Whilst lino printing last week I had a lot of ink rolled out on the glass plate. Not wanting to let it go to waste I made a few monoprints onto fabric and paper as well. When creating this type of monoprint I often find there is just too much ink on the plate (no mater how frugal I am) and the first few prints turn out to be very dark and often very blurred, which is fine if that is what you want, but not for what I am looking for at the moment. So, when I want a well defined mono print I often make lino prints first, and then use the remaining ink on glass plate for the monoprints.
I am basing the prints on the same image of the child's face that I used for the lino block. The wonderful thing about the mono print is that is has a softer quality and captures the mood I want for the piece I will use these fabrics in.
I especially like the way each time a new print is made the child's face changes in subtle ways, but those eyes keep staring right back at you.
To make the prints I very gently lay a piece of plain fabric (in this case a piece of white Kona cotton) right side down onto the inked glass plate. Because there is not a lot of tacky ink left on the plate I find I have very little transference of ink onto the fabric unless I press onto the back. To hold the fabric in place I either use masking tape at the corners or I use my fingertips to press down in strategic areas where I don't mind the ink transferring. The key is to have a light touch and to be careful.
From then on I simply 'draw' onto the back of the fabric with a tool of some sort. Knitting needles, cocktail sticks, chop sticks and clay shaping tools are all the type of thing I find suitable. Wherever I draw the fabric is pressed into the thin layer of ink and leaves a line. Shading can be achieved by scribbling, cross hatching, making multiple dots or even by gently using a finger or more blunt tool to press and smooth the back of the fabric. It is something that is good to experiment with. The most important thing to remember is that as you are drawing from the back of the image it will be reversed when you finally lift it up from the glass (important if you choose to write words!).
The photos below (reading left to right) are from another piece of work I made a long time ago, but I think they show the process quite clearly. Hover over each photo to see a description of what is going on.
This week I have also dyed a lot of fabric to piece around these images for my first piece about child labour - this one will be about the chocolate industry. Until now I have had only a low awareness of how some of the worlds poorest children are being exploited for our 'guilty pleasure'. Particularly prevalent in the cocoa bean producing regions of Western Africa, where 70% of the world's cocoa is grown (especially in Côte d'Ivoire
and Ghana) children as young as 10 labour on cocoa bean plantations often lured there on false promises of wages or bicycles. Driven by extreme poverty they have little real choice in their lives but to seek work. I wrongly thought that this practice had been closed down long ago, but in fact it is thriving and involves all kinds of human trafficking, forced labour and human rights violations many of which fall under the category of slavery.
A quick google search will take you to many websites which show and explain the extent of the problem, demonstrating how all the big chocolate companies are involved in this terrible business. They claim to be trying hard to eradicate the problem, and although there is some effort of their part to make changes, so far their best efforts have not ended the problem and they have effectively kicked the can down the road each time they have been called to account.
One way to avoid inadvertently supporting this terrible practice is to pressure the big chocolate companies to pay more for their cocoa - and for the suppliers of the cocoa beans to pay their legitimate employees a decent living wage. Other ways are to buy chocolate from producers who source their cocoa from South America where the use of child labour has been almost completely stopped. A third option is to buy chocolate from people who run their manufacture from 'bean to bar' and can prove their ethical standing. Of course, this chocolate is more expensive, but I am happy to pay it to know I am not supporting the use of children to provide the raw material for my 'guilty pleasure'.
Thanks for reading.
Lino printing is one of my favourite methods of mark making on fabric - along with mono printing from glass sheets covered in ink. Although two quite different processes I have found the two generally go hand in hand. In this post I'll share the lino prints I am making and in my next post I will show you how the mono printing is going.
A few weeks ago I went on an excellent course at Ardington School of Crafts in Oxfordshire. It is a lovely place and is very well run by Simon and Yvonne Sonsino. The course was run by painter and printmaker Jessica Rose (www.jessicaroseartist.co.uk) and was one of the best I have been on in a long time. Jessica is lots of fun and very knowledgeable. She passed on all sorts of helpful information - the sort you just can't get from watching a YouTube video!
This is the print block I made on the day, reworked a little to clean it up (hence the pale coloured gouges you can see on the lino block above).
At the course I learned a clever technique that allowed me to make prints with the block on Japanese gampi paper and then add colour to a separate layer behind the paper. The effect is very delicate and as it uses different layers is a technique I would like to explore with fabric.
Mono print and ink wash layers: print on Japanese gampi paper, ink on watercolour paper
I love the way the bold black printed image on the left is really crisp - the black mount around it really enhances the print. In contrast, the white mount of the right subdues it considerably. (same print in both)
I also like the way the water based ink wash that is placed behind the print subtly shows through the beautifully thin and floaty gampi paper. (Carrying a wet fresh print on gampi paper across a crowded workshop requires a lot of planning and no sudden wafts of air!)
Now I have had time to experiment with this technique a little more I have made some samples that I want to use in a small new series that will join the others in my In Their Shoes series. The quilts I want to make are going to focus on the many forms of child labour, from children working within a family setting all the way to child slavery.
