On Monday night I attended the MCBA Visual Journal Collective meeting, with Roz Stendahl and 18 other members. We met at the Textile Center for a hands-on demonstration of fabric screen printing using an image from our sketchbook or journal. Karen Wallach, a collective member, gave the demonstration as she belongs/works for the Textile Center. The process itself used a ThermoFax to produce the screens. It was quite interesting and loads of fun.
We were asked to bring in a sketch or drawing to use, along with any fabric, paper, or clothing we wanted to print onto. Quite a few people, myself included, needed to redraw our image using black pen and white paper, as we were supposed to have a simple black and white image like you would carve a block print from. I brought a photocopy of a watercolor and ink owl from a graffiti project example I did during the school year. The original image:
So, before the start of the printing process I had to redraw the owl as a simple line drawing in my journal, which would then be made into a toner based copy to be used in the machine. Karen was the checker of images to be used (she wanted us to have success) and she was unsure of whether or not mine would show all the tiny line detail as a print, but I forged ahead anyway willing to take the risk.
The process itself involved taking our copy, matching it to a screen frame size, and cutting the correct amount of silk screen to fit the frame. Our image was then placed into a plastic carrier sleeve and sent through the ThermoFax machine. The heat from the machine "burns out" the toner ink from a gel on the back of the screen, creating tiny holes for the ink to be pushed through. We then took our screen and mounted it to the plastic frame and encased the entire frame and the edge of the screen in duct tape (have to love that stuff).
After our screen was made, we took it into the next room and printed from it. I have to say there is something very magical about using your image to create prints, it just makes me smile to see multiples that are all original. My image turned out great despite the potential for some of the fine line detail to be lost. My only problem came from not quite pulling the ink all the way down into the tail in every print.
Karen had muslin available for us to practice on and a range of fabric inks and acrylic paints to try. I stuck with black acrylic printing ink made for fabric. I printed a couple of practices on the muslin and two prints on some batik fabric I brought from home.
At that point I switched to paper and printed on two bags, the type that come from a wine bottle, all tall and skinny. I also had a pre-painted sheet of heavy watercolor paper, and a sheet of red print making paper that I tried as well.
By the end of the night I had printed on a variety of surfaces both fabric and paper and was quite pleased with the results, and especially pleased to be able to take home my screen to continue to print from.
I highly recommend giving the screen printing process a try. There are several resources for having your own images made into screens available online, just search ThermoFax printing, and I am sure you can find a spot near you that will make screens for a reasonable price. The Textile Center here in Minneapolis will make them in three sizes: 8x10, 5x7, 3x4 (roughly), for $12, $8.50, and $5.50 respectively.
Well, I am off to print my owl onto my apron.