8 February 2016
Textiles 1: Exploring ideas, Assignment 2 – Screen printing
The first stages of Assignment 2 involved compiling a sketchbook and learning screen printing techniques. In the final stage, the challenge was to use the knowledge and design ideas to develop a fabric.
For my sketchbook topic (the man-made environment), I chose the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer. His buildings were a fertile source of design ideas and I had to carefully limit my choices by selecting only the most promising to study in depth.
I learnt that the screen printing process is one of time constraints: waiting for a washed screen mesh to dry, waiting for the glue on a new ‘well’ to dry, cutting stencils, and waiting for print media to dry between layers. I found that careful planning and time management was required.
Through practise, I was able to determine which methods of mask, resist and stencil worked best for me. In my samples I used both Selectacine print media (a fabric paint which sits on top of the cloth), and thickened Procion dye paste (a penetrating medium which preserves the drape and hold of the fabric).
Thickened dye paste presented me with a difficult technical challenge; at the end of the dyeing and printing process, my fabric colours were dull and lifeless. There were multiple possible causes. I set about a systematic investigation to eliminate possibilities and pinpoint the cause. Experimentation eventually confirmed that the issue was simply insufficient dye powder.
The samples I created to learn about screen printing techniques were mostly derived from single processes. For my final piece, I wanted to make a large scale design which combined processes, to create a cloth with depth and strong visual interest. When considering which designs and techniques to use, had to visualise how the elements would combine; dominance of colour, pattern and value, colour interaction. It was not an easy process. I started by creating some backgrounds using different values, different colours and shapes to create texture. My initial choice of colours did not work, and I had to change, using colour theory to guide my selection.
So many factors determine whether a fabric design is successful, including relative size and placement of shapes, proportion of colours and whether shapes and colours reside in the foreground or background. I am pleased with the outcome of my final fabric, which I feel has depth and balance. However, there are a few of additional considerations if it were to be used commercially. Firstly, the many layers of Selectacine print media which I used resulted in a stiff cloth with poor drape. This would have been unsuitable for some applications, such as curtain fabric. The finished use of the fabric is also important when determining the size and pattern repeat – for example, lampshade fabric may merit a smaller design or pattern repeat than one for curtains. A final consideration is attention to fashion trends. Because my fabric was constructed primarily as an ‘art cloth’ I was not unduly concerned, however had the application been homeware products it would have been a priority.