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One of my favourite plants at Winterbourne is the Ginkgo biloba tree. It’s a lovely green through to yellow and then when the leaves fall they dry nicely and are sturdy enough to last a few rounds with an artist.

I wanted to create a fabric that reflected the fall of leaves by printing one colour upon another. Not to spoil the punchline but in choosing to do this through heat-press printing I think I stacked the odds against myself. But I did choose that method and here’s why it was the ‘wrong’ method for the outcome. Heat reactive dyes don’t paint out in the colour they will print to be – you have to mix it up using 25% knowledge and 75% hope. You can see above that I wrote out colour recipes and did little test samples but even that didn’t act as a reliable repeat receipe.

Heat reactive dyes transfer their colour from paper to fabric in a heat press (or under an iron if its hot and heavy enough) I made several papers from the colours I’d mixed up and painted the dye on using brush techniques witch would emulate the fan shape of ridges on the Ginkgo leaf.

 

The tricky part in my project was thinking and working from the base layer up – I knew what I wanted to do; which was to print pale tones of the leaves at the bottom and then do several more layers of colours becoming stronger each time. What happened was that the dyes were either mixed to be too strong in tone or variations in the temperature or time in the heat press caused some of the base layers to come out shouting ‘look at me!’

I did persevere and got some nice areas of overlaying colour. The rhythm of the leaves as they fell on the ground got lost a little because of working in reverse and the tricky job of laying all the pieces out and getting them into the heat press without moving them at all. I had painted some ridges in using what I thought to be a pale tawny brown but was in fact almost black – to counter balance that I used fabric foiling to knock them back; doesn’t a bit of glitter away distract the eye!

 

In the end I stopped once this sample piece was completed and called it a cushion cover. I didn’t want to persue it enough to make an actual fabric length of it. It has an aesthetic all of it’s own and not one I recognise as being mine! But in the round, process and reflection are great learning markers and when the day comes to try and capture those leaves again I will employ screen printing techniques which will make the process easier and more controllable and the outcome perhaps closer to what I’d intended. Until then here is a finished sample which is also a work in progress.

This print gets its name and colour from one of the flowers featured in it; the Dianthus or Pink. It’s one of my favourite flowers both to paint and draw and to grow at home.

I used a screen printing technique called screen filler; a thick blue gel which is painted onto the screen to keep the mesh free and printable once the whole process is completed. Once this gel is dry another red solution is squeegeed over (as seen above) and once that’s dry you can wash the gel out leaving the pattern you painted in as step 1. It’s a great way to create prints that capture a real hand-painted feel.

I made things a little more complicated for myself by painting the screen imagery design in repeat and then registering each screen (and there were many as it was such a diddy sized screen) on my table top in my home studio. There’s a fun little time-lapse video of the process here. Many print pulls and a lot of drying time later, it did need a few hand-painted elements filled into gaps that has appeared through inaccurate alignments but you’d never notice so I won’t say anymore 😉

You know what they say about making Cyanotype prints while the sun shines?! Yesterday was a fun Cyanotype printing day but I’ve been prepping for this project for some time. Here’s a little of how I went about it for those interested.

Back in early Spring when plants were just putting out their teeny tiny leaves, I braved the frost to cut and press some of them because I knew the size would be perfect for some illustrative cyanotype prints. The down size was trying to pick them up in a dimly lit room but more on that later.

I used the Jacquard Cyanotype set and coated the fabrics one night once it had got dark. It wasn’t all that easy – all I’ll say is get everything laid out right side up and have plenty of room and plastic to lay them out to dry but expect to be doing it fairly blind. I then put them in a lightfast box before going to bed so that the morning sun didn’t begin processing them before I was ready.

I was also really prepared with what I wanted to create and laid all the elements out on trays in an organised fashion. I began in one of our shadier rooms but as the sun came round the fabric began exposing while I was setting it up so I ended up in our outhouse which has no windows – this did mean that a lot of what I was doing was from memory and not because I could particularly see well.  A lot of the lovelier small or fragile items didn’t get used because I simply couldn’t see to pick them up!

These two photos show the treated fabric changing from green to blue as the sun begins to process the chemicals and the resulting print – this one was a really deep indigo which I put down to it being a 100% cotton fabric.

I tried coating a variety of fabrics – polyester, nylon/cotton mixes, textures, old cotton and linens. My favourite results were the high cotton content fabrics but the nylons do have some winning results such as the shine and the ghostly quality. I intend sewing into mine so I’m happy at this stage if the print isn’t 100% perfect.

I also prepped some acetates of my own hand-drawn elements taken from pattern designs I’ve made. They don’t print as cleanly as paper or solid objects and the acetate edge can catch the light if the sun is at a low angle; but it’s a great way to incorporate your own design personality into your prints.

This is a gold polyester print – a lot of the coating washed out of the fabric so it’s a very pale print. I wouldn’t waste the product on non-cottons again but I’m glad to have experienced the difference.

