Friday, March 27, 2015

Blogging for Frigg: Eat Your Heart Out, Easter Bunny

The finished Egg
As I mentioned recently, I'm working on a project to make art out of a goose egg. Today my egg had its second round of exposure. The first exposure was too short, and although the egg looked very nice in its latent form (pictured below), it didn't end up turning out well. Half the image just washed right off. Even the remaining half of the egg was just pale and splotchy.

Fortunately, you can wipe a cyanotype. Well, sorta. I bathed the egg in a borax solution, which reduced the blue cyanotype to yellow. Then I just coated over the yellow image. The original image is still there, it just isn't visible. If this egg was placed in tannic acid, the original image would re-appear... so whoever ends up with this egg shouldn't try dunking it in tea or coffee.

I'm not sure that I really enjoy printing on eggs. The initial coating is a pain in the butt, and wastes a ton of chemistry. But, after that, it really isn't that bad. The second time around, I accelerated the coating process using a hair dryer on cool to help each layer of chemistry dry. Eggshell may not be the best surface; it seems to naturally resist chemistry in certain places. It may have some kind of residual coating, or simply have surface defects. On smaller eggs, dipping may be possible, but honestly I want to avoid that because of the sheer amount of chemistry required. If working cyanotype solution could be stored long-term, it'd be different... but it goes bad too quickly, and I don't use much on a regular basis. Possibly when I get into serious production mode on my grant, I'll make up a big batch and dip some eggs.

Once everything was coated, I used the same packing-tape-negative method that I do to print on bones, and it was quite effective. The leaves are from Carolina Geraniums, which are little weeds that grow everywhere. I like the intricate leaf shape. There were a few extra leaves left over, so I'm drying them in contact frames. Might use some of the smaller ones for jewelry, and some of the larger ones for the grant prints.

Exposure on a three dimensional object is always challenging, especially when you want even lighting on both sides. The first time, I tried rotating the egg on a stand, but I the second managed to rig a wire through the egg and hang it out to expose. The hanging method seems a lot better, especially since I can hang it just out of direct sunlight and it gets a much more even exposure. I still went out and turned the egg after an hour, then let it have the rest of evening (2.5 hours more) on the other side.

Developing the egg is actually very simple. The shell doesn't really hold onto chemistry, so it develops very quickly, no extended rinses necessary. Afterwards, I found rubbing hydrogen peroxide on with a paper towel to be effective the first time, but the second I just dunked the egg into water and added the peroxide to be sure I didn't miss any spots.

I finally gave the egg a short dunk in borax, just to clear the highlights a bit and add contrast. A few seconds only, then a thorough rinse to remove any borax clinging to the surface. I got the idea from the first time I bleached the egg clean; as soon as it went into the bath the few leaf-prints that had manifested cleaned up and gained more contrast, while the blues only faded a tiny bit. So I made use of that on the finished egg. A little more of the underlaying texture showed up after the bleaching, but I don't mind it at all.

So, overall, the results were encouraging. Despite initially poor results, I was able to clearly identify the problem and correct it. It was absolutely a result of insufficient exposure on the first run, classic issue and easy to fix. First run, it was outside for an hour total. Today it went out at 3:30 PM and is still outside, enjoying the longer evening sunlight. Even better, today was overcast and the light was extremely diffuse. That will counteracted the one-sided issue I ran into last time.

So, let's look at photos of the first exposure run? Yes, let's! Even though the result was flawed, they give a good sense of the process I went through. Unfortunately, I did not record the egg hanging from its wire on the second exposure. You'll just have to imagine it.

Uncoated Egg
First Coat, Still Wet
Coated and Dried
Exposure In-Progress
First Latent Image
Developed First Result

And that's how it was done! I much prefer the final result (image at top!) to the first run. It was fun writing this all out, Spiders. I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoy trying something new and challenging! I've also been making more of my regular parchment prints, and I'll have to scan those soon. So far, nothing crazy or innovative. Just refining my existing techniques and starting to work on the grant. It should be great!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Blogging for Thor: Milestones

Go Lesley University Lynxes! Apparently?
Hello there, Spiders. You recall how I've been complaining about graduate school? Well, now I have a new complaint: Boston is expensive as hell! Why does this matter? This matters because I've been accepted to the MFA program at Lesley University. I'll get to study with Christopher James, Dan Estabrook and some amazing fellow graduate students.

