June 21, 2017

Experiments in wet cyanotype

Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 1
 I've been making cyanotype prints on fabric for many years. It's my favorite surface design technique, and I feature the prints in many of my art quilts. Over time I've really honed my practice, producing my preferred dark, crisply outlined prints on hefty cotton sateen, by carefully controlling the process and the exposure times.

Lately I've been intrigued by several Instagram accounts of artists featuring wet cyanotypes, tagged #wetcyan. There are lots of variations, and most artists are working on paper, but the main idea is to incorporate moisture and go for very long exposure times, 24 hours or more (a normal exposure is 10 minutes). The process breaks down the chemicals to produce swirls and colors shifts in the prints, and I find that beautiful and intriguing. So I decided to give it a try.

 I started with cotton sateen that I had treated in November, laid on a foam insulation board. I laid down Japanese anemone leaves and Christmas fern fronds as my resist. I used a sprayer to mist water on a pane of glass and covered it all up. I set it all in a sunny location on a very hot afternoon. (All pictures blow up when clicked.)
Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 2
 After a half hour I could see funky things beginning to happen, but I was concerned I hadn't added enough moisture, so I spritzed a bit more around the edges and let it creep in.
Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 3
 The next day brought a forecast for heavy thunderstorms, so after 18 hours I pulled the prints and brought them indoors. Here's how they looked at that point:
Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 4

Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 5
 They were fairly moist, and I thought it wouldn't hurt and might help if they dried before rinsing, so I put them in a dark room for several hours. Finally, I rinsed them out and dried them. This is how they finished:
Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 6

Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 8
 I'm happy with the results. I love all the subtleties of tone, and the golden and greenish tints.

But wait, there's more! In the fall of 2015 I made a lot of samples for an article on cyanotype printing I was writing for Quilting Arts Magazine. Towards that end I bought some pre-treated cotton cyanotype fabric from a new-to-me online supplier. It was an OK product, certainly competitively priced, but loosely woven muslin, and not heavily saturated with chemical. After making the samples I had set the rest aside. By now the fabric was well past its prime, but it seemed like a good candidate for experimentation since I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. So I set up a parallel exposure, this time with a painted fern and Japanese anemone leaves. For this one I misted the foam board as well as the glass.
Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 9
 I could see the chemicals moving around the fabric immediately:
Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 10
 After the same 18 hour exposure, here were the unwashed prints.
Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 11

Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 12
 After drying and rinsing, they turned out like this. Very cool!
Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 13
 I was a bit mystified by the pink tones at first. Then I realized that I had used that foam board for making painted prints previously. I always clean it off, and I've never had the leftover paint stains transfer before, but I'm speculating that cooking in the sun on a hot day may have loosened some of the red pigments.
Wet cyanotype, Sue Reno, Image 14
This was successful and interesting enough that I'm going to give it another round of experimentation.  Stay tuned!

June 15, 2017

In Dreams I Drifted Away - Part 3

In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 16
 They don't call it "slow stitching" for nothing. I've been working on hand piecing hexagons for one of my current works-in-progress, In Dreams I Drifted Away, and it's been time consuming. I'm not complaining, just noting. I enjoy handwork, and it was a good project to pick up in a spare moment or on a rainy day during my busy spring gardening season. I used the English paper piecing method, where each piece of fabric is basted around a paper hexagon, then the hexagons are whip-stitched together. Once it's all stitched, you pull out the papers, and that's what I was doing in the photo above.
 Traditionally, the cloth hexagons are cut with a scant 1/4" allowance, to make hand quilting them easier. I didn't want to be that fussy with my cutting, and I wanted a bit of extra bulk in the hexies to make them stand out from the ground cloth I would be appliqueing the composition onto, so you see that extra fabric on the back view.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 17
 As I was working on the hexies, I was also auditioning the other fabrics for the quilt.  You can see a corner of the needlefelted center panel on the right, above. That lovely bit of orange Mysore silk made the cut; that ombre red and purple one, as much as I love it, did not.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 18
 The hexagon assembly was machine appliqued onto a background of gorgeous Mysore silks, and I added couched threads as part of the larger design.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 19
 Once the entire quilt top was finished, I layered it with batting and the painted back (as shown in this previous post) and began the quilting.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 20
 It is shaping up quite nicely.  Below is a shot of the back with the quilting begun.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 21
Stay tuned!  And as always, thanks for reading and commenting.

June 14, 2017

Lectures, and painting quilt backs

Sue Reno lecturing
 Did you know I give lectures? It's a fun part of my job. I encourage people to find and follow their unique creative paths. I start with a digital presentation about inspirations, techniques, and working methods, followed by a trunk show. I bring a big stack of my exhibition quilts, and volunteers walk them around the room so everyone can see the details.
The Longest Day, at Sue Reno lecture
 In April I was honored to be the guest speaker for the Q.U.I.LT., Inc. Guild for their quilt show in Troy, NY. They put on a terrific show, with hundreds of beautiful quilts, and great vendors. They saw to every detail, and treated me extremely well.  As part of their programming I gave my lecture on two consecutive days. Both times, the backs of my quilts caught people's eyes and interest.

