Archive for the 'Techniques' Category

Workshop: Vivien Haley The Mono Printed Brushmark: Experimental printing techniques

This one-day masterclass was run at the lovely Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre. Vivien Haley, the tutor, studied sculpture and print-making at Art School. Her varied career has included exhibiting as a sculptor, hand block-printing fabrics, and most recently exploring digital printing of her original work.

In this class Vivien showed us the expressive power of some deceptively simple techniques – mono-printing, block-printing, sgraffito. In one way it was a reminder of what I already knew, given the printing assignment of Mixed Media for Textiles, but with the particular materials and tools and techniques I chose, all the textures and marks I made, none produced a printed brushmark. Incredible in hind-sight!

Print 1

Print 1

After a general introduction of herself and some show-and-tell of some beautiful fabrics (some hand-printed, some digitally printed collages of her hand-printing), Vivien introduced printing in the most simple and direct way – using black acrylic paint, painting onto some xray film or a wooden block, scratching in marks, and printing onto paper. I set off with a wooden block, experimenting with different amounts of paint, scratching, painting on some hessian and printing that by pressing with the wood… a little variety of tones but nothing exciting.

Print 2

Print 2

At one point I started playing with some colour, printing off a scrap of cardboard. There’s a sense of depth in areas, a little movement contained in the structure of the pattern. What started getting my attention was the mark of the brush itself, more than the shape of print or the scratching into the paint.

Print 3

Print 3

Print 3 detail

Print 3 detail

I returned to this print a number of times over the day, adding layers. It started with a glass printing plate, brushed on paint, and some yarn as a resist. At this point I was deliberately choosing brushes which gave a broken mark. The second layer was red paint on hessian, with a border mask of newspaper to give the overall shape. Finally I wanted more lines at a different scale, so covered some yarn with paint, arranged them on the glass, used a circular mask, and took the print.

As a whole it doesn’t work, but I like the detail of the layering, the different scales of mark and the energy in them. We were using primary school grade acrylic paint, not top artist quality stuff, and for this technique it was wonderful. Rich and creamy, just the right consistency for printing without modification, and quite slow to dry – plenty of time for manipulation on the plate or block.

Print 4

Print 4

More experimentation with layers and marks. The printing inks I used in my earlier assignment were transparent, so I got interesting layering and mixing of colour. The acrylic paint is basically opaque, with the layering coming from the broken marks. A very different effect. I wonder what could be done with combining the media, playing the different kinds of layering against each other…

VivienHaleyClass05The last print I’m showing (we all produced a lot of work) brings together the major ideas that had caught my interest. The energy and the lines in the initial layer reminded me of the movement of water in the harbour, so I played on that in my over-printing using pieces of heavy cardboard as a stamp.

Print 5 detail

Print 5 detail

The detail photo shows that the acrylic isn’t fully opaque – the layer below can still be seen. There’s a lot happening with very basic materials and tools.

There were 10 or so in the class, everyone working pretty independently and with a variety of approaches.

One worked on fabric (I didn’t get a good shot of that). Quite a range of different marks and use of colour. There’s more to see in Claire’s post.

A sobering aspect of the class was the reason Vivien has turned to digital work – she developed an allergy to the printing ink. A good reminder to be thoughtful in how we use materials and protect ourselves. Vivien had worked for years with the inks, including quite a lot of spraying backgrounds. The positive is that she has been able to make the move to digital – with all sorts of advantages, such as adjusting colours, changing scale, mixing images of different works to create new designs, and flexibility in print runs (shapes and designs). The results can be seen on her website,, and all the work evidences the original handprinting. Vivien works closely with a printing house and gave quite a detailed explanation of the process from a designer’s point of view, but out of scope here.

During the class Vivien came round a few times and made suggestions, asked questions, pointed out possibilities. One was drawing back into a print, bringing out and developing areas. I wasn’t able to turn my mind to that on the day – I was firmly in printing mode – but it’s something to come back to. Writing up this post reminded me of the collage effects she’s working with. I’m not feeling drawn to a digital approach at the moment (I spend enough time at the computer), but I’d like to print up a range of papers and colours and try working with collage.