This is a selection of my favourite illustrative prints. Where there are white empty spaces I intend to fill in with stitches and fabric foiling.

I had a lot of success with vintage doilies and lace and through trial and error realised that the item closest to the fabric prints the strongest which made layering up items interesting (in other words the opposite to the picture below – bird/rabbit underneath doily to print).

This one is going to get framed just as it is as there something perfect about it to me.

The acetate allows some light through (it isn’t as good at masking as black card is) but it does create a blue print rather than a solid white space( see rabbit below)  so that adds an extra layer of interest.

Some of the fabrics with an unidentified mix of cotton/polyester gave up prints on a different scale of blue -these  will have also have their uses as contrasts once I start cutting and sewing. Its a much softer result.

Some even came out a lovely Colbalt blue.

Each print took 30 mins in the UK sun (on a hot sunny day for us) so it was a time consuming activity and I’d coated a lot of fabric so it was a long days work. I believe (from inference) that you can store coated fabrics for sometime in the dark but we don’t often have reliably sunny days so I went for it while I could which was the right call as it’s cloudy today.

 I think I’ve made enough stock to keep me busy for sometime anyway!

So here’s my top-tips for cyanotype sun-printing if you think you’re going to give it a go:

You need to weigh the items down on the fabric to print with some glass or acetate – so measure your fabric prior to coating so that it’s not bigger than your glass. Otherwise you print the edge of the glass.

Once you’ve coated your materials and put them in a dark place try and create a system so that you know which is coated-side up. I got into a muddle and wasn’t always sure I’d printed on the side I’d painted the chemicals onto.

Know your materials before you go into the ‘darkroom’ to place them on the fabric. Maybe even lay them out ready. And I found having things on a lightly coloured tray helped me to see what the shape was in the dark!

If you want indigo prints then stick to high cotton content fabrics.

I’m glad to say I still have another half a bottle of each of the chemicals so can mull over repeating this activity again.

© ClaireLeggett_finished

Here we are at the end of week 3 COVID-19 quarantine and here’s a Stay Home project to share with you. Sometimes my Textile students can’t always see how to get to the next step of using fabrics they’ve made so I thought I’d do a little tutorial showing the stages of creating a fabric and thread picture for anyone who wants to have a go. You won’t find me making a video so it’s old-school text and photos!

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First find your inspiration – mine was my lovely Mothers Day gifts this year; a cute vintage Booths jug and some joyus tulips and I knew straight away that I wanted to make an applique and stitch picture of them as they had so many elements that lend themselves nicely to that way of working.

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1. First up was a good sort out and categorise of the pile of dyed and printed fabrics made during class. I sifted through and found these pieces of dipped-dyed nylon and wet printed screen-printing with talc relief – both the perfect colours and textures to represent the tulip petals.

2. Using a 24-hour-fade fabric marking pen, I sketched the tulip petals imagining the whole petal so that I could layer them over one another to build a Tulip flower later on.

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3. The nylon fabric needed stabiliser ironed onto the back to strengthen it enough to sew it using the sewing machine. The other fleece fabric didn’t need any extra weigh adding.

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4. You don’t have to have a sewing machine that can do free-motion machine embroidery, you could just use your forward and reverse functions to layer up lines of stitch to mimic the markings on a Tulip petal. I changed colours a couple of times too.

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5. Then I spent a few hours hand stitching large running stitches of colour to capture the hi-lights and contrast colours in the petals. I even added a little shiny luxe thread to catch the light and add visual interest.

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6. For the jug I ironed a lovely old piece of cotton onto some stabiliser and then sketched the outline of the image from the jug.

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7. Then using the free-motion machine embroidery function of my sewing machine I ‘drew’ over the sketch using indigo thread.

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8. I won’t lie – the 24hr pen did not fade overnight (never happened before) and so I had to gently wash it out.

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9. Next up was a root through my bag of fabric again – I found this piece of mono-printed screen-print which was perfect for the tulip leaves.

 To make getting the shape nice and easy, I cut one off the now-nearly-dead tulips.

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10. All they needed was a few free flowing lines to give the texture of Tulip leaves and I used a variegated green-yellow thread on the sewing machine.

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11. I played around laying out pieces of fabric that I loved or felt would add a nice contrast as the background until I found the perfect combo – the reverse of a piece of stencilled indigo fabric and a jaunty yellow piece of Shibori pattern.

12. After that it was a question of pinning it all into place and working out which pieces needed stitching onto the backing first and then working up a layer as I sewed. The leaves I did on the sewing machine and the Tulip petals I hand stitched on.

© ClaireLeggett_Tulips

I’m pretty happy with how this has turned out – it’s brightening up my studio and adding some colour to my Easter quarantine.

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I like the overall colour palette and think the yellow Shibori patterned fabric picks up the yellow of the Tulip petals nicely.

