If any of you have been following me on Instagram, you'll know that my latest obsession is block printing. Block printing is one of the oldest forms of printmaking, and it's a simple and satisfying medium to work in. I love the slightly irregular quality of block printed images. Every print is a little different, which can add a lot of interest to a repeat surface pattern.
I digress, sorry-- DON'T GET ME TALKING ABOUT PRINTMAKING. Anyway, block printing is cool because it's fast, easy, and you can get pretty immediate results without a lot of fancy equipment.
For a long time, I've felt a little stuck in my art journey. I've been making stuff like a crazy person, but there's been a lack of direction which as been disturbing to say the least. At the beginning of this year, I vowed to narrow my focus and concentrate on designing and printing my own fabrics for sewing. It seemed like a good way to tie my interests together. For a while I had my heart set on silk screening, which I still plan to get into, but I got restless and wanted something more immediate. The thought of building screens and tinkering with exposure times was daunting. Sometimes, I'm a very impatient person when it comes to making art...there are so many possibilities to be discovered. My excitement to see cool things materialize can quickly turn into an intense desperation. I need to see things happen, and I need them to happen NOW! For this reason, block printing was the perfect solution for me.
I thought for my first blog post, it would be fun to share the process of making my ghost fabric and backpacks.
When I began sketching, I hadn't thought about block printing yet and was still focused on making images for silk screen. I liked this ghost doodle because with my lack of screen printing knowledge, I knew I needed a straight forward image to play with. Screen printing can handle complex designs, but I had no idea how my homemade screens would fare (not that I ever got around to making them...)
Luckily for me, the simple shapes of these cute little guys made them a perfect contender for a speedy block print.
2. Repeat Pattern Testing + Color Brainstorm
3. Designing + Carving the Block
4. Dyeing + Printing the Fabric
I had some fairly heavyweight cotton laying around that I planned to print on, but I decided to dye it first. The color of hand-dyed fabric is nicely nuanced and is more pleasing to the eye than industrially dyed fabrics, in my opinion. I'd highly recommend visiting the RIT dye website if you want to dye stuff. They have straight forward instructions on the dye process, and a huge library of color formulas so you can get the exact color you're hoping for. Of course, I had to go with "Old Gold," my best-yellow-friend. The blue was called "Serenity."
Printing is really exciting at first, but when you have a ton of fabric to print, it can get monotonous! I like to put something on to occupy my mind in the background, like a favorite TV show, podcast, or playlist. Printing is kind of messy, but as long as you have a clear table to work on, it's perfectly manageable. Jacquard Versatex Screen Printing Inks have been working out well for me. They're water-based so cleanup is quick, and the colors are rich. They're not that expensive, either!
5. Sewing the Backpacks!
A month or so ago, I made some small, lined drawstring bags using a tutorial by Polkadot Chair. For my first backpack, I applied the same concept and added some parachute chord straps. My dad loves knots, and I was able to come up with a neat noose (eek!) slip-knot to use so the straps could be adjustable.
I was pretty happy with the drawstring backpack, but of course, I wanted more.
For the second, I added a flap, handle, and sewed some fabric straps. To fasten the flap, I dug out some polymer clay and made a little ghost button!!! Yesss!! That may be my favorite part. I learned A LOT from trying to make this backpack, and I wish I had recorded things better as I went. I'll have to make another so that I can come up with a solid pattern to have around. The one thing I would change on this backpack design is the d-rings on the straps. They're OK, but I think there must be a cleaner solution.
For all of you that made it this far, THANK YOU for reading my first blog post! I can't wait to continue to share my creations, thoughts, and art-making processes with you. I'm already in the works of printing some more ghost fabric (this time in another color) and I have some plans for purses and zip pouches that I'm super excited about :) Until next time!