31 January 2012

How easy is this?

I decided to write a brief post about why deconstructed screen printing is easy and FAST to do and how it can be done any time of the year. Here is goes:
  • The screens are easy to store out of the way. I store mine upright and slide them anywhere I can find room. This is in my kitchen also known as my wet studio. See the screens?
  • Setting up screens takes almost no room and is not messy. I can do this on a table top with plastic the a drop cloth.

  • The wet screens can be stacked with spacer until dry in a small space. In this picture I hadn't put the spacers in yet. My spacers are saved jar lids.
  • The screens dry over night (usually) and can be kept in their dry state until ready to use for months. Go ahead and store them upright when dry til you have time to use them.
  • They are self perpetuating which means they keep themselves going. This is what I mean by that. 
  • I make 3 quarts (3000ml) of print paste - fast and easy. This will probably last a year.
  • I take a small plastic dish with a lid and mix 1/2 cup (250ml) print paste with 1 teaspoon of MX dye powder. I do the primary colors and black. That's just 4 small dishes in the refrigerator. This too will last a long time. I will use it before it goes bad - months.
  • Once I "deconstruct" the screens, I will have 6 empty screens that I have washed. They dry quickly - the screen in minutes and the frames can be wiped dry. I can start over again before the work area has been cleaned up by using the left over dye paste to "re-set" the screens for another day. The dye paste also can be stored for months.
  • The batched cloth can be kept warm even in winter with rice bags. These are cloth bags filled with rice which can be heated in the microwave oven and laid on the fabric. Cover with a towel.
  • MOST of the batching occurs in the first hour between the temps of 70-110 degrees Fahrenheit  I am guessing that is 20-30 Celsius.
  • The fabric can be folded in plastic and put on a tray and stored out of the way until batching is complete - about 24 hours.
This is the most efficient way to "color" fabric. It is all contained in plastic, small and doesn't spill. Low water immersion takes up lots of room with tubs and containers and can spill. It is also heavy to clumsy to move.
The time involved is very small for 1. setting up the screens (day 1), 2. deconstructing the screens, 3.re-setting the screens with more dye. (day 2) , and 4. washing out the fabric. day3. It just keeps on going - self perpetuating. This is why I LOVE it plus I really love the results. Quick and rewarding. Now I am NOT  saying everyone "should" do it for these reasons but concerns about time and space really aren't part of the picture.

I hope this is an encouragement. This technique is just too much fun to miss.

30 January 2012

Two Announcements

The small announcement is that I moved my tutorials to separate page/tabs at the top of the homepage. Much easier to find!

The second announcement is that I missed my two year blog anniversary. I will be having belated give-a-ways of books, hand dyed embroidery thread and some of my yummy fabric.
Stay tuned.

24 January 2012

The Big Reveal and lessons learned

Here is the entire piece batched, washed and ironed

 Some of these are close-up and some are pictures of two prints. I only made four prints of each screen. Sometimes you can make more but I'd rather have mine rich in color than numerous.

This is a closeup of the drips. The thick drips of dried dye act as a resist but as they break down (deconstruct) they leave a halo or outline of their color. Can you see the navy outlines along the sides of these drips?

On the block below you can see a double image or ghost image. This happened ( many times) because I lifted he screen after the first pull, thought the image too weak so I lowered the screen back into place but it was just enough off to give the double image or ghost look.

      On the screens above, you can see the navy color around the drops or circles on both screens
These last two were just fill-ins. I had run out of dye on the screens and just filled in the space with color. If I hadn't, I would have large blocks of white. This way I used some of the left over dye, covered the white and have something I can add more layers to with stamps, more dyeing or fabric paints.
This was a very sad pale square although the drips and dots are kind of cute. A good first layer. The objects on the left are color catchers which grab loose dye molecules in the washing machine to prevent dye back or dye re-depositing on the fabric

Here are some fabulous deconstructed screen prints with those sad white blank spots. See the difference when you fill them in? Also with all the white filled in, 4 prints can read as one long piece of fabric.
In addition to filling the white spots or areas of resist with dye I also have been very diligent to at least butt and sometimes overlaps screens slightly so that multiple prints read as one piece of fabric like the results from today.
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial as much as I did creating it. If you have any questions or need a clearer more precise description, please leave a comment. You can also email me at the email address in my profile.

Deconstruction Part 2

I started out today with 6 dried screens. I set up 2 tables side by side. The tables are 30" X 6' so the 4' X 8' table hangs one foot off each end and is wider than the two tables together.
                                             Tables stored behind door
                                                   Set up with not much moving around room
                                             With print table on top.
 With opened bin bags covering table. I found this was the easiest way to fold up the fabric to batch which you will see at the end of the printing session.

