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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.

I’ve been playfully stamping my Malay Flower lino block onto fabric grounds; some tie-dyed fabric, screen-printed ombre cotton and hand-painted silk using a gold ink pad I bought in the Xmas sales.

I’m just allowing some creative play at this stage; some prototyping maybe – I’m trying to not think ahead too far but see what comes. I’ve also added a few hours of stitches to one to bring some of the weaker printing results into focus better.

“Creativity is about play and a kind of willingness to go with your intuition. It’s crucial to an artist. If you know where you are going and what you are going to do, why do it?” Frank Gehry

This sums up nicely what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks. There’s nothing like a wide open calendar free of outside obligations to prompt some creative play. (I’m calling this my silver-lining having had all my work furloughed or postponed)

Early in 2019 I went to Malaysia with my daughter for a wonderful week full of culture like nothing I’d experienced before so this recent creative playing has been a wonderful chance to pick over the zillions of photos I took, pulling out images, colours and sights that tickle my arty-farty bones! I’m just responding to whatever makes my heart sing and going from there – I’m jumping from sketchbook to computer to lino-cutting to embroidery as I like and it’s wonderful fun to just play freely.

This is a little lino block I made after drawing some details from a beautiful silk textile at the National Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur. 

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.

Historically an C18th Toile du Jouy is a pattern depicting some kind of a complex country/farming scene, usually a single colour (pink, coral, black, blue) printed onto cream or white linen.

I wanted to capture something of the life of Winterbourne House & Gardens- it’s workers and visitors and so I opted to translate some photos and sketches into a modern-day Toile du Jouy.

I appropriated the icons of the house and gardens such as the chinese-style bridge, the four-bed walled garden, one of the many greenhouse, the house itself of course and people I witnessed reading, working and enjoying the grounds, to link all the little islands of places in the fabric design.

Summer Border was one of those easy designs that came about when I least expected (or planned) for it.

When I remember back, I was feeling the need to just sit and paint quietly and re-balance my equilibrium. So I did just that, looking at reference photos I had taken I simply let the flowers fill the page.

There was just something that hit the spot about the flow of shapes and colours and after a minimal amount of cleaning and duplication of elements, I had it in technical repeat. You can see the repeat below.

It’s always fun to then play around with the background colour but I came full circle back to the original white as all the colours work on it and it keeps it fresh.

With the best will in the world there’s no way I could print this by hand using a screen – I shall use a digital printer to reproduce this when  it’s time to exhibit a length.

 

 

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.

 

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