The idea of cyanotype is very simple.
First soak the fabric in light sensitive chemicals, then dry it in a dark place. If you arrange shapes on the resulting fabric and expose it to daylight, the chemicals react and darken the fabric to a slate grey. When you rinse it out, the chemicals come out of the parts that have been covered, leaving a white shape, while the parts of the have fabric that have been exposed to the light turn a lovely blue.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, it turns out that there are two key things:
- It is important to apply the solutions evenly. Sometimes I managed a lovely mottled effect. Sometimes there were unpleasant white gashes in the pattern.
- The angle of the light is important. Where the light came from above the shape, it is nice and clear. If it comes from the side, you get a blur.
I tried two theories for my first experiments:
- First, I used paper snowflakes. I cut out thin drawing paper, as you would to decorate a window at Christmas.
This worked nicely, but I didn’t get enough of the solution on the fabric to get enough colour developing. The pattern came out nicely in some parts, but in other places the blue was just too pale to make the pattern stand out. The big thing that stopped this experimenty from being useable was a horrible tide mark at one end. Bother.
- The other idea was to use wooden shapes from a stationery shop.
The simpler shapes of leaves worked best. Unfortunately, on this piece of fabric I had not covered the whole of the fabric, and you could see the gaps between the brush strokes.
The shapes were clear and well defined, but the overall fabric was not consistent enough to be useable.
The other shape I tried was a reindeer. I need to try this again to work out the nature of the problem. Either the shape is too intricate, or the angle of the light was wrong. I did these experiments in winter, so I used a UV bulb in a lamp. Some of the shapes are unrecognisable fuzzy blobs, but some are quite nice.
This is an idea that has some scope, but it needs some refinement.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode, as they say.