Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Gelli Plate Printing

I've recently done a gelli plate printing class online, run by Carla Sonheim, and have already blipped at least one sample of this class previously. But today I thought I would write a bit more about it here on this blog. What is a gelli plate, you may ask (although I know that some of you are quite familiar with it already). Well in the past people used gelatine to make a smooth surface from which to take monoprints. But the gelli (think of pudding) always was a bit fragile and easily damaged and also you had to make it before you could do anything, which took time, and after use it had to been thrown out and couldn't be preserved. So some smart cookie conceived the idea of making a commercial gelli plate which is for long term use and is ready for action whenever you want. Specially this last aspect made it very attractive to me as I like to follow up on my bright ideas as soon as they pop up in my head.
I've done several online gelli classes already. There are many free on YouTube, and Julie Fei-Fan Balzer ran a monthly one not long ago which you can still buy. I've also done lots of experimentation on my own. But there is always more to learn and so I signed up for the gelli plate printing class by Carla Sonheim. Like her I did my first batch on watercolour paper and you can see some of the results here.
Sometimes I'm showing you the entire watercolour sheet and other pictures show just a detail of one of the papers that I particularly liked. Of course fabric is never far from my mind and I'm always looking at my painted papers with the eye of a textile artist and considering how to get it onto fabric. One of the easiest ways is to either photograph the paper or scan it, transfer it to the computer and print it out onto fabric sheets using my own inkjet printer. And that works very well.
However for the best results I upload my pictures to Spoonflower and let them print it out. Yes, it's not exactly cheap (specially as they are located in the US) but the results are superb. I've used them for quite some time and have never been disappointed. In fact I'm sometimes amazed by how impressive the resulting fabrics look. There are also more and more places here in the UK who aim to provide the same sort of service such as Design Matters run by Laura and Linda Kemshall. I haven't used them yet but watch this space!
But of course there is also another alternative and that is to use your gelli plate to print directly onto fabric. I was recently asked what paint I use and I use a mixture of acrylics and fabric paint. I'm not really bothered about wash-ability as my quilts are all meant to go on the wall so that isn't an issue for me. I'm also not disturbed that ordinary acrylics change the handle of the fabric somewhat. Again this might be an issue if you're going to use the item but not for wall hangings. If you want to wash your pieces you really should use dedicated fabric paints only and make sure to heat set them properly. As for me I concentrate on the colour of my paints and I mix all the different paints to my heart's content. What you see just above and below are all prints made using the gelli plate on cotton, with sequin waste in different sizes as a stencil.
I've printed these sheets, all around the A4 size, this morning and have now left them to dry. I might add more to each of them but it's always a good idea to let them dry and come back to them in a few days time with a fresh eye to see if they need any further work. In the meantime I've photographed my favourite bits so that I can reprint them at this exact stage.
I also try to keep in mind that these fabrics are not meant to be finished pieces like the paper sheets but are instead intended to be used in my quilts so that they will cut up into the required sizes. Therefore there is no need to be over fussy about each individual sheet. I can select the exact bits I want when I need them.

Finally I've had a question about the colours I used on the fabrics. I only used 5 different tubes of paint, one turquoise, one magenta and one lemon yellow, all to be mixed with white or black. If you stick to a limited colour palette the chances of getting good results are much higher. In fabric painting as well as dying less truly is more. It's all too easy to end up with mucky brown or slushy grey although of course you might like that. I don't!


Lenna Young Andrews said...

what a great article you have written Frieda, thank you - well done! I need to have another go at this as I have only played with paper prints . . .fabric is enticing. Really enjoyed seeing your experiments and reading your thinking process. xo

Pink Bicycle Girl said...

Thank you this is so informative, I certainly know more about this process now. I will be adding this to my list of techniques to try.xx

Georgina said...

Great results Frieda! I have been Gelli-plating today too! I have been creating background pages in a Khadi paper book, very quickly and freely - you get lost in the magic don't you!!!

peggy gatto said...

Lovely and so rich with layers of color!!! I just bought some gelli plates and am experimenting. I am taking a class from albie (smith?) in february on making monoprints. you have inspired me today!!! Think I might try an old t=shirt!!!!
have a great day!


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