Sunday, October 14, 2007

Deconstructed screen printing

My friend Laura asked if she could commission a scarf. She didn't have anything specific in mind, but wanted something that would look good with a dark blue jacket she has. Maybe greens? Teals?

One thing I love best is sitting down and thinking about a project with someone specific in mind. Because then not only do you have to think about color, but also about personality. You know how the person dresses, how they move, the way they think, what makes them laugh. And all those things figure in, you know?

I chose a process that as far as I know is called deconstructed screen printing.

It's unlike regular screen printing in that instead of burning an image onto a screen with photo emulsion, and being able to print the same image over and over, this is a one-shot deal. Because the dye in your screen disintegrates as you go.

Basically, you take textured objects - in this case bubble wrap (with bubbles popped - something I used to love doing but now drives me a little crazy), woven rubber floor mat, and a piece of plastic doily. Which reminds me - it's so hard to find plastic doilies! Who knew, till you look for one?

Anyway, you position those as you like under your screen. And then, using a squeegee, you pull thickened dye across the screen. I typically use black dye for this. And then you peel of the textured object and let the dye dry in your screen.

Once it's dry, you take a different color or colors of thickened dye (in this case I chose turquoise and cool yellow) and pull the dye through the screen. At some point the dry black dye starts to loosen and come out of the screen, so your color gets darker. And in some spots you get the black pattern, which I love.

I really liked how this scarf turned out, but I felt like it just wasn't "done" so I took a screen I had burned with a picture of Geishas and printed it here and there on the scarf. It's a reproduction of a Japanese woodcut taken from a coloring book I bought after seeing a cool exhibit on a Japanese artist whose name escapes me at the Phillips a couple years ago. Anyway, I think you can see them a bit in this detail picture.
Deconstructed screen printing is one of my favorite techniques because you have no real idea how your piece is going to turn out. I mean, you choose where you place the screen on the fabric, and how many times to pull dye through.

But you can't control the rate at which the dye in your screen softens and releases from the screen. You don't exactly know how the colors are going to mix. And you don't know, till you steam it and wash it out, how much of the black stuck or how vibrant the colors will be.

Precise people in the classes usually hate this technique. They need more control over the end result. They tend to prefer regular screen printing over all other techniques.

But for me most of the fun is the surprise of how it turns out. Don't get me wrong - I've made some really unfortunate things and wasted plenty of time and fabric.

But when things turn out well, it's so cool. And completely impossible to replicate.


  1. Dude. That's really cool. And well explained!

    You totally need to repost the pics so that when you click the thumbnails, a much larger pic opens so we can see more detail.

  2. Thanks, Rich. I just saved images much bigger and re-uploaded. Hope you like them!

  3. wow! I want one... :-P

  4. That looks gorgeous!!!

    I second what vvk said, I want one too! Great job!

  5. That's fabulous! Great looking scarf, AND what a cool process? Slim and I have spoken a lot about trying to make money from our artistic hobbies. So forgive me for being crude, but how much time and money did it cost you to make? And if you were to sell one how much would you charge?

  6. Wow, that's awesome! I can't believe you actually made that! And what a nice thing to do for your friend!

  7. I think this is my favorite of your things so far... Maybe you should start framing them and selling them as wall art.

  8. Hey, I'm not sure I like all these covetous strangers ogling MY scarf.

    The name of the woodcut artist is Utagawa Hiroshige, btw; I saw that exhibit and am thrilled you incorporated that image into my scarf. I mean MY scarf.

    Laura Deane

  9. VVK - Ah, thanks :)

    BB - So sweet! Thank you!

    2x4 - I've had the hardest time figurning any of that out, because I'm not good at accounting for all the prep and cleanup time, which is a huge part of these projects. I don't think I could ever support myself with a craft business - too little $ per hour.

    SE - Thank you! I'm pretty psyched about it myself!

    A - Thanks. I think this might be my fave so far, too. I've made a couple wall pieces (borrowed Sam's staple gun) but none framed.

    Laura - Oops, sorry for posting and opening it up to covetous strangers. :) Yes, that's right! Cool exhibit.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. GORGEOUS work. I may commission one or Mom, for Christmas.
    That artist is either Hiroshige or Torii Kiyonaga.


Tell me about it.