Vivien also talked about the nature of printing a brushmark. It becomes a memory, a record of something gone. That could add a nice depth of thought in the right context.

The biggest immediate impact for me has been renewing excitement in making marks. The printing process captures, flattens and makes the painted marks more graphic and I want to keep doing that – especially the broken marks that are so expressive. But the impact I mean here is more general. My sketching has been languishing, but now I’m keen.

I’ll write some more in my regular roundup, but here will show the results of a session printing acrylic ink.

These are based on a video on Croquis Cafe (, and clearly show the available scope for improvement.

Ignoring that – I see a lot of potential in some of the lines and marks. I also now know that not all cheap acrylic paints are created equal. The one I was using dried much too quickly. Even a two-minute pose had dried too much before I could print it.

The important thing is – I’m working on it.

Workshop – 3D printing

2015-03-103dprinterThis was an evening class, a 3 hour introduction into the huge range of materials, techniques, possibilities and opportunities in 3D printing.
On the left is the printer demonstrated in class by Mat, our tutor. He described it as “really a glorified glue gun”. It lays down layers of material, using a spool of plastic that looks like whipper-snipper line (which was actually used in earlier days). It’s a resource-friendly additive process – I quite like the parallel to weaving, adding picks (layers) of weft to create the cloth.

There’s been chatter in the past about printing plastic guns and so on, but while theoretically you could they wouldn’t be very good guns. Better examples are shoes from a scan of the foot, prosthetics that fit exactly and are cheap enough to upgrade each year as a child grows, a coconut cutter that was everywhere in your village but nowhere to be found in Sydney. With 3D printing you can create unique and/or customised items, or replacement parts not kept in inventory, or prototypes while developing that new gadget that will take the world by storm. For actual manufacture in bulk you’d move to injection moulding or other faster and cheaper methods.

Mat took us on a whirlwind tour of the various methods in use – extrusion, wire, granular, powder bed and inkjet head, laminated and light polymerised. He talked sintering and stereolithography and ceramic plaster… but what I was really focused on were the techniques and materials available to me now, reasonably locally and economically, with my Mixed Media for Textiles course in mind.

FDM (fused deposition modeling), as in the printer Mat showed us, is the most affordable, using polymer filaments – many types available in a wide variety of TLAs (three (or two) letter acronyms). There seems to be a lot to think about when printing – the grain of the printing (greater weakness on the z-axis), adhesion to the printing plate, temperatures, nozzle diameter, printer speed, layer height… and that’s after you’ve actually designed your item. It seems like a lot, but there is a very active community on the internet, lots on YouTube, and various service providers including Mat.

The workshop includes printing of a small item of our own design, so I’ll be sending my file off to Mat soon. I’m really excited about the possibilities for combining the printed items with textiles, so the plan is to start experimenting with that. I also want to get hold of some polymorph plastic, which melts in hot water and you can then mould by hand, and perhaps a 3D pen.

Some links: – website of our tutor, Mat Danic. – videos Mat has shared. In particular, which shows the polymorph plastic. and The Makers Place in Sydney. You can join and access their equipment, including a number of 3d printers There’s another class coming up at the Sydney Community College

Free design software:

Reading: Bauhaus weaving theory

Smith, T. (2014) Bauhaus weaving theory: From feminine craft to mode of design. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

I found this a difficult book to read. It’s academic writing, with lots of references to ideas and philosophies and people and work that I don’t know, using words that I don’t know or know only in a more general sense, not the precise-in-this-field sense.

It was also difficult because of my expectations, my desires. I want to find a compelling reason for hand weaving today. Not a joy of craft or handmade functional/wearable item way, but an expressive or conceptual way in which weaving provides unique perspective or insight. That may seem narrow, or a backwards approach, it may combine with other things or develop or change out of all recognition as I progress in my studies, but to me today “weave” seems to contain more, to offer more, to have more in processes and materials and metaphors and allusions and human history, than any half lifetime could explore. So a “weaving theory” – what answers would I find in weaving theory? None really for my personal quest, not in Bauhaus weaving theory. After reading this book I have more questions – which in the long run is probably more valuable.

