I'm going to ask you a question and I want you to give me an honest answer. When choosing among items at a grocery store, have you ever selected one over the other based solely on how you could use the packaging to create surface design?
|A sampling of prints made with
DIY mark-making tools.
You know: One brand of cherry tomatoes looks a little more ripe, but the other one comes in a container with a fluted edge, perfect for soy batik.
Or you can buy the cold medicine you like in a liquid, but the gel caps come in a blister pack that makes a nice grid for stamping.
I bet we've all done it at least once. And some of us (ahem) have done it many times.
Perhaps the queen of using everyday objects for surface design is Leslie Tucker Jenison. Leslie has been known to choose a bathmat—yes, a bathmat—for its printing potential.
Leslie uses all kinds of post-consumer objects to print on fabric and paper with thickened dyes and fabric paint. She also uses them to make impressions on a gelatin plate to make a monoprint or to make marks on fabric with soy wax for resist dyeing. Lately, Leslie has been using disposable facial cloths as a resist.
Having tried many of these processes myself with all kinds of found objects (I'm very partial to my potato masher), whenever I meet up with Leslie I hit her up for DIY surface design tips.
|Leslie uses disposable facial cloths
as a resist for surface design.
One thing I often have trouble with when printing with soy wax as a resist is making sure the wax penetrates the fabric as I print. I had an "Aha!" moment as I watched Leslie's new Quilting Arts WorkshopTM "DIY Surface Design: Printmaking Made Easy with Everyday Objects," when she explained how to be sure you're make a good impression with the wax.
Regulate the heat. Soy wax melts at a very low temperature, which is one of its virtues. But it can be like Goldilocks's porriage: the heat needs to be 'just right.' If the wax isn't hot enough, it won't penetrate the fabric, which is essential for the resist to work. If the wax is too hot, it will smoke. Leslie recommends purchasing a new electric skillet dedicated for soy wax melting only, to keep the wax hot enough without burning. (A new skillet helps ensure proper temperature regulation as well as safety.)
Warm up the tool. When you dip your tool into the wax, keep it there for a moment before removing it to stamp the fabric or paper. When the tool you are using is warm, it helps keep the wax warm as it makes the trip from the skillet to the substrate. (If your tool is plastic, don't leave it in the wax too long or it might melt. You have to experiment a bit.)
Keep it clear. If the mark on the fabric looks clear or wet, the wax has penetrated the fabric or paper. If it's opaque, it's not hot enough. You can double check by lifting the substrate and turning it over. If you can see the wax mark on the bottom, all is well.
I love how Leslie shows how to create interest in your design by varying the size of the objects used to print and printing in such a way that the marks travel down and across the surface. I also like her trick of using a dental syringe for drawing and writing on fabric, a silk screen, or a gelatin plate.
|One of Leslie's quilts made from DIY prints.
Leslie has a warm, nurturing way of demonstrating her techniques and showing how to make adjustments when things don't go according to plan (i.e. she doesn't panic like Goldilocks).
Those of you who are relatively new to surface design techniques or are looking for a way to become more spontaneous with your mark making will want to get "DIY Surface Design: Printmaking Made Easy with Everyday Objects," now available as a download and on DVD.
P.S. Have you ever bought anything just to use the packaging for surface design? Was it something outrageous? Tell me in the comments section below!