Thursday, 21 July 2011

Pattern and Meaning class

What a wonderful session this morning!  Our tutor Kelsey is obviously a pattern freak - she sparkled all the way through the lecture, showing some inspirational examples and applications of pattern. 

We had an introductory session in the print workshop.  Things are quite to different to my class at Herts.  There are 2 print tables - 8 metres long with plenty of space around the tables; and one 8m non-print table. The Curtin print tables have a tacky coating applied to them every year by the print technicians, and this tacky coat remains in place all year.  Fabric (any type) is manually pressed down for working, and peeled off when dry.  We were very clearly instructed NOT to get paper stuck to the tacky coating as this is incredibly difficult to get off and spoils the table for the rest of the year.  There is a wheeled print screen holder to which extra large screens can be attached, with a mechanical squeejee so that 60" wide fabric can be repeat printed down the entire 8m table length.

Herts has 3 x 4m tables, to which students apply gum arabic, allow to dry, iron cotton fabric onto it, allow print to dry, remove fabric and clean the table, every time they use it.

We had an introduction to the materials and processes.  The colour carrying media for print is called extender, whereas I would call it binder in the UK.  I assume it is the same substance.  In the UK the technical name is SF20, in Aus it is called hydrotex aquabase.  We were shown substances to alter the effect of the extender - puff; metallic and hicover - I have used puff before (puffs up when heat treated), hicover I think is what the UK would call opaque, used on dark fabrics; and metallic I've not used.  The range of colours here is different.  In the UK, we buy small phials of about 12 different pigments, which you can blend in the binder or by layering.  In Aus, we only have cyan, magenta, yellow and black, and are expected to mix our own colours (like a colour copier using CMYK).  This will push my colour blending skills.

We have to pay a $120 materials fee for this class (and another $120 for my Defining Traditions design class).  Today, as part of the materials kit, we were given a 12" metal framed silkscreen and an 8" wooden squeejee.  We did some trials with hand cut stencils.  We used lithopaper for the stencils (I've used newsprint before) and the lithopaper has slightly more body and is less absorbent so is better if you want to do several prints in quick succession from the one stencil. 

If you want to work on bigger screens, you have to sign out the screen and squeejee from the technicians.  It sounds as if there have been problems with sloppy use and disappearance in the past, so kit is now issued/ returned and controlled heavily.

Today we were shown how to emulse and expose silkscreens. In the UK, students have prepared their images, and give them to the technicians for preparation 3 days in advance of required use.  This has caused difficulties.  However because we have to do it ourselves here, it makes it very clear why so much notice is required. 

Here students book out the coating emulsion with the technicians.  You make sure your screen is superclear (oil from your fingerprints will spoil the fixing) and scrub the screen with a scourer to rough up the individual silk fibres so the coating gets a good grip.  Dry thoroughly (otherwise coating won't stick). Go into darkroom and use coating trough to coat front and rear of silkscreen twice.  Then after 2 wet pulls each side, do one dry pull each side.  Put on drying rack and allow to dry throughly, in the dark. 

We were advised to get good dark copies of designs.  In the UK we would use acetates quite often, but here, because they have a new lamp for exposing, it is SO bright that acetates can give slight grey stripes.  In the UK the lamp is below the exposing glass where you position the silkscreen, and is encased in a lightproof box. Stick the images as required on the flat side of the silkscreen and expose.  In Aus, you stick the images as required onto the silkscreen and position on the glass, and close the lightproof cover and use the vacuum device to pressure fix the screen to the glass.  Then the glass is rotated 90 degrees to face the wall mounted exposing light, you press the starter button and leave the room quickly because the light is dangerously bright.  Once the required time has elapsed, students return to the room, remove their screens, and thoroughly wash off unexposed residue using high pressure water. Then the screen needs to dry thoroughly before you can use it. We were told to talk to the tutor in the workshop before doing this work, as it is noisy and you need to ask permission before doing this during someone's class.  Classes are booked for 4 days a week, so there is only Fridays when you can be sure of not disturbing a class. 

It is quite apparent that there are many ways in which you can wreck the image on your silkscreen before you even start printing.   Quite different to my class at Herts where the screen preparation is done for you.

Instead of using acetates, we were advised to create our images, photocopy them, then oil the paper slightly which makes it translucent, and use this to expose images for our silkscreens.  This was a bit surprising for me, but I'll give it a try.  I would think the oiled paper will mark the exposing glass, so I will have to get used to cleaning that as well!

So for next class, I need to create some images, make up some stencils and emulse and expose a screen.  This is where it starts to get more pressured than at Herts.  At Curtin I'm doing 4 modules, as I am full time.  Every module has homework defined by the tutor!  I'm used to being part time at Herts, doing 2 modules and spending as much time as I like on my homework (as directed by me!)  - although I worked 2 days a week.  Now I'm dancing much more to the tutor's tune.

I need to identify a theme to work to in Pattern and Meaning.  I think I am going to draw lots of Australian plants - this might seem a pedestrian theme, much worked before.  But the way things are linking up in my mind are that emotion and memory are often evident in my work.  This links with my Australian year because it is my Dad's money that is funding my studies, he was a keen gardener, he had Alzheimer's disease and lost his memory; so working with plants that he would have loved, utilising them in different patterns, and thinking about my Dad when I work them, might conceptalise itself in the way that I use them.  And I want to firmly imprint in my memory the time, the joy and the learning that I have here; the brightness of the light, the trueness of colour and hue; the gratitude that I feel for the funding that he provided; and the accuracy of observation of the native plants around me.  I hope this fits with what Kelsey expects.

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