Activity 2.3.1 (writing words or phrases with glue) ran into 2.3.1 (making rubbings from glue drawings) and 2.3.3 (putting colour washes over the rubbings, then they morphed into the Extra Activities (using the glue as a resist, and using inks, Procion dyes and silk paints as colour washes.
I’ve tried to separate out the activities, using notes and photos I took as went along, but really this chapter was tackled as a whole. I experimented with a lot of bits and pieces, and seem to have ended up with a great many sheets of decorated paper and fabric, as well as the transparent surfaces I used for glue writing, so I haven’t used the sketchbook for this chapter, and I’ve stored everything in a box file – the work itself, and the notes and photographs. There’s too much to include everything here! Some of it needs more colour on, but I wanted to get my work posted.
This chapter didn’t start well, and was quite frustrating in some ways. There was a lot of waiting – waiting for glue to dry, waiting for paint to dry, waiting for more layers of paint to dry… And things didn’t always react the way I expected. But despite the problems I really enjoyed myself!
I found glue tricky to write with. My PVA seemed to be very thick, but when I watered it down it was too runny to hold a pattern. In the end I persevered with it thick, but I couldn’t do small writing, and it made printer paper crinkle and buckle.
So I resorted my little hot glue gun, and was going to work on transparent sheets which I recycled from covers and dividers on books/instructions made and supplied by the local college for a computer course I did when I was first made redundant. They feel like perspex or acetate rather than plastic, but they’re not as stiff as perspex usually is, yet not as flexible as plastic folders. However, I was a bit wary of using hot glue on them without knowing what they’re made of, so I used stiffish black cartridge paper. The letters dried and hardened almost instantaneously, so I rubbed over them with a wax crayon, sloshed on some runny water colour, and left it to dry, still rather unimpressed with things at this stage. But when I looked at it the next morning I thought oooh, nice, maybe this isn’t so bad after all!
I got to work experimenting with my transparent sheets trying out different sorts of glues I found around the house and shed. The transparent sheets were brilliant, nice and smooth to work on, and din’t soak up glue like the printer paper did, but the glues took a long time to dry – more than overnight in most cases. And my writing technique needs a lot of practice – it’s difficult to squeeze glue out evenly, so I got lumps. bumps and gaps, but I think that adds to the effect.
Additionally, I should say that my paints didn’t really pool and move away from the rubbings as I expected. In fact, mostly the paint seemed to cover the letters, but you could still see them. Something not quite right there perhaps, but I’m not sure what – paint too thick or too thin? Rubbing not thick enough? Wrong sort of paper?
Some of the papers I used were spectacularly unsuccessful – some of the tissue paper disintegrated because I had the wash way too watery. Others were too thick to get ecent rubbings – like the heavier quality khadi paper or more upmarket magazines (I got a stash of old magazines, maps and dressmaking patterns in charity shop).
Anyway, as I said, I enjoyed this chapter immensely, and was pleased with the results, even though a lot of my work was very messy. I was better organised than I am sometimes, and gathered my materials together beforehand, and planned out my work sessions properly. I even set myself a timetable (which I more or less stuck to) and kept better notes, and wrote the blog a little at a time, as I went along.
I’ve tried lots of new things, and I loved working with the Markal oilsticks on Vilene, and horticultural fleece and things like that, and using inks and dyes instead of paints. And because they are thin you can see through them to some extent, so I got tremendously excited about layering them over each other, or on top of other fabric or paper. I’m still not sure about the best method of sandwiching them together. I tried Bondaweb and machine stitching, but I dare say a glue stick might work.
I didn’t make any effort to brush proper patterns on my paper and fabric – I just sloshed the washes on and let them dry. Overall, I felt I learned a lot about working with colours, because I discovered fairly quickly that bright, contrasting colours looked better for these activities, but if you go too dark or too thick you lose the rubbings.
Findings (2.3.1, Writing with Glue)
Health and Safety: I worked in a well ventilated area, and to start with tried little blobs of glue, because I don’t know what the transparent sheets are made of, and didn’t know if they would react badly with any of the glues.
Hot Glue Gun: I liked working with this, probably because I’m not very patient, and it’s very immediate. It takes a while to get the hang of working with it, and it’s not the easiest thing to control, but as well as lettering you can get long, long, thin, stringy bits and blobs and stuff, which would add interest to rubbings if I could control it better.
PVA: Much more difficult to use than I expected. I couldn’t get the consistency right – it was either too thick, or too thin, very uneven, and took hours to dry. And the rubbings weren’t wonderful. Perhaps I just need more practice with it!
Hobbycraft Tacky PVA: This, apparently, is PVA that stays tacky for longer than ordinary PVA. It looked the same as ordinary PVA, but was slightly easier to squeeze out, not as unwieldy to work with, and gave smoother rubbings. I preferred it to the normal stuff.
Wood Glue: This was very thick, but it was easy to work with because it came out of the container so smoothly. It took the better part of 24 hours to dry and, surprisingly, it dried almost completely flat. Even more surprisingly, I got quite good rubbings from it, as long as the paper or fabric was fairly thin. I enjoyed working with this.
General Purpose Bostik: As it dried this made the transparent sheet look as if it had been warped by heat – part of it was all wavy and 3D and part of it looked as if it had been slightly melted or shrunk or something, all kind of drawn up, like skin round a scar. And it smelt very, very peculiar while I was using the glue. It dried quickly, but it was really, really difficult to get a decent rubbing from it, partly because the surface of the transparent sheet was so uneven, and partly because it dried very flat and didn’t provide enough definition. And I was a bit concerned about health and safety issues – I assume the glue reacted with whatever the transparent sheets are made of, so it’s a good job I was in a well ventilated area. On reflection paper or card might have been better.
