I was invited to create a piece for “The Baldishol: A Medieval Norwegian tapestry inspires contemporary textiles“, an exhibition at Norway House in June 2020. For my piece I am creating a cut paper design which will be digitally printed on to velvet. To start the process, I am hand-carving stamps to print the paper with textures and patterns from the tapestry.
The next step was to print my stamps onto paper. I spent most of a day trying to make this work and I was really frustrated with the results. My goal was to get paper with bold patterns but that were a color-on-color effect. I wanted them to read as once color from a distance and not look like brown-on-yellow like this one I tried printing with block printing paint. I didn’t realize that block printing paints come in a very limited color palette, complicated by the epidemic and the ability for stores to restock or sell online. I have a lot of experience color mixing with dyes, but these paints behaved very differently and I could not get the colors I wanted.
So I started to brainstorm other materials that might work. Dye ink pads came the closest, until I had a brainstorm with a little help of my sister. I was telling her about my frustration and what I was trying to do while she was baking something in her kitchen. She made a comment about a drop of oil on the page of her cookbook and how it discolored the page. I had thought about oil as a printing material, but I had convinced myself it wouldn’t work and the oil would bleed too much. But then when she said out loud what I had been thinking, I had to try it. So I poured a little olive oil in a bowl and grabbed a scrap of cotton fabric. I lightly oiled each carved block and laid a sheet of paper on top.
The result was exactly what I was going for! The oil darkened the paper so that I had a twotone effect but the papers were all still a single color. I will admit that I did a little dance around my studio at this point. I spent a couple of hours printing the six stamps I carved onto six different colors of paper and I hung them in my studio windows to finish soaking in (since oil doesn’t really “dry”).