The Cyanotype Experience

cyanotype on linen by April Sproule

  Last August, I decided to try my hand at creating cyanotypes. Little did I know that the more I learned about this process, the more I'd want to explore and experiment with its possible variations. 

Cyanotype is a fairly simple process where you use two different chemicals, mix them together, apply them to paper or fabric, and some object to block the light, and expose the project to the sun or other UV light source.   

Brief History of Cyanotype Printing

Cheesecloth printed on cotton, cyanotype by April Sproule.

The cyanotype printing process was invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842. This was at a time where scientists were trying different methods to develop photography including negatives on glass and metal plates. 

   One scientist, John George Children, was very interested in the cyanotype process and passed all his knowledge about chemistry, blueprinting, and other photographic processes on to his daughter, Anna Children Atkins.

  In 1843, Anna used the cyanotype process on paper to document botanical specimens. Many of those originals still exist today, and you can find many examples of her work online. 

My Experience To Date

Feather cyanotype by April Sproule on linen.

Over the past few weeks I've printed probably 60 some odd pieces of fabric and paper. I wanted to create a stash of fabrics to use in my textile art, and I certainly succeeded at that.

 I tried several different approaches. Initially I painted the fabric or paper and used it immediately. Then I tried doing large batches where I prepped the fabric, let it dry, and stored it in the dark until ready for exposure. 

The process worked pretty well, but as time was running short with the changing weather, I realized the direct process of applying the chemicals and using the fabric immediately was much more efficient.

I worked on both dry and wet fabric, and I definitely like the wet cyanotype process more. I sprayed my dry fabric with plain water or a weak solution of vinegar and water to get the variations in color you see in most of these images. The exposure time ranged from 15 minutes to 3 hours.

Subject Matter

Hand made lace and Queen Anne's Lace cyanotype print on linen by April Sproule.

I experimented a lot with the items I used for resists. One thing that makes a huge difference is how flat your item is. I used everything I could think of including old twine, handmade lace, leaves, grasses, cheesecloth, and old cardboard with cutout areas. 

Conclusion

Oak leaves and net cyanotype on silk by April Sproule.I had a lot of fun doing this, and it was really hard to stop when the weather changed and the sun became even more scarce than it usually is here. That's probably a good thing though.
This winter I will catalog the pieces and photograph them all. I'm thinking some might do well as surface design patterns printed on fabric or other things. I will also try toning my prints with coffee, tea, and other things.

The chemicals I used are from Jacquard, and you can buy a little kit online. Just look up Cyanotype chemicals. And good luck if you get a chance to try this.

 

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