When I was back in Lancashire, I did some screen printing with my sister and Mr Steve — the brain and hands behind a number of great community arts projects in Rochdale. Neither Helen or I had tried screen printing techniques before, and the usual insane excitement that accompanies any craft activity we undertake was rather tempered by the feeling of being total novices. But no-one is allowed to feel inept in Mr Steve’s workshop, and, encouraged by him, we kept things simple, and tried out a couple of ideas.
One of Helen’s friends is about to get married in Liverpool, where they were both at University. Her idea was to translate the Liverpool city skyline, (as draughted by her architect friend Alistair) into screen-printed bags to accompany the hen night celebrations. In the photo at the top of this post, you can see Helen tracing her design onto acetate. The images below illustrate the printing fun that then unfolded. After exposing the screen, she tested out the design on paper, before picking out several iconic buildings in blocks of hand-mixed colour, which were then transferred to fabric. In the third picture you can see a hint of blue Mersey, and the red sandstone of the Anglican cathedral. And that’s Mr Steve there in the last pic.
Helen also transferred her design on to some cotton we cut out to shape, clothkits stylee, to make into skirts for each of us. These will be amazing . . . when we get round to sewing them up! (I will do so soon and where’s yours, Hels?!)
It was fascinating seeing the skyline come to life as each colour was successively printed. In comparison to Helen’s cityscape, my monotone design was rather plain and straightforward. I found an image of a bee, picked out some lines from a seventeenth-century book of emblems, scaled them up and traced them onto acetate in black ink. Mr Steve suggested we gave the screen a shorter exposure to allow for the fine lines of the bees wings and, um, leg hair. Then I took some calico bags and got to work with the ink and squeegees. Look! I made bees!
Having only printed with blocks before, I was amazed at how precisely this process transfers fine lines first to screen and then to finished fabric. Here is my final design. I love it!
I enjoyed the whole process, and particularly the actual printing. Heady with ink fumes and the thrill of making a thing, I whooshed my squeegee about, shouting some nonsense about Franklin, Blake and the printing press above the noise of the vacuum table. I got carried away, made quite a few bags, and thus have one to give away here. Would you like a me-designed, hand-printed bee-bag into which I shall place some other bee-themed goodies? If so, just leave a comment on this post before the end of the month (June 30th). I shall then select the winner at random, and post this worker bee off to its new home.