.speaking of which, I printed off my deconstructed screen – it is batching now, so will post about it tomorrow.  I don’t think it is going to be my ‘thing’, based on my experience of it – more on that later.
It is Anzac Day – I am remembering all our servicemen and women who have fought for and died for Australia.  I am especially remembering my friend Prue, who died a year ago today in NZ on her way to an Anzac Day ceremony.  And this morning the tragic news that three people were killed in a helicopter crash in NZ, while taking part in a rememberence ceremony.
Lest We Forget.

More mark making

I have had an instructive and occasionally frustrating couple of days playing with various mark making techniques. 

I tried deconstructed screen printing – or breakdown printing – once before with fairly disasterous results. I now know that the paste mixture I made up was far too thin.  I had another go and although I got better results, they still didn’t meet my expectations.   Again, the paste wasn’t thick enough to hold the impression – it gradually oozed back to fill up the gaps as it was drying and I got virtually no impression.  I tried again, with something that made deeper impressions – some bubble wrap, and at least got a result.  I checked Claire Benn and Leslie Fenton’s book “Breakdown Printig”  and found some really good, simple instructions and recipes.
I have now made up a new batch of thicker paste, and have followed their instructions to turn the screen flat side up, glob the paste on, then impress the objects you are using to create texture and leave until nearly dry (which by my guestimate will be at least a day or two), then remove, so the paste can’t settle back.  Here is the screen set to dry.  Intuitively, this seems more likely to work than the method I  followed for the above piece which was to place the object (bubble wrap in my case) under the screen and squeegee through the dye paste, then remove the bubble wrap straight away and let the screen dry.  We shall see…..
We upgraded to a new computer when we moved, and I took the opportunity to get Adobe lllustrator, which I have been wanting for a while.  It is a steep learning curve, but I  am having enormous fun working in tandem with Photoshop, turning the pictures I have been taking on my daily rides into black and white illustrations which are then burned into Thermofax screens.   Here are some examples:
Photo of some grasses.  Here I used Thiox to discharge the image onto some commercially dyed black fabric.  It came out a light lemony colour, and the image isn’t as distinct as later screens, as I didn’t have the consistency of the thickener right – too thin, again!
Here I screened black textile ink over  an earlier screened image of a tree in gold, on hand dyed purple fabric.  You an just see glimpses of the gold here and there – click for larger image.
Again, I went over something else that didn’t work.  I had previously screen an image (which I will show you next), but it came out blurry, as I used Setacolour paints and they are a bit too runny to screen well.
The underlying image was taken from this photo, of the seafood shop at Narooma bridge.
I cropped  and edited the photo in Photoshop, then converted it into an illustration in Illustrator, and made a screen.  This time I used proper textile screen printing ink and got a much cleaner image.
I was sitting in the car waiting for Karl the other day, when I looked up and saw this image of barbed wire against the bright blue of the sky.
I gave the image the same treatment as above, and got this – I am quite excited at the possibilities of turning my own photos into images that can be used in my textile art – I have been wanting to do this type of thing for ages, and just haven’t had the chance until now.
The barbed wire was around the local gardening centre.  In one corner of the carpark I spied this pile of discrded pallets
I turned these into a screen too
As well as messing with screens, I made a couple of stamps – a simple leaf, and the negative of the same image.
 A new – and obviously temporary sign appeared in town the other day
This was an obvious candidate for a screen, which I printed using thickened dye (having finally figured out the right consistency for the thickener).
And what, you might ask is a Fish Auction?  not sure I know, but I think it might be a charity thing, where they hold a fishing competition, then at the end of each day, the catch gets auctioned off to raise money for the marine rescue volunteers – but don’t quote me on that – Karl and I are going to hop on our bikes and pedal into town a bit later to check it out.
And finally, for now, I used the very last of the thickened dye at the end of the day to stamp, and draw on fabric, using a syringe – another little activity that has been on my ‘must give that a go’ list for some time!  I batched these rather than steaming – of which I am not a fan – and I must say that the thickener is a devil to get out of the fabric.
Right – still lots more experimenting to go!


You can read about the art of gyotaku here – look in the sidebar on the left.  One of the things I uncovered in my printing/mark making box of goodies was this fish I got a while back (I remember when it arrived in the mail, AQIS, the Australian quarantine people had a field day, tearing the package apart and stuffing it full of dire warnings about the penalties for importing wildlife illegally!).  But when they realised it was only a rubber fish, they let it through.

This one was done with silver Lumiere paint on some hand dye.
I did some more gelatine plate printing – I have decided I don’t like the first print as much – where you get a negative of the object – it lays down too much paint – I like the second print.
On my bike ride I saw this stately fellow fishing in the inlet – or, more correctly, hanging around where the trawlers come in, hoping for a free feed.  While I was stopped admiring him, I got chatting to a lady who was with a tour group and who was obviously also enthralled by the sight.  She told me that she was Aboriginal and that the pelican was her mother’s  totem – it obviously meant a lot to her to be so close to them.
And finally, adding to my sign collection from around town – it is hard to get the scale of this, but it is on the side of a two storey building.  The restuarant has been closed for years – at least as far back as1996, when we first came here.  It has been on the market for many years too.  It’s main advantage is that it is right opposite the beach and in whale watching season has front row seats.  I suppose someone will eventually snap it up, if they are seduced by the marketing!

Playday update

So, I got out my stuff and started playing – first up, the gelatine plate. The instructions said, use a disposable foil pan, but I didn’t have one the right size, so I used a glass dish.  Only trouble is, getting the damn thing out!  I ended up with a crack, but that is okay, as Rayna says they always crack eventually anyway, and it just adds more texture, so if it is okay with Rayna, its okay with me.

