Whenever I get a chance to experiment with a new supply or technique, I consider myself the luckiest person on earth. But often I get so wrapped up in the endeavor that inevitably I forget to make notes so I can document the creative process, noting what worked and what didn’t. Thankfully I was able to do that when I recently explored cyanotypes, and I’d love to share the results with you.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent the better part of a day making cyanotypes and sun prints, determined to check it off my list before the summer was over (you can read more about my escapades here). Since making these stunning prints is part art and part science, I figured I’d take notes on my efforts so I could continue my progress the next time out.
I’m sure this happens to you—as soon as you start delving into a new area, your mind starts spinning with all kinds of ideas: What if I tried printing a hand-drawn design on acetate? What if I layered images? By making notes on your experiments, your next time around is bound to be even better.
At the end of my cyanotypepalooza, I had a pile of information, a bunch of cyanotypes, and several projects I made with them. I needed a home for everything, so I decided to make a book to house it all. I was inspired by artist Ailish Henderson, who wrote the article “Stitched Collage Portraits” in the January/February 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. While developing her mixed-media abstract self-portraits, she kept an exhaustive journal documenting her creative process. The book is amazing, filled with notes, photos, sketches, and I was determined to one day do something similar. Having a book sure beats stuffing everything in a folder or envelope that I’ll likely forget about.
You can absolutely use a pre-made journal or sketchbook for this, but I wanted mine to have some custom features, so I started from scratch. I used one piece of 140-lb. watercolor paper for the cover, and determined the size based on my largest prints. The covers are 9″ wide by 12″ high, and I made the spine 1″ wide.
The cover is decorated with scraps from my cyanotype experiments, and I machine stitched them to the cover. I glued a scrap of printed fabric to the spine as a decorative element, but it also strengthens the area. To hide the stitches and shore up the covers, I glued and stitched watercolor paper to the insides of both covers and rounded the corners.
I used mixed-media paper for the pages, creating two signatures (folded pages nested together) of six folded pages each, for a total of 24 pages. Barbara Delaney, the Cloth Paper Scissors managing editor, suggested making pockets to hold scraps and things, and I thanked her for her brilliant idea. Here are two pocket pages made from decorative cardstock (left) and a vintage ledger page (right), also machine stitched to blank pages.
To bind the book I used an ‘X’ stitch (you can find directions here), with one modification: After reaching the bottom of the spine, I stitched back up the same way I came down, creating a solid row of Xs.
Onto documenting the creative process! I love that I can use the book for so much. Here, I compared glass negative prints on fabric and paper:
On this spread I used the pocket for scraps and did a page of color palettes that might look good with the distinctive cyan color of the prints. This will come in handy when I incorporate the prints in various projects.
And on this page, I wrote about my discoveries making a print with a stencil on a cloudy day:
I recently tried monoprinting with an aseptic container, following Rosane Viegas’ instructions in her article “Juice Box Printing” in the Fall 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. I guess I need to get going and make another book for those experiments. . .