Monday, July 31, 2017

Eco-Dyeing on Paper Play Day

I recently had a play day in my studio with eco-dyeing on paper.  I'd just returned home from running weekend workshops in Bundaberg (4 hours north of Brisbane), and had some left over red cabbage, so I decided not to waste it and have some brewing fun.

Using the red cabbage / alum / copper sulphate mix, I achieved some lovely results.  I collected some eucalypt leaves from my local park, but also tried a few plants from my garden.

I'll use the resulting eco-prints to make notebooks to sell at markets later this year.  I also intend to make a concertina artist book with the large pieces.

Eucalypt leaves
My stash of rusty metal bits

The brew - I cut up the red cabbage and put it into a laundry
bag to get the colour started. I removed the bag before dyeing
to make space for my bundles.
And it looks purple, but dyes blue/green/grey.
Making a bundle.
My technique is usually stuff in as much as you can,
but I decided to be a bit more conservative!

My bundles ready to go into the pot.
  I use large 'paddle-pop' sticks (also known as tongue depressers I think?)
and rubber bands.  I sometimes use tiles and clips but
that takes up too much room in the pot.
After 45 minutes simmering and maybe a bit of 'sitting' time,
I remove my bundles from the brew to cool before I unwrap them.
Patience is the key!
Unbundling - the best part of the process!

I love the dark marks that the rusty bottletop has made.
It contrasts really well with the brew colour (greeny/blue/grey)
and the leaf print.

The prints lighten as they darken -this one is still wet.
The purples lightened somewhat but still a beautiful print.

Wonderful marks and moody darks.

A clear leaf print.  The advantage of the cabbage brew
is that the brew colour doesn't dominate
like an iron brew (my favourite).

Lots of prints for notebooks.
Might be hard to part with them though!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Playing with Monotypes

Yesterday I enjoyed a printmaking play day with art friends where we explored a couple of different monoprinting techniques.

My favourite monoprinting technique is using stencils, leaves and objects to create layered imagery, but I wanted to explore some more traditional monotype techniques, so we tried subtractive, additive, trace, and pressure printing.

I also wanted to test my Akua inks to see how they performed, instead of my usual oil based etching inks.

Subtractive Monotype - we inked up our plates using rollers, then wiped back the ink off the plate to create our images.  The best results for a quick image were using plastic stencils, where we held onto the stencil and wiped out the ink from the stencil design.  We also played with cotton tips and other mark making tools.

Subtractive Monotype using two stencils

Additive Monotype - well......we didn't have much success using the Akua Inks with this one, perhaps too much blending medium?   More work required, but we decided that we had plenty of other creative techniques to explore.

Trace Monotype - this was an easy one that didn't require the press.  We inked up our plates, placed a piece of paper on top and drew our designs on the back of the paper.  It produced a crisp line when we used pencils, but we could also create tone with our fingers.  A simple technique that I used in conjunction with a paper stencil.

Trace Monotype

Printing from the Trace Monotype plate, using a
bird stencil as a resist
Stratograph or Pressure Printing - this is a technique that I read about being used in letterpress printing, but I wanted to try it to see if I could use it with my Xcut press.  This technique is essentially 'upside down' printing.  We inked up our plates, placed a piece of paper on top, then some dried pressed leaves on top of that, before running it through the Xcut press.  The pressure of the press prints the image of the leaves onto the paper from behind.  We had a lot of fun with this one, so I'll be exploring its possibilities in the coming months.

Wendy's Stratograph (or Pressure Print)
using banksia leaves on handmade paper

My Stratograph print

Print from the Stratograph Plate

I was pleased with the performance of the Akua inks, and they were super easy to clean up.  My intention over the next 12 months is to fully explore their possibilities with the intention of phasing out my oil based etching inks in the long term.  Fun times ahead!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Paper - its good for the Seoul

I've recently returned from holidays in Japan (again) as well as a few days in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

I was interested in visiting Seoul, given South Korea's reputation for its paper, Hanji.  I found a couple of shops in the Insa-dong area, amongst the tacky tourist shops and restauranteurs touting for business.

The best shop I found is known as Ilsindang.  As usual, its hard to find places using street addresses, but luckily I had walking instructions from another blogger (thanks!).  Find Starbucks (easy), look across the road and up, and there it is.  I could see the paper lanterns alight in the window....magic!

The shop was full of paper goodies - hanji papers, glues, brushes, templates.  Unfortunately for me the people in the shop only spoke Korean, so I just had to help myself.  I've still got a large stash of Japanese papers from my last trip so I had to restrict myself to just a few goodies.

I loved the lanterns, so have included a few photos here (I was thinking of you Ngaire....!).

paper, paper, paper

more paper, almost overwhelming....!

I bought one of the plastic templates for this lantern,
to work on at home

Detail showing the beautiful paper

Like a beautiful rich pumpkin!

The pinholes in this lantern make a beautiful effect.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Monoprinting on Fabric

I've previously blogged about my experiments with monoprinting on fabric, particularly t-shirts and art aprons.   I recently ran a workshop with the Warwick Artists Group and I'd like to share some photos and experiences from the workshop.

We explored sun printing using Dala Sun Colour Paints, gelatine monoprinting and stencil printing with an etching press.

We had heaps of fun with some great results and near misses.  I always enjoy running workshops with art groups, there's a great vibe and lots of light hearted laughter and jokes.  It really makes tutoring less of a 'job' !

Jo's black scarf with white repeated design -
monoprinted but looks like block printing

Jill making a plastic stencil using a
mini-soldering iron.
It melts the edges of the plastic (instead of cutting with a scalpel)
which makes an interesting effect when printed.