Smith’s book begins with the original manifesto for the Bauhaus published by founder Walter Gropius – an art-craft unity, joining “practical and scientific areas of work” (p. xiv). Weaving was there at the start, and continued throughout the Bauhaus history. And the weavers wrote about their work. “Through texts that explored weaving’s material elements, loom practice, and functional applications, a Bauhaus theory of weaving emerged” (p xv).

Their early weavings were “pictures made of wool” – not taking advantage of weaving’s specific nature, but translating other media, in particular painting. Later Anni Albers “argued that weaving’s processes, structures, and materials are best explored through direct experimentation on a loom” (p xvii). New fabrics were created from experiment, using advantage of what the medium weaving could offer.

The book explores the changing goals of Bauhaus, driven by individuals, politics and economics. Gender issues are explored. In 1922 weaving generated significant revenue, more than any other workshop at Bauhaus. However its status was low – “As the social and economic history of textiles haunted the Bauhaus weaving work, the textile medium, it seems, was dismissed as mere labor, as ornamental form without ‘intuition’, whose ‘inner sound’ could only ever ‘simulate internal necessity'” (p 32).

As time passed the Bauhaus developed a functionalist rather than expressionist approach. The weaving workshop responded. “At once modernist, or insistent on the distinctness of this thing and its space of practice, and acknowledging a specifically modern civic identity … early weaving theory joined together the rhetoric of functionalism, modern marketing, and the new women’s movement” (p 44). “Color and form as an abstract, autonomous terrain of inquiry remain integral to the object, even as it shifts toward use. Utility and formal concerns occupy the same matrix” (p 67).

By 1931 Gunta St√∂lzl in her writing “declares that there is a rhetorical cleavage between … the development of textiles for use in interiors (prototypes for industry) and speculative experimentation with materials, form, and color,” she also insists that any ‘cleavage’ between utility and experimentation is also bound within the very structure of the woven prototypes” (p 67). [By this stage the theory is definitely moving away from my own agenda – but I wonder, what is the modern day’s art rhetoric?].

The third chapter of the book, “The haptics of optics: weaving and photography” struck some resonances for me, beginning with “tactility”, which for me is one of the great strengths and interests of textiles generally. “The Bauhaus weaving workshop explored the possibilities of color and formal composition through the interlacing of threads, tacitly placing it in comparison to painterly composition and architectural function. Yet the specific palpability of threads and cloth surfaces required a new set of terms” (p.79). Photography, able to show the “intimacy”, the textured detail, the tactile nature of a fabric, provided a new language.

Previously I thought “haptic” was to touch as “optic” is to sight, but here I learnt it is more. Otti Berger “through a subtle and perhaps counterintuitive response to photography, … insisted on the tactility of different materials (the smoothness of silk or the roughness of jute, for instance) as well as the fabric’s contact with the kinesthetic movements of the body within architectural space (with curtains or upholstery fabric)” (p 81). Berger “queried the limits of the visual as modernism’s prized term of formal inquiry” (p 84). There is space and movement within haptic – is this part of the unique perspective or insight I am seeking? Moving beyond the visual to incorporate other senses? (I’m reminded of Hiromi Tango – see 30-Oct-2014).

Smith continues to examine Berger’s work in the next chapter Weaving as invention: Patenting authorship. In a traditionally anonymous field, Berger sought acknowledged authorship of her textile designs. Her initials appeared on sample books. She took out patents on innovative work. “Berger was not the typically creative author-artist – at least insofar as that would have signaled the deep recesses of her inner life, the projection of her soul onto her work. But neither was she the anonymous factory laborer” (p 111). Berger was an inventor. Smith explores ideas around the inventor as author, the anonymity of textiles, a link back to gender.

