Introduction to Screen-Printing.

Screen printing arrived in Europe in the 18th century, but it was slow to catch on as a fabric printing method owing to the high cost of silk mesh at the time. Once the Silk Road made imported silk more affordable, screen printing gradually became a popular way to print fabric. By the early 20th century, printers had developed photo-sensitised emulsions, allowing artisans to create intricate stencil designs much more quickly. In the 1930s, artists began experimenting with screen printing as an artistic medium, naming their new-found form ‘serigraphy’ to distinguish it from industrial printing. By the 1960s, artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi and Andy Warhol were using screen printing to create beautiful art. Dubbed ‘pop-art’, the artist used screen-printing to create multiple copies of a single image, fundamentally questioning what constituted fine art. Warhol’s famous Marilyn Diptych is perhaps the best-known example of screen printing as an artistic form. (Fortune, 2006)

Tecniniton Dave Fortune quite literally wrote the book on waterbased screen printing. In 1989-90 Dave was at the ‘University of Berlin’ researching solvent-free water-based screenprinting, which he brought back to the UK. Based at UWE, we are very lucky to have Dave around to teach and guide us. Screen printing consists of ink being spread over a screen with the chosen design, again using the photo-emulsion screen printing process, The acetate sheet featuring the design is then laid onto the emulsion-coated screen, and the whole thing then exposed to bright UV light. The light hardens the emulsion, which later creates the barrier between the ink and the paper. So the parts of the screen which are covered by design remain in liquid form which is washed away before drying and then printing.

Being familiar with the process meant I needed to challenge my self with the mark-making stage on the acetate sheet and explore otherwise avoided techniques.

Above is the acetate stencil I created for this workshop.

It is having been to a talk on Moiré patterns which is the interference between two periodic objects, that produces a new over-arching pattern that inspired me to use the netting to create one of these patterns.

Moiré patterns can emerge from all manner of scenarios and are particularly prevalent in the digital age. At the talk, we discussed the general types of moiré pattern and how they form, alongside the print maker’s fight against them in half-toning processes, and also how they form the basis of the artwork of Anoka Faruqee.

The dip pen image in Roto Ink (an acrylic ink made with pigments suspended in an acrylic resin binder, so it is light resistant and waterproof) is of Alice Liddell, The 10-year-old girl who as a friend of the author Lewis Carroll inspired the story Alice in Wonderland. As before I wanted to introduce reality into my fantasy; however this time I chose to reverse my thought and use a real person into the no-reference sketched landscape.

Roto Ink washes thinned with methylated spirits built up my landscape. I used a pin to scrap into the acetate for the tree bark. On the mushroom, I worked the ink wash with some sandpaper and used drops of meth alcohol to great the spots on the mushroom hood.

I used photocopied leaves on acetate, which I then cut into smaller leaf shapes and using clear glue I stuck them to the acetate to make the tree canopy. At first look, the leaves I copied are too big, so I reduced them to a small image of leaves. The idea has failed to create the canopy effect I was hoping for. the ‘too big’ leaves would have been better at creating the effect.

A great help came from my classmates Tom and Stephanie. Steph has experience in using screens to print in different artistic ways, i.e. watercolour transfer. Tom works in textile screen printing, primarily custom tee-shirt printing. Tom had a quick way of working and was a great support during the practical element. Admittedly, I did not get a fully printed image on my first two ‘pulls’ of the screen. Tom quickly identified I had the screen too far away from me resulting in my pressure on the screen wasn’t getting the ‘nooks and crannies’ in the stencil. Even pressure is important because the squeegee when pulled across the screen, delivers the layer of ink.

Below is the photo of Steph’s printing area set up.

Despite only having one screen Steph produced a varicoloured image by using tape and card stock to ‘mask out’ areas. Inspired by this, I wanted to have a try at loading my screen with more than one ink.

Below you can see my final prints.

The idea for the Moiré patterns has worked, but I would next time take more care in trying to use them to shape the object or character by creating a tone with the pattens. I’m glad that the sandpaper on in washed acetate has given the ground and the stem of the mushroom a real 3-D feel. Different graphite pencils have helped to build depth and tone to the forest floor but not successfully; harsher marks are needed and darker tones. The two-toned effect of the two colours being pulled through the screen was my favourite success. It really helps the feeling

I would like to try methods such as using masking tape or vinyl to cover the desired areas of the screen like Steph and also Painting the stencil onto the mesh using ‘screen blockers’ such as glue or lacquer.

