Monday, May 8, 2017

Cyanotype Leaves

Last year I was introduced to cyanotype - another means of making impressions of leaves, this time on specially prepared sheets which are exposed to sunlight. The area on which the leaf is lying remains a blueish-white, while the surrounding fabric becomes an intense indigo. The first piece I made using this technique was called "Eucalyptus", and was entered in the FAN exhibit, "Botanical Reflections". This is the second piece - "Willows".
The process that's used is the same as used to be used in producing architectural blueprints. The prepared fabric sheets can be purchased in a package of ten, made by Jacquard, or yardage can be purchased. Sylvia Pippen sells this online.
Pressed leaves are laid on the grayish-green fabric under glass, preferably in the summer noonday sun. This will give you the sharpest images, although other lighting situations will also work. The leaves are exposed for 20 minutes to half an hour, and then the fabric is rinsed in cold water. This is when the magic happens.
The fabric becomes a lovely deep indigo blue, leaving an imprint where the leaves have been lying. You can see here how fine the lines are that are left where the leaf (or fern) is removed. As it is allowed to dry, and over the next 24 hours, the blue becomes even stronger.
These ferns were all printed in New Zealand, and may or may not be embroidered (as was the willow and eucalyptus) before being incorporated into my work. I have found that yellow and red, and even lime green, work beautifully as accent colours with the indigo.
This close-up shows how I have combined African wax fabric, Japanese fabric, batiks, and Shweshwe into the piece as well, with the hand-stitching on the African wax fabrics complementing the yellow strips found elsewhere in the piece. I look forward to making more in this series, having found that cyanotype is yet another wonderful way to make a record the leaves I have collected both at home and further afield.

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