22 March 2014

Spring Feelings

I have spring feelings today! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, waves are crashing (no ice!!), and I have started working on a new spring-themed art quilt. I haven't worked on an art quilt since I finished my poppy quilt almost a year ago (link). Madness! So I'm pretty euphoric at the moment.

I've been planning this quilt in my head for a couple of months, and today I sat down with my acrylics and some watercolour paper to make a proper study before I start working with fabric and stitch. Yup, it's an important one, so I'm making lots of preparations this time. I'm afraid I'll have to keep the quilt under my hat for a while, as I have plans for it, but I can't help myself: I have to give you a sneak peek of what I've been up to. As I said, I'm euphoric and I might burst unless I share a couple of images.

Acrylics on watercolour paper, coloured pencils, monoprinting

Baby wipes used for cleaning brushes, paint knife and palette.
They make me happy.

Thanks for visiting my blog! 

20 March 2014

Marbles Lost and Found, part 2: paint

In my last blog entry, I promised to return to marbling and to write about paint. When I'd got to the stage where I had access to a size that seemed to be working (Deka Marble Medium), it was time to concentrate on what paint to use. I tried the four different paints I have in my stash: Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow, Deka Silk Paint, Deka Marble (a new investment) and a paint I mixed myself from thinning or spray medium (ruiskuemulsio) and pigment by the Finnish company Emo-Tuotanto.

The first two paints, Dye-Na-Flow and Deka Silk, worked really well. They stayed afloat and they spread out on the size exactly the way I wanted them to. I liked them both, but I felt that Dye-Na-Flow had a better pigment load, and resulted in stronger colours. Unfortunately, that paint is not available in Finland, but Deka Silk is a really good substitute.

Dye-Na-Flow (hot pink and orange) and Emo paint (powder pink)

Deka Silk

As for Deka Marble, which is described as a paint that has been developed especially for marbling, I was very disappointed. My first trial ended in the paints sinking. As it says on the bottle that the paint needs to be well mixed before using, I made a second attempt and made sure I shook the dickens out of the bottles first. This time I was more successful with the yellow and red paints, but the blue paint kept sinking. Other problems I had with this paint was that it formed air bubbles that were very stubborn when I tried to puncture them, and if left for too long, the paint fractured. I also didn't like the smell of this paint. Now, I'm pretty sure that with a bit of fortitude I could make this paint work too, but the question is: why should I? Deka Silk and Dye-Na-Flow worked without hassle and gave great results instantaneously, so chances are I won't invest any more money in this paint, especially since the colour saturation wasn't any better than with the other two.

Deka Marble

The fourth paint, which I mixed myself, is the one I laboured over the longest. It kept sinking and I nearly gave up, but the prospect that with this paint I could have any colour under the rainbow, without having to fill my whole cupboard with different paint jars, kept me on the trail like the little bloodhound I can be when I know I'm tracking something good.

Sometimes you have that sinking feeling...

So after a number of experiments, I come up with a formula that worked. If I diluted the spray medium with water (50/50) and then added a little bit of extra pigment, I got a paint that had a good pigment load, but was light enough to stay afloat. That was a time for celebration!

Fireworks! Emo works!

That's probably enough about paint. Thanks for reading this far! I'm going to return to marbling at least one more time, to write about application and patterns, so stay tuned.

- Annika

8 March 2014

Marbles Lost and Found, part 1: size

Some of you may know that I've spent a lot of time trying to crack the code of fabric marbling. To be honest, the whole process has at times felt like two steps forward, one step back. But I feel I've gained a lot of insights into this art form, and I'm now ready to both write about it and teach it. If you want to know about the process read on. If you're more interested in images of the result, scroll down. ;-)

I've written about marbling once before, here, when I first tried marbling with wallpaper paste as the base, or size as it's called. The results were quite pleasing, but not what I had expected, as the paints didn't behave the way I wanted them to. In traditional marbling, the paints float out on the surface of the size and you can build patterns with circles within circles. Not so with the wallpaper paste.

About a month ago I started experimenting again with the technique, and with different mediums. In many instructions carrageenan (a seaweed derivative also used in the food industry) is recommended for the size, but since that is difficult to find in Finland, I decided to try wallpaper paste again, as well as a size made from potato flour. I had mixed success.

The problem I had with wallpaper paste is that it was very difficult to get the right consistency. If it was thin the paints sank, and if it was thick the paints just sat on the surface like scared little rabbits. A common advice is to thin the paint if it sinks, but I found that with wallpaper paste it didn't make much difference. In fact, the paint seemed to sink even faster when I thinned it. And the point is: you can't thin paint in absurdum, because you'll just get weak paint - weak colour and weak bonding to the fabric. My conclusion, for now, as for wallpaper paste, is that it works well if it's thick enough to carry the paint (I used 10 g of Kiilto Wall Eco glue powder to 5 dl water, but different brands may vary so you will have to experiment), and if you don't mind that the paint sits on the surface instead of spreading out. You'll just have to work the paint a little more to get patterns, and the patterns will be a little different from the ones you get in traditional marbling. Please refer to my earlier blog entry for images.

A size made from potato flour (I mixed a small amount of potato flour (1 tbs) in water (5 dl) and heated it to simmering point to thicken the mix) worked better than wallpaper paste. In fact, the paints spread exactly the way I wanted them to. The problem, however, is that a size made from potato flour can be quite uneven, the consistency changes with time and a skin forms. Also, if you don't get the right consistency straight away, there's not much you can do about it. You'll just have to cook a new mix and wait for the size to cool. My conclusion is that a size from potato flour and water works for traditional marbling, but it is unpredictable and difficult to adjust. I'm not sure I'll bother with it again... Especially since...

... I was on the brink of giving up when I found - drum roll - Deka Marble Medium.

Deka Marble Medium (which I suspect might be carrageenan, but it doesn't say so) does what it is supposed to do. It is easy to mix, and it holds the paints. If it's too thick you can add some water to it, and if it's too thin, you can thicken it with more medium. The consistency is crucial, and it may vary with different paints, so don't be discouraged if the paints sink at first. Here's some advice:

The first time I tried the medium, I weighed the powder (10 g to 2 L of water) and it worked like a charm. The second time I measured the powder with a teaspoon according to the instructions (2 tsp to 2 L of water). That didn't work at all. The paint which worked so well before sank like a rock no matter how much I thinned it. So the third time I measured the spoons with the help of my scales and discovered that 2 tsp was less than 8 g. So the right amount is more like 2.5 tsp to 2 L.

Another interesting thing I discovered was that if the Deka Marble Medium is too thick, the paints might also sink. The third time I made the size a little bit thicker (11 g powder to 2 L) for the sake of the experiment, and to my astonishment, the paint which had worked fine before sank. I then added 0.5 dl of water to the size and the paint was fine again. So, the lesson learned is that marbling is an art form that you don't learn in one sitting, but with a bit of patience and understanding (i.e. experience) of the medium and paints, you will succeed. In my next blog entry I'll write about paints. Here are some images of my work space and favourite samples:

Work in progress

Drying area

Favourite samples

Thanks for visiting my blog! More to follow soon!
- Annika