My quilts are made to display on a wall, so ordinarily the backs are not visible. But I spend a lot of time working on the quilting, and it makes me happy if the back is custom made to match the imagery on the front. So for several years now I have been painting the cloth for the back side of the quilt.
The Longest Day, quilt back, at Sue Reno lecture
 Here's how I do it. I start with a length of cotton sateen that's pfd--prepared for dying-- meaning that it doesn't have any finishes that would prevent the cotton from taking up dyes or paints. I like sateen because it has a bit more heft than a flat weave, without being too bulky. I buy it in 60" wide bolts, but it it's a large quilt I may need to piece it to size.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 11
 I sweep off the driveway on a nice sunny day and lay out the fabric, weighing it at the corners in case of a breeze.  I use textile paints in colors that seem appropriate for the quilt, and dilute them with water.  I don't measure, but eyeball it at about a 1:4 ratio.  I drip and/or swirl the paint on the fabric. In this instance I started with dry fabric, let the paint sit for a few minutes, then misted it with the hose.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 12
 I let that partially dry, then came back with another round of dripping and swirling, this time with a complementary color.  Again, I misted with the hose.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 13
 Then I let the fabric dry in the sun,  As it dries, the paint wicks across the fabric and forms patterns.  My driveway is old and really should be replaced, but I've been hesitating because the cracks in it cause the most wonderful designs:
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 14
 Once it's dry, I heat set the paint, then rinse the cloth to remove any bits of outdoor dirt. This particular back is for one of my current works in progress, In Dreams I Drifted Away.  More on that quilt to follow.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, by Sue Reno_WIP_Image 15
As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

With special thanks to Q.U.I.L.T., Inc. for inviting me, and to Peggy Rinella for the pictures.

April 1, 2017

In Dreams I Drifted Away -Part 2

In Dreams I Drifted Away, WIP, by Sue Reno, Image 7
 While I was intermittently working on In Dreams I Drifted Away, the opportunity to attend the James Webb Space Telescope Artist Project came up. I was soon heavily invested in making Luminosity. (You can read about the NASA visit, the quilt, and the exhibit by clicking the JWST tab at the top, or go here.) The centerpiece of that work was a set of hand-stitched silk hexagons representing the telescope mirrors:
Prior to this I had never worked with English paper piecing, but it was the perfect technique for this application. I enjoyed it enough that I began piecing more hexagons, just to have a hand sewing project while waiting around for an auto oil change and such. Some of the fabrics I used were leftover dye prints from making Luminosity, because they were at hand. You can see parts of the telescope imagery in the pink and orange hexagons:

In Dreams I Drifted Away, WIP, by Sue Reno, Image 10

As I worked I thought about how my my work to date about the Susquehanna River has grown from my personal detailed observations of it, in various states, and from various locales. 52 Ways to Look at the River in particular was about these observations. Working on the JWST project has expanded my outlook, and I realized that there is a wealth of observation and knowledge about the river that has been recorded by scientific methods. As one small example, I happened upon this video about satellite EO-1 that includes an image of the Susquehanna from 2011.

This type of observation and data has never been more important, and would seem to be at increasing risk of being unavailable for continued research. So my hexagons in this work represent the satellites and other technology that we collectively as a species are reliant on.

In Dreams I Drifted Away, WIP, by Sue Reno, Image 8

Now that my concept is clear, it will be easy to expand on it. These gelli plate prints I made last year are going to fit in perfectly.
Luminosity, by Sue Reno, center panel

March 31, 2017

In Dreams I Drifted Away - New Work in Progress

In Dreams I Drifted Away, WIP, Image 1
I really do dream about these pieces in The River series. I look at and think about the river a lot, I always have, so themes and ideas about it float up from my unconscious when I'm just about to wake. If I'm lucky, I catch them. This title, and the general sense of it, came to me last summer and I got to work immediately on it. I pulled a vibrant piece of turquoise felt for the centerpiece, and auditioned fabrics to accompany it. Not all of them made the final cut, but they helped to set the tone.

In Dreams I Drifted Away, WIP, Image 2
 I laid out the riverbank/border fabrics, a variety of silks with different patterns and textures, and needlefelted them onto the felt base. Next I laid slivers of wool and silk on the river and arranged them to show movement.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, WIP, Image 3
 A layer of wool roving and lots of sparkly mylar fibers came next, and were also needlefelted into place.
In Dreams I Drifted Away, WIP, Image 4

 I was happy with the work so far, and the title and general direction, but was still not entirely clear on the conceptual underpinnings. To give me more opportunity to reflect, I began hand stitching on the piece. Embroidery, like beadwork, is a very meditative process.  I worked on it, off and on in the odd spare hour, just enjoy the feel of the textiles and the repetitive motion of the needle.
With the embroidery complete, I added a layer of batting and a backing and quilted it improvisationally.  
In Dreams I Drifted Away, WIP, Image 6
 I hate forcing a work, and I'm OK with having a variety of works in progress, so I pinned this one up on a design board where I could look it over and ruminate on it from time to time.

Up next, the fog begins to lift!

