Paisley potato printing

After Alice and I made our bird and leaf lino cuts for the William Morris Society earlier this year, I figured my next printing project would have to be even more elaborate and ambitious, because, well, I’m competitive with myself. But a crafty night in with my flatmate, a roll of brown paper, a potato, craft knife and some gouache paint has reminded me how satisfying the simpler projects can be.

paisleypaper01paisleypaper02I cut out a very simple paisley design and printed the whole roll of paper with white footprints. I went to bed feeling just a little bit smudged. The next morning I added some colour, picking combinations from a very lovely library book on Central Asian Textiles (perhaps Indian or Scottish textiles would have been more appropriate, but this eye-popping blaze is just what I wanted and had to hand). paisleypaper03 paisleypaper04 paisleypaper05 paisleypaper06 paisleypaper07 paisleypaper08 paisleypaper10

I was inspired to use a paisley design by what I’ve recently learnt about the history of the Scottish textile industry, and its surprising international connections. Paisley is a town in West Scotland which became so well known in the nineteenth century for its reproductions of imported Indian shawls that the motif (also known as boteh) became synonymous with the town.

At Glasgow University some interesting research is uncovering various aspects of the Scottish Textile Industry. Below are links to current research projects:

ReCREATE – a network of specialists and academics researching Scotland’s textile industry during the Industrial Revolution. Talks at an event of its forerunner ReINVENT are available to view here.

Glasgow Dyes Project – Julie Wertz’s PhD project to research and recreate the brilliant ‘turkey red’ dye used by Scottish dyers. She’s also written a post about her research here on the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History blog.

Darning Scotland’s Textile Heritage – the University of Glasgow archive’s project to enhance their collection of records relating to the Scottish textile industry.

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Bird printed tea towels

Our lino cuts at the William Morris Society came out so well I’ve been using them to print tea towels to sell in the gift shop.

teatowels06The fabric is medium-weight Belarusian linen, bought on one of my trips to Donetsk. I stitched the tea towels on my trusty 1956 Singer machine, printed, ironed, washed and ironed them again to make sure the colour stayed fast.    towel5towel1towel2towel4towel3Here are the first four so far, two of which sold on day one!  teatowels01teatowels03teatowels05 teatowels09teatowels08

More lino cuts at the William Morris Society

On Wednesday I got round to the exciting activity of testing out the lino cuts Alice and I made last week for the William Morris Society. I keenly/ naively decided to test them out on my nice Belarusian linen, with which I’ve been learning quite a few things about fabric printing lately, and the extra challenges it throws in.

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Ink

I used pots of Dylon fabric here, because I happened to have some different colours at home. Permaset printing ink gives a clearer, easier print, I think because the consistency is thicker, but since I only have black – not very common in Morris’s designs – I opted for the Dylon today.

 

Roller

It took me a long time to realise that a hard roller is the wrong tool for the job when it comes to printing on fabric. A foam roller is best  – art shops supply dinky versions of the DIY ones.

 

Technique

Put a blob of ink on a flat tray, then lightly spread it out using the roller, lifting the roller up a few times to make sure it has a layer of ink all over. Then, and this is crucial, roll it very lightly over the surface of the print, trying to cover the surface evenly and avoiding the background. If you press the roller into the print, as you would with a hard roller, then the ink will just get pushed into the lines and negative space of the design, accumulating and causing a ‘bleeding’ effect. And swearing. Press the lino quite hard onto the fabric for about 30 seconds or so.

 

Re cutting

As you can see from the test strip, a lot of ink was picked up by incidental cutting lines in the background. I really liked the ‘radiating’ effect this gave, but, for our purposes, they had to go. So, I used the initial test print as a guide to tidying up the lino cuts.

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Admittedly, Morris probably would have thought these initial attempts pretty shoddy – the prints are inconsistent and have a few background marks. But then, I quite like the telltale signs that tell you something’s handmade.

IMG_1320By the way, I’ve written this post from Kiev, where I’m on a three-day holiday before I’m off to Donetsk. Pictures to follow!

Lino cuts at the William Morris Society

As you can probably tell, lino printing has become a bit of an obsession lately. I’ve been making lino cuts both at home and at the William Morris Society in Hammersmith with my friend Alice, assistant curator there.

We’re making linos based on motifs in Morris designs from the Society’s collection, to use in printing workshops for school groups. Our linos are mainly based on two of Morris’s lesser-known designs, Bird from 1878, and Grafton from 1883.

