Snowflakes and vanishing gold

Last Sunday was part 2 of the course on bonding paper and cloth. Having learnt the basic technique, it was time to start experimenting.

The idea of a contrast between transparency and opacity made me think of ice and snow, which is sometimes transparent and sometimes opaque. So I photocopied some images of ice and snow crystals and spent a happy afternoon creating paper snowflakes (I felt as if I was six years old again!). Most of the snowflakes I tore rather than cut, because I wanted the outlines to be slightly fuzzy rather than sharp.

However, I was a bit disappointed with the result (below).

First, I think the snowflake templates moved slightly when I put the screen down – maybe this is one of the occupational hazards of printing with an open screen. Also, I tried to graduate the colour of the background from light to dark, but I think it would look better if the background was a consistent hue. Finally, the snowflakes that were cut rather than torn look better, because the process of removing excess paper leaves a slightly fuzzy edge anyway.

So I did another one with a background of more uniform hue, which I think looks better. There are fewer snowflakes because I ran out (of templates and time!) – but I can see the direction I want to develop this, maybe with some overprinting with opaque white ink and touches of silver foiling.

Bonded paper and fabric before removing paper
After removing paper

Just time, then, for another experiment with some joss paper, or ghost money, that I bought from a Chinese supermarket.

The paper is very thin, so I hoped it would disintegrate in the same way as newspaper. I also wanted to see what happened to the metallic gold squares during the process.

The result wasn’t quite what I expected. I laid out the paper face up, with the gold touching the fabric, but once the paper is bonded, it’s quite difficult to see the gold through the fabric (it’s more obvious close up if you shine a direct light on it). However, the metallic shine is much more obvious on the reverse.

Below, you can see the front and back of a small experimental sample as well as a larger piece using the joss paper.

Joss paper sample - front
Joss paper sample - back
Joss paper hanging
Close-up of front
Close-up of back

Hopefully I won’t now be struck down by malevolent Chinese spirits who feel insulted by my using the paper in this way!

Bonding fabric and paper

I had a great day at Morley College yesterday learning a technique for bonding paper and cloth.

The technique is quite rough, so synthetic fabrics are better than delicate fabrics such as silk. The fabric also has to be as sheer as possible so that the paper can be seen clearly through it. And the paper has to be really low grade. Newspapers or colour photocopies are best – no glossy magazines.

We laid out a collage by cutting or tearing out bits of newspaper/colour photocopies, then pinned a piece of fabric over the top. Then we applied a matte medium through a silk screen. We didn’t prepare the screens ourselves but borrowed screens that were available in the studio.

Some screens were open – you can use paper templates or masking tape as an alternative to exposing the screen, or even paint the medium on using a brush (not sure how this works – I must ask next week).

After leaving the collage to dry thoroughly, we ironed it for 10 minutes to set the bonding thoroughly. Then we soaked it in water and rubbed off the excess paper. (This is why poor-grade paper is used, so that it disintegrates easily.)

Most people chose images for their collage, but I used a mixture of cuttings from Urdu, Hindi and Chinese publications, with occasional blocks of graphic colour, as you can see from the photos. It’s a difficult thing to photograph, owing to the mixture of transparent and opaque areas, so I’ve just shown some close-ups of various areas.

Some points to note:

  • Images that are printed by an inkjet printer tend to run and stain the fabric,  so colour photocopies are better than prints.
  • The more sheer the fabric the better – you’ll be looking at the paper through the fabric (though I guess there’s no reason why you can’t show it from the back).

I also learned that you can use open screens with paper templates – far quicker than coating it, waiting for it to dry and exposing it, given the problems we’ve had with the facilities! Of course, you won’t be able to make multiple copies this way.

And you can use heat transfer papers, foiling or further printing with opaque ink on top, as well as other embellishment such as stitch. Hopefully we’ll get to try some of this next week.