One of my goals at the DRAW (Dumoine River Art for Wilderness Retreat) was to experiment more with sun printing - but before I get to that I wanted to share one of the pieces I finished this week based on a portion of rock canyon wall along the rapids of the Dumoine River and the reference photo I have been working from. 

This has 5 layers of fabric (upholstery material, organza, tulle, cotton, and felt) sewn together, then slashed, working as an ensemble. The slashed parts represent the crevices in the rocks, other areas are cut back to reveal the variation of rock colours and erosion. I added modified French knots to intensify the crevices and build contrast, and French knots in green where plants were thriving on this rock wall. A small sparkly stone also made its way into this art piece, and a hint of metallic gray and white paints to further enhance some areas of the rocks. 

I have several more pieces planned using similar layering and embellishing techniques, based on these photographs from the trip (and more not pictured here):

But now, on to the sun printing and what I learned:

  • I've been working mostly on mineral paper (paper made from rocks by Yasutomo Inc.), quickly becoming my favourite background to print on with good results so far. I have also been experimenting with old cotton fabric, birch bark, and Yupo paper.
  • My experiments with birch bark prior to the retreat worked out well, but not so well at camp. Both times I soaked the bark in water for an hour. The difference is that at home I ironed the pieces between layers of parchment which stopped the edges from curling and the paint from pooling. At camp, although I tried clamping the bark to a backing board using clothespins, it still insisted on keeping its curls and waves. 
Birch leaves on birch bark
  • With some very hot weather at camp, my painted fabrics and bark dried too quickly and I did not have a spray bottle with me to mist the materials. Some of the prints failed, others were not as bright as expected. The mineral paper however seemed to march to the beat of its own drummer: even though the paper appeared dry, upon lifting the leaves I discovered a fair bit of liquid remaining, drying only after removal of the leaves.  
  • Fern fronds, maple leaves and sumac leaves have consistently worked well on all the surfaces I tried. Others I tested at camp included milkweed, birch, sweet woodruff, and sweet fern, with only the sweet fern giving good results. Thin and freshly cut leaves really do seem to adhere the best on the background. At some point I will test ironed and frozen leaves too. 
  • Natural inks yielded interesting results, especially on Yupo paper. I wasn't pleased with the ink on the birch bark, so overprinted with paint after returning home. Good to know this option can work. 
Printed using a natural ink, then overprinted with soft body paint and fresh leaves
Indigo ink on Yupo paper

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