Green oil pastel, on paper used for mopping up ink in last pic (it got spilt – bit of a disaster all round really!)
Glitter Glue: Hopeless, because it didn’t adhere to the surface. Whole words fell off, and bits of letters, and it was quite brittle, so more bits broke off as I tried rubbing over them.
Glue that Stays Tacky for Foils: Couldn’t resist a bit of foiling. Sorry. So I’ve done a sample for rubbing and painting as well.
Silcone Sealant (for bathrooms): Very thick indeed – you have to write big! Keeps its three-dimensional shape and white colour when dry – it didn’t seem to have altered at all!.Stays tacky for a long time, and feels slightly soft and rubbery when dry. I achieved the best rubbing by rubbing over the top of each letter very carefully with the side of a fat wax crayon.
Findings (2.3.2 Making Rubbings, Paper, Fabric and Other Things)
Paper: I started off just using printer paper, but as my confidence grew I did rubbings on all kinds of paper – deli paper, tissue paper, khadi paper, brown wrapping paper, old maps, decorated printed and painted papers from earlier work (not so good over thick acrylics, but fine with washes and water colours or inks), paper bags, cartridge paper, old magazines and other pages from the recycling box. Anything seems to work, as long as it’s fairly thin.
The paper needs to be well anchored to the rubbing plate though for this exercise I don’t think it matters if it shifts – I did a few samples where I deliberately moved the paper into different positions to try and layer or overlap the words. I used plastic laundry pegs to hold the rubbing plate and the paper together.
Fabric: Loved this! I used pieces chopped up from a old pillow case, remnants of unused white cotton, and an oddment of very thin silk. Material was stretchier than paper, so it needs to be pulled taut, and held firm. And a certain amount of colour from whatever you use to do the rubbings with goes through to the glue and the surface beneath (especially anything oil-based), but it cleans off with baby wipes, and in any case, it doesn’t matter if you leave it. And it’s better to build up colours layer by layer.
Other Things: At this point I was having such fun I got completely carried away and had a ‘what if’ moment… so I dug out my Vilene (iron-on and stitchable), and the Bondaweb, and I bought some nappy liners, and horticultural fleece from the garden centre (while meeting friends for lunch) and some stuff for suppressing weeds (it looks a bit like black J-cloth). And they were FANTASTIC !!!!!
Findings (2.3.2 Making Rubbings, Mark Makers)
Wax Crayons: Lovely fat crayons (the kind sold for children) are just brilliant on any kind of paper or fabric (and the Vilene and horticultural fleece and stuff like that – does it all count as fabric I wonder?). And you can use any kind of colour wash over them – paint, ink, dye. Fabulous! And I am in love with those gorgeous Neocolour wax crayons made by Caran d’Ache, so I tried them as well, but had a bit of a disaster because some of the soluble ones had made their way into the box with the water resistant ones, so you can imagine what happened when I added a colour wash! But it looks interesting and I like the effect, so I shall pretend it’s meant to look that way!
Oil Pastels: These also give good rubbings and paper and fabric, and resist any colour wash. The colours are more vibrant than those from wax crayons, but I find them more difficult to work with.
Candle (Well, tealight actually, but it’s the same thing): Good resist qualities – better than anything else I used. But I ended with too much wax on the surface, so I lost the rubbed letters. I’d rather work with colour where I can see what I’m doing!
Markal Oil Sticks: I bought a few of these at the stitching show at the NEC earlier in the year, to have a play, and wasn’t sure how to use them, but thanks to advice from people on the Distant Stitch Facebook forum I’ve using them on fabric and Vilene and stuff, and I think they are WONDERFUL! I was a bit heavy-handed to start with, and made a horrible mess, because I pressed too hard. I got along much better once I started building up lighter layers of colour (that seems to be a basic rule with everything). The colours are very strong (much stronger than anything else I’ve ever used), and they are lovely with inks and dyes. Initially the fabric smells a bit peculiar, and feels kind of sticky, and apparently you’re supposed to leave them to ‘cure’ for a couple of days, but they were fine to work on immediately.
Findings (2.3.2 and Extra Activity 2, Colour Washes with Paints, Silk Paints, Dyes and Inks)
Health and Safety: I invested in some cheap disposable masks for protection when mixing Brusho powder inks and Procion dyes, but kept forgetting to use them. And I forgot to wear vinyl gloves, and ended up with multi-coloured hands. It took a couple of days to wash off completely! But I did remember to wear my spare pair of glasses – I tend to wear them for messy/splashy stuff, because the lens are not up to date (though they are fine for close work over short periods) so I don’t mind if I get paint or glue or anything on them, or if they get scratched. Jars with screw-on lids (and labels!) are essential for mixing and storing dye and ink powder.
Water Colours: These are fine, though they dry lighter, so they’ve not always as noticeable as I expected. And they soaked in to fabrics and vanished!
Silk Paints: These were fine on the piece of silk (obviously!), and papers, and Bondaweb and stuff like that, where they spread and flow and look incredibly bright. But they weren’t so good on the old pillowcase, where they didn’t spread, and weren’t as colourful. Next time I use them I’ll sprinkle salt crystals on top, or sugar syrup, because they give interesting effects.
Procion Dyes: I didn’t use any kind of mordant, or the thickening stuff you can get because these were just samples. They gave lovely, vibrant colours on fabric or paper, and I loved working with them.
Brusho Powdered Inks: Again, they gave the most fabulous colours, and I loved working with them.