As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

March 12, 2017

JWST: Art + Science Opening Reception

Luminosity, by Sue Reno, at NASA Goddard Visitor Center
Luminosity.  Image credit Jolearra Tishiteya
FURTHER UPDATE: The exhibit was extended again, the last day is July 2nd.
UPDATE: Due to popular demand, the exhibit has been extended into May!
What a great experience! Here's my chronicle of attending The James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 opening reception. It's open, and free, at the NASA Goddard Visitor Center through April 16. This is my work in the show, Luminosity. If you are new here, you can track back the project and my part in it by clicking on the James Webb in the top header, or clicking here.
Luminosity, detail, by Sue Reno
Luminosity, detail.  Image credit Jolearra Tishiteya
Because the Center had been undergoing renovations, mounting the exhibit happened on a quick timeline. I decided to deliver my artwork in person the day before, and I was very glad I did.

Building a support for Luminosity at NASA Goddard Visitor Center
I had previously expressed my concerns on displaying my work in a way that made it obvious that it shouldn't be handled. It's been my experience that textile art in general, and my work in particular, is so tactile and inviting that people who wouldn't dream of touching a painting will almost unconsciously reach out to touch a quilt.  When I arrived, the staff was busy building a structure to accomplish that goal and simultaneously show it off to the best advantage. I got to help design and screw together what was basically a giant erector set. You can see how happy I am with the results!
Luminosity, with Sue Reno, being installed at NASA Goddard Visitor Center
I also had a bit of time to look around the rest of the renovated Center and appreciate the interactive science exhibits.
NASA Goddard Visitor Center
The next afternoon, I was back for a scheduled media event. This also gave me a lot of time to talk with the other artists, admire their work, and talk shop about motivation and process.  Once again, very happy!
Sue Reno with Luminosity, at media event
Luminosity, as befits its name, looks different in all the changing light conditions in the center. (The glass is UV protected, so no worries there.) Just outside the window is this cool rocket model.
Rocket model at NASA Goddard Visitor Center

Finally the big night arrived!
Sue Reno with Luminosity at NASA Goddard Visitor Center
Sue Reno with Luminosity.  Image credit Ophelia Chambliss
Everyone looked great--there was a lot of gold/space themed attire.
Artists at opening of JWST: Art + Science 2017
L-R Sue Reno, Joanna Barnum, Brandi Smart, Maggie Masetti, Lauren Emeritz  Credit: Ophelia Chambliss
Here's some snapshots of the artwork.  For better, and accredited, images, along with detail shots and artist's statements, visit this NASA site.

James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Exhibit

James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Exhibit

James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Exhibit

James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Exhibit

James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Exhibit

James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Exhibit

James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Exhibit

James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Exhibit
Even the cupcakes were appropriate to the theme.
Cupcakes, James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Opening Reception

It was both gratifying and humbling to see how many of the people who have worked on the James Webb Space Telescope came out in support for the opening. I had conversations with scientists, engineers, and administrators whose involvement spanned the long term. It truly was a meeting of Art + Science.
James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Opening Reception
Part way into the evening several people spoke, including Maggie Masetti. The art event was her brainchild, and she deserves many accolades for its design and execution. She has been a grand cheerleader and an advocate for the artists, and always accessible as we worked on our art and had questions.  Thanks Maggie!
Maggie Masetti, James Webb Space Telescope: Art + Science 2017 Opening Reception
As you can tell from the artwork, one of the strengths of the project was the diversity of the artists invited.  Hannah Larrabee wrote three poems. which she had  letterpress printed.
Hannah Larrabee, poem/letterpress

Here's Hanna reading The Three Body Problem. (Edit--this may be too long for viewing on some mobile devices/connections.)

John Garvey performed his very catchy song about the Telescope.  You can view his video on You Tube:

While everyone was gathered there was a call for a group photo. That's photographer Jolearra Tishiteya, who did a great job of herding us all together.
Organizing group artist photo, NASA Goddard Visitor Center
I'm glad so many artists were able to attend--we missed those who couldn't.
Artist Group photo, credit Jolearra Tishiteya

Some more  links for your enjoyment:
The official NASA article about the exhibit opening:

I was interviewed for this excellent article about space art::

Ashley Zelinskie was featured in this one:

John Garvey put together a cut of his live performance at the event:

Joanna Barnum and Maggie Masetti did a live news interview:

 WJC 13 in Baltimore did a nice spot that they have on rotation.

Luminosity, artist Sue Reno, NASA Goddard Visitor Center
Sue Reno, Luminosity, photo credit Ophelia Chambliss
I am so glad I took a leap and applied for this opportunity. Personally, it stretched my skills, and gave me a new lens on the world that will be impacting my work for a long time. Professionally, I enjoyed meeting artists from many different disciplines and talking about our similarities and differences.  As a citizen and a patriot, I am inordinately proud to have done my small bit to promote  awareness of the JWST, and by extension, the science and technology that comprise the basis of my worldview and which I am happy to help support with my tax dollars.
Luminosity by Sue Reno. NASA Goddard Visitor Center
Luminosity at NASA Goddard Visitor Center