I have a tendency to hoard art supplies and never use them. Inspiration strikes and I go out and buy all the supplies and then they get tucked away untouched. I don’t think this phenomenon is unique to me…Do you have a hobby that you’ve bought way more gear for than you actually use? A library of unread books? Fishing Lures up the wazoo (wait, ouch, bad example)? More running shoes or yoga pants than one person can possibly wear? Well, this Fall I’m turning over a new leaf and cleaning out my supply closet and actually using what’s in there.
I bought a screen printing kit about five years ago. At the time I purchased it I had this fantasy that I was going to teach myself how to screen print in a matter of hours and be up and printing 4 color posters by the hundreds. Then I started reading the instructions and my head started to hurt. Photo lamps, emulsion, exposure—it was more technical than I bargained for. And there wasn’t actually a photo lamp in the kit (you can also use the sun but that seems too uncontrollable to me). So I threw the box in my closet. Once in awhile I would think about it, unsuccessfully try to find a local screen printing class or workshop and then put it on the back burner again.
I hadn’t given it much thought in awhile but the other day I came across the website Creativebug. Have you heard of them? They are an online subscription service offering creative classes from artists and craftspeople of of all sorts—sketching, quilting, knitting, paper-crafting. When I discovered that they offered a series of screen printing classes with the simplified technique of using tracing paper stencils or frisket stencils I signed myself up (they have a 14 day free trial period and then it’s a monthly fee after that).
The artist breaks it all down starting from square one with how to set up a little screen printing studio and all the supplies you’ll need. I already had everything I needed—no photo lamp required. I watched the entire tutorial through before getting started and the entire process was straightforward and seemed simple enough—just what I needed to get it over the intimidation factor. Well…while I would declare this project a success from the standpoint that it actually got me to use the supplies, I would declare it a complete failure from a technical standpoint. I’m not really sure what went wrong but I got uneven ink coverage and tons of bleeding edges. Maybe my first mistake was trying too complicated a design. The artist kept stressing to keep your design simple—she used an apple with a few leaves in the example video but apparently I needed to test the boundaries and I pushed the limits of tracing paper with my detailed, abstract design. I also think my stencil was too big for the screen I was using. It was small enough to fit comfortably within the frame of the screen but didn’t allow enough room for the ink and squeegee and I think a combination of the two factors caused uneven ink coverage and ink to seep beyond the edges. My green ink also printed funny. I guess I would describe it as bubbly. I don’t know if it was too wet (which would be weird since I used the inks straight out of the pots without adding anything) or maybe the ink has a shelf life and five years in a basement closet was pushing it.
I’m not giving up. You may have noticed that I titled this post “Chapter 1” so I fully intend to give it another shot. I may give this design another go using a frisket (think contact paper) stencil and see if I have more success. I am also going to try a simpler, smaller tracing paper stencil design to see if I can have any luck with that. And maybe, just maybe, I will eventually learn how to create a real emulsified screen to make more complex prints. For now, I’m satisfied with baby steps.