Monday, September 25, 2017

Instructions: Using SolarFast Dyes

Having painted paper since 1995 or so and enjoyed cutting it up and making books out of it, dying cloth to use in a larger work feels familiar. In college, I used to go to the seconds store and get cotton clothing in odd colors, then dye it to something wearable, so working with dye is also familiar. For fear of sounding like an ad, the Jacquard SolarFast dyes are non-toxic, really fun and quite simple to use. They took some trial and error, but not too much. I'm always looking for ways to streamline a process, so happy to share it with you. 

You'll need to print out some high contrast, black and white negatives, or you can place objects on the fabric for a solar print. Doubling the transparencies increases the contrast. When I used a single transparency, I got a two-tone print, which is nice if you want texture, but not clarity.

I first create a temporary shelter inside so I can work in shadow and not expose the light-sensitive dye too soon. It's fine to do this indoors in the daytime. Paper plate, old brush, cotton cloth, gloves, vinyl tablecloth. This is the brown dye.

Pour out about a Tablespoon or two of dye for a 9" x 12" piece of cloth. You can always add more, but don't pour out more than you can use in the next few minutes. Start painting it onto the fabric. You can tape a border to mask it if you want a clean edge.

Cover the entire cloth. It's still pretty light. (Yours won't be so blurry.)

Place your doubled transparency on top of the wet cloth (I did it toner up/smooth side down so I could clean the back later). I printed out both negatives and positives onto transparencies. To get a crisp print, print out two of the same, align them, and tape them together to make a rich black to block out the sunlight. This is one case where a double negative isn't not acceptable. ;

Pin the transparencies and cloth to a piece of cardboard.
Place in direct sunlight.

This is after 15 minutes in upper 70s F weather. Do these on a bright, sunny day if you can. I like to make sure the cloth dries before removing it from the board. In August, between 11:30am and 4pm left me enough light. Exposure time is 10 to 20 minutes. I like to let it go 20 minutes unless it is a very hot day.

Peel off the negatives. What you see is pretty close to what you'll get.

The dye leaves some residue on the transparencies, which can be cleaned off right away by spraying it with water and wiping with a paper towel. If you've left it there awhile, try soap and water. If you want to reuse the transparencies multiple times, make sure you remove as much residue as possible because it will eventually interfere and degrade the printed image (unless this is the effect you want).

Prepare a little bath. I found a large food storage container was perfect for the basin. Fill it with hot water. For this amount, you need about 1/2 teaspoon of the SolarFast Wash or Synthropol (these are heavy duty detergents to lift off excess dye). For good measure I added about 1/2 teaspoon of soda ash (a fix agent).

Place the cloth in the hot water and agitate it for ten minutes by moving it around, squeezing gently, etc. I found that even with two different colors, they did not bleed onto each other.

Rinse the cloth thoroughly, wring it out, and lay it flat to dry. Easy to iron later, but does not require ironing to set.

Regarding the colors described by the manufacturer: they don't really match their descriptions, as other reviewers have noted, so here's the rundown of colors I've tried and how they revealed themselves to me. Brown, blue, and purple are the only colors I found to be true to their names.

Brown: chocolate or dark wood color with slight oatmeal tint to the white parts.
Sepia (not brown): tawny lion tan with yellow tint to the white parts
Avocado (not dark olive!): bight greenish yellow with yellow tint to white parts
Black (not black): midnight blue with grayish tint to white parts
Teal: green blue with greenish tint to white parts
Red (not fire engine red): pink with light pinkish tint to the white parts
Burnt Orange (not pumpkin orange): dark salmon with light salmon tint to the white parts
Blue: pure dark blue, close to what you would expect from a cyanotype, slight lighter blue tint to the white parts
Purple: deep grape purple, slight lighter blue to tint to the white parts

I found that mixing the red and the supposed black make a more convincing black. So mixing may be the way to get the colors you want. All supplies are available through the wonderful Dharma Trading Company in San Rafael, CA.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Art Quilt/Open Book: Hand Gun

