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I feel like I took a deep breath back in March to brace for what the pandemic might mean for me as a self-employed artist who gets her kicks (and most of my income) from face-to-face collaboration and teaching.

And I think I’ve been holding it ever since, which can’t go on, so as part of my exhalation I’m releasing all the products I had made and squirrelled away for The Big Event Which Didn’t Happen (my Residency show @artist_winterbournehg)

There are 3 scarves all designed and printed by me – Swifts, Hoya and Alyssum scarves, £18 each inc p&p in the UK ( postage quotes for other places) They are up in the Textile Art tab if you’re at all interested.

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.

On Saturday 18th May 2019 The Tutors Exhibition  – at macbirmingham opens and in it will be one of my pattern design pieces and products – would you like to hear the story of how it came about?

I recently watched The Creative Brain on Netflix, which advocated the importance of open-ended play for creativity to blossom and this, is very much a story of that process too.

It all began with a painting I did one afternoon where I textured up a piece of watercolour paper with a lovely deckled edge and then overlaid white paint leaving the negative space to describe birds flying. And that was it – that piece of creativity sparked something else and off I went down that rabbit hole leaving this painting in the plan-chest drawer for a few months.

Then by a series of serendipitous events I found myself a member of the wonderful SteamhouseUK community where I get to play about with the most amazing array of machines and learn techniques and processes that have been invented since I was last in college.

Sublimation printing (or dye sublimation printing as it is sometimes also known) is the process of transferring images onto a fabric (or other substrate) using a heat-press to print the image. At macbirmingham we have a heat-press and we use disperse dyes to paint and print onto paper which can then be heat-pressed onto fabric (if you think that sounds fun come along to my Tues afternoon class and have a go!)

But I had never hoped to ever have access to using an actual Sublimation printer until now! In this case the disperse dyes are in the printer ink cartridges and the computer sends your image to print onto heat resistant paper in wide format.

At Steamhouse the heat-press can print onto fabric up to 175cm in width. The heat-press technique is also great for capturing textures in designs onto fabric. The Tutors show was coming up. All this got me thinking what could I make with the size of fabric that I could print to exhibit for the show?

One morning I woke up with the answer ringing clearly in my mind and it didn’t take long to make it a reality – I’m single-minded like that sometimes – use the Swifts painting to make a pattern and construct a kimono!

The pattern had to be cut down the back and re-seamed in order for all the pieces to fit one at a time into the heat-press for printing and the Swifts pattern was easy enough to put into technical repeat using Photoshop so that I could use the sublimation printer to print an all over repeating pattern.

After that it was a steady job to sew it all together nicely including a partial lining so it looked good hanging up for exhibition.

If you’re local and can make it to MAC to see the show ( – Tues – Sun, 11am – 5pm, First Floor Gallery) you’ll see that kimono hanging on the wall and who knows, after the exhibition is over I may even wear it 😉

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