Friday, June 25, 2010

The Ugly Truth

Since I started this blog to talk about how and why I do what I do, unvarnished and with all my bumps and bruises showing, I'm committed to telling you about the mistakes I make, too, and showing you the results of those mistakes.

It's been a long week. I started out all happy and shiny, and as I sit here and type this morning, I'm ready to set a match to the wet studio and take up stamp collecting.

So, let's get started.

This piece...

... started life as a 3 yard length of black cotton. I batiked it with soy wax and then discharged it with bleach. So far, so good. I had soaked it in vinegar to neutralize the bleach, then decided after the final rinse-out that I would go ahead and use anti-chlor, too. By the time it had been through the wash after the anti-chlor, the rusty-yellow color was pretty faded, so I gave it an over-dye in carmine red and chocolate brown.

It was a crappy dye job. The carmine red did fine and gave the piece a darker value, but the brown collected mostly at the edges of the fabric in big, ugly splotches.

In order to try and save the piece and bring some unity to it, I decided to screen a pattern all over it.

I created a stencil on one of my screens using strips of clear contact paper.

Then I thickened up some brown rose dye and went to town with it all over the fabric.

I loved, loved, loved the look that screen gave me, and will very likely repeat the same kind of pattern again on future screens.

Only now, I can't get the alginate out. It's stuck in there but good. 

Last week I charged the rest of my screens with thickened dyes to do some deconstructed screen printing this week. For two of the screens, I chose the three cool primaries- lemon yellow, magenta and turquoise- willing to risk the possibility of making mud in the hopes of getting great color mixtures. The third screen was charged with a combination of yellow and brown dyes.

To prepare these screens, I used a technique suggested in the book, Breakdown Printing: New Dimensions for Texture and Colour by Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan. I poured the thickened dyes on top of the screen in puddles and then settled items down into the puddles to give the final screen some texture.

This is the project that contained the most mistakes and has yielded fabric that will need a LOT of aftercare (overdyeing, stamping, etc). Here it is at the moment, sitting in a bucket of rinse water while it waits for a different fabric to come out of the washing machine. Most of the dye has washed out, despite the fabric being soda-soaked previously. It now looks for all the world like a dropcloth.

My first mistake was, I think, getting the dyes too thick. As I was deconstructing them onto the fabric, the screens seemed to become glued to the fabric. I had to really yank at them to get them off and the thick puddles of dye often came off the screens and stuck to the fabric in large chunks. I was having such a hard time and was getting so discouraged, that I totally forgot to take pictures of the process. I fully intended to but only remembered after the fabric was already bundled in plastic to batch.

My next mistake was in using some sketchy items on the screens for texture. The idea is to use materials that will lift right off of the screen once it's dried- plastics, mostly. But instead of sticking strictly with plastics, I tried using some vinyl wallpaper scraps. They had fabulous texture on one side, but were paper-backed. Once the screens had dried, the papers behaved as if they'd been welded to the screens, and peeling them off was nearly impossible. I had also tried a scrunched up piece of wax paper for texture. Wow. I have no idea what the chemical reaction was, but the alginate broke down the paper and turned it into a slimy, stringy mess that I never was able to remove before screening.

My final mistake- and this one could have been a real screen-destroyer but fortunately wasn't- I got tired of waiting for the screens to dry so I put them outside in a shady spot. Of course, the sun actually moves, doesn't it? By the time I brought them back into the house, they had been sitting in the sun for hours and the dyes had baked onto them.

I think it's time to take a live class in breakdown printing, because there's something I'm missing and it's giving me less-than-fun results more often than not.

The next oops is hanging on the line right now. It started out well enough, with a nice, simple batik pattern and some yellow dye.

It got another layer of batik and dye, this time in two shades of red.

I should have quit while I was ahead, and seriously thought about it, but what kind of artist am I if I won't take chances? So it got one more layer of batiking and another dye bath. In Gawd-Awful Retro Brown.

The 70's called, they want their curtains back. And yes, you're seeing that right- only half of it is speckled... the fabric had been folded and the wax I'd dripped onto it didn't go through both layers. This is an excellent candidate for discharge, or for lining the cat pan, I haven't decided which, yet. I'd be slamming my head on the desk right now, if I didn't already have a scorching headache.

It looks as if the only survivor out of the studio this week (and I can't count myself in that number), is this unassuming length of fabric.

It's hard to tell by this photo, but this fabric has been stamped many times with many different stamps (all hand-made, of course) in multiple colors of textile paint.

I used textile paints because I wanted to create a resist for the paint that would follow as I stain the background. Like this:

It's coming along nicely and will probably sit on my table for a few days while I tinker with it.

And finally, am I the only crazy person who looks at her dropcloth (that's been hard-used for a couple of years) and sees the potential for art?

Happy stamp collecting!


Deni Gottlieb said...

I loved all of them Judi. Thanks for going through your process, it was really interesting.

Deni Gottlieb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elle said...

ooh, the overdye on the batiked and bleached fabric definitely took it sideways. But I luv that screen printed strips. Does the alginate never come out? Hmm, you do seem to be in quite the learning curve! But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think there would be some New Moderne quilters who'd scoop up the retro brown. 8^) I luv all the stuff on the unassuming piece and as for the drop cloth... well, don't drop it. Question though! Is all this just stash? What are you making with all these lengths?

Gerrie said...

Oh, Judi!! I didn't get very far in your post when you said you neutralized bleach with vinegar. NO!!! You need to use antichlor or lots and lots of water - never vinegar.

Quilter Beth said...

I laughed out loud when I read your comments about your "brown retro fabric." I agree with "elle" though. I think some of these "young" quilters would LOVE that fabric. It brings to mind the 70s to me...been there; done that. Thanks for making me smile today. As for the drop cloths...LOVE them.

Norma Schlager said...

I think you got some great results, especially the first and last fabrics. Makes me want to do some soy wax batik.

Wen said...

OK It seems like a mess now... No really It looks like you are having fun- isn't it all about process anyway?
Good LUCK!

Unknown said...

I can relate to wanting to torch everything, I've thought about doing that but twiddling my thumbs rather than ever painting or dyeing fabric again sounds bleak. Often the greatest results happen when something doesn't turn out "right" and we continue to play with it, it's not like we can ruin something that we thing is already a bust. Small sections of so-called disasters are sometimes jewels. And from my seat you'll find the jewels!!!

kathy said...

Nothing is un-redeemable I have found. That's the beauty of surface design. Love the stamp you used on your batik, whatever it is, and your stamped and painted piece is drop dead gorgeous.

Beverly said...

Thanks for being willing to show your mess-ups! I had a similar experience with alginate a year ago- never did get all of it out, and I've used the fabric anyway, since it wasn't a lot. It has LOTS of texture!

I love the last, I will have to try stamping with paint first, and then dyeing.

And I echo Gerrie's concern, use Anti-Chlor and forget the vinegar.

ann said...

Thank you so much for putting on this tutorial. It has helped me a LOT! I'm just starting out in surface design so I learned a lot. I did not know you could put tape directly on the silk screen. I only have one now, so I may wait until I make more. However, I found this very educational.

Julie said...

I shouldn't be but, I'm laughing here gently in sympathetic support. I have been to banging-the-head-on-the-table land! And I loved your comment that the 70's wanted their fabric back :o) I have never done deconstructed screen printing altho I have the books and the DVDs to tell me how. Y0ur experiences have had an up-side because we're all learning and you do have some wonderful fabric there, especially the painted and stamped piece - gorgeous! And I love your drop cloth, I have some drop towels that are coming along really well too :o)

Fulvia said...

OK Judi--breathe! I am confident/ hopeful that by now you have pulled yourself away from the work, stopped, had a drink (stiff or otherwise), relaxed and given yourself a break. Maybe you tried too many things at once? (Hey! I paint graffiti in my urban pieces so I am not complaining, you understand!?). Bleach near vinegar??? Yikes woman. Step away from the work. We have all slammed our foreheads in our beautiful drop cloths at one time or another. Thank you for sharing.

Dotti said...

Thanks for all the info! I especially love the piece where stamping provided the resist for the stains!

Sharne Gregory said...

I have tried break down printing too- a disaster! The pattern seemed to break down too quickly.
I liked the effect of the screen printed strips on your fabric.
My textile playtime has not been very productive this week either. I hope to remedy that situation on Sunday. Happy playing!

Robbie said...

Well, maybe it was unconscious on your part..if your dyes/print paste misture is dried on your screen, you're now ready to do deconstructed screen printing! I love the pastel printed piece and of course the bright piece!! Nice, nice!!!

Katrina said...

The joke around here is...if you cut it in a small enough piece any fabric will look good!
Thanks for sharing the lows along with the highs.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

Great posts. As a recent experimenter with deconstructed dying, I too have found that putting the dye on too thick is a waste. I have had much better success with light to medium thick dye applied with a light hand. For me thought, the bottom line with this process is the surprise that it always seems to deliver. Great stuff Judi!

Anonymous said...

The brown fabric isn't all that dreadful - I was actually seeing a cute little sundress out of it - for some college sophomore. Or big cushions.

A new week starts tomorrow - forge ahead!! :)

Beth said...

Oh Judi! I am still laughing about the 70's curtain and the cat litter pan. I feel your pain However that last piece is simply ga-jus as we Mainers say and should bring you some consolation. You know we get these great ideas and go with them and learn. As I'm fond of saying, "Some days are just for getting through". Sounds like you had a few of those this week. All you have to do is peruse your blog and KNOW you are fabulous!

Glen QuiltSwissy said...

I am actually impressed with all of it! LOL. Call me crazy I guess!

And I love dropcloth art! I regularly steal my daughter's drop cloths, she thinks I am totally nuts, but hey, I got some really great FREE stuff!

glen in Louisiana

Laura said...

It's wonderful that you shared your experiments, even those that you didn't think turned out too well. I've also used vinegar to stop the bleach discharge, but didn't like the results either. I bought some alginate a few months ago and have been debating on trying the thickened dye process, you've made me want to try it! There's a video on Kerr Grabowski's website showing her deconstructed screen printing technique, if you haven't seen it already, check it out. Her workshop would be a great one to take!

Diana said...

What a total hoot. Judi, thanks for sharing your (warts) and that fabulous 70s fabric! The whole thing had me smiling and banging my head right along with you. :)