I decided to do both the sequencing repeated pattern and a single image, because I had ideas I wanted to try. I have varied success, but the key thing to keep me going is that at least I had a go! Oh well.
The basic determiners for both samples was to use the arch design, and to use raw silk fabric. I wanted to continue to try different ways with this image, as it is so intrinsic to being in Bahrain, and living in a moslem world (particularly as it is Ramadan right now).
I started with the single image, and then did the repeating pattern, but will write notes about the repeat pattern first, as this is the order in our course book.
I played with how to make patterns with the arch, by printing the arch, printing the background, using relief etc, but I then found that if I took the shape with the relief of the walls, and thus leave the arches blank to show the fabric as the smooth plaster, I could make it into a tile, as in islamic art. By rotating the tiles, and changing the colours for each rotation, I built a tessalating islamic design, but using individual blocks(cut from foam picnic plates) for each colour/position so that each is slightly different and there is individuality beyond the mathematical pattern. I should say that rotational symmetry is a real challenge for me and I had more than one attempt to get my sequencing right. Consequently, my block printing improved as I went on! I like the way the mathematical pattern has the idiosyncrasies of hand printing to create differences, as well as my actual creating of the blocks. I chose to use a sponge brush to add the paints, so there would be different lines and marks on each print. I chose the raw silk because I wanted the texture of the fabric to show through the prints, to add an impact of nature, and give an image of aging to the end piece. I chose colours that are close together on the colour chart, so that they would be subtle and complimentary.
I actually like this sample. I wonder if I have not shown enough use of positives and negatives, etc but I have been trying lots of ways to use this image, and this sample shows a growth in awareness of how an image can be manipulated to interpret a local art style (islamic tiling) using not a geometric design but a shape from local architecture. And still with with individuality added into it. The base fabric has an important impact on this.
The single image:
I had been reading through The Complete Fabric Artist’s Workshop, by Susan Stein, to look at the possible pitfalls in some of the techniques I have been experimenting. It is a good, simple and practical resource. I was struck with the idea of sunprinting. Why not try to sunprint the image of the Bab al Bahrain arch, using the hot summer sun to do its magic?
I became very excited and worked solidly to prepare for this. I did not copy the ideas in the book, but just used the basic technique of putting out a design in the sun. I wanted to use the raw silk, for its natural texture and soft drape and I thought this would keep through the process.
First of all, I wetted the fabric and mixed two tones of colours as a background (ochre and sienna), leaving it overnight to dry. I fixed the paints with ironing, and then created a large stencil shape of the archway, from stencil board. I painted over the fabric with a second layer, this time rollering with crimson paint, and keeping the surface wet. I put the stencil on top and weighted it down to stop it blowing, and taking care to avoid shadowing. Then I placed it outside in the heat and sun (a mere 40C !), and left it for 3 hours.
I was very excited to be experimenting and had aspirations for a beautiful sample that would have a wow factor. But oh dear, it is so disappointing. There is hardly evidence that the stencil blocking has changed the colour absorption to be lighter than the general background. If you squint you can see it. I wonder if it is because of the type of fabric I used. Was the raw silk too heavy, did it absorb too much paint in general because I added too much water. Should I have only done one layer, not two , ie was the paint layering too heavy? Was crimson too strong a colour to be affected by the sun?
The usual fabric seems to be thin cotton or silk, in examples I have read about. Maybe the raw silk was too strong.. So I am disappointed that I do not have a beautiful sunprint to send in as my final sample for this project. However, it was a really good process to try, and I will do so again with thinner fabric. I will keep the stencil for next time!