If you had asked me to make something about guns a couple of months ago I would have shaken my head. Not my thing. I don't feel comfortable using them as imagery in my work. I began writing tiny stories for one of my favorite little magazines, Blink-Ink; but even though the theme was "Outlaws," my submissions had no guns. (My story, "Right of Way," was published; it has cows in it, instead.) Another call for entries got me thinking. How could I work with this subject matter? After taking an experimental fiction class in grad school, I found that I can learn a lot when I pursue subjects that make me feel uncomfortable. How could I pursue this one? Gradually, I remembered stories people told me about personal experiences with guns. I thought about good and bad and how you might begin a conversation. I began this art quilt: Hand Gun. The repeating visuals, like theme and variations, reference Wallace Berman's 1960s Verifax Collages, particularly those that contain a hand holding a transistor radio. Some of those collages contain guns, too.

The imagery was created using hand-dyed solar prints from a photograph of my hand, three fingers curled. The text was embroidered freehand and is the quilting technique. I letterpress printed wood type with the words: I GOT THIS / GOT YOU / IS IT / NEWS / GAME / REAL.

What really launches a project for me? I must remember, it isn't hard: the stories.


Hand Gun

she told me she got scared at a bad sound and shot through the window glass. the police told her this was dangerous.

during westerns they pointed toy guns at the tv and shot at the bad guys.

he told me his bad sister shot their good mother.


A larger image may be found here.
I've started a new page on my website to collect all the Art Quilts/Open Books.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Rethinking Submission Fees

Artists' books have undergone a change in the thirty years I've been involved in the community. They used to be inexpensive; book artists could afford each other's books. Once they moved to the gallery setting and became more visual and less literary, the prices went up to gallery prices, affordable only to the wealthy. We priced our best and most enthusiastic audience out of the market. Understandably, this was the only way galleries who sold artists books could stay in business. And it keeps the book arts field alive. The unintentional response to that, related or not, has been the proliferation of zines and inexpensive publications, which turns the focus back to reading, and is affordable to everyone. I've found that my artwork falls somewhere in between categories.

As an artist and writer, I want a conduit for my work. I can't stop making it, and I need room to make more. That means I need an outlet, which traditionally was a gallery, exhibition, or publication. Now it can be selling online. Or giving it away. The writing wants readers, otherwise whom is it for? But more and more calls for entry are asking for submission fees. Some are minimal, to weed out those who are not serious. Others are quite high, perhaps for the same reason. For whatever reason, I've been finding fewer and fewer opportunities that do not charge a fee.

I always felt that when artists and writers submit work to exhibitions and publications that they should not have to pay an entry or submission fee. (I touched on this in a previous 2014 post, "Thinking about Submission Fees.") Contests usually require a fee, which pays for the awards. But if you are not accepted, you are paying for something for which you get nothing. It seemed to me it was the responsibility of the magazine or organization to secure funding before embarking on the product. Artists make so little money as it is, I felt asking for fees when there was no guarantee of acceptance wasn't right. (I still won't do it for the magazine I produce.)

A step above paying entry fees is the requirement that if you are accepted you will have to pay (shipping, or catalogue, or print magazine copies). That makes a little more sense since your fee directly supports you. The ideal situation, one that supports an artist's dignity and self-worth, is: no fee, publications free of charge, and getting paid for your work. But in our society, this is rare, except for those who are already successful.

I'm rethinking the concept of submission fees again. Recently, I joined SAQA, an organization that is an empire of opportunities. It takes money to keep it running. The calls for entry are limited to members, but in addition, the members have to pay an entry fee to submit. The venues are good, and the judges are notable. So, I'm coming around to a new opinion. I'm thinking about entry fees now as supporting communities and organizations, which in turn support artists and writers. If I can afford the fees, why not contribute?

Within book arts, we've now established that we can be paid from outside of the community, which is an accomplishment; it fits my initial desire for organizations to secure funding from outside its members. But it limits what will be shown to what can be sold, which in turn influences taste and the field in general. While art is good for the soul of society, art is also a commodity.

But art has no limits. What happens to good art and writing that can be appreciated, that can touch people, but is not salable?