I printed with some gum leaves – and, oh look, just like Rayna, I got some stray threads in there – its okay, it just adds to the texture!

The gelatine plate does feel lovely and squiggy under your hands – I put it in the fridge so will haul it out again and play some more today. 
Play” was  definitely the theme of the day – I haven’t had access to my stuff for  so long that I forgot what I had.  These foam letters were from a kids craft store – cheap as chips, and fun – I think I got them with a
view to craft projects with the grandchildren in the future, but decided to give them a go myself.
I also had a play with some lovely Indian wood blocks I got a while back from the equally lovely Fiona Wright
I am lucky to have a great space for playing with messy stuff like paints and dyes.  As a late amendment to the house plans, we decided to add a laundry tub to the garage, which is quite spacious.  I also kept my old, upright clunker of a washing machine for rinsing out dyed fabrics.  I have a flash new front loader in my laundry, but I knew I didn’t want to be dyeing anywhere inside the house as it is inherently messy and no matter how careful I am, I get splodges and splashes – and anyway, being careful all the time is at odds with the notion of just ‘playing’.  So, I can splodge away to my heart’s content out here.
I wasted a lot of time yesterday looking for my black textile ink, which I knew I had some of – right at the end of the day, I found not one, but two tubs of it, so I can get back to playing today with some of the things I didn’t get to yesterday.  All I need now is someone to play with!!
Which reminds me – Gay, when I switched email addresses, not all my address book copied over, so I don’t have your address, nor can I access your old emails anymore,so pls email me!
And finally, some more photos from around town taken on my bike ride yesterday.
The inner workings of said bridge – it does in fact open, although very infrequently.

Photos of progress

Finally got around to photographing my piecing progress.  I got the whole top together from all those half square triangles – it will have to go into the pile awaiting quilting.  I am not sure if I mentioned before, but our downstairs isn’t really finished, as they ran out of floor tiles – big drama, red faces, much embarassed foot shuffling – the next shipment is supposed to be arriving this week, so hopefully it will get finished soon – until then, I can’t set up my quilting frame.  I do have about six tops waiting to be quilted now – am quite looking forward to getting to them.
And yes, the picture is a bit wonky – I am still figuring out the best place to hang a quilt around here to photograph.  This was hung from an extendable line we put up on the beach side of the house, where it is always a bit breezy, so getting it to hang perfectly straight was a challenge.  I have since had a fold down washing line installed at the side of the house, which is where I hung the next top.  My builder will be pleased – he keopt grumbling that having laundry strung out at the back of the house (which is the side that faces to road and the beach) made it look like a gypsy encampment.  Yes, well,  the laundry had to dry somewhere!  The new fold down line is in a discreet, but sunny spot on the north side,where no-one but us can see the unmentionables flapping in the breeze.
When I finished the above top I opened another box and found some pink and green blocks which, I think, were left over from a couple of baby quilts I did for friends a while back.  So I pulled them out and added various width strips around the blocks to make them BIG – then cut them into fours and reassembled.  It still needs borders.  I really must brush up on my Photoshop skills and figure out how to fix these photos.  I’ll add that to my ‘to do’ list.
I have also been accumulating a satisfying pile of string blocks,well on their way to becoming a top.
I have had my fill of piecing for now – what I am really keen to do is get out my paints and mark making tools and have a play at printing, stamping otherwise making my mark on some of my hand dyed fabric .  That will be today’s play activity.  In preparation, I set a large tray of gelatine so I could do some gelatine plate printing, which I have been dying to try since getting Rayna’s book ages ago, but what with moving and everything being packed away, living in the apartment etc, I just haven’t had the chance to do – so, today is playday!!
I have been going for a bike ride every afternoon and really noticing things around town.  I took the camera yesterday – here are a few of the things that caught my eye.

Settling in

Karl went fishing the other day and came back in no time with three salmon.  We gave the red flesh to the dogs – who love fish – and turned the white flesh into fishcakes with chilli sauce for us.  OK, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to have it again.

I have finally been able to just sew, which I have sorely missed over the past five months of being between houses.  When I unpacked,  I found all sorts of boxes of projects in various stages of unfinished-ness.  I could never start something and see it through to the finish, without starting other things in between, so I have something of a collection of  ‘works in progress’.  Rather than do a stocktake of all the UFOs and depress myself with a list, I just took the first box I opened, and went from there.  It happened to contain a whole pile of half square triangles in greens and florals.  I remember deciding to use them up when Margaret Rolfe’s book came out.  It must have been sitting there for at least 7 or more years.  I distinctly remember that the green squares were cut from a pack of 7 inch charm squares – I did wonder why I had all these three and a half inch half square triangles, as they make up to 2 and 5/8th inch finished squares!  Anyway, I sat and sewed them all together and now I have a quilt top which has one  border on, and the outer border is cut, just waiting to be attached.

I also have a big pile of very annoying  little offcuts from trimming off the pointy bits – I won’t be doing any more quilts like this – way too tedious!  I have a huge  bag of strips, so will do something based on strips next.  Although in between, couldn’t resist doing up some string blocks.  I do love scrap quilts, of all types, and have wanted to do some string quilts for a while.  I have had this book on my library shelves for a while, and recently acquired Gwen Marston’s book on string quilts.  So I have been happily accumulating a pile in between doing other things – very satisfying.
Karl has made off with the camera so I will post some photos tomorrow.