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.