Monday, August 30, 2010

Deconstructed Screen Printing at John Campbell

Last week I was able to enjoy the luxury of being a student again with no interruptions, distractions, phone calls etc. Being able to work in a studio from 9 in the morning til 9 at night, although exhausting is also wonderful. I forget how much you can do without the interruptions of daily life. I took a weeklong workshop with Kerr Grabowski on deconstructive screenprinting. I knew it would be fun but surprised myself at how much I truly loved the technique.
The surface design studio at John C. Campbell is great, so big and spacious and another plus - they keep the classroom enrollment low so each person has lots of room to work and move around - only 8 in this class.
Great lighting, lots of windows and all kinds of equipment including a washer and dryer! And the view - being able to see beautiful mountains as you work is just the best!
Deconstructive screenprinting starts with a blank silk screen. Next step is to create a textured surface to sit under the screen. It can be anything from silk or real leaves, corrugated cardboard,
a board you make yourself with string, snippets of stuff, a hot glue drawn in a design,
or things from the childrens aisle such as little crowns with jewels.
Popped bubble wrap and the orange fencing found at construction sites work wonderful.  After creating a textured area for under the screen, you apply thickened mx dyes to the screen. Use a squeegee and watch the texture emerge as the dye catches in and around the nooks and crannies of the textured surface underneath. Allow the screen to dry; on hot days, this doesn't take very long.
You then place the screen over the fabric which has been soaked in soda ash and then dried. The fabric can be white or have a small pattern. Using a thickened print paste mix which has alginate in it, you squeegee over the dried screen. The print paste loosens the dye which prints on the fabric. But here is the cool part, since there are varying degrees of thickness in the dried dye, each print has a different look depending on how much dye is released. You never know what you're going to get.
Here is Kerr demonstrating a simple print - you can get many prints from the one screen.
She went back and added a little more color into the third print using thickened dye. She applied it using a paint brush.
Here are some of the ones I did. These are both from the same screen.
You can see the changes in each print as the amount of dye released changes.
There were some wonderful big leaves out back which we all had to try; I really liked the leaf prints.

I had some rusted fabric with me I wanted to experiment with and used a very subtle color - stormy grey to print on top. I prepared the screen by using torn strips of newspaper underneath which served as a resist and prevented the dye from printing in that area.
I liked the rust more than I thought I would and hope to do some more.
This is such a fun technique. Kerr has an excellent DVD (3 1/2 hours) that gives you very detailed instructions on how to do this. Go to her website for further information.
Lots more stuff to show and share so Until next time - Happy Creating!


  1. Great explanation and review Judy! I'm so happy to be able to follow your blog! Karen

  2. Thank you for this site which I just found. It is very useful and informative.