Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cyanotypes!

My family was here visiting over the long weekend; my mom was here specifically to do Arts Festival Oklahoma.  It was really really hot (still above 100), but we were glad to see everyone anyway.  Of course even though she was here for business we had to do a fun project together and sun printing was the order of the day.

My mom bought some photographer's formulary sun printing (cyanotype) mix stuff that was supposed to be easy to use.  Of course, unlike the easy kits of the "mix solution A with solution B" type, this one came as a bunch of different powders and vials that had to be ground up, heated, stirred, mixed, cooled, filtered etc., all in low light.  I borrowed beakers, a graduated cylinder, a hot plate, stir bar, thermometer, and mortar and pestle from the lab and the first night we followed the fairly involved instructions to make up the solutions.

The next day we painted the solution onto the PFD fabric in low light and let it dry.  You can sunprint with whatever opaque objects you want (leaves, botanicals, etc.), but we decided to use photograph negatives printed onto transparencies.  My mom had a picture of the historic Old Mill she printed.   It's the oldest building in Ruidoso (built in 1868) and something of a local landmark.  I forgot to take a picture of it before she took it home, unfortunate since it turned out the best of all of them.

The process is theoretically fairly easy, you take the fabric, cover it with the negative or item to print, and put it in the sun.  After letting it expose, you rinse it in water and hydrogen peroxide.  In spite of trying many many different things, I'm not sure we ever got the right balance of chemical concentration, exposure time, and rinse time to really make perfect images, but it was fun anyway.

Here are the negatives taped over the fabric, ignore the picture in the frame underneath, it was just something to tape it all down to.  The next picture shows a couple of my prints rinsing in the sink afterwards.



I chose four different sea-related photographs to make my prints and negatives.  All of them except the jellyfish were taken by my father on our trip to California a couple of years ago.  I took the jellyfish picture.  

On the top left is the original image (in this case a seagull), on the top right is the black and white negative of the image which I printed on the transparency, and on the bottom are two sun prints I made from the negative.  The one on the left is a bit over exposed but is probably one of the better ones I did.  The one on the right is ok, but something splashed all over it before it was dry so it has funny spots.


For the anemone, I made one fabric print from the negative transparency (yielding a positive print) but the anemone looked too washed out.  As a result I printed a transparency with the positive of the image and made two fabric prints from that (seen on the bottom), and I think they turned out better.  


I made two prints from the jellyfish as well (bottom row), and I like the dark blue color better than the more washed out looking one, but it's really hard to see the third jellyfish on the darker print.



The fourth picture I picked was this photo of a seal; unfortunately it didn't really have enough contrast to make a very good print.  I tried two.  The left one was ok, but not great, while the right one was so overexposed you can't even tell it's the seal!


This was a really fun project to play around with.  I'm excited to make some sort of mini-quilt with all of these blocks (each of them is about 6 inches square).  I'd definitely recommend getting the easy mix solution instead of the complicated stuff like we did though.  It's always such fun to try a new surface design/dyeing/printing technique!  

You guys do anything fun over the Labor Day holiday?  Try any fun new fabric techniques?