It was in the final chapter, Conclusion: On weaving, on writing that I lost my tenuous grip on Smith’s arguments. “Recall that the Bauhaus weavers, in their practice and in their essays on their craft, absorbed the languages of other media. In their wall hangings, for example, the weavers adopted the formal principles of expressionist painting; in their workshop’s prototypes for architectural textiles, they assumed the functionalist vocabulary of the Neues Bauen; for their fabrics found in Neue Sachlichkeit photographs and glossy magazines, they considered the limits of optical and tactile perceptions; and within patent documents, one weaver sought intellectual property protection for her textile inventions” (p 141), seems a good summary of earlier chapters. Much that followed was beyond my grasp. The subtleties of “media” or “mediums” are clearly important, but I don’t have the background knowledge to appreciate them. “Weaving is not just a set of processes: it is also, as I’ve indicated, a certain mediation of the semiautonomous zones of form and history” (p 172) I want to understand, I suspect is relevant to my own inquiries. The following sentence, “Textiles are so overtly bound up in the modes of production that define precapitalist and capitalist societies, and the gendered problematics that circumscribe labor, that they are rarely called ‘art'”, seems to point to areas I have been keen to avoid in my thinking, that I want to move beyond.

So yes, a difficult book. It began as a doctoral dissertation, and it shows. There is nothing wrong with either of those things. I’ve learnt from this book and I’m convinced there is much, much more I could learn. I just need to work up to it.


This morning I’ve been playing with ArahPaint, free software designed as “a drawing tool, which helps textile designers in editing pictures in repeat” (from the User Manual). It’s intended to support the first step in designing jacquard woven fabrics, but I was thinking of stamping and printing.

First some links: The AVL blog which alerted me to the software. It has direct links to the software download, user manual etc. Arahne website. Their main product is weaving software for jacquard and dobby looms, and there’s also a draping or texture mapping program which looks complicated but fun (there are demos for both, but I don’t think they’re open source). Gimp is my preferred image manipulation software (also free). I found myself swapping between gimp (to adjust my basic image) and arahpaint (to produce pattern repeats) and it worked pretty smoothly. The windows snipping tool came in handy too.

p4s4_02I used a design based on a shell, from A Creative Approach (sketchbook here and blog post 11-Feb-2012). A few of this morning’s new patterns are in the slideshow below.

I didn’t get into the details of ArahPaint, just tried the things that worked without too much trouble. A few times either the program or I got confused, which was generally solved by starting a new image, closing and reopening the software, or getting a cup of tea. With my gimp experience most things worked pretty much as I expected, and the User Manual helped out.

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Overall a very useful tool which I will explore further when a project suggests itself.

Indigo vat continued

Having an indigo vat in the garage is a very pleasant thing. It was started in the last days of 2014 with Claire (posted 3-Jan-2015) and now it sits there, ready to colour and pattern in just minutes. In odd moments over the past week there’s been:

  • a time series experiment in a mid-weight cotton fabric, 11 swatches, single dips in the vat for periods from 30 seconds to 30 minutes (not shown here because the gradation is minor and it makes a boring photo)
  • some paper-based work (waiting for a sketchbook post)
  • a series thinking about the patterning on the Emperors’ cloak, from my Aztec research (see 17-Nov-2014). That’s the subject of this post.
  • Codex Mendoza folio 108r

    Codex Mendoza folio 108r

    This was spurred on by an article I’ve only recently found, A New Look at Tie-Dye and the Dot-in-a-Square Motif in the Prehispanic Southwest (an aside: one of the advantages of blogging – in my stats I followed a link from a referrer, which was a page of citations of one of my previous sources, and included a link to this new source).

    Earlier attempt

    Earlier sample

    Could I get the appearance of a dot in a square? I chose a white voile cotton as my base – it had produced the brightest, clearest colour and patterning in the comparison done the first dye day.

    indigo_dot_02On the left are a tied and a clamped sample. The tying was done with teflon tape – I didn’t want any additional patterning from thread or cord.
    indigo_dot_03The first idea was white squares in an offset placement, each with an internal dot of blue. I ironed folds in the fabric to help align my ties. It didn’t go so well. Placement is off and there is huge variation in shapes and sizes of “white squares”.
    indigo_dot_04The second piece was accordion folded in one direction then the other, then two rectangles of perspex were tied around – being careful not to distort the fabric or introduce any extra patterning from the thread. I wasn’t clear about the pattern I expected, but this fits the “dot in a square” brief quite well. While this is a good, strong and clear pattern I really wanted a border of blue around the white squares, and to have the squares aligned with the grain of the fabric instead of on the bias. The scale is also rather larger than I was looking for.

