Screen Printing: Experimenting with Layers

I decided to experiment with technique before committing to designing and making a new print that relied on layering, in case it failed. I tried to divide my screen this time to utilize the space, and consequently time it takes to print. The screen is much larger than any of the prints I’ve made, so I thought for a multi-layered print, I would lay out each of the components on one screen. I’ve seen this division of the screen surface before in images and video of people printing, but they use painter’s tape, which I didn’t have. I tried using Scotch brand washi tape, which didn’t quite do the job of painter’s tape (which I’ve subsequently bought). I made a pond design (really an oval) on one part of the screen and simple tree shapes on the other part using drawing fluid. This was the first time I used my new brush set, and while it gave me better variance to choose from, ultimately, the medium of the drawing fluid is difficult to control (it is sort of like painting with Elmer’s white glue – it oozes and doesn’t allow for very fine detail). I printed the pond base on paper using red ink and printed my first layer of trees using black ink. I let this dry and put on another layer of the pond print, but this time I mixed transparent base in with the ink so that the first layer of black trees would show through. After the second pond layer (with transparency) dried, I added another layer of trees in between the first layer.

The transparency kind of worked, that is, the first layer of trees can be seen through the red pond layer, but the experiment print looked rough in the sense that I didn’t have control over what I was doing while making the print. I feel conflicted about this, especially realizing at the Salt Market that I am comparing my prints to prints made with another technique that is not dictated by the precision (or lack thereof) of one’s design capabilities done by hand. I have no doubt that people who are skilled graphic artists can create fine detailed prints with drawing fluid by hand, but it feels a little like comparing a handmade (and thus rough for lacking machine controlled “perfection”) thing with something that has been largely made by machine, though still handmade. Screen prints using the photo emulsion technique still need to be designed on the computer or whatever before they are set onto a screen to be printer, but they use tools and techniques (photo programs or photo images) that I cannot make on my own. My lacking design skills are keeping me from making the prints I want; my designing must improve. I found myself thinking of Ruskin and the imagination of the craftsman – maybe I need to be in an environment where I can be inspired by nature. Instead of trying to develop design skills of hand that work with computer programs, I need to find material that I can represent (and appreciate it as having charm in its roughness).

While this print brought new perspective to my process, it also killed my screen. This is my fault entirely as a neglect for my tools; I let the screen sit an entire busy day without cleaning it. I worked on it, but to no avail. The ghost of my last print lingers on he screen. I thought about continuing to print with it, but this screen is now “art” for the apartment. As a means of laying out a design, it obscures too much. And as is evident in the field of the pond, taking it to the car wash destroyed the network of the screen leaving gaps that disrupted the even distribution of ink. I bought a different screen at The Art Store that I look forward to using in making my midterm project. I’m still looking into what makes it feel different – it is not a Speedball brand, the screen is of different mesh size, is yellow, and seems to have a more rigid taut nylon feel (more like plastic) than the soft screen I was using. While purchasing the new screen, I asked advice of an artist there that printed on how to clean screens, since I continue to have trouble. She seemed baffled by this, as seems to be the attitude of seeking answers to this issue, responding that she’s never had trouble cleaning screens. I’m left in the dark. I don’t know what the mystery is behind cleaning a screen, but I’m at a loss for any other elements I can change in my work and material environment. This makes me feel a different type of failure than that of my design capabilities – who would have thought that cleaning up would be the most difficult part of making? It leaves me wondering what I don’t understand about my materials, primarily time it takes for them to set, how long they can sit, and how long it should take to care for them in cleaning. What I wouldn’t give to be able to observe a master printer in their own workshop and washtub.

Salt Market: A Journeywoman’s Travels

Two weekends back, Nick and I went to the Salt Market to check out the crafted goods for sale and to support local artisans. I thought it would be more of a window shopping sort of trip, but we ended up with a nice haul


(not pictured: a fox leather pouch I took back to the artisan because the riveted eye was not lined up on either side of the leather – which started pushing up the leather around it. She fixed the eye though and mailed it to me a few days later: awesome. Her shop is at Lilipad Creations.)

Aside from the fox pouch and the wood ring from The Knotty Owl, everything we purchased was hand screen printed. Stock of screen printed goods:

Nick’s octopus shirt from Blackbird and Peacock

My bat shirt from Silk Oak

The Salt City print from [re]Think Syracuse

The sea creature print and plush from Isaac Bidwell

My handbound book with screen printed cover from Amaranth Press & Bindery

And other things I wish I purchased, particularly from The Black Arts Studio, was screen printed. It’s not just that these goods are wonderful, because they are, but I found an appreciation for the skill and knowledge demonstrated in the goods. I felt like I was roaming form master craftsperson to master craftsperson to study their techniques for my own printing. The space for the market, bazaar like, was small and full of people, so I didn’t get to linger as long as I would have liked to. I wanted to ask each of the printers (and there were more than are represented here) what materials they use to print, what their workspace is set up like, the techniques the use to achieve their quality prints, what their process looked (and felt) like. But I didn’t. Maybe they would have been open to talking, or maybe they would have been protective of their mysteries. I left feeling like my prints were of the caliber of gifts you give to your mom because she’s obligated to love them: thoughtful, and representative of love and care, but craft in a connotation of children’s arts and crafts as hobby. I realized though, that these prints weren’t made from the drawing fluid method I have been trying (and failing) with, but the photo emulsion method. The photo emulsion method essentially burns an image (from a photograph or something that can be designed in programs) on to the screen to print, which allows for fine detail.

Photo emulsion, as compared to the hand drawing fluid method I’m using, is like printing an image of Frankenstein’s monster from a vintage movie poster versus me hand sketching my rendition of the monster – they’re not quite comparable. While I might improve my techniques for making prints using the drawing fluid method, I am still limited to my ability to draw – a separate craft. I thought it odd that I hadn’t thought about this before in my printing: I am the designer and the craftswoman.

John Ruskin

Nature of the Gothic and The Two Paths: Modern Manufacture and Design

Reading Ruskin, if I mapped my reactions, would look like a sine graph, or maybe a seismograph during tectonic disturbances. At times, I found myself understanding what he was working on – creating a way to talk about art by emphasizing design. Situated in time, Ruskin is witnessing the industrialization of Britain, or the loss of nature: a void of art, and the dissipation of periods of “art” as over the top ornate decoration that did not fit purpose or place. Here I pause to wonder if art, as Ruskin is using it, is equal to craft in techne. I think yes/no.

Yes: he is working to give a language to talking about design – being able to know it and understand it in terms of place (where the art is located/situated), material (what can be done with a material to fit the form – but here he seems to focus mostly on human form, which leads me to start to say no, he’s venturing into aesthetic values that shift out of the realm of use…), and office (understanding the position of what one is creating – which I’m equating to balance: some parts of design must be humble so others are prominent).

No: he is romantic of nature and describes art as a condition and creation of the natural (which leads me to say yes because however utopic, he is working toward creating things as living and functioning art in homes, which leads me to think of use and value – made to fit people, as well as a pause in what seemed to be progression toward machination of objects, i.e. not craft)

(Maybe my reading depiction would be a mobius strip…) I try to situate in time why Ruskin’s use of conventional (as opposed to natural) might be negative as equivalent to our standardized. And how his focus on the human figure might be a way of talking about objects that are mindful of the human figure in their design in terms of form and material. But what seems lacking is the workman/craftsman as maker of these objects and the objects he seems to dwell on (painting and sculpture) don’t seem relative to human use or interaction – they seem removed. And then, in mobius fashion, I turn on myself again to say that architecture, in design and decoration, as far as what humans are inhabiting in terms of space/place seems significant to what objects were designed and made in terms of giving rise to them or thwarting them. This makes me think of one of Pye’s critiques of Ruskin:

While Pye acknowledges that life in Ruskin’s time depended on highly regulated workmanship for its continuance with industrialization, he tried to position himself outside of industry, something that wasn’t explicitly addressed in his work, but that had an effect on the position of the worksman within/in relation to industry. Pye summarizes Ruskin’s design/art/workmanship principles as follows (118-19):

1. Men can only take pleasure in their work if they are allowed to invent, to design as well as make (and to do so from nature)

2. Worksmen, by no fault of their own, are untaught and unsophisticated

3. Therefore, their designs will be rough and imperfect

In Pye’s critique, Ruskin isn’t thinking about design from the worksman/craftsman, but as removed prejudices of industrialization not rooted in making. Without this relation to making, and makers, Ruskin seems to be talk about aesthetics in the same hollow way craft can be talked about in contemporary times as nostalgia for the simpler past. Ruskin describes art, this time directed to the workman (or at least gestured), as:

“Beautiful art can only be produced by people who have beautiful things about them, and leisure to look at them; and unless you provide some elements of beauty for your workmen to be surrounded by, you will find that no elements of beauty can be invented by them.”

I can see this moving toward the arts and crafts lifestyle movement, or a return to nature or the countryside away from city factories, convention, and mechanization, but what does this mean to making? What does this mean to the craftsman/worksman? The form and function and decoration of objects? Who got to make art as craft and by what means? (art seems positioned as hobby in Ruskin) Was the arts and crafts movement of the time always positioned as such a binary? (again, I think of the time: industrialization in the process of becoming industrialized.) Also, why Gothic architecture?

The Nature and Art of Workmanship

from Barnes and Noble dot com

from Barnes and Noble dot com

This week, we begin David Pye’s The Nature and Art of Workmanship. As we move forward, I am curious to see how this work relates to what we have been discussing about craftsmanship. To me, the move from the root of craft to work is intriguing, and I wonder about the implications of such a focus in term and what this might mean for the process of making and the product made. To provide a really broad gloss, Pye seems to be working to distinguish the difference between design and workmanship, differentiates workmanship of risk vs. certainty on the basis of whether or not “the result is predetermined and unalterable once production begins” (22), the concept of handwork and its meaningless distinction from machine work, and the contrasting qualities of workmanship – precision and approximation, regulation and freedom. This is rather reductionist, as Pye is careful, slow, and deliberate in his prose.

Traces/Scraps of Work

“Design is what, for practical purpose, can be conveyed in words and by drawing; workmanship is what, for practical purposes, can not. In practice the designer hopes the workmanship will be good, but the workman decides whether it shall be good or not” (17).

This was of interest to me because I saw a connection to our conversations in reading Richard Sennett’s work and dwelling in the embodied and tacit knowledge of the craftsman, or now, worksman (I’m really curious as to this shift in terminology and what it meant for identity and making). In this section, “Design Proposes, Workmanship Disposes”, Pye focuses on materials and the dependency of the design on the worksman in what the worksman can make from materials; as Pye describes it, “Material in the raw is nothing much” (18). This seems to continue our focus on a product that is good in quality and in function. The title of this section though has me wondering about material concerns – proposes vs. disposes – and the relationship between designing and making; here, they seem distinct from one another, in two different bodies and processes.

“If I must ascribe a meaning to the word craftsmanship, I shall say as a first approximation that it means simply workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity, and care which the maker exercises as he works” (20).

I find this interesting because I question if Pye’s explanation of a craftsman as a worksman + technique or apparatus works in the opposite – is a craftsman a worksman? Does his vision differ from Sennett? Does Sennett’s craftsman embody design as seen as somewhat removed from Pye’s worksman?  I also feel more of an emphasis on tools or apparatus emerging in Pye…What significance might these have on workmanship?

“To distinguish between the different ways of carrying out an operation by classifying them as hand or machine work is, as we shall see, all but meaningless” (25).

In the section “Is Anything Done by Hand?”, Pye works to dissolve the distinction between handwork and work done with tools. He states that “very few things can properly be said to have been made by hand” (29) and that “Handi-craft and Hand-made are historical terms, not technical ones” (26). I continue to be fascinated by the role of machines in making and the tensions that exist between human and thing. After reading Pye, and Sennett as well, the relationship between human and machine is complex, and I’m starting to subdivide machine to explore this relationship.

Work Potential

What I was drawn to in reading is not only Pye’s discussion of techn- and machines/machinery, but how he is defining these concepts and their relationship to making. A goal for reading this text, for me, is to take inventory of all the tech- root words and their iterations through tools, production, and workmanship. This is sort of an obsessive side interest in the use of techn- as techne, technique, technology, technic, and so on and the relationship to the conception of materials and making.

image of (even) wider scope

Aside from the required fovea assignments in ENGL 527, I chose the option to make three additional projects in the “freeform bundle” that played with concepts of visual rhetorics we discussed in the course. I created an exploded diagram of sorts recipe for the perfect huevos rancheros (food for the eyes) that emphasized image over alphanumeric text, a vintage postcard inspired image to post to EM—Journal’s website for the summer until our next issue, and a visualization portraying a poll that ranks the best Star Trek Captain by fans. PDFs followed by screenshots:

Huevos Rancheros Diagram

EM—Journal: Greetings!

Best ST Captain

Screen shot 2013-04-22 at 8.37.18 AMScreen shot 2013-04-22 at 8.37.55 AM

Screen shot 2013-04-22 at 8.38.55 AM


Typography Carnival

[ENGL 527]

After reading excerpts from Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen and Rebecca Hagen and Kim Golombisky’s White Space is Not Your Enemy, our goal was to “create a one-page layout with typographic variation that recasts a blog entry (or excerpt from a blog entry). The entry can come from any blog and any date. Your re-presentation of it should showcase type and spacing. Use only one color and not more than one image”. Given that this week is the Conference on College Composition and Communication (which I will follow via Twitter as my panel wasn’t accepted and I’m in between presenting at conferences – Networked Humanities and Computers and Writing – and low on fund$), I decided it would be fun to play with a portion of Collin Gifford Brooke’s post, 4Cs just not that into you?, on the rejections many scholars in digital rhetoric, new media, computers & ____________, rhetorical theory, etc. faced over the summer which brought into illumination/question the nature of the process by which conference proposals are accepted to the flagship conference of composition studies. While my document is simple, it plays with design elements of the College Composition and Communication journal, as well as the organization’s site. 

While using Microsoft Word comes with some limitations (which may just be my lacking knowledge), I attempted to mimic the jumpquote style of the journal, the header/banner of the site, the font family of the site (Lucida), and some elements of the page layout of the journal.

[I feel as if I should claim fair use for using the trademark sun of CCC…Just a humble grad student experimenting with document design for class!]

doc: Rosinski_TypographyCarnival