Not black and white.

Last week I hired Ineke Berlyn’s barn studio for two days, so I could experiment with my new thermofax screens, with the hope that this would lead to new fabrics and then new work in the future. This was a birthday present to myself. I did have some unformed ideas which have been in my head for some time, and I was also willing to see what happened; well, up to a point, as I find I still want results I am immediately happy with, which I should have grown out of by now, especially as I have often noted that work which is initially disappointing can be the real new work of the future.

I wanted too to use some of a large collection of acrylic inks, some bought, some given to me,  and to make a good dent in a motley but useful collection of fabrics. I am on a slow but steady mission to use what I own before needlessly buying more of the same, and in this way I hoped to perhaps eliminate some media from my repertoire too. So although that happened admirably well, on my first day, on the second day when my friend Hilary Beattie arrived to work in the studio too, such resolves broke down as I was converted to the use of over painted procion dyes.

The combination of acrylic paint, inks, prints made with acrylic paint [with screen print medium added] and the whole piece then swished over with vivid dye was wonderful. I have been working in black and white a lot over the last few years, so all this colour took me back to when I first started in textiles and my thrill at all that colour in all those formats. So of course I haven’t eliminated a medium but gained one.

2I immediately took over every surface within 15 minutes of arriving; that’s 4 tables and the print table. I love space. Those are the acrylic inks which were brushed mostly onto white cotton. The third image shows one such piece, which was later transformed quite radically. The inks were mainly pearlescent.

PicMonkey CollageA selection of inked fabrics and acrylic painted fabrics, and my pots of acrylic + screen print medium waiting to be used.

W7Some thermofax prints on calico and cotton, just practice pieces in how best to handle the screens. I like the dark ones at bottom right quite a lot.

W8On my second day I started to print over acrylic painted and inked surfaces.  They were ok, an improvement on the whole, but when Hilary arrived with her dyes, which she kindly let me use, everything became considerably more exciting. She didn’t even cry when she saw how much I was using. This is the first of my fossils pieces.

W9This was pleasant but bland before the raspberry dye went on.

W10I love this print. The backs of some of them are stunning too.

W11It’s interesting that my ideas had featured brighter colours. I will probably use the fabrics in pattern based work, in conjunction with plain coloured fabrics. Well, let’s be honest here, it will be black, mostly, for the plain parts.

W12Another part of the same cloth.

W13The paler lines on this print were made using what has proved to be one of my favourite screens. Many of them were drawn with fine liner pen and photocopied, to burn the screen. Others I drew in India ink, which has a high enough carbon content to make a screen. This screen was made from a charcoal pencil drawing, and the sketchiness of the line is perfect for the character of the thermofax screen. Once again with charcoal pencil the screen can be made straight from the drawing.

W14I liked that nasturtium screen printed with lacquer red acrylic, so here it is used again on a piece printed too with turquoise hoopoes and dyed afterwards with cobalt and turquoise dyes.

W15This piece isn’t finished, I’ve decided. It needs some finer lined imagery over it, it’s a bit clunky.  If it totally fails it will be ideal to cut up into interesting pieces. Most of the fabric will be cut up, I imagine, some into smaller pieces than others.

W16This is the end result from the bland lilac piece shown at the start of the post; yes, it’s psychotic dragonflies. I thought it was a pink disaster at first, but overprinting with black and then layering on other prints turned it into something really exciting. This is my favourite piece, not that I have any idea what I will do with it, as I can’t chop this one up at all. The screen was made from a photograph I took of my dried dragonfly [it is about 20 years old at least] and digitally tweaked. The dragonfly is A4 sized [ not in real life…]. I haven’t put the size on any of the images but if anyone is desperate to know, you know who to ask.

W17So when I got home with my new bright fabrics, in the spirit of using what I already have, except the dyes etc which I have been forced into purchasing, I dug out this glorious mix of threads and fabrics. The fabrics are mostly from my over the top cheap bling collection, which will now be used in conjunction with the new fabrics, and the threads I bought over time as I love the colours, but mostly use white, cream and black, so they have been sitting in a drawer. As usual I have other work to finish before I start to use this exciting mix of new and old fabric, but I will post my progress.

Lots of thanks to Hils for the dye education,and the use of her dyes of course, and Ineke and John for the generous use of the studio.

12 thoughts on “Not black and white.

  1. Wow Steph, there’s a lot to absorb here. Cannot work out whether you are painting the fabrics with the acrylic inks neat or whether you’re adding it to medium and using it to thermofax with. If it’s the latter does the ink keep its vibrancy or does the medium make it more transparent and act like extender I wonder? Something is certainly vibrant in those photos. It looks like you were a woman on a mission and you made the most of your two days. What a fabulous present to yourself. I think those cyclamen plants have a lot to answer for as they seem to have unleashed a passion for all shades of magenta in you!! Looks like ‘roll on January’ when you take it even further…

  2. Hi Lesley, the fabrics were painted first with the neat pearlescent ink, which produced very bright fabrics to start with, as I didn’t tone them down with black as I have in the past. I used acrylic paint mixed about 50/50 with the screen printing medium, to print with. This doesn’t change the paint except to make it better behaved and it also makes the screens easy to wash. It gives a good strongly pigmented print too. Then it was on with the dyes. Some fabric was painted and then printed just with acrylics before the dye stage; I like the effect of the dye picking up the brush strokes with those pieces. I still have quite a lot of inked fabrics to print, which should give me plenty to do next time; it is a real learning experience. I will try thickened dyes to print with next time too. It’s not a job to do in the house though, well not for me, it needs handy sinks nearby and space.

