Printmaking as reading

There have been a few more preparatory/practice steps.
* moving away from square in paper woven baskets.


I particularly like the deep edge turnover, which stands out from the base creating some lovely shadow. Less effective was the life drawing sketch on craftpaper used for weavers. The drawing is not just broken up by the weaving, it is entirely dominated by the colourful texture of the cartridge paper print.

* Another brief print experiment using acrylic paint – this time with retarder added, hoping to get thinner layers to allow more detail in the texture pickup. The paint still dried too quickly on the plate.


I love the colours and the texture (both to eye and to touch) these paints give me. The stamp used is quite large, made in polystyrene foam using a soldering iron (from memory – it was during classes with Marion Boyling, over a decade ago). I just haven’t achieved fine detail.

* The old gelatin plate was melted and reset. Version 2 is thinner and softer. In a later print session (see below) the surface was slow to spring back after pressure, becoming uneven. I’ll probably make version 3 with all new ingredients and cut up version 2 for stamping and specific shapes.

Enough preamble. Time to attempt printmaking as reading.

From when I received the readings for the first Intensive Creative Research session last year, I have been trying to improve, to get more value from, my reading. My daily schedule changed to dedicate time to reading. I’ve tried different locations – around the house, coffee shops, libraries… I sit, I stand, I pace, I read aloud, I gesticulate. I sketch and colour and knit word by word and record times that I weave into textile data visualisations. I argue with the author, follow up points on the internet, buy more books referenced in the footnotes. I want to read slowly, attentively, to take in ideas and make them part of my mental toolkit, to make connections with other authors and ideas and my own experience. I imagine little tendrils reaching out in my brain, curling around each other, becoming more and more dense, building (there’s definitely felt-making in my near future!). I’ve experimented with repeated passes of reading – first to get a sense of the author’s message, with only brief notes to capture any ideas that pop; then again, more closely, with more extensive note-taking; then possibly stepping back to look at structure, at the how of what has been written.

At heart a Maker, I wanted to get more making into how I read. The knitting worked well, but quite slow and addressed a specific issue (ie I couldn’t bear to read the text any other way). The weaving was very slow and at one remove from the reading – it recorded the activity but didn’t progress it. This time around I’m hoping for a process that can be deployed quite frequently and in an intuitive, responsive, supporting plus extending, way.

First attempt
* text. Anne Carson, Candor, part of the collection of writing in Float.
This is one of the texts we’ll be discussing in the first 2020 Creative Research meetup in a few weeks. A good starting point, being quite short, and I didn’t complicate by combining external ideas (other texts, experience…).

* image generation. After reading the text a few times I looked for specific clues that could be translated into print – materiality, imagery, text, colour, texture, pattern, …

* print preparation. This step could be quite flexible. Weaving and skeins are strong images in Candor, so as potential stamps or stencils I made a couple more squares on the Weave-it (one in wool, the other kitchen string), and loosely tied a skein of wool. Red is a dominant colour in the text, so should be dominant in the print. I wanted some delicacy, an attention to detail, so chose akua inks and pigments rather than the acrylic paint. I turned through stencils and stamps I’ve made in the past. Ideas of the domestic, the home, are important in the text, so I selected some of the stencils based on a family jug – developed in April-2012 as part of the OCA Textiles: A Creative Approach course.

All this plus much more was laid out in my printing area, together with a photocopy of the original text and my image generation notes.

* mono-printing. I didn’t refer back to text or notes – they were effectively internalised. Most of the mark-making tools sat untouched. Just an hour of focused play and experimentation.

I’m not claiming any of these are great prints. I do feel much closer, more involved with, the original text (which I was keen to re-read when I came in from the print-station / garage). Plus I’m planning further transformations. Some folding, or weaving, perhaps collage-ing (either on to the print or part of the print onto something else).

