Travel Prep: A Summary of Eccentric Last Minute Tasks

Most people getting ready for a vacation would occupy themselves with normal tasks. I like to tidy up the house and yard, and then I find myself involved with a variety of tasks involving either ending a project or starting one…so when I get back I have a clean house and something to get started with right away!

This morning, to add to my guilt about gutting my beehive yesterday, I found some newly hatched bees in the comb I removed; I took them out and put them by the hive entrance, but I don’t know if they made it in:

Then, for breakfast, some of the figs I picked the other day: yum. A fresh fig is sublime. I’ll give the uneaten ones to my mom before I leave; they can’t go to waste!

I wrapped up the door project the past few days. I have 3 exterior doors; and the one in the back of the house I’ve never been able to use, because it was a bad door. I won’t even post a photo of it because it was that bad. I finally had a pro replace it (same excellent guy who did my windows last winter), and he popped off the security door for me so I could paint it, first with a primer:

Then bright blue….and I was limited by the spray paint blues available, not many; first I used an exterior blue paint I brushed on, and then I tidied it up with a unifying coat of bright blue spray paint….

…to match the color I’d painted the solid door….

…and presto, he came by the other day to pop the steel door back on, and I now finally have a door that I can use. It’s been years. I’ll have to paint those steel bolts blue.

Then I just got the latest Jane Dunnewold book in the mail; I pre-ordered it so my copy is autographed, you can read more about Jane Dunnewold here:

The photos inside are so luscious, here’s a sample–the directions on how to make print-paste:

That got me starting a collage (which I’ll finish when I get back) of prickly pear cactus color copies, which I’ll use to make some laminated paper, a process I posted about a few weeks ago:

Then, to save money, I resurrected my very old (and very old-fashioned) oilskin raincoat I got in New Zealand almost 20 years ago; these things aren’t breathable, but they do keep you dry, and I figure even though it’s summer I should probably bring a rain coat to Newfoundland.

I didn’t realize that oilskin can be “reproofed”; that is, re-waxed, so it stays waterproof. I ordered some DuckBack reproofing wax online and got to work; this is how the coat looked prior to waxing….

…and this is a before and after look, the right side in this photo is the side I’d reproofed. I think you could just use melted paraffin wax for the same effect, but, I wanted a slightly nicer and less petroleum-based smell; DuckBack has lanolin and some other oils.

Now I just have to pack my carry on bag……

Paper and Cloth Lamination Project

Last Christmas (!) I got myself a copy of the very aesthetically pleasing book  Paper & Metal Leaf Lamination: A Mixed Media Approach With Cloth, a joint venture by well-known fiber artists Jane Dunnewold and Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan.

I’ve been meaning to give some of the techniques a try; I finally got around to it the past few days after work. Above you can see the basic ingredients: book with instructions, bottle of acrylic gel medium (not inexpensive, it’s from France), silk screen and squeegee, and sheer piece of fabric–in this case, silk organza.

My goal: use gel medium to transfer photocopied images onto fabric, creating a sheer, durable, laminated piece of fabric with (ideally) cool, ghostly images. The first time around is always a sample; but I still give a sample my 100%!

With my supplies above, I cut up photocopies I made of photos I took during last months’ trip to Washington D.C.; the photocopies are over a week old, and supposedly they make a better transferred image when the ink on the copies has had a week to “cure”.

I arranged the photocopies on a piece plywood that had several layers of polyester batting and cotton flannel stapled on top; then, I placed the organza on top, and per the instructions in the book, diligently pinned the silk down, stretching it tight over the collage.

Then, I took the board outside in the blistering heat of the day; I worked under my patio umbrella. Here you see the collage under the fabric, the silkscreen, squeegee and acrylic gel medium. Also, a plastic tub of water to immediately wash the tools–that gel medium dries fast, and permanently. I silkscreened about half the bottle of gel medium onto the silk, making sure that the fabric was thoroughly saturated.

It took just 20 minutes for the piece to dry; here it is on my ironing table, paper stuck to fabric:

I pressed the silk/paper sandwich on the highest setting, using baking parchment so nothing got scorched:


Once heat set, the piece was stuck in a bucket of cool water for 20 minutes to soften the paper for easy removal:

Here’s the wet fabric-paper sandwich, and a green brillo-type scrub pad. Most of the paper just peels right off, in messy papier-mache blobs; the gummy residue of the paper needs to be scrubbed off, firmly but gently so as not to scrub a hole right through the silk (I did make one small hole due to over-zealous scrubbing). You can see some of the small wet-paper blobs below:

Once all the paper is removed, and the gummy stuff scrubbed off, I tossed the fabric into the washer with cold water for a quick rinse; when I took it out, I lightly pressed it. Both sides of the silk are free of paper, just the image from the ink is left behind.  Here is the finished sheer piece,  the “wrong” side showing (i.e. not the side that had the paper directly touching it) hanging on my white design wall:

And here it is over some blue fabric, just for a different perspective:

I don’t know how I feel about this technique at this time. I think I’ll try it again. I’m not really fond of altering the “hand” of the fabric– maybe I’m a purist, or, just not adventurous!–and the gel medium significantly alters the hand of the silk, to the point where it now feels like a restaurant menu. I noticed in a few places there were bubbles on the transferred images, so I think I may have used too much gel medium in certain places.

