The Cyanotype Experience
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
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
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.
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.
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.