Large scale photographic images are popular now we have the technology to reproduce them on all kinds of surfaces. However, how can the same medium be used for repeat patterns ?
Traditional repeats don’t work with photography when the images run over the edge or backgrounds don’t match up.
Mirroring the image not only continues the flow of the photograph on all sides but turns it into a pattern as unique as a snowflake. Not all designs look great as a mirrored image, as with the layout of this one where the eye is drawn to a strange centre pattern.
Which was easily solved by changing the centre to the outside edge
An interesting thought about photography as a medium is what works for one purpose may not for another. For example, the last two projects of photography for street murals, the images were of buildings and chairs, so the layout was traditional with the images in sharp focus.
In the continuing quest for creating the perfect eco fabric (short of simply re-purposing existing fabrics) I’m experimenting with digital printing.
To date all of my dye and print techniques have resulted in one-only lengths of fabric, with hands on mixing of dyes and inks, fabric preparation, printing, dyeing, clean up, fixing, washing and pressing. The amount of wasted excess dye, water and power use and disposal of salty/soda ash/printing ink infused water made me question if traditional craft methods of surface design is the most eco friendly and sustainable process?
I started thinking about the artists and craftspeople who have health issues from constant contact with raw materials. The build up of accidentally ingested dye powder in the lungs, eczema from handling printing inks and chemicals (gloves don’t work with lino block printing!) the fumes from dyeing with eucalyptus leaves, the caustic effect of soda ash, salt, and constant washing by hand.
So is there a safe and eco friendly method of surface design? Is the artistic integrity in the hand crafted process of creating the fabric? With competition from countries where labour and the cost of living is much lower, yet the skill and level of craftmanship and design is high, is it financially viable to use hand crafted techniques to create one-only fabrics?
A few years ago a friend and I experimented with digital printing on fabrics. A local printer offered sublimation printing (essentially a heat method of bonding dye to synthetic fibres) to placement print our designs. It was exciting to see a digital design that was originally a mixed media collage reproduced on fabric.
However, I didn’t like working with synthetic fabrics.
The next step was find a digital printer that could print on natural fibre, such as silk and cotton. A high quality printer in Sydney was using fibre reactive dyes on pre-treated fabrics. The resulting fabric from other designers looked fantastic, but the set up and printing costs including the special fabrics was too expensive.
Recently I came across a digital printing website in the USA that pigment prints onto natural fibres, with a selection of organic fabrics and silks. The method seems to be extremely low waste, as only the required amount of pigment is used when printing the lengths, with minimal pre and post fabric handling. The printed fabric has no odour or ‘handle’ so is like a dyed fabric. The only down side is that the print is on the surface only, so does not penetrate the fabric like a dye, and like all hand printed fabrics, needs care with washing and drying.
This method of printing is affordable for studio production, especially compared with the cost of making hand crafted fabrics. Digital printing opens experimentation with surface design. Artwork can be scanned into or created on the computer. Whole designs can be the width and (limited) length of the fabric. Hand painted fabrics can be reproduced with some experimentation (as shown in the samples, some adjustment is needed with colour intensity vs fabric choice). Even the look of eucalyptus dyed fabrics can be reproduced, though the integrity of the fabric is questionable!
After spending a couple of months researching images from horror and science fiction films as inspiration for the Continuity Ritual exhibition, I’ve developed a fascination with fashion relating to death and the afterlife. How perfect to discover (thanks to Peppermint Magazine) Melbourne designer and funeral celebrant Pia Interlandi and her beautiful Garments for the Grave.