Over the past couple of years our programs committee has run this popular printing workshop several times, and it nearly always sells out. More and more fiber artists, may of whom already dye their own fabrics, are intrigued by the opportunity to control and create another element that goes into their work. In fact, guild member and award-winning quilter Patty Kennedy-Zafred has noted that quilters she meets around the country are so envious of the printing resource we have in AIR, right here in Pittsburgh. We asked Petra Fallaux, another amazing quilter, to take us along as she experiences the workshop for the first time…

By Petra Fallaux

AIR -3 at 9.12.20 AMRecently a handful of FGP members got together for a guild-sponsored “silkscreen on fabric and cloth” workshop at Artist Image Resources (AIR) on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Workshop leader Jennifer Rockage introduced us to the various steps in preparing a photo emulsion silkscreen from a drawing or photo. All of our screens were prepared in advance, so we were quickly off to making our own prints, one after another. Through multiple iterations, we figured out how much ink and pressure would make a perfect image from our screens.
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Participants chose a wide range of imagery for their screens: architectural photos, a close-up of zebras, original drawings, and handwriting. Prints were made on cottons and printed fabrics, but also on silks and heavier decorator fabrics. Acrylic fabric paints seemed to work very well with any of these grounds. Before lunchtime, most of us had made between ten and twenty imprints on various papers and fabrics, choosing or mixing different color paints. After lunch, Jen demonstrated how to print on larger tablecloth-sized pieces of fabric and on yardage. She also showed us various ways to register the repeated prints.

AIR - 2As a screen-printing novice, I am so glad I signed up for this class. Not only did it reveal the technical inner workings of progressing from image to screen to fabric, it filled me with new ideas and directions for my work.

For many years, I have hand-dyed solid fabrics for my quilts. Being able to work with printed fabrics can add many new layers of meaning to the work. While I chose to use my own handwriting for my AIR workshop screen, I also became fascinated with the possibilities of photographic imagery. The digital process allows for bitmapping of the image so the screen is not limited to fine line drawing or lettering but can accommodate photographic halftone positives. My handwritten screen was used in the final yardage production demonstration. I cherish the resulting fabric – not sure I can cut into it any time soon!

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This experience brings back memories. Back when I had just started dyeing fabric, the thought of cutting up my handmade treasure was just too daunting. Now I take my rotary cutter to my stash without hesitation, knowing I can always dye more. My goal is to reach that same level of liberty with screen-printed fabrics as well.  I am already looking forward to producing more fabrics at AIR – and to the day when I feel completely free to play with the resulting yardage.

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