January 16, 2021

Experiments in wet cyanotype - part 59

Here's another installment of prints I made last summer, in June, during lockdown, when I had the energy to do the printmaking but not the documentation. It's ok--I'm enjoying looking at these bright, saturated colors while looking out the window at the snow falling down.

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These are on cotton sateen panels, about 22" x 48", using cyanotype chemicals and Solarfast chemicals, applied together in a process I developed through trial and error.
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The first one used leaves from a tall blue lettuce plant, and the second used mullein leaves. I love wild plants and I especially love big, dramatic leaves, so these really hit the sweet spot for me. Above are both panels before being set out in the sun for a long exposure. 

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These are the panels after exposure, but before being rinsed and finished. 
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And here is the finished tall blue lettuce print.
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I used these leaves years ago for this eponymously named quilt, with a similar color scheme. It remains one of my favorites. My printmaking process has loosened up rather considerably from the precision I used to aim for.
Tall Blue Lettuce


Here is the mullein leaf panel. It's very dramatic!
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I loved these panels both so much that in the months since June they have each made it into quilts-in-progress that are currently on my design wall. So you will be seeing more of them in the months to come.

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January 5, 2021

Heat Index acceptance for Light the World exhibit

 I am honored and delighted to announce that Heat Index was one of 41 pieces selected for the SAQA Global Exhibition Light the World by juror Jan Myers-Newbury. 

Heat Index, by Sue Reno
Heat Index

Light the World is scheduled to debut at the European Patchwork Meeting, Sainte-Marie-Aux-Mines, France in September 2021. Further venues are TBA.

Heat Index, by Sue Reno, detail 1
Heat Index, detail 1


My statement for the work: The UV rays of the sun are critical to my cyanotype and solar dye print process. I made these prints in August, when a combination of relentless sunshine, record temperatures, and high humidity had me checking each day for the predicted heat index, an indicator of just how unbearable outdoor activity would be. I used leaves from plants that were flourishing despite the heat, and the color palette captures the intensity of the heat and light. The prismatic patchwork reflects the small bits of shadow found among the foliage.

Heat Index, by Sue Reno, detail 2
Heat Index, detail 2



January 1, 2021

Experiments in wet cyanotype - part 58

 In the year just ended, I was careful and I was lucky. I was careful to follow public health guidelines, to shelter at home, social distance, and mask up always. I was lucky that my current life allowed me to do all of the above, that I stayed healthy, and that no one near and dear has been lost to me. 

There were losses, of course, and they seem trivial in the grand scheme things but were personally traumatic nonetheless. Art exhibits were delayed, moved online, or cancelled; museums and other venues hit hard times, my in-person lectures and trunk shows were out of the question. Social isolation is hard. 

Still there were compensations, as we all adjusted. Online exhibits and zoom meetings of various fiber arts groups allowed participation that extended beyond geographic limits. Creative communities found new ways of doing things that will carry us all forward.

My personal life was busy; just 6 months into my move to Pittsburgh, there were still lots of details to attend to. I took on a big renovation and expansion of my garden landscape, and I remodeled the original kitchen in this mid-century modern home. The latter was extensively plagued by scheduling difficulties and supply chain delays, but was ultimately accomplished safely and expertly. 

Through all this I had little energy for deep thinking and creation. So I compensated by doing a LOT of printmaking, which I could accomplish in short bursts of time and concentration. I shared some of my ongoing experiments as I went along, but there's a bunch of them I just never got to. 

I blog because I genuinely enjoying sharing my work and my process, but also because the blog does serve as an online journal for me to keep track of things. While I considered just letting the experience of making those prints slip into the void, I ultimately decided to buckle down and document things. My mind will be more at ease once I have all of this sorted out. 

So this is the first of several posts sharing wet cyanotype and solar dye prints from the summer of 2020.

These are prints I made in May.

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First up was a length of Virginia creeper vine, with cyanotype and Solarfast solar dye on cotton sateen. Next was an assortment of large and small wild dock leaves.
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And then, a nice weedy composition of dock. plantain, and garlic mustard leaves. All these were gathered along the edges of my yard. 
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As the aforementioned kitchen renovation was underway, I snagged a couple of glass front doors from the old cabinetry to experiment with as covers for developing prints. Because of the door frame, there's a bit of a gap between the leaves and the glass; the glass is not pressing down on the print. 
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That space, and the heat that built up under the glass, allowed the leaves to dry and shrink after a bit, leaving a margin between the initial strike of the print and the final impression after 5 or 6 hours.