    indigo_dot_05On the left is the next set of prepared fabrics. The sample in the centre is the critical one. This time the accordion pleats were folded on the bias, to align the pattern with the grain of the fabric. The package is held in two places, which I planned thought would produce the desired blue border. Instead of the 5 cm wide perspex, the resists are now paddlepop sticks.

    indigo_dot_06I am absurdly smug about the result. The sticks were wide enough to be effective (I hadn’t been sure), all my other adjustments worked as I hoped. There’s a lot of extra layers of patterning, on the bias where the fabric was folded, plus a faint grid in blue – presumably from the bowing of the thin wooden sticks in between the two end ties. The white squares are about 8 cm across, compared to 19 cm on the first attempt.

    By this time a plan was forming for a garment – although not a cloak. The other two fabric pieces shown prepared above gave the results shown below.
    indigo_dot_07The tied pink fabric gives me a small stock of fabric pieces with that colour, and patterning at a smaller scale. It’s interesting to see the different effect on each side. The white stitching was seen on a linen sample earlier (2-Jan-2015).

    My final pair of fabrics is shown above, with a few process shots and the result. Pink and white fabrics accordion pleated, then wrapped around a pole, tied and scrunched arashi-style.

    indigo_10I’m now playing with everything, looking at how they sit together. More later as the project progresses.

    Laurie D. Webster, Kelley A. Hays-Gilpin and Polly Schaafsma “A New Look at Tie-Dye and the Dot-in-a-Square Motif in the Prehispanic Southwest” In Kiva Vol. 71, No. 3, Recent Perishables Research in the U.S. Southwest (Spring, 2006), pp. 317-348 Published by: Maney Publishing [online] Available from (Accessed 11-Jan-2015)

    Indigo dye day

    Earlier this week fellow OCA student Claire and I spent a day dyeing with indigo. The idea came up when I was researching Aztec culture and design for the Cultural Fusions project. That project is on ice while I transfer courses in OCA, but we weren’t going to cancel the indigo (nor the cochineal – coming soon). I’ll add a link to Claire’s post about the day when it’s up. Claire’s post is here.

    indigo_07Both of us have done a little dyeing with indigo before, but always with a vat prepared for a group – never by us. We used synthetic indigo from Batik Oetoro, weighed, measured, mixed, and waited an hour. We were so excited by our first sight of the result – photo to the left. A thin film of dark purple-blue on the top, and underneath a beautiful yellow-green.

    indigo_08This is Claire, gently stirring. Oxygen is the enemy in an indigo vat. The indigo will react to it, turn blue … and not be available to dye your goods. Lower damp fabric gently into the vat, leave for a time, lift it out (trying not to drip into the vat – that would introduce oxygen). The fabric comes out yellow green, then before your eyes the indigo blue develops. Very satisfying.

    Both of us came prepared with experiments. There are some basics with indigo – the vat must be alkaline, the indigo must be reduced (oxygen removed) – but every resource I checked seemed to have its own “magic” process. How long should the fabric stay in the vat? Longer means deeper blue – but is that two lots of 15 minutes, or 1 dip of 5 minutes followed by repeated 1 minute dips (up to a dozen), or 20 minutes followed by 2 minutes followed by repeated 30 second dips? One source referenced a traditional Japanese process involving multiple dips over days, with rinsing and drying in between (more variables).

    I had a complex plan based on a total of 30 minutes in the vat. I would dip 6 swatches for 5 minutes. 5 would go back in for a second 5 minutes. 4 in for a 3rd dip etc. Secondary plans were also based on 30 minutes: a swatch would go in for the full 30. Another would have 2 dips of 15 minutes each. Et cetera.

