Now you see it ...
Some people get nervous about sharing their process / techniques. I don't. Mostly because I use methods that do not give exact, reproducible results. Every screen I pull is different. Although years of experience do direct my work it is the serendipitous nature of breakdown printing that makes each piece of fabric unique.
Over the last few weeks I have been printing fabrics for a series of work inspired by those industrial structures that no longer really exist - brick kilns, pit winding wheels for example. I have been printing in one colour - grey - but some of the fabrics have picked up traces of rust from some of the metal objects I use to make my screens. I start by adding a small amount of thickened dye to the back of a screen. I spread the dye using brushes, foam brushes or rollers but leave the coverage rather uneven.
I then use my wonderful collection of 'things' to embed into the dye. I keep some screens specifically for use with metal brackets, buttons etc as over the years they have got rather rusty.
I use different size screens but in the winter, when the screens have to dry indoors, I make sure to only use a thin layer of thickened dye and to use small screens. I would rather clean and make up more screens than pull a screen where the dye has flowed into blobs before drying. Fellow breakdown printers will know what I mean!
Once the screens are completely dry I take off the embedded objects. And yes, I wash them every time. Sometimes I print the screen as is. Other times I use torn masking tape to create wells around the screen. Using torn masking tape breaks up the edge of each print. Having pinned my white, soda soaked fabric to my print bench I print the screen using thickened paste. As I want pale, delicate marks I tend to dump out unused paste if it picks up dye from the screen and replace with fresh paste.
I aim to apply different patterns / textures across the cloth so don't have to worry about composition. Using multiple screens means that I don't get too much pattern repeat. I let the fabric become touch dry before rolling up in plastic and leaving overnight to fix the dye. The fabrics are then washed and dried ready for the next process.