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.
I am still working on my sulfur quilt and as I have been working in creating the fabrics I have been thinking about the life the carusi must have endured. Sold to the mine owners or workers for an agreed number of years, what must they have thought of their lives as they hauled heavy loads of sulfurous rock from deep underground up to the surface? They often lived, ate and slept somewhere in the mine, having no proper home to return to. For many boys their only escape from this dreadful life was to be rescued by being called up for military service.
The artist Onofrio Tomaselli created this painting in 1905 after staying for some time with Baron La Lumia, a wealthy sulfur mine owner, and witnessing at first hand the fate of the carusi. The painting was exhibited in 1906 in Milan at the World's Fair and was a tribute to 19 carusi who lost their lives in one of many terrible accidents at La Lumia's sulfur mine in Gessolungo, which occurred in 1881. I guess it shows that there were, at least, some people with a conscience at the time.
(Source: Davide Mauro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
For the fabrics, I dyed lots of yellows as you would probably expect. Starting with lemon and golden yellow fiber reactive dye I added very small amounts of orange, rust, bronze and chartreuse to create interesting mottled backgrounds. Onto that I monoprinted shapes, words and other marks that help tell the story of the carusi.
The fabrics have turned out to be very interesting - I added very dense print marks, which may mean the quilt will end up with very 'busy' look, so I will have to be very careful when positioning the different pieces.
Planning ahead, I decided to check out how the straight quilting lines would look over the young boy's face, so I made a small trial piece. Although it may seem like an extra step, I prefer to try out important design features to ensure I am happy with the effect before moving on with a design. I have used this simple but effective straight line quilting pattern on the other quilts in this series, so I was keen to continue using it, but not if it comporomised the overall look of the quilt. Happily, I think it works well.
As I have no plan for this small sample I have entered it into that SAQA 2017 trunk show. I hope it arrives in time!
I am now in the process of positioning the fabrics on the design wall to create the quilt top. I usually take a quick photo of several different variations and then look at them to see what works and what needs to be changed. Somtimes a layout just falls into place, but when it doesn't I find this really helpful.
I'll let you know how it develops in my next post. Until then, thanks for reading.
I am in the process of making a new quilt for an exhibition named 'Made in Europe'. I must admit, I found the topic quite difficult to interpret. After a lot of thought I decided to revisit the subject of land art - the way man has intentionally shaped the landscape. Living in Wiltshire means I am surrounded by it; the Wiltshire White Horses, Stone Circles, Henges and Burial mounds are everywhere, so I have no shortage of inspiration.
I began my quilt by dyeing a beautiful piece of white cotton sateen; I got quite carried away and ended up flooding the kitchen floor with dye so I could get the effect I was looking for. (In hindsight, I think I should have bought something like a kids paddling pool and used that to contain the lake of dye) What I wanted was a green landscape background with lots of swirling movement created with red/brown curved bands radiating around a central circle. Happily, the fabric turned out just as I had hoped and I began work on the next step - adding the henge circle and white horses.
Everything was going well and I was very pleased with the progress of the quilt, until I hit an issue. The exhibition has specific requirements in terms of the finished dimensions of the quilt, and although I was mindful of this at the outset, I deliberately decided to create the quilt larger than required and then crop it down later on in the making process. In the past I have regretted not making a quilt larger, so I thought this would be a good idea. Unfortunately once I had the horses completed I pinned the quilt onto my design wall, stood back and took a long look at it. Straight away I knew that I didn't want to cut it down in size. The rhythm and circular movement of the design would have been ruined if I cut 20cm off of each side. Damn. So it was decision time. Cut the quilt and compromise the design, or put it to one side to finish another time and make something else.
I decided on the latter.
Which means I need to get on with a new quilt pretty sharpish as I have just under 3 weeks to get it completely finished! I briefly thought about recreating the same quilt, but smaller; but really, what is the point in that? So instead I got out my sketchbooks and started to develop an idea I worked on a few years ago when I made the quilt called 'Chrysopoeia'. That quilt was about Alchemy and the mysterious creation of gold. You can see more about that quilt here:
The new quilt is going to use the research and imagary of another metal that was important to the ancient alchemists - this time Mercury. Here are two mercurial pages from my old sketchbook.
The largest natural source of mercury is the beautiful reddish mineral known as cinnabar, and the richest deposits in the world are found in Spain and Italy. Cinnabar is composed of mercury and sulfur and as well as being the primary source of metallic mercury it has also been used as a pigment since ancient times - the pigment being known as Vermilion. It is vermilion that is to be the subject of my new quilt.
Find out more fascinating information about Mercury here and vermilion here
For a quilt about vermilion I obviously need red fabric - and as true vermilion pigment is not just one specific hue (as it is made from finely ground cinnabar which contains all kinds of impurities) the pigment you obtain varies from orange-red through to a blue/grey-red. That meant I needed lots of different reds. So I got out more of my lovely cotton sateen and started dyeing again (no puddles this time!)
Once rinsed and pressed I moved on to adding marks using one of my favourite techniques - monoprinting.
I know............... this is blue fabric. I need a little contrast too! A 100% intensely red quilt may well just be too much!
And here are a few examples of how the fabrics are presently looking.
So, now I am off to begin piecing all my lovely fabrics together. So far..... so good!
Thanks for reading.
p.s. just in case you didn't notice, I have changed my website address. It is now plain and simple:
but if you use the old one, you will still be redirected here.