Tonight at 7pm the members of MELD (myself, Margaret Ford, Louise Wells and Julie Devereux) will be giving a powerpoint presentation with informal discussion at WAFTA. We’ll talk about how the group formed, how we came to the decision to hold a group exhibition and how we went about making it happen. We learnt a lot, and had some fun along the way of course. The Hidden Revealed Transformed exhibition was a very positive experience for us and If you’ve ever thought about holding an exhibition with friends we might just persuade you that you can do it too! We will be displaying some work from the exhibition so it will be a chance to see those up close if you missed our exhibition and chat to us about those as well. The venue is Alexander Park Craft House, Clyde Road, Menora (Perth, Western Australia). Visitors are welcome – there is a door fee. We hope to see you there.
I have been busy with paper mache again recently. I had ideas for our MELD exhibition last year and actually started some works but because I always apply a minimum of 10 layers, alternating used office copy paper and brown paper so that it is really strong, my paper mache forms need a long time to dry and harden.
So I abandoned them in favour of other work for the 2015 MELD exhibition. Now of course (a whole year later!) they are thoroughly hard and can be painted/finished off. I’m thinking I could make more for our next MELD exhibition (or some other exhibition of course) if I start now.
I enjoy making 3D forms because of their tactile qualities. I like trying to produce sensuous curves and making pieces that generate that urge to caress, stroke or touch the work. I like trying to make the work reproduce that feeling I get when I pick up a really smooth river stone or piece of sea glass – it’s impossible to resist playing with the stone – turning it over and over in my hands.
Maybe I’m a bit perverse – creating works that give out that vibe to touch or caress and then putting them in an exhibition situation which more often than not has signs everywhere saying “please don’t touch the artwork”.
And pods in nature often rattle because of the seeds inside don’t they? So I’ve added the “rattle factor” to some of them too. But how would the viewer know that unless they pick it up and shake it? Definitely perverse. Grin.
This bamboo armature is the start of the 3rd pod this week. The 3 triangular frames that are tied in place will be removed once the hot glue has set. They were only there to keep the 3 bent “ribs” evenly (roughly!) spaced and the ends together while I figured out how to fix the ends permanently. I tried weaving around the ends but of course as I tightened the weaving it worked it’s way down the tapered shape and off the ends. So hot glue was the solution this time around. I started 2 others as well which have a very different underlying structure.
One of the things that appeals to me about paper mache is that it uses discarded material. It does take a long time because each layer is so thin – but then most things worth doing do don’t they?
Inspiration comes from the strangest of places. With all the printing I’ve been doing lately there have been quite a few painted baby wipes created by the clean up process. They are quite colourful and semi transparent so there were some interesting effects when I layered them (another thing worth collecting!).
They are a non-woven fabric similar to dressmakers interfacing so they can be stitched. They tear easily in one direction only. I have used those to make a background for the Fibres West donation pieces, on which I will stitch some embellishment in red. I haven’t yet decided which red to use – a more muted Indian Oxide type red to match the muted blue, or a bright “popping” Cadmium Scarlet. I’m going to paint the ribbon and the cardboard circles and then stitch them in place. I am thinking about the finishing process while I do all this.
We had a newsletter about Fibres West 2015 recently and there was mention of donating works not bigger than 6″ in any direction for a fund raising sale (all works to sell for a set price). So I bought these 6″ canvases at Jacksons last week with the idea that I would create 4 little gems to donate.
Since taking this photo I have applied 2 coats of Gesso and now I am waiting for inspiration to strike 🙂
I bought these cords from Bunnings today to experiment with. The brightly coloured Polypropylene string (1mm x 60m) was $4 for the 5 reels, the white Venetian Blind cord (2mm x 30m) was $4 and the Grunt cotton sash cord (5mm x 5m) was $4. The Dunn braided cotton rope (15m) was $3.50 in Big W.
I’m planning to experiment with netting, knotting and weaving (maybe even *gasp* macramé) and possibly using them to create more collograph plates. Although with my present luck making/using collograph plates I should probably steer clear of those for a week or so 🙂
The blind cord says it is “abrasion resistant” and although it doesn’t say what is made from the end feels like it has been heated to prevent it from unravelling. I will have fun with all of these I am sure.
How I made the collagraph plate
To make the collagraph plate I sealed a piece of thick card with Atelier Regular Gloss Gel and used the gel to adhere some loom bands. A big tub of loom bands were bought for $1 in a reject shop (obviously not the “in thing” to do anymore). The bands were adhered to the card with the idea of using it to remove paint from the Gelli® plate and also as a collagraph plate in it’s own right.
Collagraph plate problems
The top half of the photo shows the state of the plate after only a few prints. The lower half shows (l to r) a previously printed sheet overprinted from the cardboard plate, a ghost print from the Gelli® plate, a print from the cardboard plate, a print from the Gelli® plate.
