Monday, 25 July 2016

Printing and dyeing

Usually I lean toward constructed textiles as my main means of expression and there are several techniques such as tapestry weaving, knitting and felting that I find most stimulating. These techniques can be quite slow and thinking about designing using these techniques needs a wider exploration of design and art sources. 

To enhance my design sources I thought I might explore monotype development a bit more. Since I did some 'monoprinting' for the OCA course, I have thought about it quite a bit and have explored certain artists and web-sites - and of course Youtube to learn more about the possibilities of the technique. And so I found that Paul Klee used the monotype to imprint lines to enable him to create tonal areas around his printed defined lines. Other artists such as Degas used the monotype a lot in a painterly way (I am not going to discuss the difference between the 'monoprint' and the 'monotype', it doesn't sound like a great difference in any case, but if you are a purist it might be worth looking at some web-sites that will explain it from a technical perspective), and certain quilting designers use 'monoprinting' as a printing techniques to enable them to create unique patterns or images. At West Dean College a class on monoprinting was oing on when I was a different course and I thought they showed great variety and inventiveness in their work.

I said in a previous post that the lower parts of a boat, the outer sides of the hull, can reveal interesting marks that develop from the patina and scratches that touch the painted surface. I found a boat in a marina that had a very good blue surface (in fact, these three images may not be from the same boat, but I don't remember now how many boats I looked at - it wasn't many, perhaps 2 or 3):

As you can see the marks are varied, from broad volumes of colour to lines and a sort of mottled dottedness.

And so it is with the monoprinting technique - it is a free way of using paint or ink to create unique prints. Although you can print a 'ghost' print from whatever paint is left on the plate, the print you first take from the design you lay down on the plate (glass, acrylic or some other flat clearish surface) is the only print you can achieve.

That way of working suits me quite well. I work intuitively and freely and like to work exploratively. I got myself a couple of acrylic sheets of different sizes and have an old glass fridge shelf that is useful as a plate. As I am a novice at this I am not expecting miracles on these first forays into printing and I am not using ink, so have had to experiment in making acrylic dry a bit more slowly using glycerol. This is probably not ideal but will do until I decide this is definitely something I want to continue to work with.

And so for the results - I am satisfied that using acrylic paint can be used to print on paper and on textiles. I printed on bits of old white sheets, and will move onto dyed cotton and other materials at some point. I think the prints on paper, especially the ghost prints, lend themselves to being drawn over, or added to in some way.

Here are details of the print on cotton:

 At least as a detail this section evoked the ships' hulls in some way

 In this photo you can see a part of a ghost print. It does not show up any details, no lines or scratch marks, but just soft suggestions of colour. I think I may overprint this piece next time I get the paint out.

I have also spent a great deal of time dyeing. There has been vegetable dyeing with ash and walnut wood, ivy (which was not a good colour), lichen and ragwort  which gave a bright yellow, but I am not sure how colourfast this is. As you might know, I also did some synthetic dyeing and some of that was tie-dyed to create pattern:

I have been reading Claire Wellesley-Smith's book, Slow Stitch, and wonder about simplicity and care. She represents the idea of slow craft can be ecologically sound, healthy for the individual and communities as a social bridge, and her work is very simple using the most basic of stitches, mainly running stitch. My work might benefit from some of this awareness of quietude and I will ponder this some more as I read more.

Recent holiday to Germany

It has been while since I have written about something of interest. Not because there was nothing to tell, but because time is passing with busy things to do, both at the weekends and after work - vegetable dyeing, acid dyeing, knitting and felting. So for now I will add a few images from a holiday we had to Germany in June. We went to Hamburg and Lübeck. Both cities are great for different reasons: Hamburg is a big vibrant city, with fine museums, a large river, the Elbe, and an interesting history. Lübeck is a smaller city with an ancient city centre on an island in a river, the Trave, with many, many churches and great old buildings. We also spent a period further north and went for walks on the coast.

I should say that I don't take many long view photos of cities as I always feel that they look flat when I get home, and by focussing instead on particular details you can find new interesting things that may be useful for future art work.


We have been to Hamburg before and have done some touristic things like sailing on the Binnen Alster boat that gives you views of the city from the large lake in the city centre, whilst this time we returned to the Kunsthalle and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe. This time we went for a walk to parts we hadn't explored before and found some amazing architecture to explore - Chilehaus and the building that houses chocolate museum (which we did not visit), both lie in the Speichertsadt, which also includes canals and warehouses.

Here's a detail of the Chile Haus - a solid dark bricked building with a jagged sharp-edged facade.

The building opposite was softer with a curved facade running along the road and sculpture by Lothar Fischer:

Near the historic office distric which is now a Unesco world heritage site the old warehouse buildings sitting next to the canals still look grand. I am guessing that many facades somehow stayed standing even after the bombing of WWII as the walls and brickwork looked old and not at all 'renovated' and some looked quite run down, although other are clearly now being used as trendy techie offices.

