Boundaries: half the story

First of all, I have a little explaining to do as to why I’ve been so quiet. I’ve been out of the loop of screen printing for what seems like the past year. Anxiety struck me hard when my first two ranges started to sell and were becoming successful. The success and pressure of needing to deliver products caused me to pull the plug on the whole thing; I let my products expire in my online stores and stopped working on new ranges. I stopped screen printing entirely, too. I was so anxious I totally lost any desire to continue with my print work – something which had been a dream of mine to do.

Recently, my wife Alice has been trying to help me get back into it gently and we decided the best way to do that would be for me to produce new work for her to work with and the collaboration would create a new range for her. She would be the client and I the supplier.

Well it worked. Firstly, I managed to start working on designs again, in my “digital linocut” style. The theme for the entire range was boundaries. Alice asked me to work on designs for laid hedges, dry stone walls, fences and nettles. The idea was to create patterns to be printed which would act very much as the background for her felt and embroidery.

Dry Stone Wall pattern development

You’ll see that my own process actually meant starting off each design with many more focal elements (flowers, animals etc) and through the iterations of the design, the focal elements were slowly removed leaving an even and fairly uniform pattern with which to form the backdrop for Alice’s designs.

Fences pattern development

With the fence pattern, I began with fences of all angles and other elements such as trees, sheep and flowers which all eventually were removed. In the final pattern I focused on the feel of the texture and intricacies of fence post joints.

Laid hedge pattern development

The laid (living) hedge pattern was even more complex in its first few iterations, featuring many flowers, plants and animals, all of which were eventually removed to leave the living hedge laid down and woven between its uprights.

With the four pattern designs complete we purchased some natural linen and planned to spend a weekend printing. The four colours were chosen and carefully mixed to match Pantone swatches. They were chosen to be good colours for backdrop patterns so as to allow the foreground elements Alice will embroider on to shine through.

Inks mixed

The screens were made on the Saturday evening, after dark. We created the largest possible patterns to print from.

The nettles screen after exposure

With the screens made, printing took place on the Sunday. Alice and I worked as a team: she prepared the fabric on the platens and I printed onto them. Here’s a short video of me printing the nettles pattern.

I’m so pleased to say that the screen printing was a complete success. I was worried about using a new longer (19″) squeegee but it all went really smoothly and the resulting prints were clean and crisp.

Laid hedge print
Dry stone wall print
Fences print
Nettles print

So, what next? At this stage I’m not entirely sure. I have successfully designed and printed a whole new range for Alice. But I don’t think I’m ready to go back into production for myself yet with real customers getting excited and buying things. God forbid.

I’m trying to find a route that works for me. One way might be to only produce limited runs of print work so once it’s printed that’s it. And once it’s gone, it’s gone. I would dearly love to be able to print on paper again as I’ve never successfully done that (I now know I was using the wrong squeegee). My plan is to start thinking about my own designs again and to try to keep it enjoyable and as anxiety free as possible. We’ll see what happens next…

And as for this range of prints, well you’ve only seen half the story. Alice now will be turning these printed fabrics into finished pieces and I will be sure to take some photographs and do a post when they are done.