What a Bonus!
It was a huge bonus to be asked if we would like to stay for another week and we jumped at the chance. Robi wanted to add to her installation in the window and I still had lots of experiments I wanted to do.
Experiments with Heat Setting Polyester Fabric
I manipulated the polyester organza fabric in a few ways: I wrapped and tied (string or wire) squares around table-tennis balls, marbles, large beads, plastic poker chips, syringe caps and rolled up aluminium foil. All of those worked well. I stitched tubes of fabric and inserted beads – tying between each bead. I also wrapped stitched tubes around a dowel to create a spring-like form.
Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming.
Another experiment was to cut iron-on pelmet interfacing into strips. I wove these into a grid and stitched them together. Then I poked the polyester squares that had been shaped around table-tennis balls through some of the holes. This worked quite well and might be worth exploring at a later date. Further experiments could include covering the interfacing with fabric before/after cutting into strips, varying the strip widths, making 3D forms from the strips, and more. It was quite interesting to try and form a pleasing composition by moving the red puffs around. I could have poked the puffs through from both sides because the back had interesting texture too. Another effect I thought about (but didn’t actually do at the time) was to stitch the corners of the puffed squares to the grid (so there wasn’t anything at the back).
Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming. Shapes poked through holes in grid of stiff interfacing. Front view.
Experiments with heat setting polyester fabric by steaming. Shapes poked through holes in grid of stiff interfacing. Back view.
Needle Felting the Bowl
I spent several hours creating two bowl shapes by randomly weaving over a plastic bowl with Courtelle machine knitting yarn. I planned to embroider different designs on the inside and the outside of both of them and then dry-felt with hand-held felting needles to integrate the wool stitching. This was easy to do but took quite a bit of time and I was quite pleased with the overall look.
Bowl randomly woven over a plastic bowl with Courtelle yarn. Embroidered with tapestry wool on the inside and outside and dry-felted. In places where there was no wool the needles weakened the courtelle to the point where it could be torn easily by hand.
Then I noticed there were some weak areas between some of the circles on the outside. When I pushed (hard) with my finger I was able to push through and pull the fabric apart at those points. I wasn’t able to pull it apart where there was wool on both the inside and the outside (ie the courtelle sandwiched between the 2 layers). I cannot tear the other unembroidered bowl so clearly it was the needle-felting that has broken down, or cut perhaps, the fibres of the Courtelle. I was unimpressed – it had taken me several hours to dry felt (leave alone the time taken to make the bowl shape in the first place) and in so doing I had destroyed something I quite liked the look of.
I have learned a lesson – I will only dry-felt with felting needles on wool. This was my first foray into dry-felting with needles and now I am wondering how strong some of the embroideries I have seen made with the embellishing machines are when they have used synthetic fabrics/yarns. I am going to put these in the bin – I don’t want to incorporate something I am not happy with into any other artworks. I am going to embroider the other bowl base as I am quite happy with the strength of that structure – but I will not be using felting needles on it because of the Courtelle base layer.
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.
Art supplies from the hardware store – rope, cord and string from Bunnings and BigW to experiment with.
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.
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
A detail of the print from the Gelli® plate where the woven card coated with Shellac was used to remove paint. You can see the woven texture.
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.
The shellac coating came off when washing (submerged in cool water and scrubbed). The shellac came off where there was paint. I think the Matisse open medium acted as a solvent for the shellac. It didn’t come off where there was no paint.
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.
Woven paper collagraph coated with Shellac. I like the effect – looks almost like bamboo.
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.
The back of the woven paper collagraph coated with Shellac. I like the texture.
A detail of the woven paper collagraph plate. I like the inclusion of the printed lines from the scrap paper.
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.
These are the marks that were on the scrap paper that I cut into strips to make the woven paper collagraph.
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.