There were quiet moments for coffee and looking out into court yards with beautiful trees 

And on the way to the Kunsthalle we came across a grand building that must have been an important building as a kind of providential society or other:

We also came across a place that looked like a closed bar - it had a large folded paper polar bear in the window which was quite a fantastic thing:

The Kunsthalle was showing a temporary exhibition of Manet's work, which was good, with many small works and interesting connections made to for examle Berthe Morisot, and then we went around finding things that might inspire - this time I concentrated on the modern collections and was happy to find work by Gerhard Richter, Robert Morris - a very impressive piece of felt folding down by force of its own weight - and a white painting by Robert Ryman. Then on to the historical collections to see the German impressionists including Lovis Conrinth, and a room dedicated to Caspar David Friedrich, whose work I never tire of looking at. They also have fine modern art including a fish by Paul Klee I like and next to a Giacometti sculpture they had a painting by him to again make connections I guess of influences and how stylistic characteristics echo across media and disciplines.

We took a boat trip this time as well - but on the Elbe - along a couple of canals and then out onto the river proper to see the port. A huge place, with ship building, repairing and all manner of freight and blossoming culture. I did not take too many long views, but looked at the side of the canals and the concrete walls running along the river in places, some conceret decaying:
 Here's more decaying paint and iron:

Paint work on boats can be very painterly.... but it also so very available and visible, it is almost ubiquitous in harbours and in old yards of different types.

There were many cranes and large metal structures to study on the river:

Along the coast to the North

There was also a trip to the more Northern parts and I walked nostalgically on the beach, enjoying the sunshine of summer and listening to the sea and the wind in the trees. These environments were some of my favourite places in the past, and it is great to go back and enjoy them again:

And the seaside always have wonderful things to look at and touch and pick up -

A dried up section of orange:


On a ferry we took, some thick rope - which is a great source for thinking about thick textile objects:

Sea cabage:

And lovely seaweed floating in the water:

We took a short trip to the Nolde Stiftung again, it is a great place and every year they put out a new set of paintings and water colours, so it is worth a re-visit. Nolde's work really is some of the best water color work I have seen. I am always amazed as the way he used his colours.

And there was also a day trip to Schloss Gottorf on the outskirts of Schleswig: a large castle on an island with great collections acorss the full spectrum of human culture - achaeological collections, including the Nydam Boat, historical collections, decorative arts (a set of Jugendstil gallery and a brilliant modern art collection, with expressionist work based on a collection, Sammlung Rolf Horn. There was so much to see you couldn't possibly see it all, so I concentrated on the most important things that I thought might inspire my own work.

On the way to Schleswig we stopped by the Dannevirke wall, which is a Viking-medievan earth work which was built to protect the Norther lands from certain tribes:

There was a small informative museum narrating the history of the building and the archaeology of the site. Some sections were also used by the Danish army during the war with Prussia in the 19th century - a real gem. If we had had more time there could have been a good walk along the wall, but we were headed to Schloss Gottorf, and that was itself a gem of a place.


Lübeck is an old Hansestadt. It is famous for its old Holsten Gate, which appears on postcards - of course without the busy roads that run on each side of its gardens, so here's a reality check:

The city is very beautiful, there are many old buildings and many churches to visit. Again we had been to Lübeck before, but that was to go to the Christmas market several years ago, and new museums have opened since then, and and there was plenty to do in the summer sun.

So we visited churches - these grand old places of spirituality and power. A lot of effort went into church architecture and so there is always some interesting architecture and art to study in tese places.

Here's a small example of the fine puppets in a museum devoted to puppetry:

This museum has both Western and Eastern puppets, a lovely Indian puppet elephant, and when we went they had an exhibition on Pinocchio with a puppet from a Soviet film from  the interwar period, and sections of the film on a loop showing the 'making' of Pinocchio. I love puppets and it was good to see a few films of stop-motion animation and so on, as puppets hanging on their strings look a bit sad. They are so much better animated and telling a story.
There was a church near the Puppet Museum which had been whitewashed and in its simplicity looked very grand:

We also visited the St Marienkirche, which is where JS Bach went to learn organ music with the local organist. This church is very grand with large areas of reproduction medieval murals. It is also a very beautiful place. In one corner the churchbells which fell during the bombings of WWII have been left with a candle as a reminder of peace and reconciliation:

In one church there was an ancient set of benches with carved wooden arm rests of head of monks - they had worn away with time and looked soft and shiny in the light:

Oh, and then there is the occasional piece of functional street furniture that is worth a mention, like this great door handle-cum-door lock:

As usual I took many photographs and will probably use some of them in the future, but just to end this short story of my visit I will add one on a rococo ceiling detail from a museum:

And a single example of a quick draing I did one evening in the hotel: