July 31, 2013
Jack in the Pulpit -- Work in Progress, Update 2
The next step in my textile explorations of the Jack in the Pulpit plant was to make some prints directly from the plant. I have an ongoing love affair with the cyanotype process and use it quite frequently. It’s basically rudimentary photography, where a natural fiber material, in this case a silk-cotton blend, is pre-treated with light-reactive chemicals. I arranged my specimens on the fabric and took it out into the bright sunshine for a timed exposure. The fabric darkened in response to the ultraviolet radiation.
Afterwards, I remove the plants and rinse out the fabric, and viola! Just like magic, a print appears. They are always wonderful, and always a bit of a surprise. Due to a variety of factors, these prints came out with a medium tones and medium contrast (they are often much darker and crisper), which is just what I wanted for this work.
Above is a cyanotype print after layering and stitching, with echo quilting extending the lines of the leaves and spathe.
I also made some heliographic prints, or monoprints. I used textile paints on white cotton sateen, laid a leaf on as a mask, and put it out in the bright sun. As it dried, the paint wicked out from under the leaf, leaving an image. The silvery tones on the leaves in this picture are partly from their whitish undersides, and partly from some silver paint I splattered on the print as it was drying.
And here’s the print, layered and stitched. I used a combination of echo quilting and pebbled stitching to create layers of transparency. I’m working towards that combination of sunshine and flickering shadows I observed on my plants in the garden.
At this point I was two years into the project. I didn’t want to stress the plant by harvesting too many leaves at once, so I did the cyanotype prints one summer, and the heliographic prints the next. I’ve said it before--art making is not a linear process. It often takes time to develop thematic elements. I wasn’t thinking about Jack in the Pulpit continuously during this time, obviously, but the idea was percolating and taking shape in my subconscious in the odd moment here and there.
It doesn’t always work this way. I’ve done projects where the entire thing from concept to completion was done in a few weeks. And I’m exceedingly good about meeting deadlines when need be. But sometimes it’s good to proceed at a mellow pace.