This is where the magazines and organizations come in. No one who starts a literary magazine expects to make money doing so. No one who starts a member organization does so to get rich. They do so because they love the medium, the interactions, the exchange of knowledge, the sharing of work, and the people involved. Organizations want members, and this by nature can also make them more inclusive. 

I enjoy the arts. I thrive on different kinds of opportunities. I've decided to pay entry fees this year and see how it goes. I know how subjective the judging can be, and that just trying one or two times won't be a good indicator of success. I'll go all in this year. But instead of being irritated or upset if my work is declined, I will accept that my fees are supporting a community, opportunities, and the promotion of the arts. And the soul.

View of San Francisco at Sunset 9.14.17: screen capture from the sfbayospreys,org web camera

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Star 82 Review 5.3 is LIVE!

The newest issue of Star 82 Review, the online and print art and literary magazine I produce and edit, has been released. An intriguing mix of art and writing that relates to intersections and crossroads and choices not yet made as well as the comforts we seek from images. I try to choose work that sparks a new thought or confirms a feeling, transforms a situation, and gives us a new view in bite-sized forms. This issue contains an image of an urban art quilt by Jette Clover, and paintings by Carole Jeung,  among other wonderful works. Thanks, as usual, to all the contributors; there is no magazine without you!

Keep up with the news on Facebook.
Submission guidelines:

Contributors to 5.3
Stephen Barber
Rebecca Brill
Natasha Burge
Simona Carini
Jette Clover
William C. Crawford
Lanny Durbin
Jennifer Fliss
Dorian Fox
Phil Gallos
Ann Marie Gamble
Joe Hess
Colette Love Hilliard
Carole Jeung
Richard Jones
Rebecca Landau
Claire S. Lee
Erin Leigh
Erica Lemley
Ray Malone
Nate Maxson
Mary McBeth
Pamela Miller
Claudine Nash
M. Rather, Jr.
Ricky Ray
Hannah Silvers
Tanya Singh
Rodd Whelpley

Roy White

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Art Quilt/Open Book: Seraph

In January, 2017, I had been thinking I might do a book, a kind of typographer's pun, called Sans Seraph: without angel. The project turned out to be an art quilt, which I like better: you could wrap yourself in it like wings or a prayer shawl. 

My journal notes: "a seraph is an angel with three wings—no, three PAIRS of wings. What would you do with six wings?" Apparently, in addition to the wings on their backs, the other two pairs of seraphs' wings cover their faces and their feet. Seraphs appear in the Bible, and they voice an important part of a Jewish prayer that begins, "Holy, holy, holy." I began drawing my own versions of seraphs, based on a variety of butterflies, and made them into photopolymer plates.

I put the idea on hold until March, when I did a little writing for a linoleum block, a contribution to someone else's project.

I printed the seraphim (plural of seraph) on cotton cloth, and printed words in wood type. I pieced the quilt in June, then I let it rest until mid-August, when I solidified the longer text and began quilting. The design of the quilting, which seems to flow randomly, is based on the word holy in Hebrew handwritten text: Kadosh (circled in this photo in pink).

My thought was that holiness doesn't have to tie to a deity or religion. A cousin of mindfulness, holiness can be the spiritual in daily tasks. This paying attention, this reminder that nature is greater than ourselves, can ground us, humble us, perhaps slow us down and grant us a generosity toward others, so lacking these days.

I finished the binding on August 26. Sometimes a project needs a lot of breathing room. More deep breaths.

You can find larger images now on a new Art Quilts:Open Books page on my website.

I'm amassing a pile of textiles on the couch in my office. What to do? After a little online research I joined SAQA: Studio Art Quilt Associates. I was particularly drawn to the work of Jette Clover and will feature her quilts in Star 82 Review this year. SAQA has many calls for entries through the organization. I already have several ideas. Perhaps there is another outlet for what I'm doing, after all.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Instructions: Divided Insert Tray for a Box

It was a classic example of needing organization. I'd been using a variety of colors of embroidery thread to quilt my next project and the skeins were all over the floor. In the studio, I'd just assembled one of my box models completely. Look right, look left, look right again. I could make a box for my threads. But I had a box. It needed compartments. I built a little divided insert that could slide out. It is slightly lower than the box; a small pair of scissors fits on top of it when the box is closed. I could have built two shallow trays that would stack. Here is the basic idea. You can build a box first, or build a tray to fit a box you already have.