When I got the news on Monday, I had to sit down for a bit. In 2013, I applied to two schools and was rejected. The same thing happened (at two new places). It was through the Facebook Alternative Photographic Processes group that I learned of Lesley's program. Christopher James, who I can't stress enough, is the guy that wrote the book on alternative processes, suggested that my work seemed like a good fit for Lesley. He was supportive and encouraging during my application process and I'm so happy to be headed up to the north this Fall.

Now I just have to find a place to live up there, and a way to pay for everything. That's going to be a whole new series of challenges. Sure hoping that Senator Warren manages to pass some of those student loan reform bills she keeps yelling about! Go, Warren, go!

What else is there to report, my Spiders? Well, not much amazing. But I did recently break 150 entries in my Folded Paper Project (Flickr) that I've been working on using Instagram. That's 150 solid (ok, mostly solid) days of abstract paper photos. I'm pretty impressed with me!

Cheers, Spiders! I'll see you all next week!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blogging for Waterfowl: An Eggcellent Opportunity

One of the goose eggs to be made into art!
My friend Troy Tomlinson was recently transporting some rescued geese and found that they had laid eggs in his vehicle. Troy reached out to the local artist community and five of us agreed to make egg art.

In my case, I'll be coating the egg with cyanotype chemistry, then taping some plants onto the eggs and making a Cyanotype Egg. I've managed to print on all kinds of weird things, but never goose eggs. This should be fun!

Jane Wiley, another local art friend, will be doing one of the eggs as well. She'll be doing Laser Transfer, or Tea Paper Printing!

Once they're finished, the eggs will be auctioned off to raise money for Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Blogging for Freya: Friday Failures

Well my dear Spiders, I don't have a post tonight. I have some things to post about, but I am very tired. I'm going to bed, like a responsible adult who has appointments and errands to get done tomorrow. Then, like an irresponsible adult, I'm going to a concert tomorrow night. So there will almost certainly not be a blog entry on Saturday. It'll be Sunday before I get anything of substance up. Hey, at least I have a timeline for my failures, right?

So look forward to an update Sunday regarding the new shipment of Osage Orange wood that arrived on Wednesday. I have some plans for it, and some of the pieces are just so tiny and adorable. With the weather turning nice, I can do a lot more printing because 1) there's sunlight, and 2) my studio isn't freezing anymore. My students have next week off for Spring Break, so I'm hoping to get a bunch of printing done. It oughta be super fun, and a big push towards finishing up my grant project.

Cheers, Spiders!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Blogging for Freya: Wood I? Should I?

Mock-up of presentation
As part of my on-going experiments with how to present the parchment cyanotypes, I ordered three slices of "live" Osage Orange wood. They arrived a while ago, but I've been lazy as far as printing goes. The weather hasn't helped, but I really should have been more productive lately. Anyway, I finally cut a sheet of parchment down into an appropriately shaped ovoid and made a print. Using some double-sided tape, I mocked up a presentation of the parchment print on the hardwood slice.

I really, really like the result. Right now, for my grant, this is not cost-effective. Each slice of wood costs about $6 and shipping can get expensive because of the weight. I'm trying to keep material costs for these things fairly low. For the future, though, I am loving this idea. The color of Osage Orange wood really complements the cyanotype blue, the live wood surface brings the natural connection back to the foreground and fits with the organic surface of the parchment. It just fits so nicely.  Plus, with a thick (half inch or better) piece of wood, I can just use a power drill to add a small hole in the back instead of hanging hardware. So simple! How about you, Spiders? Does anyone have thoughts about this presentation? Is it great, terrible, average?

One of the three slices of "live" osage orange
I'm still trying to see if there's a way to track
down local supplies of Osage Orange here in the Charlotte area. The trees grow in North Carolina, but they're mostly cultivated as ornamentals. I don't have a lot of wood-craft contacts that can help me find people dealing with raw Osage Orange logs, which is what I want. I can get finished boards, but that loses everything I want from the bark-edged cross-sections.

