Module 5: In Which I Finally Make Something I Love

This week felt like we had reached the peak of process development while also having passed the busiest part of the workshop. We didn’t need to make any more colours but use what we had to make a paste that was both paint and mordant. Instead of painting a big sampler of the colours to be steamed and chalked, I made a small chart like the one I’d made at the start. Which I stuffed up, so had to redo it later.

There were no set exercises to do so I tried a few ideas. Firstly, a plaid. I painted lines in one direction, steamed and chalked them, then painted the lines in the other direction and repeated the finishing. In the class the tutors had warned that the gum in the paste could act as a resist preventing top layers from reaching the cloth, so this seemed like a good solution. The interaction of paint between the layers was interesting: the second layer of colour seemed to activate and push through the first layer to the paper beneath, and where colours crossed they mixed.

Screen printing didn’t work. I’d done it successfully on a scrap of fabric the previous week, so I can only assume the mordant-dye paste, being the only change, was the problem. I wound up having to treat the paper doilies I used as stencils.

For the silk, I used one of the subjects I’d listed where the colours were in the yellow-orange-red-purple-green range available. Knowing that underneath layers of paste could be a resist to additional ones, I started with an iron grey outline of fruit, then coloured them in. After steaming and chalking it was clear the orange I’d made was too weak, so I did another layer that brightened them up. I was pretty chuffed with this piece, which I like and will definitely wear as a scarf.

Last in the module was a length of linen. I made block stamps that worked together to create brushes and pencils, and filled the gaps with ‘scribble and flourishes’. This turned out more 80s than I anticipated, but I like it.

This week was the most productively creative rather than experimentally creative. I made something worthwhile despite all the stress and distractions around me. It was also the week of peak jar. I’d started with a dozen or so from my store of jars to reuse, had to buy a 24 pack of small jars, and needed to go back to the shop for more, then added implausibly large ones for the mordant-dye pastes. I did pick up some 70ml ones after this just to get the latter into something less airy, but from this point I started planning to use up paint and free up jars for future modules.