Art cloth is all about layering. Any given piece of cloth has 10-20 layers of dyeing, printing, color removal, stitching, applique, etc. I love the richness that layering lends to the cloth. Each layer may not be apparent to viewers, yet they all work together to create depth and texture. I like to think of it as similar to a symphony. One may not hear each individual instrument, yet each instrument contributes to the composition. Likewise, each layer of dye, resist, paint and stitch complete the cloth. Leave out one layer and it just wouldn't be the same.
The following narrative walks through the steps I used to transform a piece of white cotton into art cloth. (Action photos are courtesy of Lynn Luukinen and were taken during a demonstration I gave at the Hill Country Arts Foundation. Please excuse the blurs on some of the photos - I moved too much for Lynn to get a clear shot!) Below is a photo of the finished cloth.
|Photo of finished cloth|
I use a lot of resists in my work, and they are often the very first step. I like to begin by creating background texture. There are lots of options for this - most of the paste resists work well (flour, oats, grits, potato dextrin, mashed potatoes). I chose flour paste for this cloth. I mixed equal parts of flour and water (this version used bread flour since that was all I had on hand) and spread it over the entire cloth, then let it dry. Once the flour was dry, I scrunched the fabric to crack the paste, then applied dye thickened with sodium alginate.
|Painting over the flour paste with thickened dye|
|The finished first layer|
Before adding background color, I created a layer of my chosen image - a stylized leaf. I applied the image using a hand-cut stencil with red and yellow-orange thickened dye.
|Adding a stenciled image with thickened dye|
|The completed second layer|
Before adding background color, I reserved some of the white space with another resist. I didn't want a stark white, so I chose Elmer's Gel Glue. It is a water-soluble resist that leaves a soft, ghost-like image.
|Screen printing with Elmer's gel glue resist|
|Adding background color with a scraper and thickened dyes|
|The finished fourth layer - note the "drip" pattern created by the glue resist|
The piece needed more value contrast, so the next step was to remove color with diluted bleach. I wanted to add texture rather than creating an additional image, so I flicked the bleach on with a brush to create spots.
|After completion of the fifth layer|
|Adding more leaf imagery with textile paint - layer six|
Then I added more value contrast by stippling on dark brown paint with a stencil brush.
|Stippling on brown paint - layer seven|
|Applying copper paint with a finger - layer eight|
|Needle felting with hand-dyed fibers - layer nine|
|Applying metal leaf with acrylic medium - layer ten|
Isn't the transformation exciting?