 Table with pre-treated fabric tightly T-pinned to the table
I was almost out of print paste so I made 2 quarts (2000ml). That's 2 T.Thick SH /1 quart (1000ml) water.
                                                 Thick SH in 1 lb. bag with blender
I keep the lid on at all times to keep mold spores out. Print paste lasts a long time (over 6 months) but when it goes bad there is no question. It smells like rotting seaweed. REFRIGERATE IT.
 The dark heavy deposits of dye will act as a resist. The lighter and see through area will be where the color melts (deconstructs) easiest and is then deposited on the cloth. As the screen is pulled over and over, more dye dissolves leaving larger areas with dye on the cloth and smaller areas of resist. That is due to the break down of the dried dye and it's deposition on the fabric.
                                        Initial wetting with a thick layer of clear print paste

                               First few pulls. Lots of white because not much dye has broken down yet. From this picture you can really start to understand how the thickest dye that hasn't dissolved (deconstructed) yet acts as a resist.
                                               After 4 pulls (prints)
One of the cool things that I experiemented with was to make 4 prints, then turn the screen up-side-down and print again over the four prints. If you look at the fabric with 2 prints above, that would mean I would turn the screen so that the red part of the screen was now on top and the blue on the bottom. This was my attempt to get rid of all the white.
 These are the four blocks above with one print and one reverse print. Still lots of white but you can see red and blue all over.  One of the things I love about this type of surface design is the wonderful figuring on the cloth. I will point out more after the fabric is batched and washed.

. The next thing I did was to take the squeegee with clear print paste and pass it over the print. It picked up enough color to tint the white spots.
I didn't want to mix the red screen and yellow screens so I used clear print paste directly on the squeegee without a screen and as you can see the white spots are now tinted without losing the definition. This is the power of the first strike. Once those catcher's mitts have balls in them they have a powerful bond. If you are relatively gentle with the clear print paste, you can add tint to the white without disturbing the original prints. This was Judith's idea. My idea was to place a used screen on the print and just pull tinted print paste on the small area that was white. This also worked and was a bit faster. It also had the safety of having the screen between the printed fabric and the squeegee preventing any smears.

                                                  This another screen in process

 I forgot to get a picture of all the fabric covered. You will see it tomorrow after batching. This picture is after I tore off the last 2 feet of unprinted fabric which I will save for another time I need pretreated fabric. I took that last bin bag and placed it over the end of the fabric then folded it so that all wet sections were touching plastic. Four big folds below.

Folded neatly into a small packet to fit on my tray. I leave the tray on the top shelve of my parents bookcase. They live in an apartment off my kitchen. My house is 60 degrees which is too cold to batch. There apartment (especially near the ceiling) is about 80 degrees. That is perfect for batching. Another method if you don't have parents conveniently located off your kitchen is to use rice bags heated in the microwave oven, placed on plastic covered fabric and covered with a towel. It works beautifully.

See you tomorrow for the finished fabric and a comparison with some deconstructed pieces I did before filling in the white spots.

22 January 2012

Deconstructed Screen Printing Tutorial

 First let me tell you that I am NO where near an expert just a beginner learning about surface design. I basically only “think” I know what the experts in the field are trying to explain to me. I DO know how various experiments I have tried have worked and I am willing to share them. I will start in the beginning with what I THINK I know. I will also include little side bits of info that I think are relevant marked with an asterisk(*) I will also try to answer all question in the comment box so everyone can see the answers (yeah, I was wondering that myself).

What exactly does deconstructed screen printing mean? To me, it means that I have constructed a screen with dyes applied in a textual way which I have allowed to dry onto the screen. Then I used a wetting agent to deconstruct the work (in dried dye) that I made, depositing the reconstituted dyes onto a substrate, which in this tutorial is cotton*.

            * you can use any plant based fabric. You can also use silk that has NOT been prepared in advance with soda ash by adding soda ash to the print paste – see below. Silk does not like soda ash so limit exposure to it by using it in the print paste not a soak.

First I want to talk about “printpaste”. Print paste is agar from seaweed  which is also used in processed food and totally non-toxic. This is a link to the directions from the company that I buy my supplies from. MY directions are a bit different. I call them (my shortcuts) the quick and dirty approach. I use only THICH SH. You get more bang for your buck. If you want regular viscosity print paste simply use less THICK SH.
  • My directions for print paste:
  • In a kitchen blender that you use ONLY for your art materials mix 2 tablespoons of THICK SH with one quart of cool/coldwater. I use no other chemicals just water.
*My water is from a deep aquifer and is filtered through a very expensive water filter which removes all chemicals and minerals. Use a Brita if you don’t have a water filter.
Blend on high speed. Look for a used blender at Goodwill or any second hand shop. You’ll thank me. Trust me when I tell you this is the BEST way to mix it.
  • Second best way is with a kitchen whisk.
  • It takes about an hour for the print paste to “set-up”.
  • Print paste will last longer than the time it will take you to use it up (over 6 months in the refrigerator). ALSO thickened dye will last a LONG time. I've used mine months later. Keep refrigerated.
A few ways to use print paste.

