July 31, 2013

Jack in the Pulpit -- Work in Progress, Update 2

Sue Reno, Jack In The Pulpit. Work In Progress 6
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.
Sue Reno, Jack In The Pulpit, Work In Progress 7
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. 
Sue Reno, Jack In The Pulpit, Work In Progress 8
Above is a cyanotype print after layering and stitching, with echo quilting extending the lines of the leaves and spathe.
SueReno, Jack In The Pulpit, Work In Progress 9
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.
Sue Reno, Jack In The Pulpit, Work In Progress 10
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.


Pat's Place said...

It's wonderful watching as your piece comes together & learning of your thought process, your consideration, and your patience.

My grandfather grew both trillium & jack-in-the-pulpit plants on the north side of the house in Minnesota. I grew to love them & always associate them with my grandparents, with whom we lived for 7 years...

Your work is always inspiring - thanks so much for sharing your creative process with us!

Robin in WNC said...

I love your work. You are so luck to have the dark Jack-in-the-pulpit, mine while quite large are just light green. Is there a book available that gives the formula for the process you use on fabic? I have found one on Amazon but it is out of print.

Stella said...

I love that you take care not to cause your plants undue stress - definitely the right way to treat one's muse!

Sue Reno said...

Thanks for the kind comments!

There are directions for the cyanotype process on the Blueprints on Fabric webpage:


and a tutorial for the heliographic process on the Dharma Trading Co. site:


Really, both techniques are easy, so I would advise just playing around with them a bit.