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Thank you to all who bought a piece of art and made my studio sale a great success. As it’s been so well received I’ve decided to round up the remaining pieces in a blog post and link it to my website under the Paintings heading should anyone have missed the sale week and want to look in the future.

When we visited Asia last year I was so inspired and awed by the new-to-me culture and decoration of Buddhist and Taoist religious spaces; in particular the use and construction of a variety of temple hangings.

I have had these hangings in mind as I am working my way through all kinds of delicious inspiration from those travels. This first completed hanging is a bringing together of all kinds of interpretation and methods of print and stitch.

I began painting this beautiful illuminated manuscript from the Islamic Arts Museum in Malaysia in a simplified way by isolating the little scalloped shape and flower.

I then developed that into a printable silk screen using flour and water paste – a very simple and easy homespun method.

As you can generally only use the screen once (the paste deteriorates as its washed clean) I printed up a stash of luscious fabrics to use, overprinting one particularly yummy fabric that I had previously batiked and tie-dyed.

I chose to stitch the flowers into each shape rather than hand-print them as I was looking to add texture and colour to the surface. The rectangular bottom section features a simple floral lino-block I developed from drawing embroidery motifs on items in the Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur.

The elephant print began life as a teaching demonstration for how to using screen filler to screen-print hand-drawn images. I re-drew a section of this beautiful wall decoration from the Wat Chaiya Mangalaram, a Thai Buddhist Temple in George Town using drawing fluid. It is later coated in another filler and later the drawing lines are washed out leaving the space as printable mesh (I don’t have of photo of that – sorry)

Here it is printed onto a randomly dyed base fabric and I added some fabric foiling too (another demo).

I lived with the pieces up on my design wall for a while, visually editing it and adding in sequin trim and a fantastic gold dangly bit I’d squirralled away sometime. I decide to learn a stitch called Cretan Insertion to attach the gold ribbon to the bottom seam and I think it finished it off perfectly.

Now to re-group and begin the cycle again.

The first print design I made back in Spring 2019 as part of my Residency at Winterbourne HG is also the last I have to show you here.

I had been quietly sketching in the Walled Garden when a mouse felt brave enough to leave one bed, cross the grass and dive into another just to my side.

That mouse made it into the print as did the flowers and birds that I observed around the site at the time.

It’s been test printed up in a number of colour-ways by heat-press transfer printing and screen-printed by hand after I’d exposed a screen but ultimately the details are so fine that it’s only got digital printing in it’s future.

It nearly got birthed as wrapping paper for the shop but in the end the margins for production on it weren’t viable – such is the life of a designer; making by hand is the most satisfying and sometimes also the least! But it remains a firm favourite of mine and I hope one day it can show the world it’s charm.

This time last year a part of Winterbourne Garden was a riot of tall Poppies. It makes me a little sad to think that they are there again this year and we can’t get to see them.

Poppies are a favourite flower of mine to interpret; there’s just something satisfying to my eye about the shape of the flower – and they’re my favourite colour.

They also lend themselves very easily as a shape which is easily translatable into a screen-print stencil.

I was playing around with the translucency of the printing ink by adding in more binder to ‘thin’ the colour (a little like adding water to paint to dilute it)

I was happily printing and drying, printing and drying… when 6 HOURS later I dropped a dirty squeegee on the corner of it destroying the perfect print.

I had to walk away and leave it for a bit to think about how I could save it.  I used freezer paper stencils to finish the center of the flowers but added to the conundrum by using an ink which was very opaque (too much so) which spoilt the effect somewhat.

It sat in a pile in my studio for months. Many times I thought of putting it away for other uses but the colours and shapes just wouldn’t detach from desire to save it.

Eventually, having woken one day in a decisive mood, I cut (cropped) it heavily; fitting it to a pillow infill I had and then put some embroidery stitches to work to enhance the flower centers which needed sharpening visually.

And now I love it and am so glad I saw it through. Here’s to pererverance.

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 😉

Screen printing is one of my reasons for living. There is something delicious to me about flattening imagery into printable shapes. Add-in some effects which bring texture and then layer up colours over one another and it all becomes a joyful alchemy!

I’ve drawn many images while being Artist-in-Residence at Winterbourne Gardens theses past 18 months – too many to actually use to complete all the designs in my head- but Foxgloves came to full fruition.

On a very hot July day I sat in the cool shade drawing these humble but beautiful flowers (I also came home inspired to sow Foxglove seeds which are now planted up and days away from flowering here at home)

It occurred to me that a print technique I use which utilises talcum powder as a print resist, would make the perfect replication of the spattering pattern found in the interior of a Foxglove flower.

I cut several stencils to overlay each other so that I could build the plant images in 3 colours through 3 screen pulls of colour. Then at the last minute inspiration struck and I opted to mix the colours directly through the action of flooding the screen with ink, resulting in a swirl of colour.

I will often print and pile-up but this pandemic has afforded me the time to stop and assess work already done rather than continuing on the treadmill of making more. And so the Foxgloves have found a final resting place; a resting place my head will enjoy too.

 

This print Alyssum, is one I’ve developed as part of my Artist in Residence work at Winterbourne House & Gardens, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston.

It began with a painted sketch done on site which was then cleaned up on the computer and digitally altered into a repeating pattern. I also played around with colour options settling for white on a colour background as I felt it best represented the flower itself. Using a sublimation printer, I then printed a piece of heat-transfer paper and printed some fabric using the heat-press.

Then I ran up a cushion and added some bobble trim et le voici!

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!

© ClaireLeggett2

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.

© ClaireLeggett3

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.

© ClaireLeggett6

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.

© ClaireLeggett7

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.

© ClaireLeggett8

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.

© ClaireLeggett9

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.

© ClaireLeggett10

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

© ClaireLeggett11

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

© ClaireLeggett12

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.

© ClaireLeggett14

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.

© ClaireLeggett15

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.

© ClaireLeggett_finished2

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

© ClaireLeggett_finished1

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.

© ClaireLeggett_finished6

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.

Copyright notice 2020

All images, text, and content on this site are the sole property of Claire Leggett and may not be used, copied or transmitted without the express consent of Claire Leggett.

If you wish to link to this site or to a post from this site, please ask first before doing so and then give appropriate credit for content.

Any other inquiries please email me at hello@claireleggett.co.uk

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