The reason I’m hanging up this piece with the wrong-side showing is because I want to read the text from my images. The ink from the photocopies is lifted onto the fabric where the fabric touches the ink; so, on the “right” side the ink will be stronger, and the text (and all images) will be backwards.

If you use this technique to transfer photocopied text, just remember that the paper side of the fabric will have backwards text once you’ve scrubbed off the paper, and you will only be able to read the text from the “wrong” side of the fabric, and the wrong side is perfectly fine, it’s a bit more “ghostly”; if you want to read the text, you will need to consider this and consider the “front” of the piece to be the fabric-side. I think this isn’t a big issue if you’re using sheer fabric; but, if you transfer images onto a more solid piece of fabric, you will most likely have no choice but to use the paper-side, and your text will be backwards. Which is not bad or anything. It’s just something to consider.

Screen Printing With Water-Soluble Crayons: Hand Made Greeting Cards

I am so late in getting my thank-you cards sent to my peeps in Boston; they so kindly put me up, hosted great meals and drove me around Boston. I don’t like procrastinating: I’ve never liked the feeling of having something I have to get done looming over my head when I can avoid that feeling altogether by just….getting the job done.

But….procrastination happens. Even to me.

Of course, these days, no one really writes thank-you notes anymore; unless maybe for a wedding gift, so for me to have this as a looming task on my list of things-to-do says a lot about what a throwback I am. So, perhaps no one would really notice if they never got a note.

The thing is, I had such a nice visit back there; and I have such lovely relatives. So, I do want to acknowledge that. To make up for the delay, I made cards the other day, instead of just buying thank you cards. I used a technique from the fabulous Jane Dunnewold book Improvisational Screen Printing; see her website for info on ordering.  I believe the book is out of print; but, a DVD of the book is available. In part, I made cards because it’s been SO LONG since I’ve done any art projects due to the ginormous landscaping project with which I’ve been consumed.

The technique I used from Jane’s book involves drawing a design with watercolor (aka water-soluble or aquarelle crayons) on a silkscreen, and then using acrylic gel medium (readily available at big-box craft stores) to transfer the design onto paper;  transfering to fabric is also possible, but the acrylic gel medium is slightly stiff and will alter the hand of the fabric. The crayon drawing breaks down in the process; only a few transfers are possible.

In this photo, you can see a plain 12 x 18 silkscreen in the back; up front, I’ve used masking tape on the same sized silkscreen to mask-out the screen, leaving only greeting-card-sized mesh exposed. I got the pack of blank greeting cards at a big-box craft store, using a half-off coupon:

While watching the Joy Behar Show, I doodled with my water-color crayon collection on my silkscreen; I am a bit of  Joy Behar addict, you’d never catch me alive watching the View, but I do think she’s very funny and her night-time show is gossipy fun while I do household or crafty projects.

Now, mind you, these are just simple greeting cards. Nothing complex. Here are the final crayon drawings; and, on the mesh, the crayons seem faint: the design will transfer quite strongly, though. I’ve done this once before, and a hint to anyone who’s going to try this technique: do NOT layer the crayon, thinking perhaps a thicker layer of crayon will delay the inevitable design breakdown, and give you a few more transfers. It won’t work. The thicker layer will just act as a resist, and will print as a blank space. Don’t do it!

Since I was doodling on my dining room table, I was using poster-board to protect my precious formica. Hey. I eat off that surface. With a plate between me and the formica. But, you get the point.

I taped down “guides” on the poster board so I could line up my finished silkscreen on top of the blank greeting cards; this way, everything will line up nicely once I started screen-printing with the gel medium:

Here, I put down the silkscreen on top of the greeting cards; you can see the plastic jar of gel medium (I use Liquitex, with a gloss finish, which looks nice on paper).  I poured Liquitex on the masking tape on the top of the silkscreen and used my squeegee to pull the medium down and up once, then removed the prints, put down new blank cards, and did the same thing again until the design was exhausted (5 runs altogether, which made for 10 cards; and of the 10, I’ll use 6).

It takes some practice to figure out your style and figure out how many “runs” you can get of your image. Here is a shot of the strongest and weakest prints; I got a couple images right in the middle of the range shown below, but those prints aren’t in the photo:

I hope all my cousins in Boston will be happy with their cards. It will make up for what I know Emily Post would consider a very tardy response on my part.

I would LOVE to attend Jane Dunnewold’s  Art Cloth Mastery Program. Please check out her website. Her work is inspiring, to say the least. I bought her very first book, Complex Cloth, when it came out in the early 90s and I’ve been a fan ever since.