Saturday, September 27, 2014

Screen, Dye and Discharge

One of the things I initially loved about Deconstructed Screen Printing (DSP) is the orderliness of a row of prints.   Watching the prints change as the dye dissolved was fascinating all by itself.  However, one of my goals for the class was to learn to move beyond the grid composition.   Also, there was general interest in the class on how to unite print blocks in a piece.   Here's a demonstration by Kerr which shows the typical grid composition.

Kerr's garment fabrics show a much more sophisticated use of DSP.  She talked about how she's moved on from the basic techniques she taught in the 2007 "Deconstructed Screen Printing for Fabric and Paper" DVD.   So, she guided us to discover answers for ourselves!

One simple way that we moved away from block printing was to paint hot wax on our screens to break up the edges.

I've used a similar resist technique in other types of screen printing where you tear a strip of masking tape down the center and tape it to the sides of the screen to give an organic look to your print edges. Hand torn newspaper masks can do the same thing to frame a print.   Please comment if you have other ways to manipulate edges on your screen.

I shared this piece of fabric made in the workshop "Screen, Dye and Discharge - Enlarging Your Markmaking Vocabulary with Kerr Grabowski" in a previous blog.  It shows a single layer of screen printing using different colors and values of thickened dyes.  I laid down the prints at random changing the orientation of the screen.   One of the great tips from Kerr was to unify the individual screen prints by painting in thickened dyes around them.   Yeah!  This works really well.  I found it so appealing that I turned it into a fingerpainting exercise ...with gloves on of course...

I created a second DSP screen using pipe cleaners, string and part of the textured placemat for the next layer.   Wish I'd thought to get a photo of it before printing!   There were enough pipe cleaner petals to make a loose flower shape.  Once again, I printed the screen randomly in different orientations to unify the design.  You can see the whole piece down below.

Detail shot of the pipe cleaner flower and texture from placemat and string
Now that I'd tried out the screening and dyeing portion of class, it was time to move on to discharging.  I wanted to create a focal point this time.   I cut a large freezer paper stencil and ironed it onto the fabric.  I used a screen to squeegee on the discharge paste.   Sadly, the screen wasn't big enough to cover the entire stencil.   I applied the discharge paste in 4 quadrants.   I was initially surprised to discover that the center of the stencil had discharged beautifully, but the outer edges had not.   It occurred to me that the area in the center of the motif was where the 4 quadrants overlapped...4 times the application of discharge paste.   So, the mystery was solved and I brought home an object lesson!   Who knows, someday this fade technique may be just what I'm looking for...

I still like the overall piece.  Notice how the discharge paste didn't work on the blue dye at the center of the freezer paper stencil.   I got a hidden color from a mixed dye showing through to add interest.  The transparency of MX Reaction dyes is so wonderful to layer.   The fact that the discharging wasn't completely successful was disappointing, but it's an opportunity to work back into the piece.   Kerr routinely works back into her pieces which is another chance to unify your design.
As I was glorying in all this color and busyness, I peeked over at the neighboring table to see Andi creating a gorgeous piece using white space and a simple DSP background of lines to unify her piece.   Wow!   This elegant design speaks to me of serenity.  Andi's piece doesn't read as a grid composition, so she broke out of the block syndrome too.

Janis's whimsical piece is alive with color and movement.   I can see blocks in the background, but they aren't the dominant feature of this design.   She's unified her prints using repetition of shape and rhythm.  I found it interesting to compare this piece to other pieces on her blog.

The blocks in Cindi's piece are integrated into the design giving it a feeling of fracture and layering. The analogous colors and nautilus motif also work to unify the piece.   After thinking about the successful ways that people integrated their prints, I think that it comes back to good uses of the principles and elements of design.    

Fiber Artist Studio Tips

I picked up several useful tips from Kerr Grabowski's class at Pro Chemical & Dye...

The first tip Kerr claims to have learned from a student in a previous class...   Cut the plastic lids for your containers so that you can leave the spoons in place.   I've reluctantly cleaned spoons in the past when closing up shop for the night, I've tried covering the tubs with plastic wrap to get around cleaning the spoons and I've found tubs left open overnight with that lovely scum layer dried on top to skim off...   I'm very fond of this tip!   Perhaps you've struggled with cleaning up versus being ready to roll the next day too?
Never clean your spoons before you're done with a color again!
The second tip came from my table mate, Lois.   She brought a pressure sprayer (typically a gardening tool) to spray our table and make dye paint clean up a breeze.  Thanks Lois!

The third tip came from Cindi and it was something completely unexpected!  Cindi uses car washing bucket inserts in her studio.   The "grit guard" allows grit to settle in the bottom of your bucket while sponges and rags sit on top of the guard.   Cindi turns the guard upside down and uses it to keep fabric submerged.  This would work well in your soda ash bucket or while immersion dyeing.   The "grit guard" would likely stamp or rub well too.   Love those dual use tools!

