Birth of a City

… and other stuff.  Birth of a City is the title of my latest artwork.  I first started printing this cloth over a year ago and it has grown and developed until, finally, I am satisfied with it!  As you may know, one of my other interests is genealogy – tracing my family history down the generations – and many of my ancestors lived and worked in the city where I grew up, Stoke on Trent.    A lot of them were engaged in the trade that it is best known for – pottery.

I had already printed the background in various shades and values of blue (with two different thermofax screens), overprinted it in orange/gold using soy wax as a resist and then discharged some of it.  I then decided to take a (VERY) rough sketch of the streets around where my Nan grew up in Longton, altering the two main ones to vaguely echo the shape of the old bottle kilns that pervaded the city and gave it its unique character.  I used masking tape as a resist and overprinted the ‘buildings’ using the larger scale thermofax screen in black ink to make it look like the old street maps from the 19th century.

'birth of a city', my latest quilt

When I looked at it, I then saw that the two main ‘streets’ didn’t look so much like a bottle kiln as a pregnant woman, so I decided to call it ‘Birth of a City’, thinking of the haphhazard, unplanned way the city grew up as hordes of people flocked into it from the countryside to work in the potbanks, leading to overcrowding, poverty and rampant disease.  People lived crammed into houses too small for them; houses sprang up next to factories.

Here is a detail of the hanging:

detail of 'birth of a city'

I wanted to emphasize the rough and ready, homespun nature of the theme, so I decided just to hand quilt it with horizontal running stitches to an old blanket, patched and worn and ragged in places. I left the raw edges of the fabric and just had the original blanket stitches as binding.

detail of 'birth of a city'

Due to the Easter holidays and the fact that my two teenage sons are in the throes of revising for GCSEs and A levels, I am late completing the latest challenge for the International Quilt Challenge, which is Time.   Rather ironic really, due to lack of time…  But I thought I’d put down my thoughts for it so far.

The way I wanted to approach this theme was something around the idea of ‘the past is another country’.  I tried to brainstorm this and wrote down what came into my head….

… time past … we think it will be familiar going back, but actually we have changed and moved on, so what we were, who we were, the old familiar landmarks, look strange to us… strange and foreign…

We have forgotten …

We have a kind of nostalgia but we can never go back, we can only revisit old haunts, some of which will have remained the same, some will have changed forever;

we look at them differently, through different eyes; we are probably taller: things there look smaller, older; strangely familiar yet also foreign to the self that is our present.

And if we could go back to our grandparents’ childhood, into an old photograph, we would experience total culture shock

– the sights

– the sounds

– the smells

– the familiar-yet-unfamiliar ; kin yet unknown people

Anyway, that is as far as I got, and it was taking too long and I got stuck with how to move from there to fabric.  I thought I’d put my thoughts down here in case I use them for another project; but then I got another idea for the theme.

Last night I decided to update my Dreaming Spirals Facebook Page – I had not changed it since the new timeline was adopted and it needed a new photograph as the header.  I decided to make a collage in Picasa of my five Reeds wallhangings.  This is the result:

Facebook Page new banner

Today I was thinking about the theme of the challenge again and I decided to change tack completely.  I thought of the various seasons the reeds go through in the course of a year (recorded in this blog in 2010) when I visited them each month for a year to see how they change, and I thought of those timelapse videos where a camera is set to take photos at regular intervals of, say, a plant growing, and then they are put together into a video as if the plant was moving.  All my reeds pieces record a different season of the year so I thought I would try and blend them together using scraps from these pieces as a starting point to show the movement of time.  (If you would like to see the reeds photos again, here is a collage of them that I made at the end of that year).

So that is my plan at the moment!  Watch this space…. Meanwhile, do go and explore my Facebook Page – it looks quite different now.

Altering Moleskine journals

Last year I traced part of a medieval woodcut print of a cityscape using one of the Dover books, and made it into a Gocco screen.  I’m not sure that the screen I made was very successful because I didn’t shade it enough to give it dimension and the resultant prints just weren’t very clear.   I printed several Moleskine journals with it and put them in my Etsy shop.  Here is one so you can see what I mean:

Moleskine printed with print gocco machine

Actually this one is even more unclear because I used white ink and gold embossing powder!   But I did do some with white ink on black which wasn’t much better.

Anyway, they’re not like that anymore!  This afternoon I got the watercolour paints out and highlighted a few of the features, I hope more successfully:

Moleskine printed with print gocco machine

Here’s a close up of that last picture:

Moleskine printed with print gocco machine

I also tried a different sort of highlighting on the black one:

Moleskine printed with print gocco machine

I did this one with a silver pen.

Moleskine printed with print gocco machine

I stamped this one with my angel stamp as I think she looks pretty medieval too!

These are all for sale in my shop on Etsy, by the way.  What do you think? Does my colouring improve them or spoil them?

Week at Urchfont Manor

I meant to blog about the week I had at Urchfont ages ago but the summer is slipping away and I don’t know where it’s gone!    I went with a group of textiley internet pals.

Urchfont is a manor house in Wiltshire owned by Wiltshire County Council and is very grand:

Urchfont manor

While I was there, Sara taught me to spin:

drop spindle and fibre

Here she is teaching Gill:

a lesson in spinning!

I’ve had my drop spindle for a few years now, so I was glad to use it at last! 

I also had a go on the embellisher.  I decided it wasn’t for me, but I was glad to have a play.  This was the first thing I made.  It is roughly the size of an ACEO.