9 Responses to “Printmaking as reading”


  1. 1 MegWeaves February 26, 2020 at 8:32 am

    I’m intrigued by knitting vs weaving as regards reading, especially how weaving only recorded. I understood the words you wrote, the different experiences you had, but I don’t really understand the different experiences/feelings you took away from the two methods. (I guess what I expected/projected was different way of manifestation of one experience???) I’d love to hear more if you feel like addressing this.

    • 2 fibresofbeing February 26, 2020 at 11:35 am

      In my specific case of knitting (https://fibresofbeing.wordpress.com/2019/09/27/the-cautionary-tale-of-that-dreadful-man/) I was knitting as I read. It was the only way I found to force myself to focus on each word, to read the rotten thing. Previously I’d skimmed and skipped and faffed about. Knitting became an inextricable part of the process of reading the article. The coding using colour to indicate “flaws” was one part of it.

      The particular weaving (https://fibresofbeing.wordpress.com/2020/01/11/eavesdropping-at-a-half-open-door/) was done after the reading – sometimes a few weeks later. I thought about the various authors and texts to select fabrics. I recorded the amount of time (a measure), the books read, the date. The weaving was based on those records – it was ‘about’ the reading, not ‘part of the process’ of reading.

      I think knitting is easier to include in the process. The book is on the desk, the needles are in my hands. “the” (3 stitches) “syntax” (3 stitches) “of” (3 stitches) “her” (3 stitches, yellow fabric included) “drawing” (3 stitches, red fabric included)…

      There was basic setup and planning (garter stitch, base yarn, extra colours, 18 stitches per row), but it’s easy to be flexible.

      Weaving takes more planning, and it would be awkward to go back and forward from loom to book. Although I might try printing a text on paper and fabric, slicing it up, then weaving that. It would need an extra twist or transformation to make that interesting and purposeful.

      One of my interests in the past year has been bringing data visualisation techniques into my work. Another is in making work visible – not just the final product, but the doing part. Then there’s using making (knit, weave, print…) as an integral part of the process of reading or thinking. Those things all connect and overlap, but aren’t the same. Or at least, that’s what I think at the moment.

      Does any of that relate to your question?

      • 3 MegWeaves February 28, 2020 at 9:45 am

        Yes. So, it wasn’t so much the intrinsic acts of knitting/weaving that made the difference in what you achieved relating to your reading/texts, but the manner in which you conducted these making. Also, the nature of both activities and the ease/difficulties they render to additional activity, reading. Would I be right?

      • 4 MegWeaves February 28, 2020 at 9:49 am

        Ooops, part II. I would be most interested to see how you incorporate “making work visible – not just the final product, but the doing part.” Because I’m sure you’re going to go far beyond leaving the needles in your knit piece, for e.g. 😀 “Then there’s using making (knit, weave, print…) as an integral part of the process of reading or thinking.” I have no idea how this is going to work as my reading is completely divorced from my act of making in so far as while I am actually knitting or weaving, occasionally not so much while I plan/design. So I look forward to your exploring the “integral” portion and telling us about it. Definitely. ❤

      • 5 MegWeaves February 28, 2020 at 9:52 am

        By the way, I remember both the linked posts, and feeling slightly guilty about preferring the look of your knit piece over the woven. To me, that told me about your frustration more directly. Which may mean that in ways I don’t understand, the knit piece did more of what you said it did about YOUR reading.

        Curiouser and curiouser.

      • 6 fibresofbeing March 1, 2020 at 2:29 pm

        Hi Meg
        I’m not sure if I’m replying to your comments or mine 🙂
        Either way, I’m not sure of how any of this can work in practice. Groping in the dark might be a significant part of my process! I keep pushing and fiddling around the knot, hoping a thread to follow will come loose. Then I gallop happily following the thread for around two seconds, and am back in the tangle.


  1. 1 Reading Candor | Fibres of Being Trackback on March 1, 2020 at 4:53 pm
  2. 2 Weaving text | Fibres of Being Trackback on March 21, 2020 at 12:12 pm
  3. 3 A mist-enveloped tangle | Fibres of Being Trackback on May 29, 2020 at 12:32 am

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