Influence on this piece

Folk Realism is the belief that they are natural real-worlds outside of our thinking and independent from us. In literature theories, it often can be treated as Eco-Critical but is not always. Folk Realism occupies a liminal place between the normal and the unknown, stories of people we recognise, people we feel we could know, but their lives become damp with myth and legend. There’s a sense that ecosystem, the landscape, the sea, the earth under our feet is claiming back people. Relationship with other metaphysical systems in public opinion is rarely thoroughly examined, but it is not a brand new way of working. Daphne du Maurier had unearthed the Cornish landscape, its dark history and its myths for her novels and stories for some time. Proving Folk Realism works very well at the human psyche and curiosity. Lewis Carroll, who was particularly gifted in geometry and logic; his Alice books contain many reimagined examples. The “Mad Tea-Party”, for instance, has the Hare, Hatter, Dormouse and Alice circling static place settings like numbers on a circle, as in a modular system, rather than in a line. Carroll developed a natural real-world that’s ecosystem was firmly mathematical regardless of the character’s problem-solving ability. (V&A, 2019)

I was intrigued by the article ‘Folk realism: The literature exploring England’s legends and landscapes’ by David Barnett @davidmbarnett published in the Independent newspaper Friday 2 March 2018

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/folk-realism-english-literature-countryside-legends-landscape-nature-gothic-writers-fantasy-a8234691.html

David Barnett is interested in how little it takes to turn our world into a fairytale. It is here in the brisk air of misty mornings, and dark, low sun evenings, I can begin to understand what Barnett is referring to. It is between the two states, modern living and seeking out heritage that a literary genre has been reborn.

We are both in the normal world – cocooned in central heating, connected by phones and laptops, washed in the light from the television – and outside it; isolated, separated, remote. And that is the duality of a current trend in British writing which overlays contemporary lives on the older, darker backdrop of our heritage and folklore.” (Barnett, 2019)

Andrew Michael Hurley’s first novel, The Loney, initially only 300 copies published is a brilliant example of the threshold dividing folk horror and magical realism. The story, The Loney, became the winner of the Costa First Novel Award in 2016 selling thousands more. Based on the vast Lancashire coast, a family are making a kind of pilgrimage to a holy shrine. They want to fix Hanny the brother of the narrator of his muteness. The spiritualism of the family is unorthodox compared to the once-a-week churchgoers. However, it is still believable and has Catholic tones. Things take a darker, almost insidious turn. The locals seem vaguely sinister but not slasher ‘backwards country’ villains, they seem slightly to be following older, less well know ethos.

Hurley builds up the tension towards a climax that is ambiguous yet no less heart-stopping than Edward Woodward’s poor old virgin policeman being burned to death on remote Summerisle while the islanders dance and sing, in Robin Hardy’s iconic 1973 movie The Wicker Man.

HOW DOES THIS PIECE OF WORK FIT INTO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MY PROJECT?

Once upon a time, the West was indigenous. I want to ask the question of what happened to that path and those teachings? Was it that the old Western ways were so wrong and full of witches that it had to be destroyed and replaced by religious that were so much purer? Thousands of years on, is it irrelevant? In my bachelor’s degree, I did a study into the morals refected by authors in children’s literature and one chapter questioned is this influence (if religious or social) Was it an infringement upon or supportive of our culture.

The book by Sharon Blackie called ‘If Women Rose Rooted’ focuses on women finding their voices and their stories again. A quest to find their place in the world, drawing inspiration from the wise and powerful women in native western mythology. She states at the start of her book“We have our own guiding stories, and they are deeply rooted in the heart of our own native landscapes. We draw them out of the wells and the waters; beachcombing, we lift them out of the sand. We dive for them to the bottom of deep lakes, we disinter them from the bogs, we follow their tracks through the shadowy glades of the enchanted forest. Those stories not only ground us: they show us what we might once have been, we women, and what we might become again if we choose. … If women remember that once upon a time we sang with the tongues of seals and flew with the wings of swans, that we forged our own paths through the dark forest while creating a community of its many inhabitants, then we will rise up rooted, like trees.” (Blackie, 2019, p6) Anthropological Folklore and Feminist Criticism Blackie aims to influence our respect and revere feminine outer-selves, and so bring about a culture in which women are respected and admired, recognised once again as holding the life-giving power of the earth itself.

There are plenty of good stories about men in our native European traditions, too. Think of the Grail legends, where only a knight who understands the meaning of compassion – who understands the necessity to gently ask the question ‘What ails thee?’ of the wounded Fisher King – can hope to attain the Grail and help restore the Wasteland.

Lewis Carroll believed that beyond their entertainment value, mental recreations such as games and logic puzzles conferred a sense of power on the solver. This trait, he felt, enabled them to analyse any subject clearly and, most importantly, to detect and unravel fallacies. (V&A, 2019) Do children today still respond to the quest of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis in a self-reflective way? Would they be influenced to act out character traits shared with lead characters from stories? Would our heroes and heroines in our heritage be influential enough? And would literacy devices or trends like ‘Folk Realism’ allow me to engage with young readers sufficient for publishers to care?

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?