Friday, October 2, 2009

Another Experimental Friday

For a while now I've had the idea to cut some stencils as a tool for creating language marks. So I purchased some lovely 18" x 24" oiled stencil board at my local Hyatt's along with a #4 stencil cutter. Rather than use those for my first effort, I grabbed a piece of watercolor paper and began a practice session in cutting with the X-Acto.

My skills in this area are nonexistent, so I started by basically drawing a shape, cutting it and then drawing another shape and cutting that, paying close attention to the negative spaces which become the more dominant linear patterns. Focusing on those became almost hypnotic and very enjoyable.

Once I got the hang of cutting and started to relax, it turned from work to fun. The cutting creates interesting, but very strong, defined lines. But what would it look like printed?

Of course, I had to find out! I couldn't resist trying it out on the piece of fabric stretched on my print table that was SUPPOSED to be for a whole different type of composition.

I printed the stencil using three variations. First, I placed the stencil under a blank silkscreen and screened a colored acid dye paste called "paprika" on it and let it dry. Once the dye dried, I removed the stencil and screened clear paste through the screen. This created different patterns as the dye on the screen broke down.

Second, I took the stencil, laid it under the screen and printed through it with more paprika dye.

Third, I took the wet stencil, turned it over and direct printed the dye from it onto the fabric surface. Each print varied this way and yet formed a repeating pattern.

Then I dappled or brushed other colors onto the surface into the wet dyes before I left it to dry. The piece of cloth above is about 44" X 70," to give you an idea of the scale.

THIS piece of cloth was soaked in a citric acid solution and dried before it went on my print table to increase its acidity and help the dyes fix to it when processed. In addition, the dyes have the auxiliary ammonium sulfate also mixed in. According to my Pro Chem technical experts, Nancy and Vicki, the two will not interact unfavorably, since one has been soaked into the fabric and dried before applying the dye and print paste with the other auxiliary.

If this all sounds way too technical for you, take heart, it's really fairly simple. Acid dyes need additives that increase their acidity and heat for these particular dyes to bond permanently with the silk.

Now all we need to have happen is for the dyes to remain true to what they look like on the dry piece above once they are steamed and washed.

Whether they do remain as saturated as they are now or not, the possibilities of the stencil as a tool for adding partial or repeating elements to my compositions is definitely appealing.

So at the moment the fabric is steaming. I'll rinse it, wash it and dry it and cross my fingers that it will look good once it's done!


  1. These look wonderful. Have you tried a scalpel for intricate cutting - I have been given one with interchangeable blades and it works wonderfully.

  2. Sandra, an excellent suggestion. I'll check around for possible sources -- and the interchangeable blades sound good, too.

  3. Lovely results! I've been doing very similar things for the last two weeks, playing with screening, deconstruction and using thickened dyes (MX, in my case, rather than acid). I'm hooked- this stuff is so much more effective than plain, straight paint on fabric (which has its charms, but you can't beat the soft hand of dyed fabrics).