|Impression of Ivy|
I've been attending quite a few webinars, book talks, and other Zoom offering during this quarantine, and among some eye-catching author talks I found a demonstration of Cyanotypes offered by the Boston Athenaeum. Those are those blue images, like blueprints, right?
Tatiana Cole is the Paper Conservator at the Boston Athenaeum, and she showed her workspace full of tools for fixing old books and paper properly. Among all this, she was set up to make cyanotypes on paper. She painted her paper with a special solution, put an object on top, a piece of picture-frame glass on top of that, and then went up to the roof to let the cyanotype sandwich sit in the sun for about five or ten minutes. When time was up, she removed the glass and the object and there was a distinctive photo image of the object on the paper. As she explained to her audience where we could get our own supplies to make cyanotypes, she mentioned that these could be done on specially-treated fabric, too. That's when some bells went off in my head: I had received, years ago, the very specially-treated fabric she spoke of. I never got around to actually making images because I thought it would be difficult. It isn't.
1. Place item on fabric or paper. 2D objects will be better because 3D will let light underneath.
2. Put the fabric/paper with object on top in the sun for 10-15 minutes. If you have some glass, it might help flatten out any 3D-ness of the objects. I didn't have glass handy, but I'll look harder for some next time.
|An assortment of botanical objects from my yard on specially-treated fabric in the bright sun on a wickedly hot day|
3. Remove object(s).
4. Rinse fabric/paper until water runs clear. You probably want to wear gloves for this. I forgot. I'm okay.
5. Protect your clothing, too.
7. Once my fabric was dry I pressed it.
For a first try, I'm happy with my end result. My fabric was three feet by four feet, and I decided since I'd probably be chopping it up anyway and putting it in a quilt, I'd have better luck in the sun if I cut it into strips first. I didn't want to expose half the fabric while I was dithering over placement of my botanical specimen. I have some great images to use in some sort of quilt, but I'll be dithering over how to set them for months, I'm sure. For some reason, some of the leaves and things made better impressions on the wrong side of the fabric. I haven't figured that one out yet. Here are the items I placed on my fabric:
1. holly branch
2. ivy vines--great performers here
3. fig leaf--great impression
4. magnolia pod
5. magnolia leaf--just a big blob
6. Virginia Creeper to which I am highly allergic, but I used my garden scissors as tongs and was VERY careful. I needn't have bothered--it didn't make a great impression.
7. lilac leaves
8. shells (not from my yard but sitting on a counter in the house)
9. portulaca leaves--too tiny
10. geranium leaf
11. vinca vine
12. camellia leaves
14. juniper leaves and tiny berries--this looks kind of great, but would have benefited from a piece of glass to mash it flat. Too much sun got under.
15. mystery tree leaves (I don't know--my father planted a few of these after all our Mimosa trees died.)
That was my experience, and I'm sharing my photos here. If you're interested in seeing some really good cyanotypes, a botanist named Anna Atkins published three volumes of cyanotypes of British algae. You can read about her and see some examples from the UK's Natural History Museum here. If you're on Facebook, there's a cool site called Alternative Photography which shares some great modern cyanotypes: https://www.facebook.com/alternativephotography/.
If you'd like to acquire your own supplies and make your own cyanotypes, try www.blueprintsonfabric.com (fabric) or www.sunprints.org (paper). Both were recommended by Ms. Cole at the Boston Athenaeum. I had a ball doing mine and felt like a mad scientist. I can't explain why the fabric looks pale blue in the "before" shots, medium blue while it is drying, and grey after it is dry. The medium blue is the most accurate.