  • Use it to mix with powdered MX dye to create thickened dye.
  • Use it “as is” to wet a constructed screen on cotton that has been pre-soaked in soda ash.
  • Use it mixed with soda ash (powdered) to deconstruct a screen onto cotton* that has NOT been prepared with soda ash ahead of time.
  • I will also discuss another use for print paste later which is a discovery/experiment done by Judith.

Soda Ash* – three ways

  • Make a gallon of soda ash (one gallon of filtered water with one cup of soda ash). I use no other chemicals because my water is very soft (mineral free). If you have hard water you might want to add Calgon water softener per instruction on container.
  • Print paste with soda ash added is 1 cup of print paste with one Tablespoon of soda ash. Don’t ever skimp on the soda ash*.
  • Preparing the cloth ahead of time. Soak your fabric in a gallon of soda ash/water 5 minutes and either wring out or spin. A spinner will help you recover MUCH more of the soda ash water and helps your fabric line dry faster. DO NOT ever put soda soaked fabric in a dryer – LINE DRY. Fold when dry and keep where air circulates (not a plastic bag)

*Picture this. Soda ash is the catcher’s mitt and dye molecules are the balls. Don’t let those expensive dye molecules fly around without a bunch of catcher’s mitts to grab them. Err on the side of caution. Soda ash is cheap.

                                                                   My Spinner

Setting up/Constructing your screens

I am VERY fortunate and have a large space in my kitchen to set up my printing table which is 4’ X 8’. Yes, it is a ½ sheet of plywood covered with carpet foam (stiff) and synthetic felt. I cover the entire thing with an ugly old flannel sheet which is absorbent and washable. I am mentioning this because I set up about 6 screens to “do” a 45” wide piece of cotton 8 feet long. You will need to arrange a spot to deconstruct. You might want to get a sheet of ½” plywood 2’ X 4’ and cover with batting and muslin like I made hereto be my ironing surface. This is very handy because being 48” wide gives me room for a 45” wide piece of fabric. Just a suggestion. However you DO need a printing surface. Prepare as many screens as you think you can handle.

Making the thickened dyes: My thickened dye is dark and I like it that way. Try it my way first. There is nothing as disappointing as “light” pastel prints. If you are afraid the dye is too dark you can add the dye to some clear print paste right in the well before you print. This is an example of the flexibility of dark dyes.

Recipe: 1 cup print paste with one teaspoon of dye powder.(use a mask when handling dye powder)  

*An added note. I try to use just enough and not too much dye to construct the screens. If you do use too much dye, make sure to get all the remaining dye out of wells or the dye will drip onto the screens below while drying. Drops and spots of dye can add interest to prints but know that they will act as resists until they start to break down and become interesting. I will try to point this out later on when we look at actual prints. Remember, there are NO mistakes, just interesting lessons.

                                                  outside/bottom of screen - faces fabric
                                      Inside of screen - where you place and squeegee the dye

 Something I bought to take to my first art quilting class with Pamela Allen, a life changing experience.
 It was a padded ironing board on one side and a cutting mat on the other. Very convenient.
 I slip it inside a bin bag and presto, it becomes a padded surface for prepping my screens
Place somewhat flat objects between the drop cloth and the face (bottom) of the screen. You will be looking at the inside of the screen. Suggestions are wrinkled plastic sheeting, vegetable bags, stings or yarns, flowers, leaves, grasses. You want the objects relatively flat.  This string turned out to be too hard and made blobs of dye on the screen. I was supposed to place a piece of soda soaked cotton on top of the plastic bin bag to catch dye. I remembered on screen #2.
                                        Screen holding objects in place before first pull with dye

Place one, two or three colors in the well of your screen and pull the dye over the screen. When you feel you have the screen covered well with dye do a very firm pull leaving an even but NOT THICK layer of dye on the screen. First pull with these two colors. All I had in the refrigerator was a drop of orange, a drop of red, some yellow and some dark navy. Thought I'd use these up before making more.
                                         Screen is covered without excess dye in screen
                                                  Marks made by dimensional objects
                           Lift screen off surface and remove any objects that are stuck to the screen.
 As you can see I forgot to put down a piece of pre-treated fabric to catch the dye. I did add the cloth for the second to sixth screens.
    The sun was a bit bright but you CAN see the variations in the amount of dye on the screen created by the objects.     
                                                      Orange and blue #1 and #2 have big blobs
       I removed the string because it was catching and holding too much dye. Screen below is my fave so far
                            You can really see the dimensionality of the dye on these two screens

                                       "Printing" on the catch cloth, blotting the vegetable bag
 I have now finished wiping all the utensils I used on the cloth as well as wiping up all spills. The clean up cloth usually turns out great. Below it is folded and in a bag for batching.
Place the screens on a flat surface and use jar lids as spacers between screens *(optional).
Allow to dry – very dry.  I need to go get my spacers and these will be dry in the morning. Did I mention Maine is VERY dry? I stack them 3 X 3 and slide them under my counter which have  legs.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow.