Introduction to Screen-Printing on Fabrics

History and Process

Screen printing is one of the most popular printing methods we use to create custom designs, patterns, and logos on clothing. The process of Screen printing involves a fine mesh “screen” that is stretched around a frame. The areas that masked out on the screen are not printed. We used the photo-emulsion screen printing process, which is great for printing text or images with fine detail. To create the print, we took a black picture that we drew on the translucent Mark resit paper, place it against the screen, and then expose the screen to UV light. The light causes the emulsion to harden and bind to the mesh. It was explained that where the light strikes the screen, the emulsion will bind, making a solid layer. Where the light is blocked (black image) the emulsion remains water-soluble.

My drawn image on the mark resist paper. I used Posca pen which is an acrylic paint ball pen. As you can see from the photo, I had difficulty with anticipating the drying time and cause smudges which had to be sanded away.

After exposing the screen, we spray down the screen with water, washing off the emulsion. Where black of the image was is a clear area is where the ink will be pressed through the screen. The framed screen is positioned over the item to be printed, along with a spoonful of thick ink. A squeegee is then used to press the ink through the screen. The masked areas prevent ink from passing through, but the unmasked areas allow the ink onto the material. I didn’t have any issues up to this point having done Screen print at University of Worcester however id never done fabrics, technical issues around “pinning out” the t-shirt and dealing with coarser, denser fabric than cotton was new learning for me. Pins needed to be flat to the print bed surface so not to damage the fine mesh of the screens nor catch the track of the squeegee passing the pint through. The main technique was to pin the fabric at a sharply acute angle and Masking tape over the pins seeming to be the best way to ensure no damage to the mesh in the screen. Also finding an even pressure using the squeegee one-handed was an issue for me. I discovered I was better left-handed in this process.

Above is my design printed on to paper in mustard colour and on cotton blend in blue. Both pieces have come through the screen with most of the detail still intact. In parts of my border and halo, my line was not dense enough, and the UV light was so intense as to burn through the resisting area. The composition has worked well, and I felt comfortable mimicking the romantic 19th-century ladies and Morris’ flora style. When thinking on possible additional elements during the design stage, I opted to leave the flower head the lady is admiring missing. I plan to use digital embroidery to make the flower head, thus incorporating a modern process with a more traditional. My reasoning was to reflect on the struggles Morris felt about the industrial influence of his ere upon the textile production at that time.

Artist influence

Having been at Birmingham Art Gallery and Musume the day before I was keen to bring some of the William Morris designs, I’d looked at into the print.

[Photographs of Morris’s ‘Honeysuckle’ 1881 I took on my visit to Birmingham art gallery] Morris’s original design for ‘Honeysuckle’ hangs in Birmingham’s art galley. This design became a set of linens sold in the shop on Oxford Street in 1800’s after Edward Burne-Jones insisted on have the print for his own home.

William Morris was a famous 19th-century designer notably recognised for his nature-inspired wallpapers. My interest in his work leans more to his collection of book designs. Morris also produced tapestries, tiles and textiles with an expressed love of hand-produced items and a craft-based artistic community.

“A key figure in the Arts & Crafts Movement, Morris championed a principle of handmade production that didn’t chime with the Victorian era’s focus on industrial ‘progress’.” (V&A, 2019)

Despite never needing to earn a wage due to the inheritance of the large Woodford hall family estate in Essex, Morris was a hardworking and prolific.

In 1875 Morris became sole director of the renamed and restructured Morris & Company. Over the next decade, he continued to design at an impressive rate, adding at least 32 printed fabrics, 23 woven fabrics and 21 wallpapers – as well as more designs for carpets and rugs, embroidery and tapestry – to the company’s range of goods.”  (V&A 2019)

Much of Morris’s childhood was spent exploring local parkland and forest his love of nature always apparent in almost all his work. Also, at an early age, he showed a passion for the church, including its architecture, something he would later explore as a career. Morris went to Oxford University to study for the Church. It was there that he met Edward Burne-Jones, who was to become one of the era’s most famous painters, and Morris’s life-long friend.

A lesser know influence that was consistent, but didn’t become his passion until later in life was his love of fantasy. As a young man, Morris was enamoured by the writings of the Scottish fantasy author Walter Scott. Rumoured to be his favourite of Scott’s work was the Lady of the Lake, a poem published in 1810.

In 1891 Morris was offered the Poet Laureateship after the death of Tennyson, remarkably he turned it down. Instead, Morris chose to set up the Kelmscott Press. The books the Press produced only totalled 66 before Morris’s death in 1896. The appeal was these books were beautiful and prized. Printed and bound in a medieval style, with Morris having designed their typefaces, initial letters and borders it is not hard to see why. Ever since I was lucky enough to see The Book of Kells, a precious 9th-century manuscript, at Trinity College Dublin in 2018, I have been influenced to make better use of framing devices for the text in my work. The Book of Kells is an exquisite combination of ornate Latin text and intricate illuminations. One of the world’s most famous medieval manuscript and the images are rich symbolism worked into the layouts and subject matter. Morris too made translations of ancient and medieval texts, but his love was poetry. ‘The Wood Beyond the World’ a fantasy story by Morris is considered to have heavily influenced C. S. Lewis’ ‘Narnia’ series, while J. R. R. Tolkien is said to be inspired by Morris’s reconstructions of early Germanic life in ‘The House of the Wolfings’ and ‘The Roots of the Mountains’. (Scull and Hammond, 2006.) All three authours are writers who heavily influence my writing of Young Adult fantasy, but Morris in particular also affects my ideas of illustrating for the Young Adult genre.

Above is the more famous of Morris’ Kelmscott Press published books.  An illustrated edition of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which was published in 1896, a few months before Morris’s death. (item C.43.h.19. at British Library)

How do the works and artist fit into the development of my project?

“I began printing books with the hope of producing some, which would have a definite claim to beauty.” Morris, W. A Note by William Morris on His Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press. (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1898)

This direct quote from Morris directed my A’level work back in 2000. I knew soon after I completed my studies that art was my way to contribute to society in a meaningful way. I had/have to work extremely hard at academic studies; it is not a natural learn way of thinking for me. Having great artist, their works and dedications in life to follow and guide gives me a way to talk passionately and communicate why my artwork is so important to my place in the world. As dramatic as it sounds, I do risk a lot in pursuing my goal at a writer and illustrator. Morris didn’t have to fight or peruse the quality of production and beauty he achieved; he could have had a more comfortable life. He chose to give everything he could of himself to not only his work but also the defence of handcrafted and traditional skills. 19-century had its fight with the industrial period, and some skills have been lost forever; currently, we can view the digital and computer-controlled elements as a threat or as Morris did eventually, learn to incorporate them into techniques as a support, not as a replacement to the traditional.

Moving forward I want to keep that beautiful and traditional protected both in the aspect of print techniques and process, also concerning stories and folk tales. Print can be lengthy in the process to get an image; images for children’s books and technical manuals are more commonly digital now. In advertising digital and photography is king. The traditional print is still valued for its quality and tactile nature. Individual prints methods have had a comeback as I found in letterpress. I will try to explore if it is a possibility that other print methods are back into fashion in children’s illustration; a sort of revised Golden Age of Illustration that the book publishing 19th century benefited from the industrial revolution. Might we get to see more engraving techniques? More Morris’ illuminations, Lear’s lithography and Rackham’s watercolour and ink?

Introduction to Lithography

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Lithography is a planographic printing process that makes use of the immiscibility of grease and water (the principle that oil and water do not mix). In the lithographic process, ink applied to a grease-treated image on the flat printing surface, done from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a grained surface. (Attwood, 2003.) Due to the need for time management, our group did both processes simultaneously. I was able to grasp the basic non-image (blank) areas, would hold moisture and will repel the lithographic oil-based ink were the blacked areas the ink would be accepted — inking of one colour at that time.

Other parts of the process, I find complex and am struggling to understand. In the off-set process, my image moves on to the aluminium printing plates with the use of phytochemical transferences, much like the screenprinting process I’ve used in the past. With positive plate-making, a positive film is “the original” meaning the non-translucent, blackened sections of the film correspond to the ink-accepting surface elements on the plate.

Phil explained at this point if the images were transferred directly to paper from the plate, it would create a mirror-type image, but also, the paper would become too wet. Instead, the plate rolls against a cylinder covered with a rubber blanket, which squeezes away the water, picks up the ink and transfers it to the paper with uniform pressure. The blanket cylinder passes over the paper counter-pressure, and the image transferred to the paper. “Because the image is first transferred, or offset to the rubber blanket cylinder, this reproduction method is known as offset lithography” (Attwood, 2003)

The stone lithography process is a more lengthy technique and has taken me longer to understand. The process uses gum arabic. The purpose of the gum is to chemically separate the image and the non-image areas so that the greasy image areas become water repellent; which I found out is called ‘hydrophobic’ and the non-image areas become water receptive or ‘hydrophilic’, (Attwood, 2003) so that when printed, only the image areas receive the ink print. Phil explained this chemical change happens only in the very top layer of the stone, creating the ‘gum adsorb layer’ which is less than 1mm thick.

He further explained that Nitric acid is sometimes added to the gum to stop the grease in the stone from spreading. Nitric used in the gum its referred to as an ‘etch.’

It is usually necessary to ‘etch’ the stone twice. The first etch Phil applied to the stone with a clean sponge. Once Phil covered the whole stone was with gum, a clean sponge and then a clean rag is used to buff the gum down to a thin, even layer. Heat is then applied to dry the gum. The stone should then be covered and, left (overnight if possible) to allow time for the gum to chemically change the stone and establish the image within the stone. We didn’t have that time, so we used our lunch hour as the etch time.

Next, we were shown how to removes the drawing materials from the stone and replaces it with non-drying black ink.

For me, this was the most confusing part. I went to the internet to get a better understanding, [https://www.artprintsa.com/lithography.html].  A wet rag is used to remove the gum arabic from the first etch. A damp cloth is wiped over the stone to remove the excess water. The stone is then dried and dusted with fine chalk before a second gum arabic etch is applied. The gum etches, then buffed down to a thin layer and dried, and the stone should be left to rest for at least an hour before proofing.

The stone is washed out – as before. (The stone is gummed and dried, then washed, and the gum washed off.) (Attwood,2003)

At this moment we began to need two people to get a good print. While the stone is damp, the greasy printing ink is rolled on using either a leather roller (we used a Non-drying black ink.) until the image in the stone is clearly visible, We found a good technique was to re-damping the stone between rolls to keep the surface from drying out, thus needing two of us to work together.

The first few proofs were taken onto newsprint, and after that, damp paper is usually used to ensure the maximum amount of detail is picked up from the stone. The paper is laid onto the stone, and a few sheets of newsprint packing laid on top. The stone and paper are then rolled through the direct transfer press, and the paper is then pulled back from the stone to reveal the printed image.

Despite the long involved process of stone lithography, the image quality is awesome compared to the offset lithography. Every mark and wash I made transferred. However, its deeply involved process has made me reluctant to attempt it again on my own.

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Research Source:

Attwood, M. (2003). Lithography. [online] The Artists’ Press. Available at: https://www.artprintsa.com/lithography.html [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].

Introduction to Letterpress

Wednesday 2nd October: Introduction to Letterpress

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Letterpress is a direct relief print method, meaning that a design is printed by transferring ink from plate to paper.
The group were each given a verse from the Lewis Carroll poem; Jabberwocky. Keen Children’s Literature readers, both Stephine and I were aware of the poem and its author, so chose to work together on the task.
“Jabberwocky” is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll about the killing of a creature named “the Jabberwock”. Included in his 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The book tells of Alice’s adventures within the back-to-front world of Looking-Glass Land.

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In The Life of Lewis Carroll (1932), an early Carroll biographer, Langford Reed, stated: “Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was an individual who, through his rare and diversified literary gifts and power of communication, left an indelible mark upon the imaginations of children and adults both during his generation and in generations to come.”

With the original of the poem being Victorian and Reed’s use of the words “indelible mark” in mind the tactile quality of letterpress seemed very appropriate. We didn’t stop there, having access to more than 50 fonts at UWE’s proofing press room Stephanie and I came up with the idea of mixing the fonts to emphasise the disjointed imagery in the poem. Below you can see our result in the first stanza compared to the uniform font in the stanza below it.

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Executing this effect took a lot more thinking than originally expected, but also lead to more ideas forming. Firstly, we discovered “typesetter”, setting letter by letter and line by line had to be done upside-down to make sure the type was backwards in a composing stick, a mechanism which holds several lines, so the print is correctly orientated on the paper when transferred. As a result, we had to ensure we chose font types of the same size to sit firmly in the composing stick. We choose 24pt, which was slightly less than the 30pt originally recommended by our technician to give us more space to manipulate on the final image. We generated our font choice at random, again to emphasis the impression of chaos and unconformities of Wonderland. Selecting by blindly picking from three fonts meant we had to record a number to each letter and character, mapping our result to return the fonts correctly at the end. Apart from the start of each line, capitalisation we also selected at random by adding a dot to a number in our blind selection. We considered the use of irregular spacing, but this caused too much white space and overly disrupted the readability of the stanza creating a river of white in the text, a serious consideration that has to be thought over in any letterpress task. Instead, the decision to add additional spacing before the word “shun” as if shunned away, worked well.

However, we also reflected that the character of Alice at this point in the novel is in the “back-to-front world” sparking the idea to purposely reverse and capitalise the “C” in “catch” to look like the letter is trying to catch the “cat” part of its full form, and the misspelling of “claws” with a “K” as this letter is a sharper form than a “c” indicating sharp, dangerous claws of the Jabberwock.

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The type of depth is dependent on the paper. Typically Letterpress papers are thick and soft to allow the type to create a deep impression, which gives tangible evidence of the printing process.
Maximal control over the quality of the print is apeling, many of our group seemed to like letterpress for that. I found the method of compositor gradually to build out the text of an individual page letter by letter difficult and brian taxing. The risk of “furniture” popping out violently from the press scared me in honesty. What I did love was the colours are true and vibrant, and the lines are sharp. Digital printing is done by accumulating groups of small dots to produce the image. While the resolution of the dots is usually small enough that the resulting print looks “close enough,” we can see the difference, especially when viewed side by side.
Dark ink on a light paper gives the best image. Inks are translucent, and the paper colour will show through. For light colours on dark paper, foil stamping or engraving should be used instead of Letterpress. Building up the colour density of a specific colour can be achieved with Letterpress pieces run through the press two times using the same colour, but again this is a risk on registration moving. However, the risk is the lowest in all our manual print techniques thanks to the methods and mechanisms involved.

The chances of using Letterpress outside of UWE is debatable. Presses are being discarded by commercial print shops and becoming affordable and available to artisans throughout the country. There is currently a viable sales market for this form of print.
“Letterpress publishing has recently undergone a revival in the USA, Canada, and the UK, under the general banner of the ‘Small Press Movement’. Renewed interest in letterpress was fueled by Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, which began using pictures of letterpress invitations in the 1990s.” (Pertwee, 2019)
I do think I will be using this form as publishing and illustration are hand-in-hand. Learning this process has helped me think more about page layout and text as a part of the illustration itself. More investigation on my part is needed.
I do understand this process a lot more now having used it form myself, and I better appreciate the use/effectiveness of the text.

We also had a chance to use the Albion press, which is an early iron hand printing press, designed and manufactured in London by Richard Whittaker Cope around 1820. It works by a simple toggle action. Originally used for commercial book-printing until the middle of the nineteenth century, now it is mostly artisans who use them for proofing, jobbing work and by private presses for art projects.
I thought it might be fun to use the woodblock letters to help me start a poster image for the 1976 science fiction film Logan’s Run. The showdown scene between Logan 5 and Francis 7 always reminded me of 19th Century American Western genre, so, I chose the Slab Serifs font mixed with the smaller LHF Becker font to reflect that drama visually. I plan to use the large “0” to represent the tunnels used to flee the city in the film. Logan’s Run explores utopian and dystopian themes. The 1970s were dubbed the “Me Decade” by writer Tom Wolfe. An important concept expressed in the film is “the dangers of hedonism” (Wolfe,1976), meaning youth worship. Sexual freedom and seeking pleasure or luxury at whatever cost of the 1970s has also reflected in the current social demographic term “Millennials”. I’m interested in exploring this link and what effect hedonism has on a cohort of people.

Exhibit 

had a very successful opening week. I was honoured to be part of an excellent group of artists. Some fantastic portraits by Anna, Natarlia and Daysie. I was truly in awe of their hard work and dedication.

Well done to all who took part the standards were so high.

 

Me by my own images for selection.

  

  

  

Silkscreen Printing 

A screen is made of a piece of mesh stretched over a frame. A stencil is formed by blocking off parts of the screen in the negative image of the design to be printed; that is, the open spaces are where the ink will appear on the substrate.

Before printing occurs, the frame and screen must undergo the pre-press process, in which an emulsion is ‘scooped’ across the mesh and the ‘exposure unit’ burns away the unnecessary emulsion leaving behind a clean area in the mesh with the identical shape as the desired image. The surface to be printed (commonly referred to as a pallet) is coated with a wide ‘pallet tape’. This serves to protect the ‘pallet’ from any unwanted ink leaking through the screen and potentially staining the ‘pallet’ or transferring unwanted ink onto the next substrate. Next, the screen and frame are lined with a tape. The type of tape used in for this purpose often depends upon the ink that is to be printed onto the substrate. These aggressive tapes are generally used for UV and water-based inks due to the inks’ lower viscosities. The last process in the ‘pre-press’ is blocking out any unwanted ‘pin-holes’ in the emulsion. If these holes are left in the emulsion, the ink will continue through and leave unwanted marks. To block out these holes, materials such as tapes, speciality emulsions and ‘block-out pens’ may be used effectively.

The screen is placed atop a substrate. Ink is placed on top of the screen, and a floodbar is used to push the ink through the holes in the mesh. The operator begins with the fill bar at the rear of the screen and behind a reservoir of ink. The operator lifts the screen to prevent contact with the substrate and then using a slight amount of downward force pulls the fill bar to the front of the screen. This effectively fills the mesh openings with ink and moves the ink reservoir to the front of the screen. The operator then uses a squeegee (rubber blade) to move the mesh down to the substrate and pushes the squeegee to the rear of the screen. The ink that is in the mesh opening is pumped or squeezed by capillary action to the substrate in a controlled and prescribed amount, i.e. the wet ink deposit is proportional to the thickness of the mesh and or stencil. As the squeegee moves toward the rear of the screen the tension of the mesh pulls the mesh up away from the substrate (called snap-off) leaving the ink upon the substrate surface.

   

  

Tara Books visits Worcesters Hive

Tom and I were fortunate to get an invitation to join Worcester universities Illustration students in meeting an inspiring woman named Gita Wolf. Tara books was set up in 1994 its founder Gita Wolf has been traveling around Europe to raise awareness of the project.

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Avid supporters of the children’s library at Worcestershire Hive will know how the university’s English and illustration departments are keen to bring a wide range of new and attractive projects to young people in the area. This new project comes to us from India. Gita is a publisher who goes out into the rural and small towns in India to seek out artist and cultural stories. Her aim is to exchange these for education and money for the artist and the town or village they live in. Gita herself was born in India and then moved to Germany to study retuning to India to begin this new project. Artist and stories are not the only part of this bold project. Tara Books is also an environmentally sourced project and supports local business and training in hand published books with in central India. Part of the fair trade organisation with 25 artisans they produce 3,000 books at a time screen printed and bound by hand.  That’s a 110 screen prints made a day; every page is screen printed including the words and cover art. 

 Talking to Gita you get a real feel for the love and passion in this project. “It’s not just by vision anymore its organic. The artist and community take it up and really infuse their traditional and imaginative energy into each part. We know we are a publishers who straggle two worlds and we love to share the benefits and diversity with both. We are honoured to enable creative voices to be heard. Independent publishing really helps to encourage diversity and awareness in communities.

Our stories are for all walks of life and we love tactile materials. It really matters to us the sense of craftsmanship and quality of production we want some focus to come back to that in today’s industry. There is room for both the digital and the handmade; I myself own an tablet for reading and writing but I truly value what I can hold in my hand. What it feels and smells like a sense that it has be touched by its creator and their own personal spirit is in it.” – Gita Wolf 2015

 

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Print Process Collagraphy

Collagraphy (sometimes spelled collography) is a printmaking process in which materials are applied to a rigid substrate (such as paperboard or wood). The word is derived from the Greek word koll or kolla, meaning glue, and graph, meaning the activity of drawing.

The plate can be intaglio-inked, inked with a roller or paintbrush, or some combination thereof. Ink or pigment is applied to the resulting collage, and the board is used to print onto paper or another material using either a printing press or various hand tools. The resulting print is termed a collagraph. Substances such as carborundum, acrylic texture mediums, sandpapers, bubble wrap, string, cut card, leaves and grass can all be used in creating the collagraph plate. In some instances, leaves can be used as a source of pigment by rubbing them onto the surface of the plate.

Different tonal effects and vibrant colours can be achieved with the technique due to the depth of relief and differential inking that results from the collagraph plate’s highly textured surface. Collagraphy is a very open printmaking method. Ink may be applied to the upper surfaces of the plate with a brayer for a relief print, or ink may be applied to the entire board and then removed from the upper surfaces but remain in the spaces between objects, resulting in an intaglio print. A combination of both intaglio and relief methods may also be employed. A printing press may or may not be used.

My attempt is part of my FMP. It is an illustration of a butterfly wing.

   

       

Alessandra Marie: Artist 

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Alessandra attended the Pratt Institute where she graduated in 2012 but remaining in New York where she currently lives and works.  It’s been a pleasure to see her style evolve and to see her art embraced into the eyes of countless viewers and I’ve always wanted to sit down and talk to her about all of it. She has gained a lot of recognition though interview, blogs and social media which I guess is a sign of the times.

All her works are with coffee stain, ink and pencil then Alessandra adds gold leaf details. This creates these wonderful dreamy pieces with an almost art nouveau feel I think.

  

My favourite interview answer when asked about her work :

Alessandra: Well – I don’t work with color! It’ll start to come in eventually (in certain areas), but my mind doesn’t work like a painters’ does. I see and compose work in terms of pattern, as opposed to light.. At first I perceived it as a serious disadvantage, but now I’ve found that it enables me to overcome some obstacles in interesting ways. It goes back to that Picasso quote, “If you have five elements available, use only four. If you have four elements, use three.” You can’t keep the intention of the piece pure if you’re too focused on balancing a bunch of irrelevant parts.

And yeah, Klimt was where the initial idea for gold came from! Growing up, my grandparents had some lovely Japanese lacquer boxes with gold that were great too.. I’ve always thought they were beautiful, and the execution on them inspired the work as well.

  

Having a go myself was going to be a challenge. I didn’t have gold leaf so I just used metallic pens to match the iridescence. I have to say learning to control and predict what the coffee stains would do took several test attempts.

My attempts:

   

 

Final piece…