Eh, who knows? $6 isn't that bad for these discs, especially because they're sanded to a glassy finish and oiled for me. Doing that labor myself would be a big investment, since I'm not practiced at it. If you need something done... find someone who does it really well, because they do it faster. I do photography really well, someone else can do the woodwork. For now.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Blogging for Sol: Calves, Goats and Sheep, Oh My!

My new samples, as packaged by Pergamena. So thoughtful!
The lovely folks at Pergamena sent me my latest order of scrap parchment and they were willing to organize them by species. So I have plenty of small to medium rectangles of deer, goat, calf and sheep parchment. The nice thing is that with this fairly large sample size, I can now identify older pieces by their species. This will help me control variables in future experiments.

With these samples, I have been able to identify that, up to this point, I've been working primarily on goat and calf skin. Reviewing my prints up to this point it doesn't appear that I've had deer skin in my shipments. Let's talk about what each kind of skin is like!

Calf: Clean and white, with small pores. Extremely similar to Goat, really. However, the notes that Pergamena provides on how to tell their species apart don't exactly match my experiences. I think my Sheep and Calf envelopes may have been swapped. Calf has a very nice surface, and so far seems to react well to washing, even with the "fat" wrinkles. They appear as slightly "off" streaks on the surface, only really showing up when I apply chemistry or wet the parchment. Sometimes the wrinkles form an interesting background to the image. I believe I've used Calf in the past without knowing it.
Deer: All my pieces of deer parchment are two-faced, ranging from light tan to soft brown, with streaks of darker and lighter colors on the "skin" side. The opposite side is a light tan velvet surface. I've been printing on the velvet side, which gives my images a golden hue in the highlights. The skin side is too slick to apply chemistry evenly, though I may attempt to print on it anyway in the future. The texture there is very nice, and worth some experimentation. I had never used Deer until getting these samples; it is distinct enough to be positive about that.
Goat: Appears clean and white, with large pores. The pores show up as "pebbles" on the surface of the skin. I believe most of my successful to-date have been on Goat parchment. It has a smooth, almost featureless surface on one side, and the characteristic pores on the opposite side. It depends on the piece which side is better for coating, but generally the pore side has more tooth and takes chemistry better.
Sheep: Soft and white with a wrinkled, textured surface. However, the notes that Pergamena provides on how to tell their species apart are the opposite of my experiences. I think my Sheep and Calf envelopes may have been swapped. So far, my only confirmed experience with Sheep has not been positive. It reacted very poorly to water, despite having a lovely surface when dry. In the water, it became fatty and wrinkled heavily upon re-drying. It also dried significantly out of shape, probably due to the gummy consistency of the wet material.
Update: I no longer think that Calf and Sheep have been swapped. Both varieties do show the veining and wrinkling, but Sheep is more granular. It appears that only when wet does Sheep really cause issues. Since parchment is a natural material, I have to suppose that even the broad guidelines will have significant wiggle-room. Further testing may help verify, but it does appear that Sheep parchment reacts poorly to water, while Calf does not. Both display veins and fat wrinkles, but Sheep displays more pores. The appearance also varies depending on which side of the parchment you look at. Even Goat can appear fairly smooth when viewed on the "reverse" side.

Here's what Pergamena has to say about the differences!
Currently at Pergamena, we produce parchment on four different types of animal skin: goat, calf, deer, and sheep. The most telling difference between the parchments of these animals is the grain, or the outside surface which contains the hair follicles. Goat usually has a rough, almost crackly, pattern to it that resembles the surface of asphalt, and can have a lot of fairly noticeable scars and marks, due to the wear and tear the hide experiences during the animal's life. Calf has a much smoother, flatter surface characterized by the broad pattern of thick fat wrinkles and finer veins that spiderweb across the skin. Deer, being wild animals, have the most prominent display of scars, punctures, scrapes, and bites of all our skin types. Sheep have a very similar granular pattern to goat, but can usually be recognized by the smaller size of the "pebbles" in the grain.
That's all I've got for now, Spiders. I know my blog is late, but I wanted to do some tests on the new parchment. They're still drying, so the experiments will have to get posted later.