  3. This looks so exciting. (And I want to come and play tooooooo – she wails!)

    I have used those Inks, but in my experience they just sit on the surface of the fabric and crack off when you start to manipulate it, or did you mix the inks with a medium to help them behave?

    I do print with acrylic mixed with fabric medium. In my experience it turns cheap and relatively ‘nasty’ paint (The Works etc.) into a fantastic ink. Of course, I think it would not really launder very well so ideal for pieces that are designed to hang rather than get used.

    And I am such a fan of Thermofax screens. What a wonderful invention they are. I used a screen for my final piece for the C&G Textile Design course I did earlier this year.

    Things are so full on at the moment that I am finding I have little time to create – which is very frustrating – but reading about the adventures of others helps!

    Take Care

    Hilary (Lurcher)

  4. Hi Hilary, yes, they will crack off when thick; there’s a bottom layer that stays. However, when you really brush them into the fabric [ I wasn’t gentle ] they give in and stay well bonded.
    I’m pleased you are another acrylic fan, and you are right, I used Works acrylics and they make good inks. For the gold and silver acrylic mix I have System 3 paints, more expensive but not that bad.
    Let’s hope you can manage some creative time if you have a Christmas break.The C&G course sounds very interesting, I’d love to see your work from the course at some point.

  5. Stephers – these are just SO exciting … even better looking at them for the second time. Psycho dragonflies is a winner and I just love those chameleons too – they are totally 3d with the overprints. It’s always hard with cloths as exciting as this to actually chop any up … but I bet you do … well some at least. I’m finding my cloths are leading me away from what I thought I was going to do, and making suggestions themselves … I think I might listen and see where that goes. It was a fabbo day and I’m not surprised Hilary G wants to come and play. There is something about working alongside someone with whom you have a good synergy, which is very energising and seems to produce results greater than the sum of the parts .. if that makes any sense. Already looking forward to January and am now off to talk to my cloth – H xx

  6. Let me know what it says to you Hils. I’ve ordered the dyes, not sure if I can wait until January to have a go with them; there will be mess in this house, no doubt about it. Sxx

  7. Hell, I want to play too! What a universe of colour has been unleashed here. Some of the images… particularly the line drawings against splash backgrounds… remind me of some of John Piper’s textile designs. I love that flock of turtles flowing/flying through a sea of blues and citrus greens!

  8. Hello Clive, many thanks for your comment. I must admit it was really enjoyable experimenting with my screens and of course the new, to me at least, dyes. I wasn’t sure about the line drawing screens at first, I think I wanted them to behave as neat prints I could practically treat like a dry point print, but thermofax screens are livelier than that, to say the least, and I think that helped unleash the sequence of events here. Thanks for reminding me of John Piper too, I have loved his work for a long time, and was only recently admiring, with Hilary, the tapestries in Hereford Cathedral made to his designs.

  9. Hello Stephanie. I so enjoyed this post, and all the wonderful images in it singing with colour. Well done!

    I have a question you might be able to help me with. I want to hand-print some calico with lino-blocks I’ve cut of maritime images, to be used as curtain material for our cottage in west Wales! I don’t want to use oil-based printing ink, as the drying time will make the whole process painfully slow… not to mention messy! I see you make reference on your blog to acrylic paint as a printing ink. Would that work on a lino-block, and is there medium I could add to the paint to slow the the drying and make the paint more amenable to printing? I was going to just produce artwork and leave the rest to a company recommended by Chloe to print the fabric to order, but having had a lot of costly work done at the cottage this year, I’m now having to be parsimonious! I’d much appreciate your advice.

    I LOVE the work you’ve done for the forthcoming Alphabet Soup exhibition. Extremely beautiful!

    Very Best

  10. Clive, I am aware of these curtains, I remember your post about them, and thought it an excellent idea to use your own designs; they will be fabulous. I read about the renovation of the cottage too with great interest.
    You are right not to use oil based ink on the fabric, for various reasons. I have printed quite happily with acrylic paint using a lino cut, onto calico. As long as the paint is relatively stiff, and rolled onto the block, it seems to work well. However, I did ask Hilary for more advice, as her product knowledge is second to none. She advised the use of Speedball fabric screen printing inks. They are water based, non toxic, and I think have to be fixed by ironing, then they are water resistant They are not incredibly opaque, but would probably be fine for a light fabric such as calico.
    For more opacity the Speedball acrylic screen printing inks seem to be the best. I would happily use them on fabric, they do not need heat fixing [ ironing.] There are extenders and retarders in the range too.
    I make my ‘inks’ by mixing whatever acrylic paints I have [but not acrylic paint like Liquitex soft body, it’s not stiff enough] with screen printing medium. Medium priced paints like System 3 seem to work well, and also very cheap paints! sells the Speedball range, and the medium I use is System 3 Acrylic Textile Printing Medium, which I bought from, although most art suppliers sell it. Hope this is of some use! Steph.

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