IMG_1115I had the privilege of taking a good look (and some bad photos) of the two original designs, both housed in the Society’s collection. Bird and Grafton were both made well into Morris’s career as a wallpaper and textile designer. You can see this in his precise and confident drawing of Bird, which contrasts with the rubbings out and alterations apparent in his first wallpaper design, Trellis, of 1864, for which he employed the help of his friend Philip Webb. Bird is a symmetrical design, so Morris only needed to colour in half of it, giving us an insight into his working process and drawing style.

Detail from original design drawing ‘Bird’ by William Morris

Detail from original design drawing ‘Bird’ by William Morris

Grafton is an unusual Morris design, being the only one resembling a stencil design. Most of Morris’ designs are much more complex, employing interwoven elements and many more colours. His most complex wallpaper and textile designs could need over twenty woodblocks (one for each colour) to print.

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IMG_1082 Detail from original design drawing ‘Grafton’ by William Morris

Perhaps I’ll try a more ambitious two-colour (not twenty-colour) design next, but for now, we’re quite happy with the results of our first… IMG_1117…and second lino cutting sessions. IMG_1269

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Cartoon by Edward Burne-Jones, showing Morris carving a woodblock

Photos of Grafton and Bird by kind permission of the William Morris Society.

 

Lino printing adventures

Having bought some lovely white Belarusian linen in Ukraine, I’ve decided to try printing on it, this time using lino instead of potato. Here are my first, pleasing, if not entirely successful attempts. I’m using Dylon fabric paint and lino from an arts supply shop, but have a feeling one or both of them is causing the prints to come out too weak. The lino seems a little bit hard and brittle, and the paint doesn’t seem as sticky as it should be for printing.

In a recent post, I started to put my thoughts about the garment industry and its problems into words. It’s made me want to look more closely at clothing and fabric, so my first lino cut was inspired by this – literally looking closely at, or ‘zooming in’ on the fabric on which it’s printed.

My second print was borrowed from a blackwork embroidery design in Rosemary Drysdale’s The Art of Blackwork Embroidery. Blackwork is a type of embroidery used in England from the time of Henry VIII, often seen poking from collars and cuffs in Tudor portraits, as in this painting by Holbein, and sometimes for more largescale decoration, such as in this portrait of Elizabeth I. After I made the prints I came across other blackwork embroidery designs resembling fabric weave, so I’ll take the happy coincidence of the two designs being related as an encouraging sign!

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Pangolin Christmas cards – finishing touches

Happy New Year!

But before I start on 2013 projects, here are the finishing touches from an old one.

Yes, yes, I know it’s bad luck to keep the Xmas decs up, but here are some pictures of the finished pangolin Christmas cards before I sent them off to friends and family. I was really pleased with the results and couldn’t resist making a print to keep for myself. Maybe next Christmas I’ll try to make a few extra to sell.

Pangolin Potato Prints

This morning I made Christmas cards. I decided that I wanted to make cards this year, but for it to be fun, as opposed to a lot of time fretting over them. So the answer.. printing.. specifically, potato printing!

I made this little drawing as my starting point, based on a postcard I bought at the British Library exhibition. I thought the idea of a Christmas tree coming to life as a pangolin would be fun – these creatures do look a little bit like pine cones after all.

I got the longest potato in the cupboard and cut it in half. A basic error I made with my previous (and first) printing attempt was not cutting the potato very straight, making the surface of the print uneven. So, cut it straight, with a sharp knife in one motion. Ninja style if you can. (I can’t)

Then, I drew the pangolin outline onto a piece of paper, exactly the size I wanted to print. I used thin-ish paper, so the outline showed through when turned over. I transferred the drawing to the potato by turning the piece of paper over, putting it on the cut surface of the potato and pricking the outline through with a pin. When I took the paper off again, the pinpricks were barely visible, so I used a paintbrush to apply a thin wash of colour to the potato cut surface to ‘bring out’ the design.

I then used a scalpel to cut out the outline and cut away a layer of potato from the edge. This bit’s fiddly, and worth taking time over. You need to make sure there are no little pieces left in the gaps, because these will accumulate paint, giving a smudgy outline. Details of eyes, nose and scales were done just by making cuts, not by lifting any pieces out – potato prints can give a surprising amount of detail.

Then, I printed onto the cards, playing around with pangolin placement.

Next, some colour in the shape of some baubles, a star, and a Xmas tree bucket.

Finished! Well, apart from the finishing touch, with the glitter glue. Trust me, it’ll work.