Experiments in Printmaking at Home

cate pratoprintmakingLast week while my husband and I were making dinner I suddenly had the urge to print on fabric. Like, right then and there.

Why, you might ask? (My husband certainly asked.)

Because I had sliced off the bottom of a celery stalk and discovered that the pattern of the cross section looked very much like a rose.

"What a great stamp this would make!" I exclaimed as l abandoned the salad in pursuit of acrylic paints and fabric. I happily stamped for a few minutes, experimenting with more or less paint, "shadow" stamping with another color, and pressing lightly or more heavily.

I would have kept going, but dinner was ready (my husband finished the salad), and besides, my celery stamp was starting to wear down.

wood block stamp printmakingBut I wasn't finished with my fabric printing experiments. Not by a long shot. You see, a new book, The Printed Pattern: Techniques and Projects for Inspired Printmaking and Surface Design, had come into my possession, and mother-and-daughter authors and designers Yvonne and Rebecca Drury had inspired me.

What I love about this book is that the artists show you how you can get very sophisticated results using very simple, low-tech processes like relief printing with potatoes (or celery) or a rubber eraser. Or, how to make more complex designs using screen printing or stencil printing. Or a combination of any of the printing techniques.

woodblock stamp printOne of the processes that really intrigued me was printing with a vintage wood block, because I have one of those. I bought it for decoration, but I've always wanted to use it. I didn't have the kind of ink that you can pour and spread on with a roller, which would have been ideal, but I did have several ink pads. It took me a while to figure out the best color and ink type to make a good print. I was very glad I followed the Drurys' advice about always practicing on a similar piece of fabric before making "the real" print.

It took my several tries, but I finally determined that cherry red pigment ink printed on tightly woven cotton worked best for my woodblock, which has a delicate design. I would like to have used fabric paint or even acrylic, but was afraid it would ruin the wood.

handmade cork stampWhile I was in the kitchen experimenting with printing, I looked around for something else to print with and spied a wine cork. A few slices off the edge later, and I had a nice little hexagon stamp.

One thing I learned from The Printed Pattern is the concept of using very simple lines and shapes in combination with others to make an overall pattern. I also learned to "think small," decorating, for example, a plain sheet of paper and ribbon to make a very personalized gift package.

The Printed Pattern is full of useful tips and practical advice, as well as inspiration. I can't wait to make more stamps and try out techniques.

We may never have salad without paint again.

What's your favorite homemade stamp material? Lino? Erasers? Vegetation? What have you done with it? Share in the space below.


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