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Here are the prints after exposure, but before rinsing and finishing.

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The frame of the door somehow left a slender suggestion of an shadow in the Virginia creeper, but a big margin on the dock leaves.
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As much as I love the delicate pink colors on this mixed leaf arrangement, I knew it would wash out. This is why photography at all stages is a good thing. 
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Here are the finished prints. 
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I love them all. It's interesting that the leaf veining tends to make a more permanent impression with the solarfast than with the cyanotype.
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And of course, I am using both these formulations in long, wet exposures, contrary to instructions, so it's only a partially controllable process, which is what holds my interest.
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Happy New Year to all, and here's to better days ahead.

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November 29, 2020

Experiments in wet cyanotype - part 57

 

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There were a few gorgeous, warm days in the beginning of November that just called out for some printmaking to finish up the season. Luckily, I had plenty of dried and pressed leaves set aside for just such a moment, and I was able to make three large panels on cotton sateen.
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I had chanced across some red mulberry leaves earlier in the fall, and was very excited about them. I've worked with the non-native white mulberry many times before, but these very large, native species leaves were new to me. For the first two prints, I used just the red mulberry leaves, and for the third I combined one with some sumac leaves and white mulberry twigs. Look at that size difference! When things like this excite you, you will never be bored,
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I used a combination of cyanotype chemicals and Jacquard's Solarfast sun-activated dyes. They are not really meant to be used together, nor to be used in long exposures, but with experimentation I've worked out a process that gives me results I like. Here are the prints after exposure, but before rinsing them out.
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This third image is a bit funky; the weather turned quickly at the end of the second day of printmaking and I brought this one in before a deluge of rain and took a quick picture of it inside.
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Here are the finished prints. All three are about 2 ft. x 4 ft. I am delighted with them.
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I have plans for them; they are joining a very long queue of projects. 
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This has obviously been a very weird and scary year to date, and I am somewhat disorganized and scattered, but at least I have some great prints to point to and think about. 
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November 23, 2020

Experiments in wet cyanotype - part 56

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Still catching up on documenting the summer's prints sessions. This was the last batch of wet cyanotype prints on mineral paper, made in the last warm and mellow days of September.
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The first two are fern fronds from my garden.
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Followed by a maple twig, and a bit of the horribly invasive but good for printmaking Japanese knotweed.
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Here are the prints after exposure, but before rinsing and finishing.
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Once again, I am delighted by the way the chemicals move around on the slick surface of the mineral paper before settling down and permanently staining it. 
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Those rusty tones are spectacular but will rinse out, so I'm glad I always take a moment to record them at this stage.
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Here are the finished prints.
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So much swirly goodness!
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And nice crisp leaf outlines on the knotweed print. November has turned a bit dreary, as per usual, and it's good to have some summery goodness to reflect back on.
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October 30, 2020

Experiments in wet cyanotype - part 55

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Reporting in with another batch of wet cyanotype prints on mineral paper, made at the tail end of a warm and sunny September.
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This batch is 4 different arrangements of wild fox grape leaves, damaged by the usual ravages of weather and insects.
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Once again, I marveled at how the cyanotype chemicals swirled around on the paper at the beginning of the exposure. The bulk of my wet cyan work has been done on fabric, which absorbs the chemicals and behaves very differently.
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Here's the prints after exposure, but before rinsing.
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I put these out on a hot afternoon, then got distracted. It was a full 24 hours before I had a chance to remove the leaves and bring the prints indoors.
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I got a lot a really interesting colors and designs in that time period; however, that was counterbalanced by the way the leaves got dried and stuck onto the paper in places.
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I had to spend some time soaking and very, very gently scrubbing to remove the leaf fragments. 
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So while I would not recommend this degree of over-exposure, the results are very unique and beautiful! Here are the finished prints.
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There is so much variation in tone and intensity in these.
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I think they capture that end-of-summer, brink-of-decay moment really well.
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This one shows a lot of the leaf veining as well. 
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