The final tip from Kerr was better T-pins.   I've been conserving a 50 pack of  blunted, bent 1.5" long chunky *one-size-fits-all*  T-pins sold by the local sewing store.   Who knew they came in different sizes?   My tablemate shared her dainty size 16 t-pins.  They were sharp, thin and vastly improved the experience of pinning down the fabric to the print board.   She didn't gasp and dive for each pin if one landed on the floor.   You can buy them by the half pound here!   This was the first thing I purchased when I got home from the workshop.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Kerr Grabowski Screen Printing Workshop

Kerr Grabowski's "Screen, Dye and Discharge - Enlarging Your Markmaking Vocabulary" workshop at ProChemical & Dye in Fall River, MA started off with making small inexpensive screens based on hardware store materials.   We drew on the screens with wax.   I can see this technique being especially useful for representing Christopher Alexander's principles of Alternating Repetition, Good Shape and Positive Space.  Can't wait to learn more tomorrow!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Work Smarter...Not Harder" - Allan F. Mogensen

I've been handing out my "pre-blog" business card, then explaining about my fabulous art grant blog.   Too bad you'll never find it because the old business card doesn't list it!   I attended the first Fall meeting of the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild today.   It was brought home to me that I really needed a card specifically for the grant. it is!   I've recycled the blog banner and color scheme, thrown in my contact information in matching font and pronounced it good.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fabric Arrival / Studio Peek

"So come up to the lab and see what's on the slab"  
     - Rocky Horror Picture Show

The fabric has arrived!  I went with a favorite mercerized cotton broadcloth - M419.   Test Fabrics Inc. didn't waste any time getting it to me.   They were speedy earlier this year when I asked for a price quote as part of the grant writing process too.   I've got my dyeing apron out along with the chosen color palette.   All that wonderful potential just waiting to happen...

Tag on Fabric Bolt

I admit to being nosy.   I love to see people's studios/workshops in any discipline.  People adapt their surroundings in order to work efficiently.   So, I thought I'd share a glimpse of my evolving studio in turn where all the goodness of the grant will happen.   I've added three new things to my studio to put the most used tools and supplies within easy reach.   The pegboard was leftover from a tool organizing project in the garage.   It fitted next to the laundry sink like it was meant to be!   I added a storage cart below for all those yogurt cups, buckets and other plastic containers used for dyeing.

Studio Pegboard for Tool Storage 

My dye chemicals were previously stuffed in drawers.   I knew that I'd need to keep larger quantities of the chemicals on hand for the grant work.   I purchased a narrow laundry cart to fit a niche next to two back-to-back wooden dressers (also recently added) topped with an overly large blocking board.   The blocking board gives me the surface area that I need to work on larger pieces of fabric.   Happily, I found stackable Rubbermaid containers that fitted perfectly into the cart.

Chemical Storage Cart
All those graduated cylinders, beakers and a spiffy electronic measuring scale really bring out my inner "mad scientist."   I've moved away from seat of the pants dyeing and am headed for repeatable results.   A future goal is to get the rest of the studio photo ready!

"With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world."
- Dalai Lama

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Color Study - Tangerine, Strongest Red, Deep Navy

I learned new skills at Carol Soderlund’s "True Colors" workshop last year which apply to my grant.   A color palette developed from ProChemical& Dye’s tangerine, strongest red and deep navy MX reaction dyes will help to unify my series of surface design pieces.   Mixing only 3 dye stocks also means working more efficiently.   It sounds limiting, but look at all the colors I get to use!   Each of the colors can be further expanded by doing a value study.      

Primary Colors
Secondary Colors

Dyeing the palette took patience, but I liked the colors as much as I’d hoped.   Unfortunately, the mystery sample fabric from my stash was lousy.   The fabric biased wickedly, oily stains showed up and I kept getting pokey ends despite repeated trimming with the rotary cutter.   Now I know why there was a partial bolt of white fabric still hiding out in my stash.  The samples look pretty shabby compared to Carol Soderlund’s pristine color reference books.   Lesson learned!   I ordered 60 meters of M419 (mercerized cotton broadcloth) from TestFabrics, Inc. to use from here on out.

"True Colors" gave me better insight into my color preferences.   I created a notebook of my artwork and other items with favorite colors as part of the class preparation.   I realized that I truly do gravitate to particular areas on the color wheel.  I found myself staring at Carol at the personal consultation saying "but I don't like orange...”, but there it was…   Now I know that I don't use large gobs of it, but it's my go-to accent color.   There are about 14 “pure” MX reaction dye colors.   The rest of the dye colors you get are blends of those fourteen.   Now that I know which pure dyes contribute to the colors I enjoy, I can create successful color palettes more intentionally.

I can't wait for October to attend Carol’s "The New Color Mixing for Dyers Part 1” at ProChemical & Dye.   I will join other color obsessed artists who also crave their own color reference binders.  
Carol's classes are well organized, fun and informative.  ProChemical has wonderful facilities and an even more fabulous staff.   
I highly recommend them both.