Reveal and conceal, Stage 2, Workshop 8, Working with inkjet printers

14 March 2016

I have always been interested in using photographic images in my textile work, so I chose to complete this workshop. As suggested, I started by using Jacquard ExtraOrganza (an inkjet printer compatible silk organza). 


SAMPLE IP1: London and the Thames, ExtraOrganza

What I learnt from this sample: The fabric paper was easy to use and gave very good results. 

The aim of this first sample was to test the fabric with my inkjet printer. I chose a fairly detailed image of London and the Thames at an extreme low tide (image my own).

I particularly like this image because it fits with the topic of ‘reveal and conceal’. This stretch of riverbank and the associated structures are rarely exposed. Earlier, “mud-larkers” had been picking through the beach debris in search of historical artefacts – the Thames about to reveal it’s hidden secrets?

I followed the instructions which came with the paper and found the printing process easy and straightforward. Below is a photograph of the sample placed on white paper.


As expected the printout on the fabric was slightly less clear than on paper, due to the weave of the fabric making the print less solid (reminding me of a slightly fog-bound London day). The colour was slightly more muted than the original; a pleasing effect which helped to add a sense of mystery to the sample. 

A note on further sampling: Once I had established that the process was effective, I felt I needed to develop some alternative imagery before continuing. This is where my sketchbook work came in (stage 4 – researching source material). I used the sketchbook to explore ideas for imagery and image combinations which I might use for this workshop. Because the inkjet printable fabric is so expensive, this helped me to explore many more possibilities than I would otherwise have been able to afford.

In my investigations I have tried to focus on making sure any image combinations are meaningful in the way in which they relate to each other and also to the topic of ‘reveal and conceal. Most of the development work is covered in sections 2 and 3 of sketchbook 2 (pages 4-38 inclusive).


SAMPLE IP2: Portrait on ExtraOrganza

What I learnt from this sample: When combined before printing, images can appear very subtle and will be even paler when printed onto silk organza.

This sample refers to section 3. Development of imagery, 3a) “Ancestry and the passage of life”, ii) Portrait, from sketchbook 2, page 24. In it I explore the combination of a winter lane scene with a digitally drawn portrait.

I selected this image to print partly because it is full of mystery and open to interpretation, and being a tonal drawing I thought it may produce a very different effect to sample 1. Technically, there is a good balance between the opacity of the two images, so I hoped it would work well.

The fabric printed well, but the image was more subtle than I was expecting. The process of combining images with “Procreate”, involved a reduction in the opacity of the top layer. I could have tried the alternative approach of printing the lane image first, then running the fabric through again to print the portrait. However, In this instance it would not have worked because the background of the portrait Is almost solid black and would have completely obscured the print underneath.

If I decide to use this sample I will have to be really careful with the application and how it is displayed to ensure that the images are discernible.


SAMPLE IP3: Screen print and woven sample tracing overprinted onto ExtraOrganza

What I learned from this sample: Overprinting images can be used to produce bolder, more striking results than digital manipulation (assuming a subtle image is not desired).

For this sample I too the alternative approach of running the fabric through the printer twice to obtain an overlaid image, instead of combining the images digitally first. A visual representation of the differences between these approaches is shown on page 28 of sketchbook 2.

I used an image which was traced from a woven sample I made in workshop 4 (see sketchbook 2, page 20), which I printed first. 


I then printed a cropped image of my screen printing experiments on top (see sketchbook 2, page 15)

I think the two images work well together because the top image reminds me of bamboo, whilst the second of flowers, so it has the feeling of a Japanese garden.

Compared with sample 2, this image is much bolder and quite striking. In general the printing worked well, although it is more obvious to see in this example that there has been a small amount of bleeding (see below).

This image appeals to me because it is striking and I like the contrast between the thick and thin lines and the curved and the different form of the shapes.

SAMPLE IP4: Flowers on ExtraOrganza

What I learnt from this sample: This sample reinforced the lessons learnt from sample 2.

I chose two images of flowers which contrasted and just worked visually when combined. The first is the negative image of the screen print experiments (below)

The second a photo of hawthorn flowers (below)

When combined digitally, they form a cluttered, but attractive pattern (below)

I somehow like the complexity (confusion?) that combining the two images gives. When printed onto the silk organza the image was slightly more subtle (see below, photo or printed fabric laid on top of white fabric)


There are bold elements to this design, which are attractive; a strong contrast exists between the dark, intricately patterned background and white flower stencil shapes. I feel that this is diluted somewhat between the paper image and the fabric printout.

SAMPLES IP5: Syrian refugee crisis

What I learnt from these samples: Feelings of transparency and dispersal of light can also be implied by printing digitally manipulated images onto an opaque fabric. 

I combined my own drawn images of nets and wire fences (to represent border control) with images of Syrian refugees which I had obtained from the Internet. I also tried combinations of other images with the refugee photos (see sketchbook 2, pages 32-37). I made a collage A4 page which I printed on two different fabrics. The imagery is not reproduced in the blog for reasons of copyright.

SAMPLE IP5a): Jacquard ExtraOrganza

I started by printing my collage onto ExtraOrganza. As I should have realised from samples 2 and 4, the prints were very subtle. I felt that they were too pale to be able to identify the subject matter, so I tried a different fabric (see next sample).

SAMPLE IP5b): Jacquard printable cotton

The printable cotton is an opaque fabric. When I printed onto it, the collage image was much more successful. I hadn’t thought of this before, but there are actually two approaches to the ‘reveal and conceal’ concept: 1) Print on a reasonably bold image on semi-transparent fabric, or 2) Print a subtle image on an opaque fabric. This sample falls into the last category – the feeling of transparency is implied by digital manipulation of the images underwent before they were printed. 


The bold image of sample 3 is the stand-out success. More subtle images such as samples 1, 2 and 4 will need further evaluation under different conditions to see whether they can be enhanced through displayed conditions. Sample 5a) is too pale to be usable, whereas sample 5b) again needs further consideration. It does not have the same tension and mystery as the organza samples and I am not sure that is can be developed to a successful visual outcome.


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