When I last wrote I had got as far as having a set of almost finished ideas for my leaf and tree range. Since then, I have pretty much finalised this particular range of designs. It has expanded too!
I have now got a different “focal” design for vertical, horizontal and square formats. Each one has a theme; the horizontal design (for the lampshade) has a leaves blowing in the wind theme, the vertical design (for prints, tea towels) has a leaf canopy theme and the square design (for cushions) has a roots and seed pods theme.
I was really happy with the designs and send them out to family and friends for feedback. What became abundantly clear, both to me and to my family and friends, was that while the designs work well together they are quite complicated and visualising them in a living space showed that it could all be a bit overpowering.
What I needed to do was to balance the focal designs with some simpler designs, so I used the elements of the main focal designs to create simpler designs to complement and work with the main designs.
The lampshade was the first item I intended to print. I ordered a complete set of Permatone water based fabric inks, six new 43T screens, a new coating trough and squeegee.
Being a bit rusty on my screen printing I decided to get myself a workshop. I went to Squeegee and Ink in Newbury for a day to go over my printing technique in detail. The workshop was brilliant and extremely useful to me. Chessie, who runs the studio, identified that I was flooding the screen too much and sending a lot of ink through the screen. I also took the opportunity to ask about some best practices, such as keep screens in good condition.
Now happy with my technique and with screens and inks purchased I was finally ready to have a crack at the lampshade.
I had purchased some good quality linen, enough to print four lampshades, so I started with that and some some scrap cotton sheeting. In the evening the day before I coated three screens and the next day I printed all three colours of the left hand side of the lampshade, washing out the screens afterwards.
Then, a few days later I repeated the process and printed the right hand side of the lampshade.
Printing at home in my garage has made me start to realise which bits of equipment you really need to have and which things you can get away with maybe having something home made.
A good example is needing a UV free light source to do the screen coating. I had tried a photographic darkroom light but it was so incredibly dark I couldn’t see anything. On the second run of printing I somehow managed to drip emulsion onto the floor, then managed to kneel in it when coating the screens, and then stand in it! Now I know I really need to get a UV filter for the fluorescent tube.
Also while doing this printing I realised that I could not really get away with not having a platen for the fabric. The linen is very difficult to lay down perfectly straight each time in a repeatable way – it really needs to be stuck down to a board for the entire print run.
But printing these lampshade fabrics went incredibly well, it was a really enjoyable experience for me. The ink was a joy to use and it was easy to lay it down consistently. I got into a good routine and at no point did it dry out on the screen.
I printed all four pieces of linen and made one of them up into a finished lampshade. I have to say I’m really pleased with the end result. I was worried that the inks might appear in silhouette against the light but actually the light illuminates the colours and the linen texture shows up nicely.
The colours weren’t quite right, so I plan to get the colours spot on and go for a full production run at the start of January and start printing the cushion covers.
And over Christmas I’m going to really take forward my second range, which is a countryside theme, from initial ideas to finished designs, so I can hopefully go into production before Easter.