We have a case of Fogust here, as summers in the Bay Area tend to go, so we didn't even have shadows while other people were screaming at the eclipse. I watched a little on TV (but how is that different from other TV?), then finished up this model for you.

Materials: a box, book board, book cloth and/or covering paper
Tools: pencil; bone folder; knife and cutting mat and/or scissors; PVA, brush for gluing, old magazines or waxed paper for waste paper

Measure and cut a board to fit inside the smaller tray or bottom of the box.
It will be approximately the same size as the bottom minus 3-4 board thicknesses.

Cut side boards all the same depth, lower than the sides of your box.
Cut two boards the same length as the base of the tray.
Cut two boards the same width as the tray minus two board thicknesses.
Cut your dividers the same size as the latter boards.

Showing two board thicknesses.
You will need room to glue the side boards to each other.

Glue the side boards on top of the base board.
Note how the shorter board is sandwiched between the two longer boards.
Let dry.

Tear a strip of scrap paper and use it to measure from a little under the tray, up the outer wall, and 

down inside the tray, overlapping a little on the bottom.
Trim the scrap paper to this height.
That's how high the book cloth or covering paper will be.

There's the scrap paper on the right.
The length of the book cloth or covering paper is a little past the tray, then roll the tray along the cloth until you have enough to cover all the sides.

Apply glue to the back of the covering paper or cloth, start a little bit from the edge, and begin rolling up.

Make sure you glue down that little flap at the end, wrapping it around the corner.

Trim the very end so it is exactly at the corner of the tray and does not overlap,

making an almost invisible seam.

Underneath the tray, cut triangles at all four corners: snip to the corner, then snip again.

Apply glue to the flaps and wrap over the bottom edges.

Like covering boards for a book. The corners a somewhat mitred.

Measure and cut another piece of covering paper or cloth for the outside base of the tray. It will be almost the size of the base with about a 1/8" margin.
Apply glue and center in place to cover the turn ins.

Lay the tray on its side. On the inside of the tray, and on the shorter sides that will not have the dividers attached to them, draw lines from just inside the corners to the edges of the covering paper or cloth.

Cut along these lines. Don't worry about that extra piece at the overlapped corner.

Create the dividers by cutting pieces of the covering paper or cloth so that they are double the depth plus about a 1/4" margin all the way around. Glue down the boards.

Apply glue to the remaining covering paper, fold over the board, and press into place.

At the top fold, snip from the edges in to the board.

Trim diagonals at the bottom corners leaving about 1-2 board thicknesses between the corner of the board and the cloth you cut off. Make as many dividers as you like. For this, I've made two. Bend open all the flaps.

Measure and mark, top and bottom on the top edges of the tray, where the inserts will align.

Apply glue to the flaps and press the inserts into place, making sure all the flaps are touching the walls and base. Repeat for other divider(s).

Make tiny cuts at the top corners to alleviate stress when you turn them in.

Without gluing yet, fold down the side flaps and crease the covering paper. Pull it back out and make little angled cuts and trims so it will lie flat once it is glued down. Start with that little overlap strip and glue it down in the inside corner. Then continue.

Apply glue to these two flaps and smooth into place by first making sure the top edge is smooth, then bring it down the walls. You may need to bend the flaps as you bring them into the tray so they do not get glue on the other walls.

Draw lines, then make cuts across from the dividers to make extra flaps.

Apply glue and press into place.

Cut covering paper or cloth to fit almost exactly in the compartments. Using the same color for all of these sections gives it a tidy and uniform look and tends to cover anything that might look like a mistake such as an extra cut or fold.

When dry, slip it into the pre-made box.

Originally, this clamshell box wouldn't close. The pieces did not have enough of a gap between them. I cut them apart and re-glued them, this time with three board thickness between the boards and used the red cloth to connect them, like you might make a portfolio or half cloth book (see Making Handmade Books). If you measure just right and have everything centered, the top and bottom edges of the cloth will be parallel and align with each other.

And now it is afternoon, and of course the sun is finally out.