Sketchbook: Potato Prints

I have just been reading about block printing in Issue 71 of Selvedge magazine.

Louisa Loakes makes and sells block printed fabrics, with black geometric prints, sometimes including a repeated dot of colour painted on by hand.

Loakes’ designs are initially painted or drawn with charcoal, before being carved onto lino, and mounted on wood ready for printing in black pigment mixed with binder. She particularly enjoys the playful nature of the process, the little ‘errors’ that naturally occur with a hand process.

Angel Hughes (of Tobias and the Angel) bought 3,000 blocks and equipment from a workshop that was closing. She uses Procion dyes (which bond with the fabric, rather than sitting on the surface) to make washable wearables and household items. She advises using a fine fabric when printing from a finely detailed block. Hughes enjoys the liveliness that is produced in the fabric because no two prints will have exactly the same amount of ink, or be in exact alignment.

Lotta Jansdotter creates designs for textiles, stationery, etc; and writes books. She licenses companies to use her designs. Her design process starts with cutting shapes from paper and seeing what emerges. She teaches a course where people use simple motifs for potato printing, where they are encouraged to experiment with placement of the patterns.

With a potato and penknife to hand, I decided to have a go at printing a little flower motif similar to one that I often use in my work.

I was pleased with the results of this quick experiment. The arrangement that resulted in a square pattern might make a good block pattern, and the overlapping flowers in various densities of ink have some possibilities: decorating a background fabric for a wall hanging, for example.

Introducing a touch of colour to the prints… adds another point of interest.

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