DSCN7436

And the next:

embellisher play

Paulene also brought her pasta maker so that we could have a go at printing with it.  I printed a leaf – you roll printing ink on to an acrylic sheet, lay the leaf on to it with some paper on top, and run the whole thing through the machine.  So you get three prints – the first is the one on the right.  The next time you run it through, you take the leaf off and print the impression left by the leaf – that is the middle one.  Then you put the original leaf ink side up on to the acrylic sheet, put another sheet of paper on top and print that and the ink transferred on to the leaf from the first print then transfers on to the paper.  I hope I’ve remembered it correctly!  Now I want to get a pasta maker to try it again!

DSCN7441

This is the second attempt using a ginkgo leaf that I found in the gardens.  I think I used too much ink but I like the abstract result!

printing with pasta machine using ginkgo leaf 

More pics to come!

How to reuse scrap paper for journaling, packaging and tags

packaging material made from printed paper

I wrote this post for the Ecoetsy team blog last year and thought I’d repost it here in case any of you feel like having a play day printing – I’ve got so many envelopes which arrive and look almost as good as new, especially those which come with lots of pretty stamps on; I can’t bring myself to throw them away so if I’m not careful I get drowned in paper. So here’s something to do with it. Those envelopes with stamps could be altered to use in journalling or scrapbooking… I wrote the article originally for Etsy sellers who’d be using it for packaging but you could easily use them in handmade books or tags… I’m sure your imagination could supply other uses… So here goes..

We often think about how we can recycle packaging but what about other everyday objects that we might otherwise throw away? Have you ever thought of using them to print with, to make cool tags or decorative papers, rather than buying these items ready printed? In this tutorial I am going to show you how to use bubble wrap, plastic packaging material and other odds and ends to make your packaging pretty. If you get in the habit of looking for interesting textures and shapes, you will be able to find loads of inspiration.

The best base for printing is a slightly soft one. I do a lot of screenprinting, so I already have one made of a piece of wood covered with a couple of layers of thick fabric and a piece of wipe-clean plastic (not that I seem to wipe it clean very much as you can see from the photo!). But a piece of that foamy stuff you can buying for washing dishes would do as well, or even a folded newspaper.

soft printing surface covered in plastic
This printing surface has seen a lot of action!

Here are my printing materials – one is some black plastic moulded with an interesting grid pattern, bubble wrap in two different sizes, and one of those polystyrene pizza bases. They are brilliant for creating texture, as you will see later.

a pile of bubble wrap and other textured objects
Some rather unlikely printing materials here but they are effective!

You will need some paper or a pile of old envelopes (which is what I am using here). And some paint – I used Golden acrylic paint because I already have it for my art but you could use poster paint or children’s paint. If you want to use the decorative papers for packaging, tags, or similar, acrylic paint is best because once it is dry, it won’t wash off or, more importantly, transfer to your products and stain them. Here I diluted some red Golden Fluid Acrylic paint with water (about 50:50) and painted it on to the bubble wrap with a sponge brush.

bubble wrap with paint rolled on
lurid painted bubble wrap

Then I placed the bubble wrap face down on to the envelope and rolled a soft brayer across it.

brayer on bubble wrap
paint rolled out with brayer

This is the result:

red printed envelope
Old envelope with bubble wrap print

Here is some large bubble wrap being printed:

large bubble wrap being printed
Resist the urge to pop it!!

I then painted the same piece of bubble wrap with blue paint and printed that on top:

blue and red printed envelope
I think this adds a bit of dimension, don’t you?

This is the pizza base from the above photo. I scored a grid pattern into it with the tip of an old pen, or you can use the end of a paintbrush or a similar object.

a pile of found objects used for printing such as pizza base, plastic grids etc
Polystyrene prints really well.

I painted the pizza base with blue and red paint and printed it:

printed circle with square grid across
purple and blue printed circle

You can use the pizza base to draw any design you wish. Here I am making a flower design with the end of a paint brush.

leaf with stalk drawn on to pizza base
It’s quite easy to ‘draw’ into the surface of the pizza base

This is the result:

stem and leaves drawn into polystyrene base
Here is a little branch

I painted this with green paint:

Green painted plate
The plate painted green ready for printing

And printed it by pressing it down and, again, rolling it with a brayer. (This helps to transfer the paint to the paper).

green circle with white leaves printed
I like the messy texture you get with this technique

Here I printed a great grid pattern using something I found in my husband’s DIY workroom! I’m not sure what it is meant to be used for, but it makes a great pattern!

printed red squares
Does anyone know what these plastic things are actually FOR?!

And this is the moulded plastic which I have painted with red paint:

black plastic grid painted with red paint
painted with red paint

Great design, huh?

result of printing the red paint with the squares
I like the drippy watercolour effect here

Here I added a bit of yellow paint to the red and painted it on in stripes (you’ll see the yellow has already mixed to make orange) and then overprinted it with the green pizza base leaf shape.

green paint overprinted on to red squares
funky, eh?

And these are the results!

a pile of printed envelopes
The finished printing session

When these are dry you can cut them up to make tags or use them in any way that you would use wrapping paper or commercially printed decorative paper.

packaging material made from printed paper
All recycled and reused! Can you spy the Harris Chessman stamp?

There you go – I hope that has given you just a few ideas for printing patterns on paper. There are loads of other possibilities and I’m sure you will come up with tons of imaginative ones.

How to reuse scrap paper for journaling, packaging and tags - reuse, recycle and have fun!
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