Book Report - Breakdown Printing

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A few months ago I bought Breakdown Printing, New Dimensions for Texture & Color  by Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan of Committed to Cloth.  Dharma had just got the book in and featured it in their monthly newsletter. In peeking at in online, it looked veeerrrry interesting.  I've been wanting to play with some real printmaking techniques and even went as far a buying a Yudu machine before Christmas, which I'm fairly certain I'm going to regret.  (The idea of setting up a screen prep site in my studio has seemed intimidating and having the whole shebang in a little box sounded like such a good idea but now I realize that the Yudu machine has a lot of limitations, not the least of which being that the mesh screens that fit the machine are 25 bucks a piece, not counting the $7.00 emulsion sheets that you have to use to make a design.    Maybe I'm wrong and will end up really liking the Yudu machine but I'm skeptical.  I am currently working on my first design for printing - I need to stop being so "precious" about the screen and emulsion sheet and just make something and put the blasted thing to use!)

Anyway, I bought Breakdown Printing around the same time as the machine because I'm actually very interested in non-traditional printing methods, too.  While I like the idea of being able to reproduce an image over and over onto fabric or paper, I'm more interested in organic design - what happens when dye bleeds over its boundaries, or when non-traditional materials are used to create color (like in rust dyeing - some of my most beautiful scarves have been rust dyed.)  The idea of working a single silk screen through multiple layers sounded intriguing. 

Dharma's pricetag of $25.00 felt a little steep for a book only 33 pages long so, being the cheapskate I am, I headed over to Amazon to find it.  Sadly, because this is a somewhat obscure Arts and Crafts book published in the UK and is not available from Amazon U.S.  In fact, Claire and Leslie have just a couple titles that are available through Amazon third party sellers - if you want to spend $100.00 or more.  That knowledge made spending $25.00 seem a lot less expensive.  Knowing that Claire and Leslie regularly collaborate with Jane Dunnewold was also encouraging.  I've never been disappointed with information from Jane.

Now that I have the book in my hands and have read through it a few times, I'm eager to start working with this process.  For breakdown printing, a blank or open silk screen is coated with thickened dyepaste which is allowed to dry on the screen.  A single layer of one color, multiple colors and layers of dye, designs squiggled on with clear or colored paste and/or distressed and patterned layers of paste may be used.   Once the paste is dry, clear or colored paste is pulled through the screen multiple times, leaving a series of constantly evolving prints.  I think it will fit in well with the way I work - messy, complicated but not rigidly organized, fabric and tools sitting "in process" for a long time, unpredictable results. 

The book contains very good basic information about working with color, how to prepare screens, fabric and a work area, batching (or setting) the dye and caring for tools.  Recipes for mixing dye, chemical water, soda ash soak and print paste are found at the end of the book.  This text is very comparable to Jane Dunnewold's Complex Cloth - just distilled and focused towards one technique instead of many.   The text is full of reassuring hand holding and encouragement.  After clear and specific instruction is given on tools, recipes and prep, the message seems to be - you can't really know where the process will lead you until you get there so just get going!

I'm going to try to prepare a screen today to use later on this week.  That is, if I can leave my new beads alone long enough to get to mixing up some paste!



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