Updated: Aug 13, 2021
When I want some time off from the magic of felt-making I look to magic of a different kind – Cyanotypes. A cyanotype is an image created by a camera-less photographic process using a chemical reaction exposed to UV light. The result is a ‘cyan’ or ‘blue’ print.
Also known as sun-printing - as images are easiest to make on a fine day – the digital images captured during the exposure and developing stages make beautiful artworks too.
I have used mainly flowers and leaves for my images, but any ‘object’ which can be laid fairly flat on top of treated paper and under glass – such as feathers and lace – may be used. In addition, small household objects such as keys or cutlery can be used without glass (or windy conditions) to make interesting collages.
Over the past year I have probably made hundreds of images – not all ‘good’ though! Just like making felt, making cyanotypes is not an exact science. The process that produced a great image yesterday may not work today – the paper, the exposure time, the amount of UV – all have a bearing on the final image. And like I said above, the digital images of the cyanotype (taken with a camera) are often more interesting than the completely developed image.
Fabric can also be used to make cyanotypes and I personally enjoy piecing images together in a patchwork effect and adding a few stitches. And yes, I have nuno-felted some of the resulting printed fabric but am not convinced that the felted texture adds anything to the cyanotype. I have also seen cyanotypes on pebbles, inside egg-shells and on dried leaves - you can try anything provided it has a smooth un-coated surface.
To help produce a crisp flower image it’s a good idea to ‘press’ your flowers first as this not only gives you a flatter flower, but removes any excess moisture which can cause unwanted marks on the end result. I have to admit though to being quite impatient – if the sun is out and I’ve picked a few flowers on a daily walk I like to get stuck in straight away!
The chemical reactions can be further enhanced by adding soap bubbles and maybe even a dash of salt and vinegar, thereby altering the chemistry for interesting effects. See images below.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be holding workshops in my garden – Welsh weather permitting – where I hope to inspire you to take up this magical craft. I’ll show you the basic dry and wet processes and you’ll go home with a few prints of your own. There is a health warning though – cyanotypes are addictive! Luckily the materials required aren’t too expensive, so you won’t break the bank! Places on the August workshops are filling up fast but if there’s enough interest I’ll hold a few more in September. We don’t need wall-to-wall blue skies but we do need dry days. Please let me know if you’d like to come along – and turn September cyan.