Some of the research I have been undertaking around ‘call and response’ has led me to consider ideas of tribes and image projection… what are the messages we give out and how do others receive them? How do we find ways to visually connect with ‘them what think like us about that’ and repel ‘them what don’t’?
One vehicle for this that intrigues is the t-shirt. I like their chameleon like quality, their humour, and their potential for disobedience. It is not just what the t-shirt says but what it is saying about the person wearing it. I will explore this idea further and build in more research to consider ideas of belonging, identity, virtue signalling and protest. What do we project, when, and why? Do certain circumstances allow freer forms of expression…
In the meantime, and as a way to finish my first MA year with an actual real piece of work, I set myself a project that would utilise some of some existing & new-found printmaking skills. Whilst at Catton Hall, for the 10th Bearded Theory Festival (which was amazing by the way), I took ten minutes every day to bond with a pint of Thatcher’s, ‘the perfect breakfast cider’ and make a list of the t-shirts that went by. These were edited to become ‘found’ poems and formed the textual elements for the Bearded Poe(t)ry book.
I was keen to get back into the screen printing studio to get more comfortable with the process before the academic year finished. I set myself the challenge to increase my limited colour palette (there is life beyond the black and red) and explore the outcomes when combining printing techniques, in this case screen print, letterpress and rubber stamping. I used geometric shapes to echo isotype and directional elements as the foundation blocks of screen printed colour and I also included an illustration made by Alys in my sketchbook at Catton Hall, to include a drawn element (her response to what she found).
I over-printed the text elements in letterpress, along with some ornamental border in gold. It was so enjoyable to spend a proper chunk of time on the Arab, printing something for the simple joy of it. The rubber stamping takes the form of a hand cut homage to the Bearded Theory logo, the home-made and imperfect adding a humanity and character to the more ‘formal’ or ‘rigid’ printed elements. The happy accident of printing the stamp upside down was the perfect, though maybe subtle, solution to communicating the New Model Army vs Ferocious Dog ‘t-shirt off’.
I have long been an admirer of Theresa Easton’s work and keep coming back to the egalitarian ideals of chapbooks and broadsides and so for this decided to combine them both.
The broadside element was printed in the garage on my trusty Farley proofing press, not perfect but perfectly adequate, the home based approach further enabling the prINtDEPEDENCE (which will increase once the mice have been properly rehoused after their eviction from the sofa hotel).
The finished ‘chapside’ is Japanese slit fold book with a single one line ‘t-shirt’ poem as a proclamation broadside on the reverse. The whole thing is kept together with the poe(t)ry wristband.
Bearded Poe(t)ry is in an edition of 20 copies and will be included in the Off-Set Exhibition at the Christmas Steps Gallery in Bristol from 29 August until 3 September 2017.
Mood Board Collograph
(l-r): felt, satin ribbon, recycled paper (home-made), tracing paper, lace, corduroy
hole punch chads, embroidery thread, sticky back plastic, masking tape, flex vinyl, found label
ribbed ribbon, wire binding holes through paper, bandage, folded tissue paper, scrim, hole punched board (280gsm)
book cloth, foil, flex vinyl strips, sticky dots, sellotape, balsa wood
The first collograph plate produced was a mood board. Using what was to hand for materials and in terms of composition was thinking about applications for ideas that I am developing but not wanting to be overly precious about it. I purposely used thin grey board and added to it as I wanted to get a feel for the texture and print from a variety of materials. I want to push collograph further and explore additions and reduction by using thicker mount-board and cutting away as well as adding to the collograph plate. The plate had the materials glued on with pva and then 2 coats of shellac were applied.
As suspected the addition of the shellac made the plate much more interesting than the actual prints. The aged look of them was visually very appealing and the challenge is to get the print equally, if not more, compelling.
The first print was a de-bossed print and really like the results and offers much future potential.
The preparation was key and some of the materials definitely worked better than others. The vinyl flex produced a good result but was not very robust, it began to peel away very quickly so would not sustain a longer run without extra glue which in turn would compromise the subtle effect achieved. The material (scrim, corduroy, lace and bandage) worked really well but held an excess of ink and so a second print (without re-inking) was much more successful. It was a good exercise in planning what materials work well together and also in the application of ink and how much to take off. It would be useful to explore this further and try other materials such as tile cement, cardboard reductions, polyfilla, wax, feathers, etc., and build up a reference library of what works and how it prints and also think about substances that can have objects pushed into them… leave an impression to make an impression.
Taking the collograph print further, I scanned it in and duplicated it to make into a screen for printing on fabric. It was a considered exercise to help get a better understanding of this process, how to prepare artwork and files for screen and to get a measure of the amount of loss to quality each time the image goes through a new process.
The collograph image was printed out onto folex and made into a screen. The scan from the print of the collograph needed some work. The original scanned image held too many tones of grey and not enough contrast. It had to be adjusted to a point where it could work. It was a good exercise on how an image needs to be prepared, how it gets translated digitally for output to screen to then get a successful print. The adjustment meant a compromise in loss of image but I was pleasantly surprised at the detail achieved on certain areas that remained. It provided a measure of what worked (and what didn’t!) and will be very useful when planning a screen printed edition of a print, originated via a different process, going forward.
The image was then screen printed onto calico, cotton, silk and muslin. I see the application of this process to fabric as becoming an intrinsic part of something else. This could be a cloth book cover, an actual book, garment, bag, found item, etc. and so the exploration of the results from using different materials will inform this.
The over-prints on the pieces I was least happy with came out really well and as with other areas it would be interesting to push this further with masks, stencils and layers of fabric to hide, remove or enhance. I like the ‘waste nothing’ approach and will continue to keep work, stitch scraps together to re-use as the ‘mop-up’ prints at the end of the day as these throw up possibilities and present ideas and juxtapositions I would not otherwise have considered.