A few weeks ago I went to a weekend workshop with tutor Mignon Parker, organised by ATASDA. The class was primarily experimenting with rusting techniques and on the left is one of Mignon’s samples.
Mignon added an interesting painting technique plus some gilding, and the second photo shows some of the other samples she brought.
Here you can see my initial experiments – at the top on calico, and the lower samples handmade paper (from the ATASDA day at Primrose Park a couple of years ago). On the left of the fabric I used a sealer, on the lefthand paper sample a turquoise acrylic paint as a base. Iron filings were mixed with black acrylic paint, then painted on both sealed and unsealed fabric and papers. The final step of the process is to paint a weak acid solution over the dried paint. The iron reacts with the acid to form rust and possibly also water – the acid solution was thickened, but one of the interesting effects was from a rusty water that spread across fabric and paper.
I experimented a little with other fabrics. On the left is a silver lamé which has some interesting contrasts with the still shiny areas, black discolouration and the actual rusty sections. I applied the paint using a fibrous, holey paper as a stencil and the pockmarked effect has potential. However the rust is quite brittle and seems likely to flake off if one handled it a lot or tried to stitch through it, plus Mignon warned us of potential damage to washing machines which made us worry about danger for our sewing machines. I decided to focus on paper.
A couple of flocked papers gave good results when the iron-laden paint was put just on the flocked sections. I tried two versions. The first actually had a light silvered card as a base, and once again the contrast of silver and rust was quite attractive. As you can see in the closeup of the second photo, the flocking gave additional height and emphasis to the crusty rusting effect. One consideration in the technique is that even if you try to keep the rust effect to a small area, it does tend to spread with the water (or whatever it is) produced. Also the acid solution we used had a blue colour – it may have been a safety feature – and this had an impact on the colour of the base.
It was difficult to apply the iron/paint mix accurately with a brush – and quite hard on the brush hairs too. I found it more effective when stencilling – better control of patterning, plus the stencil brushes had hardier bristles. This sample used a small paper doiley which I tore in half as stencils. I like the patterning on the paper, and the doily itself looks good – rusted colour but not too crusty or brittle in this instance. It could provide a good way to suggest rusted hinges etc on a mixed media wall piece, without any weight. Using a sealant on the rusted paper would help durability.
A light-but-strong japanese paper made an effective stencil (see the insert lower left of the photo), but given my previous interests it’s no surprise that it’s the light and shadow possibilities that caught my eye. I haven’t got a particular application in mind as yet, but surely the right opportunity will come up sometime to use this.
On the second day Mignon showed us a way to mix and apply paint using a credit card (or similar) cut to various widths. It gave some interesting colour effects, but I’m not going to show either of my two samples in their entirety. I need a lot more practice and control, and while Mignon had a system which allowed her to produce a very attractive little italian cityscape on the spot, my determination to make my own visual statement(s) did not go so well overall! I also remain unconvinced that rusting and gilding effects should ever be used in the same piece. To me they are so different in appearance and in what they represent (the decay of rust, the luxury of gold) – even going for some kind of contrast or statement would take just the right situation and a lot of finesse to pull off.
This is my second attempt with the credit card painting idea, on one of those cheap ready-stretched canvases. I didn’t use rust on it, but did try some areas of gilding. They looked rather trashy, so I used some of the acid to knock back the shine. Looking at it now I might even try (one day) taking it off the frame and machine stitching into it, just to see what happens.
I can’t say I’m really drawn to any of the techniques we tried – probably more than anything because the rust (what interested me the most initially) seems to have some limitations and drawbacks for general use on fabrics. Still, it was a very nice group of women, a pleasant way to spend a weekend, and maybe one day one of these ideas will turn out to be just what I need.