Printing using ferns and other pressed plant material,
using oil based etching inks and the etching press.

Jo with her printed tea towel.
It looked like she bought it
from an expensive homewares shop,
just beautiful.
The happy artists with some of their pieces from the workshop,
with 'Presston' the etching press.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Day of Papermaking

Yesterday I gathered together with members of Papermakers of Queensland (POQ) on the Sunshine Coast to make paper.  These papermaking days - known as 'Hands on Paper' (HOP) days -  are a POQ tradition spanning 25 years.

Making paper from botanical sources (ie plants) rather than recycled papers is a labour of love. Here's a rough guide to how its done:

1.  Collect fibre - prunings from plants, chop up into small pieces.
2.  Put into old pillow cases.
3.  Boil in a solution of caustic soda (or soda ash) for several hours to break down the fibres.
4.  Rinse, rinse, rinse in water until it runs clear.  I usually do this over several days using a soak then rinse method.
5.  Beat the fibres to break them down into a pulp.  This can be done by hand with a mallet, a garbage disposal unit, a blender, or (the best option) a hollander beater.

The fibre is then ready to be put into vats of water and sheets pulled.

I had the opportunity yesterday to use a hollander beater for the first time, and Helga kindly showed me how it worked.  It was great to see my chunky fibres gradually beaten down to a fine fluffy fibre which hung suspended in the water beautifully.

Our HOP day consisted of members sharing vats of different fibres including Hamil grass, cane, banana, philodendron, lemon grass, and my mixed vat of daylilly, geranium and pineapple leaves.  I also like to add a bit of recycled printmaking paper pulp to my papers to reduce shrinkage when drying.

Once the sheets are formed and the couching stack is high, the sheets are pressed with a hydraulic press to extract the water and compress the fibres.  Then the papers are laid out on boards until dry, then ironed and pressed under weights to get them flat.

Phew!  Lots of hard work but the papers are beautiful and yesterday there was a great vibe of energetic fun making paper with a group of like-minded papermakers.

The Hollander Beater

Lemon Grass fibre n the beater

The Lemon Grass fibre is ready!
Pulling a sheet of mixed fibres, using a mould & deckle

Here I am couchng a sheet

Pressing the couched sheets using a
hydraulic press
Laying the sheets onto boards to dry
The happy papermakers !

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Big Smoke Little Smoke @ Dogwood Crossing, Miles

It's been a while between posts, as I've been busy preparing artwork then traveling out to Miles for installation of my joint exhibition 'Big Smoke Little Smoke' with fellow artist Joanne Taylor.

Here are some photos from the exhibition -

The Gallery building at Miles, based on the iconic Bottle Tree

"Interconnection" made up of
hexagons of prints and papers.
Its a comment on pollination, with the pattern
reflecting the brood of a native bee hive.

Detail of my installation, "Interconnection".

One of my new works, "Natural History", using blueprints
on wooden insect shapes.
Once again my artwork reflects my fascination
with museum collections.

Another new artwork, "I'll meet you at the Mall",
completed during my POD residency last year.
Its drawings of urban birds on takeaway bags,
with textures inspired by the landscape.

Joanne and I at the opening night function.

Thanks to Lyn and Paul for the photos.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Research and Reading

Its been a month since I returned from my residency in Tasmania, and since then I've been busy finalising artworks for my upcoming exhibition.

I'm exhibiting 'Big Smoke Little Smoke' with fellow artist Jo Taylor at the Dogwood Crossing Art Gallery at Miles during February and March this year.  This is a follow up to our exhibition at Tambo early last year.  The exhibition space at Miles is bigger than Tambo so Jo and I have both been working on new artworks to make the most of the new space.

My focus for the exhibition is on my favourite theme of urbanisation of nature.  I've been reading a lot of books relating to introduced animals and historical accounts of how today's Australia was shaped by a lot of bad behaviour by colonial settlers.  I've been blissfully diverted by tales of Tasmanian Thylacines (extinct or roaming Tassie somewhere?) as well as reading about how our national identity is linked to the animals around us, both native and introduced species.

As part of my art practice, I read a lot of books that focus on the conceptual side of my art. Gone are the days where I just read novels and technique based books.  A wide range of reading sources have really helped me to develop the ideas or conceptual side of my art practice.  I've been able to use my research to spark interesting ideas and lines of investigation which I then develop further into artworks.  I learnt this from attending workshops with artist/writer/educator Ruth Hadlow.

As I read my books, I flag interesting paragraphs and sentences. Then after I finish reading the book, I refer back to the flagged pages and write notes in my ruled A4 notebook, its nothing flash or visually exciting.  I write down details of the book, where I got the book from (eg local library or my bookshelf), and the page numbers of each note that I make so I can refer back to that section of the book if I need to.

These notes then become my resource when developing artworks or writing exhibition/grant proposals.

Ruth Hadlow also had another great tip which I use frequently - read the references section at the end of each book, it gives hints on other sources and books to look at on related topics.  Its almost like a rainy day spent on the internet, where you go from one YouTube video to the next, drift along happily in Pinterest etc.  You never know where it may lead you.

For me, I don't just want to make an artwork that may be decorative or pretty.  I now take the time to research and read widely to broaden my thinking and develop my ideas from external influences.  Its not just all about technique, which of course is the fun bit, but I also want to have a story worth sharing with my viewer.

A4 Notebook and books I'm currently reading

Sample page from my Notebook

You can see the flags I use, like
mini Post-It notes
Invitation for my exhibition (front)
Invitation - reverse side