I had a couple of false starts on this project. I started by making up images with shapes cut from photographs of different textures, but the resulting images lacked depth and became quite abstract. Having been to India, I was inspired to make an image that reflected my visit. When visiting the Amber Fort near Jaipur, I was entranced by the weathering of the walls and the brickwork, as well as the very ornate mosaic walls. I was particularly drawn to this photograph that I took at the Lion Gate. I love the contrast between the geometric bold pattern of the window against the weathered varied textures of the wall. I made a sketch based on this whilst I was there, using a tiny woodblock gifted to me at the Anokhi museum to print a representation of the windows.
I have read about alternatives to carborandum, and one suggestion was dried coffee grounds. A print of coffee on cardboard was so successful that I tried test plates of each of the following: flaked sea salt, lavender, mustard, fennel, crushed peppercorns, black tea, cumin, and coriander. The salt didn’t work at all as it stayed soggy with the PVA. I inked them by rubbing ink into them with a rag, and dab printing more heavily over the top. I was particularly pleased with the crushed spices.
- crushed peppercorns
It appealled to me to use materials related to my journey to make the collage. The spices would be good for the distressed part of the wall, and referring back to my collage sample print I thought that rose petals and handmade Indian khadi paper would also work well. As it was a textiles holiday, I decided to do a small embroidery for the window. My test prints of lace and crochet persuaded me that the stitches would print well. I sketched the window on a piece of cotton with a quilting pen (disappears on ironing) and stitched over it. I used chain stitch and blanket stitch as these were the most commonly used stitches in the hand embroidery I saw there. I simplified the window pattern to make sure that the design was clear when printed rather than a mass of dots.
A test print, although admittedly lightly inked, was more sparse than I had intended, and I felt didn’t quite work as it stood. It needed more shadowing to balance the composition. I had made the embroidery a little larger than intended, but I think it still works. I also made a slight error in that I didn’t crush the coriander and cumin seeds as much as on the test plates, resulting in loss of some detail.
I remedied this by adding some Polyfilla to the plate between the window motifs, and between the seeds to create areas of more shallow relief. I then stabilised with modpodge and finished with acrylic varnish as on previous plates. I printed an initial plain black print, which is the sharpest of my resulting prints as details became squashed with each printing from the collage. I then printed a selectively inked version using a dabber.
I wanted to print on coloured paper, and thought the most economical way to do this would be to paint it myself. Whilst the paper was damp prior to printing, I painted it with Procion MX protein dye solution. I had to be careful not to work the surface too much as the paper would end to break up slightly. I used a second piece of paper to blot the surface of excess dye. I found that the paper was a little too wet for the water based inks I was using, resulting in blurring on some of the prints. I tried white on dark, and gold acrylic on blue. I then painted a piece in bright colours and printed black over the top. I was really pleased with this, but not sure how it stands as a finished piece of work. I seem to have a problem in that I appreciate more sophisticated looking work that tends to be more simplified and monotone, whereas I tend to throw everything at mine. I suspect that I will learn how to simplify things with time.