July 20, 2021

Experiments in wet cyanotype - part 67

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I had so much fun with my first foray into using vintage textiles as a background for wet cyanotype/solarfast printmaking that I gave it another go. This time I used a cheerful red and green embroidered table runner, on a thinner and more firmly woven cotton. 
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I used a combination of bleeding heart and wood poppy leaves.
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Here are the two prints after exposure, but before rinse out.
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 And below are the finished prints. I think they are lovely! Still just a bit too much blue on the embroidery, but the rest of the effects are so wonderful I didn't want to take a chance with messing with it further.
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And this is the beauty of open-ended experimentation. You get better at your process, and you can surprise yourself. 

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July 13, 2021

Mole and Fern accepted for SAQA Fur, Fangs, Feathers and Fins

Sue Reno, Mole and Fern
Mole and Fern
I am thrilled and honored to announce that my latest work, Mole and Fernwas one of 42 pieces selected for the SAQA Global Exhibition Fur, Fangs, Feathers & Fins by juror Emily Jan. The exhibit is scheduled to debut at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, in Tucson, Arizona in April 2022, with further venues to be announced as the work travels for 3 years.
Sue Reno, Mole and Fern, detail 1
Mole and Fern, detail 1
This is, incredibly, the fifth time my work has been selected for a SAQA Global Exhibit, and I am extremely grateful to the organization for the opportunity to share my work with a global audience. 
Mole and Fern, detail 2
Mole and Fern, detail 2


I am interested in the small mammals that make their homes in my suburban habitat. I enjoy observing them going about their daily routines. I am saddened but also intrigued by their eventual demise and their skeletal remains. For years I’ve worked on an ongoing series of quilts made with imagery from the skeletons. For Mole and Fern, I began by taking macro photographs of an eastern mole skull, Scalopus aquaticus, which I printed on transparencies and used to make cyanotype prints. I also made wet process cyanotype prints and a monoprint of the ferns that grow in the area where I observed mole activity. I made hand-stitched hexagon panels to loosely represent their underground tunneling activity. I combined all these elements with patchwork, layered the quilt, and heavily stitched it to add texture and dimension.


Original macro photography images used for cyanotypes, wet process cyanotypes and heliographic monoprint made with fresh botanicals, hand stitched hexagon panels, patchwork, stitching.


Cyanotype panels, heliographic print panel; hand-painted and commercial cotton, silk, linen and wool fabric.


57" high x 40" wide

Mole and Fern, detail 3
Mole and Fern, detail 3

 This is the tenth quilt in my ongoing series, Flora and Fauna, which features cyanotype prints of animal skulls. Despite the subject matter, or perhaps because of my take on it, they always end up rather cheerfully presented. None the less they are among the trickiest of my works to find good venues for, so again, I am very appreciative that the juror chose Mole and Fern. 

July 9, 2021

Experiments in wet cyanotype - part 66


Sue Reno_wet cyanotype_Image 853
I've collected vintage textiles, in a casual way, for a long time. I like table runners, tablecloths, and what used to be called dresser scarves. These were almost always done from kits or pattens, and used to be a mainstay of middle class decor, stitched by homemakers. They are abundantly available in flea markets, or sometimes people gift them to me, knowing I will respect them and try to give them new life.
This particular table runner had been languishing in a bin for many years. I liked the design and stitching, but couldn't warm up to the color scheme. So I used it to further my experiments with wet cyanotype and solarfast printing.

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 I cut the runner in half, to give me two canvases, applied the chemicals, and added ferns as resists
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Here is one of them, under glass, and just starting to expose. I am getting excited at this point!

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Here are the two prints after exposure but before rinse out.

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And here they are after rinse out.
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I am mildly disappointed at this juncture. The Prussian blue from the cyanotype is too heavily concentrated in some areas, and the embroidery has been overwhelmed. There's a few things potentially going on here. The fabric is unknown, but probably linen. It is thick and fairly coarsely woven (to make the embroidery easier). It soaked up a LOT of chemicals. Also, I'm certain this was starched heavily at various times, and while I washed it, some starch probably remains and affects the uptake and response to exposure.
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So, what to do? This is the fun of experimentation, because you can always keep trying. I used a washing soda solution to selectively bleach out some of the areas, followed by more rinsing, and I'm happy with the results. Here's the finished prints.
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Some of the fern edges are a bit indistinct, again due to the thick fabric and the embroidery could use a bit more highlighting, but both those issues can easily be fixed by stitching and/or painting. All in all, a good first try of using my process on vintage linens. 
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Thanks for reading, and a reminder that you can follow along on your platform of choice: 

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July 7, 2021

Experiments in wet cyanotype -part 65

Sue Reno_wet cyanotype_Image 848 Back to printmaking with the bounty of my backyard! In this case, the bounty includes way too much invasive Japanese knotweed. I'll never make an actual dent in it with the slashing and collecting I do for making prints, but it's at least a satisfying nod to the lemonades-from-lemons trope. And it does work very well for wet cyanotype printing, with good sized leaves that cooperate and lay flat. Here I've combined it with some box elder leaves, a so-called trash tree (little commercial value) that I also have in abundance.

