The fourth and final technical block! I was looking forward this one the most as I have done a lot of printing in the past and know that I love it! We started the block with the practical side of the printing.
On Monday we began by cutting stencils. This was done by looking at our swatchbook and drawings we have done throughout the first term and coming up with patterns that would work well as prints. This part was a little difficult as each print would have 2-3 layers which means 2-3 stencils per print (or be smart about how to layer the prints and stencils) as the stencils can only be used a few times – they were done on newsprint which is very flimsy and the screen cannot be used for very long before the dye dries onto the screen. This means you have to be prepared before printing and be able to work fast! This can be a little stressful at times, especially of you are using the same stencil but changing the colour with each print… but I got the hang of it pretty quick. It is also very helpful to have a person hold the screen and squeegee whilst you sort out the prints.
The next day we began printing on 2 pieces of the silk. The objective was to have 6 pieces of printed silk by the end of the week. In this workshop we learnt how set up the print table and pin down our fabric samples tightly to avoid bumps and wrinkles which can cause issues when overprinting. The focus for the screen-printing on this day was overprinting; I used the same stencil multiple times, just rotating the screen a few times. The first half of this morning workshop involved going into the dye-lab and learning how to mix dyes for printing. This I found extremely useful as now I am able to go into the dye lab and mix up the correct colour for my project. I did however find it quite difficult to mix accurate colours – the colours can often change once printed / steamed.
Later on in the week we went into the dye lab and were taught how to mix dye for dyeing fabric. There were 5-6 dyes set up for us already, the colours were very bright and did not relate well to my project. I had to think carefully, and experiment with small samples of fabric to try to get colours which were a bit more dull. I came up with a process to mix green dye – this was done by dunking the fabric into yellow for a few minutes, rinse in cold water, then a short dunk into the blue dye and repeat this process over and over until I had achieved a greenish colour. It was not perfect but it worked. I also was using an image from my swatch book which had a spotted / mottled look which I had created with watercolour. To achieve this effect on the fabric, I scrunched it up; using pegs to hold it in place and slowly added the dye to certain parts of the fabric. I tried to keep the dying as light as possible to make sure the printing dye would show up.
The last day of the workshop, our final day of printing, was a tad bit stressful (to put it lightly). This day, I was trying to pull together all of the printed samples- trying to decided if they needed extra layers and then printing the final 3 pieces of silk. I found it all a big rush at the end which meant that one of my prints I am not happy with and a few of the others I would have done differently, but in the time I had I did my best. I enhanced a couple of the samples with mono-printing and hand painting. It is important to remember to blot, each time after doing wither of these techniques as this avoids excess dye on the fabric which may cause the dye to run when it comes time to steam and wash the samples.
Overall feelings for week 1;
(+) I am pleased with the new skills I have learnt – mixing dyes and feel confident to go and do it by myself
(+) I enjoyed the transparency of the dyes, this meant I was able to layer colours and patterns in a new and interesting way. (I had only used opaque paints in the past)
(+) I really benefited from the printing process of adding layers to create dimension and texture to the print. This showed me a new way to think about screen-printing and showed me how to get the most out of it (compared to what I’ve done in the past)
(-) I don’t feel that the samples work well as a collection, prints are very varied and I’m not sure that they accurately represent my box collection.
(-) I felt rushed and not able to create the prints I wanted to, to fix this for the future; better and more in depth planning is required to clearly set out what I can practically do in the time given.
(-) Some of the colours don’t work very well together (and are not linked well to my colour palette), this I attribute to fact that the colours can look different on the fabric, once they’ve dried and also once they’ve been steamed. This is all a learning curve, and to be expected when using these dyes for the first time.
I really used this workshop to experiment. I wanted to try out many new techniques I hadn’t had the opportunity to try before. I feel that although I am not totally pleased with the outcomes of the prints, I am pleased with myself that I managed to take risks and create.
The second week of the technical block was focusing on digital skills for print. We spent most of our time in the digital print room where we were taught Photoshop basics and how to use this new knowledge to create digital prints (designing for fabric).
My Photoshop knowledge was pretty basic, I would rate a confidence level of about 3/10 – so pretty low. I had only really used photoshop in the past for rudimentary photo editing – cleaning up an image making it ready for printing. I found this workshop extremely useful as I have learnt so many new things and being forced to use it has enabled me to get to grips with all of the little quirks that comes with designing on photoshop. I think this is a very useful skill that I will continue to use throughout my career. With more of a basic understanding I can now feel more confident to try new things and experiment with the many features that photoshop has to offer.
Some of the skills we learnt included; creating custom brushes, separating a motif from its background, offset repeats, adding in patterns / designs to fit specific shapes, magic wand tool to select (and how to save & load that section for later use), placing patterns into photos or illustrations with a warp effect, making gifs / short animations etc…
All of these skills will serve me well in the future. Looking back at my performance for this week I feel that although I was lacking in confidence at the start, I was able to pick up new techniques and apply them very quickly. I was able to take the skills and techniques we learnt and put them into practice when creating digital prints. I really enjoyed this part of the week, even if the first day I was completely frustrated at my ability to do simple things. My confidence in Photoshop has grown massively – and that is the overall aim!
Final Digital Prints: