Wednesday, January 30, 2013

hand made is the new handmade

originally posted September 24, 2012

As many of you know, I had a couple of shows a week or so ago. My dear friend and college roommate, Shelly (pictured above), came up to assist me. She has a weird calming affect on me, always has. She is a talented artist in her own right, and always has great ideas. I am very grateful for her friendship, smarts, talents, and loyalty. That girl has stuck by me through a LOT of stuff over the years. It was delightful having her share this whole new adventure with me. 

The Pride of Dakota day at the ND Capitol was a bunch of fun. I met several people I had only come to know online, and it was nice to have a real, live face to go with the names. I loved the setting and our space and was quite pleased with the sales. The Dickinson Harvest Showcase was just two days later. Saturday was a decent day. The crowd was mixed and it was nice talking with folks from the local area as well as new transplants to North Dakota. Sales were good, I was encouraged. And then came Sunday. Lots of people, but it was like pulling teeth to get people to break the threshold into my booth. Made a couple of sales, but it made for a loooooong day. But that is just how it goes sometimes (from what I hear).

I heard a ton of interesting comments -- good, bad, strange, and what...?! I loved it. I also realized that we have all become strangely detached from the handmade process. I heard, "can you do this same thing in a different color?" more times than I can count. Why, yes I can, but it is just not as simple as that. The things look the way they do for a reason. So, in the interest of education, here's a VERY brief description of my process:

Serigraphy ("silk" screen printing) is a printmaking process that a lot people rarely give thought too. Most people know it as how t-shirts are made and that is true. What I do though, it a bit, hands-on than your typical t-shirt shop.
  • Each color requires one screen -- essentially a screen stretched over a frame. Think of your window at home. That screen has to be prepared, often taking a day or so depending on the humidity, and then coated with emulsion. Emulsion is light-sensitive, and a prepared screen must be kept in the dark until it is ready to use.
  • The artwork I use is hand-drawn by me. I do use some computer-generated type, but try to customize everything "manufactured" as much as possible in order to truly make it original. I separate that artwork into the individual colors and make those colors black.
  • I then transfer each color to a clear plastic sheet, called a "positive." So if I have a piece of art that has three colors, I have three positives with black where the color will be.  
  • I take the positives and adhere them to the emulsified screen backwards, usually with clear tape, in a dark room illuminated with a photo-sensitve light bulb.  
  • The screen with the positive attached is then exposed to a light source. I use a light table with bulbs on the bottom and a black rubber blanket on the top. I expose the screen to this light source for 2-5 minutes, depending on the type of finshed product (paper or fabric).
  • Once the exposure has taken place, the screen is no longer light-sensitve. The emulsion that has been exposed to the light has hardened, the areas "blocked" by the positive have not. I remove the positive from the screen and wash it. The water will remove the areas blocked by the positive and leave the areas hardened by the exposure to the light solid, so it's essentially a reversed image of what was on the positive. Pretty nifty, huh?
  • Once the screen dries (usually a half day or so), it can be used for printing. The screen is attached to a table or flat surface using hinge clamps. The back of the screen is facing up. I pour ink onto this side and use my squeegee to drag the ink across the screen. It passes through the open areas onto the fabric/paper underneath. Ta-dah! One color is printed! 
  • The second (and third, etc.) color can be printed as soon as the first color dries. If I'm printing paper, usually a few hours to a half day, depending on the humidity. For fabric, I use a heat source to dry the ink and make it washable. Plus, I let it "cure" for a day or two. 

Like I said, that is a very brief description of my process. My point in explaining this is that I do not simply hit a "print" button to produce my work. Every item is hand made and so every item is just a little bit different, making every item an original. Please do not mistake my intentions here, I am not offended or mad at any of the comments made to me about my work. I love hearing what you have to say. I simply wanted to explain how what I do is considered hand made and that each item goes through an involved process for production. I also realize that they are tea towels, and not intended to be hung in an art gallery or taken terribly seriously. :)

I've been printing for just over a year now, so I am not an expert by any means. But if you have any questions or want to see the process, please let me know.

We're all hand made in some way,

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