Up until now all my lino printing has been self taught. I have learned a lot by myself and really enjoy spending a few hours carving away at various different blocks. As a novice I generally prefer to carve the softer vinyl blocks that are available in most art shops and on line to the harder and sometimes more crumbly grey lino, often referred to as 'Battleship'. (The green block below is an example of one of the softer relief vinyls which is easier to cut, but can be a little stretchy, causing other issues as you carve.)
As I was going to the course I decided I really needed to make the most of having an expert to teach me, so I had a splurge and bought a selection of different types of lino block material and new set of carving tools.
In the past I have relied on the cheap and cheerful red plastic handled cutting tool with interchangeable blades. I must say, there is nothing terribly wrong with them and I have made some great print blocks using them. But my blades are all blunt and rather than spend another £10 on a new set of blades I decided to see what else was available. Turns out there are lots to choose from and a lot of money can be spent!
For a brief moment I did consider the beautifully made Pfeil carving tools but I just couldn't figure out which of the huge number of different shapes and sizes I should buy (too much choice is no choice at all as the saying goes). They were too expensive for me to just guess so I decided to look elsewhere. (Since then I have discovered this fantastic website and blog which might have helped my had I found it earlier: https://www.drawcutinkpress.com/pfeil-lino-cutting-tools-guide/ )
After much searching I ended up choosing this set of Japanese wood carving tools - and they have turned out to be fabulous to use. Of the 5 in the box I have found 4 to be just the sizes I need. (I'm not really sure what to do with the 5th one yet!). Compared to the small red handles tool these cut through even old tough lino with ease.
This is a close up of the block I carved at the course with my lovely new cutters. I used a piece of fresh grey lino - and was amazed at how easy it was to cut compared to using the little red handled cutter - I know it is an old chestnut, but it really was like cutting into butter. I needed no real effort at all to cut the lino and the lines I cut were very clean allowing me to get lots of detail and fiddly bits. In future I think I will be choosing grey lino blocks rather than the easy carve vinyl if these tools continue to perform as they did on first use. (But, if I do use one of those little red cutters again I think I will prefer to choose one of the softer types of lino substitutes and sacrifice the fine detail).
And this is a piece of white Kona cotton fabric that I printed using the block.
I plan to use this fabric and lots more in a new series of quilts I have in mind to make concerning child labour. In my next post I will share the mono prints that I plan to use along with this fabric.
Thanks for reading.
Tomorrow, 10th June, women and girls across the country are being invited to take part in a mass participation artwork to celebrate 100 years of votes for women. The processions are part of this year's ongoing celebrations to mark The Representation of the People Act, 1918 which secured the vote for some women. This particular project is from heritage organisation 14-18 NOW and public art specialists Artichoke, and will encourage women to march in four coordinated parades dressed in green, white or purple. The processions will be held in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. In the lead up to the processions, 100 female artists were commissioned to work with organisations and communities across the UK to create 100 centenary banners. My friend and fellow CQ West member, Judy Stephens made this square for the Cardiff Banner.
Another less traditional banner that appeals to me is a re-imagined version of Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. It has been created in a colaboration between the Institute for Conflict Research and Northern Ireland based artist Rita Duffy from the Ards Peninsula in County Down and will be part of the Belfast procession.
Grographicaly closer to my home, Dorcas Caset has been leading workshops to create this banner. She worked with the group Somerset Art Works, Strode College in Street, Richard Huish College in Taunton and Bruton School for Girls. Two of the banners are below.
Dorcas writes:“Suffrage banners gave voice to the voiceless. They were objects of great pride and significance, employing motifs and devices which cleverly imbued their slogans with a sense of grandeur and importance. They were designed to be striking from afar and exquisite up close; full of vivid colours, opulent fabrics and metallic threads. The process of making them fostered a sense of collective, collaborative progress for the women who were fighting for equal rights. It’s hard to imagine how subversive and incendiary these embroidered banners were when they first appeared in public. Beneath their beautiful, meticulous surfaces, lies a story of strength, courage, and collaboration.
We wanted the finished banner to represent all our voices and ideas. Using neon, metallic and glow-in-the-dark thread we used traditional hand-embroidery techniques to echo the processes used by the suffragettes. Embroidery feels like a good metaphor for the suffrage movement; where small individual contributions achieved a huge shift in opinion. The phrase ‘Make More Noise’ comes from a speech by Emmeline Pankhurst and it sums up the sentiment of the suffrage processions; to make a spectacle, to make their voices heard. It still feels relevant today."
The census of 1911
In addition to highly visible acts of civil disobedience, such as window smashing and setting fire to postboxes, many women also carried out quieter forms of civil protest. In 1911, the Women’s Freedom League launched a campaign to encourage women to refuse to complete the 1911 census, and in April that year a meeting was held in Trafalgar Square instructing women not to participate. The protesters followed the slogan: “I don’t count so I won’t be counted”. Some spoiled their papers with slogans such as “No persons here, only women!”; they gave their occupations as ‘suffragette’, and listed their ‘disenfranchisement’ in a column headed ‘Infirmity’.
I am looking forward to the processions tomorrow - and to seeing the array of beautiful banners that will undoubtedly be on display. Come and join the celebration!
Thanks for reading.