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If I’ve one gripe its that the jug is a bit large and contributes to making the whole piece tall and thin which might be a problem if you want to frame your work easily and cheaply. I’m using a magnetic poster holder to hang mine and it’s working well.

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I hope that’s given you some confidence to cut into your own stash of fabrics and have a go. Any questions – do email, I’d be happy to help if I can. Do let me know if you make something and I’d love to see what.

Our trip to Southern Asia earlier this year (here, here, here and here) was rich in visual and cultural inspiration.

I’ve honestly felt a little overwhelmed by how deep and far I could go into this vibrant feast of creative stimulus and output – whether to start with painting or stitch or print. And all the while I’m spinning the other plates of my self-employment as an artist: delivery/teaching and all the admin that it takes to run a small business. It can be distracting and actually difficult to get time to be creative some weeks.

So I just began. One day unceremoniously. Just where I was. No fanfare or special time set aside. I just started. I took off simply by doing a little each day – whatever I had time for.

As I teach screen-printing and mixed media textiles twice a week at MAC, I kicked off this intention by focusing my preparation for these classes on my Asia photos – and I have a lot to choose from as I took nearly 7000! inc duplicates for a better shot – you know? So to make that task less anxiety inducing, I split those into files: Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I currently haven’t got to the end of the 2.243 photos taken in Malaysia!

So if I was demonstrating cutting a screen-print stencil I based it on a motif from of a beautiful textile in the National Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur or if I was making an example of free-machine embroidery for my Mixed Media Textiles class I referenced a drawing I’d done from a beautiful silk kimono.

Sometimes that was a basic quick line drawing, other times I had paints out to use. On some evenings I have doodled in front of the TV on my ipad pro – not that I’m especially proficient but it’s a great way to easily draw and digitalise your handwork.

It’s true what they say about ‘a little and often’ –  gradually my pile of Asia work is coming to life.

I made the most of the recent sunny weather to do some messy dye projects in the garden.

This is some Shibori fun- the Japanese method of clamping and twisting fabric prior to dying.

It is so simple but effective but in the past it hasn’t always delivered the results hoped for until this time when the sun rendered me more patient than usual!

I’m planning some projects of things to make and stitch with these beautiful fabrics if I can bear to cut into them.

On Saturday I had the pleasure to be back in Nottingham with the Spotted Dog Art Group.

They rose magnificently to the challenge of abstracting landscapes through colour and brushwork.


As you can see here from the landscape inspiration, use of colour and being able to see things differently were the keys to success.

And it didn’t matter what kind of landscape scene it was (above is industrial, below coastal) the artists successfully abstracted through colour changes and seeing in shapes.

Everyone kept their own artistic signature whilst all having the same input and ideas on how to start and develop their work into the non-representative and this is what I find endlessly fascinating and exciting about teaching and working alongside other artists.

I count myself lucky when work is such a pleasure – if I lived near Nottingham, I’d join in a heartbeat.

Until next year…

Just back from a few days away in Portugal – Lisbon and Sintra.

Here’s Lisbon looking moody (read that as bad weather) My umbrella, gloves and hat were the best things I packed.


When in Portugal you must partake of the Pastel de nata – a Portuguese egg tart pastry that it’s famous for.

And of course there are old and new tiled buildings everywhere.

Heaven for the pattern lover here!

This was my favourite tile and that’s no men feat because I probably photographed 50 plus!

And of course one must ride on and also photograph the ubiquitous old yellow tram.

We also went out to Sintra (an hour away from Lisbon) a lovely rich, old town bursting with old palaces and old mansions with beautiful gardens to explore. The stand-out place being this: The Pena Palace.

There are more (and different) photos over on my Instagram account  here if you enjoyed.

 

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 Protea_© Claire_Leggett

A little painting inspired by the beautiful South African Protea via my local Marks and Spencers!

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This week I hung an exhibition of my work at the Coach House Gallery which is at Winterbourne Botanical Gardens, Birmingham.

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Winterbourne is part of the Birmingham University campus.

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It’s an Edwardian Arts and Crafts house built for the family of John Nettlefold in 1903.

It’s last owner bequeathed it to the University where it became the Botanical Gardens in 1944.

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It’s one of those magical places that has held onto the history of the past and simultaneously successfully embraced the future.

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And my colourful work has ushered Spring in a little earlier than Mother Nature (it’s trying to snow today)

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Exhibition hanging takes patience and stamina (good step-ladder muscles!)

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One of the most fun things to do was fill the glass exhibition case.

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I have laid out sketchbooks, pattern design swatches, an old paint palette, some tubes of paint, brushes, pencils and design work that shows how I use my original paintings digitally.

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It was fun to set the scene.

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And now I’m happily heading off to a restful weekend – there’s a G & T with my name on it!

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Exhibition is up until 12th March




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