September 13, 2017

Back to screenprinting for cloth napkins

About a year ago, I did a surface design workshop with Claire Benn on "Lines and Rows"; I concentrated my efforts on figuring out designs that would work for cloth napkins, 18" square.  I came up with a couple of designs that I liked--squares and bowls, described here.  When I got home, I set to work on developing further designs, as I'd like to have at least four or six designs available for sets of napkins. I printed up six more designs, but wasn't satisfied with them.  I thought if I printed each one again, turning the screen 90 degrees, it was possible they would be more successful.  So I pinned the fabric back on the print table, but then left them for a while to go back to sewing.  And there they lay through the winter, spring, and summer.  A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I had a container of thickened dye sitting on the back of my work table, and I decided to just go ahead and use it to pull the screens a second time.  Given that the dye had been unrefrigerated for nine months, I had no idea whether it would work at all, but it was so easy to use what was there, I thought I'd take a chance and experiment.  The results are above, with details below. The dark indigo-colored marks are from the first screening last October; the lighter marks are from the recent second pull of the screens, turned 90 degrees. (The detail images below are just a section of the print, not the whole 18.")  The cross-hatching image didn't work, but the other designs are not bad.  I'll probably leave them as is, though I could overdye with a very pale indigo, to take out the creamy white color of the muslin I'm using.

Torn bits of masking tape used as a resist on the screen.

Hand-drawn floral design, using matte medium as a resist.

Small plexi-glass square stamped on the screen with matte medium.

Text here is from Martin Buber: "One eats in holiness and the table becomes an altar."

I then did another batch of six napkins, some screens the same, some different.  I used a dark brown dye on this batch. The swipes of paler colors in the middle of the top and bottom rows are trials for what to use for dyeing the background; I think I'll go with one of the two palest values (top row).

Of these, here are details of my favorite four:

bowls (done from stamping the screen)


squares (same stamp as above, but a second screen, with quite a different result) 

the Martin Buber quote, written out with matte medium.

After I finish the brown napkins, I'm going take time to develop more images.  Instead of using a resist on the screen, I'm pursuing development of images using Photoshop.  I'm finishing up the last lessons of a third Photoshop Elements class with Kris Sazaki and Deb Cashatt.  (Their online classes are excellent.)  This 3rd class includes instructions on making repeat designs, so I've been playing around with making images that might be suitable for napkins.  Here are a few that I've come up with so far.  I plan to keep experimenting on the computer, to generate a set of possibilities.  In December I'll have a chance to use a new photo emulsion printing set up that's recently been purchased by the college where I worked for many years.  Making a screen through a photo emulsion process allows you to transfer a black and white image with high accuracy, and to get a screen where the drawn line will be what prints.  So, for example, on the image below, if I use this with a photo emulsion process, the lines will print black (or whatever color I want to use).  If I were to draw the same image on a silk screen with matte medium (the process I used for the floral and text images above), it's the background that would print, not the lines.

Here's what the same screen might look like if I printed with purple onto a light blue cloth.

Here's how I came up with the scribble that was used for the repeat.  I started with a photo of a yucca plant, taken on a visit to my sister in Arizona last spring.  In preparation for a class with Paula Kovarik, we had been instructed to look for lines, and I loved the curly tendrils on this plant:

Using Photoshop, I traced the tendrils, and then copied the tracing into its own image file:

I used the tracing on the right as the basis for one of the stitching exercises in Paula's class:

For an image for screen printing, I went in two directions.  First I made a scribble based loosely on the yucca tracing; this scribble then served as the basis for the repeat design above:

Next, wanting to get back closer to the original tracing, I scribbled various elements, spreading them across an 18" space:

Explorations in Photoshop will continue. . .