I had applied 3 coats of gel to adhere the bands. This time I decided to experiment with the Matisse Block Printing inks after the disaster with the Shellac/acrylic paint/open medium disaster. The block printing inks are much stickier than the paint mixture. So sticky in fact that they started to pull the loom bands off the gel medium! So this too has turned into a mini-disaster. It’s just not my week 🙁 I will try other glues to stick the loom bands down as I really like the effect of these slightly “off” circles. The block printing inks didn’t really cover very well on the Gelli® plate either so I got lines/patchiness and sometimes the roller picked the ink up again as I rolled. So I probably need to use some other base for mono-printing with the printing inks. The bands that have come off have left an imprint in the gel medium so maybe all is not lost – maybe I can take all the bands off and use the texture of the gel medium as a printing plate. I managed a few prints before the loom bands all started looking a bit loose.
Some more painted paper results. Various papers scrunched and painted with dilute acrylics (Yellow Oxide and Cadmium Scarlet).
The detail shot is Chinese handmade paper which was laid over some plastic which had some interesting-looking dried paint on it.
I deliberately chose a colour from the opposite side of the colour wheel so that the paint marks would show up clearly if they transferred. So now I’m creating a stash of plastic with interesting dried paint on it as well! 🙂
I used the woven card collagraph plate sealed with shellac to print using Jo Sonja and Atelier artists acrylics mixed with Derivan Matisse Open Medium to extend the drying time of the paints.
Problems with cleaning the collagraph plate
It was ok until I came to clean the plate – at which point it became a disaster. I managed 5 prints. I did notice that the plate had become sticky after the second print but I thought that was the paint. Then I noticed that the smell had changed – not for the better. After 5 prints I decided to clean the plate. I submerged it in water and wiped with a cloth. The paint didn’t move so I scrubbed with a nailbrush. The paint and shellac all came off where the paint was in contact with the shellac – so the card absorbed quite a bit of water.
Where there was shellac only (around the edges and on the back) the shellac remained intact (even when it was scrubbed with the nailbrush). I can only conclude that something in the open medium affected the shellac (or maybe the medium in combination with paints from another brand). I must admit I was not using the Matisse open medium with the Matisse Structure paints for which it was intended so it could be the combination and not the open medium by itself that has caused the problem. I have left the plate in the sun to dry out as I quite like it as it is so it could be sealed once dry and re-used for another purpose.
I learnt that I should have tested the shellac as a waterproofing agent on some small pieces of the card rather than using it for the first time on a plate that took me several hours to make. Then I should have tested the painting medium on those samples. My reading had indicated that shellac was the way to go but most of the books I was referring to were pretty old – open medium and paints that can be “unlocked” have been developed since they were written. The information I had would have been written for plates that were intended to be used with printing ink (which at that time would have all been oil based I imagine). Now I do actually have some Derivan Matisse Structure paints and some of their Block Printing inks (water clean up is also a recent development) so I guess there is a whole new area of enquiry right there. The question is – am I ever going to actually produce any artwork or am I going to carry on testing for ever? 🙂
How I made the collagraph plate
I have finished weaving paper (it took me ages – much longer than I anticipated!) to make another collagraph plate.
I used Selly’s Exterior Aquadhere PVA to glue the finished weaving to a piece of thicker card previously sealed with WestArt Crystal Clear spray varnish (but I forgot about that when I glued the paper weaving on).
Once the glue was dry I sealed both sides with Shellac. I think I did about 6 coats on the weaving because that is going to get a lot of use, and I did 2 on the back because I realised that it wasn’t soaking in as I had previously sealed the thick card with WestArt Crystal Clear varnish. So that indicates to me that the Crystal Clear may be a good enough water-proofing agent by itself.
I really like the appearance (and the feel) of the paper sealed with Shellac and will experiment more with this on different papers/fabrics/threads. I’m also wondering what Shellac would look like over different colours of paper/painted paper. Tissue paper and brown paper could look very interesting.
And I still like the broken lines that look like code too 🙂
I have been experimenting with making printing plates from various materials I had on hand (some of which I had bought years ago but never got around to trying of course). These can be used to remove paint to create texture on the Gelli plate (if they have some flexibility and no sharp projections) or as printing plates in their own right. I recently did quite a bit of reading about different ways to create collagraph plates. In particular I was interested in ways of waterproofing the plates if they were made from materials which weren’t already waterproof such as paper/card or fabric. This is because I have had experience in the past where some glues become sticky again when wet.
I have made one out of thin card (140gsm) and paper shapes glued onto a thicker card (600gsm) which I have sealed with 2 coats of Atelier Regular Gel (Gloss) and 2 coats of WestArt Crystal Clear spray varnish. Concerns are that the edges will not be waterproof as it is difficult to make sure they are coated. I haven’t tried it yet and as they say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. I have since read that Shellac waterproofs paper and card because it works by soaking in rather than sitting on the surface. This has 2 benefits: the entire plate is waterproofed rather than just the surface, and fine details are not filled in by the sealant.
I am therefore in the process of making another plate, with the texture of weaving, from the same thin card which I will glue onto thicker card and then seal with Shellac (which I have used before to seal wooden stamp blocks, but not for paper). I am interested to know whether the texture of the weaving will show or whether I will just get dots in a regular grid from the high spots.
While I was making this I became intrigued with the way the lines that were printed on the thin card were displayed in a completely new way. It looks almost like a code or cipher. So I’ve filed this away in the back of my mind in the “inspiration” category.