    It didn’t happen. I did the first 5 minutes, then let the swatches oxidize while pottering around with other things. They looked a very dark blue, so we kept using 5 minutes as a standard. I rinsed and ironed dry a swatch and it looked a good, rich colour. I wish now I’d been more disciplined – with calmer eyes that blue isn’t quite so rich and deep.

    indigo_04A second experiment was based on weights of fabrics. Three 40 cm squares of cotton were pleated and each was tied between a pair of DVDs acting as a resist (that is, reserving an area that won’t be dyed). The cottons were a gauzy open weave, a voile, and a mid-weight cotton (left to right in the photo). All spent 5 minutes in the vat. The colour is richest and brightest on the voile. I speculate there is less material to hold the dye on the gauze, and not enough time for the dye to penetrate the thicker fabric.

    indigo_02Claire brought along a cold wax (emulsified paraffin wax), also from Batik Oetoro, for us to try. I was very excited by the brushmarks I was able to make, and with the easy washout in warm soapy water. My choice of a pink fabric looks a little dull in the end result. It was a mid-weight cotton I’d dyed some years ago, probably with drimarene K.

    indigo_01This shows a series of experiments with a pink voile (commercially dyed). A swatch of the original fabric is top right. Below that is part of a 40 cm square that was pleated and tied between two squares of thick perspex. After 5 minutes in the vat this had rich blue where the dye wasn’t resisted and a halo of off-white around the protected pink. On the left are 6 swatches. Each had a simple knot tied in the middle to provide a resist. My plan was to dip them for increasing times. My original idea of 5 minutes, 10 minutes etc was reduced, based on the earlier sample. Unfortunately I chose 30 second increments – so the samples range from 30 seconds to 3 minute dips. There is more difference in real life – trying to sort them by eye I swapped a couple, but had the general sequence right. With the glories of hindsight I wish I’d used 1 minute increments.

    indigo_05I tried the same process with a yellow, heavier cotton. The 5 minute resisted sample on the lower right almost has some blue. Most of the dyed area is a sequence of greens. Once again I was able to sort the 30 second increment dip swatches by eye, but the differences were tiny. A part of that was the unevenness caused by the knot and incidental folds of the fabric, but really it was that poor choice of timing. For this heavier fabric 2 minute increments would have been better.

    indigo_06It’s interesting to see the pink and yellow resisted samples side by side. There is no sign of colour mixing on the pink sample. It is indigo blue where dyed, that halo of off-white, then clear pink. The yellow has no halo, then colour mixes to green. I believe the sodium hydrosulphite in the vat, used to reduce the indigo, is the cause. That chemical can also be used to discharge – that is, intentionally remove dye colours. A discharge agent acts differently for different dye types, and even different colours within a dye type. I think the pink commercial dye was very susceptible to discharge by sodium hydrosulphite, so was completely removed where ever it was touched, even if there was insufficient indigo to leave colour. The yellow dye was much more resistant – so I got colour mixing and no discharge halo.

    indigo_03My stamped linen sample was seen in an earlier post (2-Jan-2015). I had a couple of other fabric samples, nothing too exciting. Some white panne velvet ended up a very pale blue. I didn’t expect any colour at all, given it is 100% polyester. I suspect it is not at all wash-fast. My other main area of inquiry was paper, but I’m keeping that for another post. As the host of the dye day I still have the indigo vat and have been visiting it each day with experiments as part of my daily sketchbook. More on that in my next sketchbook roundup.

    Jennifer Boldt, OCA postgraduate student and weaver

    Jennifer Boldt, a postgraduatestudent of the Open College of the Arts (OCA) from Chicago, Illinois, has been shortlisted in the 3rd International Emerging Artist Award (OCA press release here).

    Jennifer’s website:

    Jennifer’s work is an exciting, contemporary, use of weaving. This is absolutely the sort of work or approach to work that I want to get to. Even more exciting is that she has chosen to be a student at OCA. The undergraduate course doesn’t seem to have much specifically focused on constructed textiles and I sometimes wonder if my OCA studies are a diversion, an interesting sidetrack. Asked and answered?


    Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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