Above is the panel, about 2" x 4", on cotton sateen, after printing but before rinsing and finishing. And below is the finished panel. It's got lots of vibrant color, which makes me happy.
Sue Reno_wet cyanotype_Image 850I got some great detail in this panel. The cyanotype part rinses out when the resist is a solid hearty leaf, but sometimes I can get more detail, including brushstrokes, from the solarfast chemicals.
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I also love the bubbles and voids and bright spots I've been working on dialing in with the combo process.
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June 29, 2021

Out of the Woods for the SAQA Benefit Auction

Out of the Woods by Sue Reno
Out of the Woods

 I have been a lucky participant in four SAQA Global Exhibitions, including Light the World which will open in France this autumn. So I am very happy to once again contribute a 12" x 12" quilt for the SAQA Benefit Auction, the proceeds of which help to fund the exhibitions. The auction begins on September 10th, and I will be sure to post updates and reminders. I very seldom make work in this size, so this is a great opportunity to begin or add to a collection.

This began with a red mulberry leaf, a nice substantial leaf, that I collected in the fall of 2020 and pressed. This spring, on the equinox, I used to make one of my experimental wet cyanotype/solarfast prints on cotton. You can read about that process here. I then layered the print and stitched it heavily where the leaf veins would be, and added pebble stitching all around it. On the corners I added some of the hexagons I have been obsessively hand stitching in preparation for my JWST artwork. The final touch was to paint some transparent iridescence on the leaf.

As to the title, here's my statement: It’s been a long, strange path through the wilderness of the unknown, but now we can see our way clear again. The question remains: are we out of the woods? What will our new normal look like? I choose to be optimistic.

June 24, 2021

New JWST artwork in progress

Sue Reno_JWST 2021_Image 1
I'm excited to be working on new artwork to commemorate the upcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope! The long-awaited launch will be this fall, and once the telescope is deployed and operational it will open up a world of wonder and amazing scientific discovery.

I began with the basic and beautiful hexagon shape, that makes up the mirror and coincidentally is a mainstay of traditional quiltmaking. I pieced small silk hexagons into the configuration that I will further embellish to represent the telescope's mirror. I also basted and prepped a whole bunch of larger cloth hexagons, which I clipped together in sets to prep them for hand stitching.
Sue Reno_JWST 2021_Image 2
Hand stitching these into 7 hexagon groups, traditionally used as "flowers", is very time intensive and requires meticulously small and precisely placed stitches. It's enjoyable, though, in a meditative way, and after a few weeks of focused stitching I had accumulated this big bowl of hexagons. They will be further combined and stitched as the design progresses.
Sue Reno_JWST 2021_Image 3
I also stocked up on some yardage of luscious black silk noil, a rainbow of wool/rayon felts, and some heavier pure wool cutouts. I have some serious galaxy-making to do! 
Luminosity by Sue Reno

Here is the first JWST quilt I made in 2016, Luminosity, 60" x 74",  following the James Webb Space Telescope Artist Event that I was privileged to be a part of at NASA Goddard Space Center. You can see it on my website at: https://suereno.com/luminosity You can see all the artwork in the original project at: https://jwst.nasa.gov/content/features/jwstArt/ And you can read all about my visit, tour, and the creation of the work (in reverse chronological order) here on my blog my clicking the JWST link in the header, or go here:  http://suereno.blogspot.com/search/label/James%20Webb%20Space%20Telescope

There is LOTS more to come, please stay tuned and follow along on this journey with me!

June 23, 2021

Experiments in wet cyanotype - part 64


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After a bit of a hiatus, I am starting up with the wet cyanotype/solarfast botanical printmaking. I always try to mark the solstices and equinoxes with some acknowledgment of the occasion, and this time I chose a big print on cotton sateen. 
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Depsite, or perhaps because of, a cold snowy winter, my garden is doing very well this June. It's coming up on two years since I moved here, and all the work of weeding, rejuvenation, and making new beds is finally starting to pay off. For this panel I used a center leaf of ligularia 'Desdemona', some wood poppy leaves, brunnera, and chinese ginger. The center was coated with the cyanotype chemicals, and the edges with various colors of Solarfast. I put it out around 5 in the afternoon, left it out overnight, and brought it around lunchtime the next day.
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Considering I am ever so slightly out of practice, I am very pleased with how it turned out, and I am excited about the printmaking possibilities that lie ahead for the rest of the summer.
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At the last minute before exposure I spooned on some soap bubbles, and some of them kept their form long enougn to show up in the print. Success!

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April 11, 2021

New Work - Dew Point

Dew Point, by Sue Reno
Dew Point
I am excited to share with you my latest work, Dew Point
Dew Point by Sue Reno, detail 1
Dew Point, detail 1

Dew point is a meteorological term denoting the atmospheric temperature, varying according to pressure and humidity, below which water droplets begin to condense and dew can form. I made these wet process/solar dye prints of tall blue lettuce and Japanese knotweed in high summer, when the dew point was indicative of the oppressive heat and humidity. The lettuce is a native wildflower, and the knotweed is a noxious invasive plant. I liked the contrast between their differing leaf forms. 

Dew Point by Sue Reno, detail 2
Dew Point, detail 2
Dew Point is 57" high x 55" wide.
Dew Point by Sue Reno, detail 3
Dew Point, detail 3

The panels are stitched to show the leaf veining, then heavily quilted with a pebble stitch. The patchwork is comprised of silks and cottons, with some bits of prints from previous works incorporated. 
Dew Point by Sue Reno, detail 4
Dew Point, detail 4

I am pleased and honored to announce that Dew Point has been juried into Out of the Funk, a Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh exhibit. It will be held at the Erma Freeman Center for Imagination in Pittsburgh, PA, from May 7 - 23, 2021. The juror is Bruce Hoffman. There will be an opening night event on May 7th, and artist talks on the 23rd. Bruce Hoffman will present an online lecture on April 22, which is free for Guild members and only $5 for guests; you can sign up here.