You may want to reproduce your favorite Wycinanki with the aid of silk screening. Both of the examples in this chapter (figs.**** and****) are of my prize-winning Double Eagle, and have been reproduced by silk screening (white on red) and the Tusche process (red on white). :
You can make your own silk screen, but unless you are already familiar with this medium or are in a silk screen class, I suggest you buy a "Speed-ball" silk screen kit and squeegee as I have.
Before starting any printing process, you will need to arrange a place to dry the prints so that they do not touch each other. Suspend a line of cord close to the area where you are printing and space coiled-spring clothespins at intervals, handy for hanging your wet prints.
Next you must prepare your screen. A new screen, even a ready made one, must be prepared before first use by reinforcing the mitred corners and surfaces with postal tape or masking tape. The tape must cover the wooden frame sleekly and cover the edge of the silk organdy where it is mounted on the wooden supports (see fig.**** ). I do this on the outside of the frame, though other artists insist on the inside area. After you have installed the hinges, pull out the "L" pegs that secure them to the base, and take the screen right off its base. Turn the screen over and begin taping, at least two strips at the top and bottom and at least one strip on each side so that it covers sufficiently (see fig.****). The screens I use are ten inches wide and fourteen inches long on the inside measurement. The top of the design will be oriented to the hinge side. When finished the tape should cover two inches on the top and bottom of the screen.
After you have finished taping, cover the taped area with great care with two or three coats of thin white shellac. You will know the shellac is thin enough when you have added enough alcohol so that it bubbles slightly when you stir it. Be sure to allow the shellac to dry at least twenty minutes between coats and before using. The shellacked tape protects against paint leaks and provides a reinforced "well" for the paint.
When the shellac is completely dry, wash the screen very gently with luke warm water and a mild soap or detergent. Rinse it well and allow it to dry, or use a hair dryer if you are in a hurry. The washing is to remove sizing from the new screen which might interfere with the clarity of your prints.
Now you are ready to print your design. Cut a copy of your favorite papercut out of ordinary newsprint quality paper, or use actual newspaper if newsprint is not available.
To mount the papercut on the screen, you must establish register marks on the base panel by taping on light cardboard adhered and lined up with a "T" square or triangle on the base and one side of the panel (see fig.****). You will also want to indicate a center line lightly on the silk with a soft pencil. I place a small notch on the center of the papercut much as dressmakers make a "V" to match seams. This aids in centering the design. Place a piece of paper the size on which you will be printing within the register marks. Center the papercut and be sure it is straight.
To introduce color to the screen, use a large metal spoon or scoop, such as the kind that comes with ground coffee. You will need about four tablespoons. Mix the dye, paint, or ink to the consistency of heavy cream. If the substance is too thick, add paint extender until it is the desired texture. Place the color on the bottom reinforced area of the screen, the full width of the screen.
Place the silk screen and base on the work table edge, horizontally with the hinge on the left. Use the squeegee alternately right to left and left to right. The first run of the squeegee will secure the papercut in place (alternatively the stencil can be anchored by a few dots of rubber cement, thus insuring a sharp impression). After several trial runs on scrap paper which is placed where the register marks line up on the base panel, you are ready to print.
When printing, hold the squeegee at a fifty to sixty degree angle, and apply even pressure. A slight swooshing sound will reassure you that all is in order. Work with dispatch, as this method will print only about fifty copies before the papercut deteriorates.
The screen and squeegee must be cleaned promptly after each different design has been printed. First priority is cleaning the squeegee. Scrape the rubber with scrap cardboard, saving the paint residue in a screw-top glass jar for future use. Scrape the squeegee until it is as free of paint as possible. Next run water to wash off what remains, dry it thoroughly, and dust it lightly with corn starch or flour to preserve the rubber core.
Similarly, collect extra paint from the inside of the screen, and finish by flushing the screen under running water. Some paint will weep through the silk, so clean the under-surface too. When well dried, the screen is ready to use again. Before subsequent use, check the screen for weakness in the taping, and patch and touch up, if needed, with shellac.
If you use oil base paints, you will have to follow the same method using mineral spirits, turpentine, or kerosene instead of water. Wipe with a well-soaked rag, working over a bed of old newspapers. Pour the solvent on the scraped screen, let it soak in for a few minutes, and carefully rub it dry. You may have to do this several times.
Notice that the silk screening process produces a negative print, white on color, as in the Double Eagle illustration (fig.****). The Tusche method of screening, on the other hand, provides a positive print, with the design in color printed on a white background, as in figure
You will need the same materials listed for silk screening, plus:
- A bottle of Tusche
- A number two sable brush
- Water-soluable glue
- Mineral spirits or turpentine
- A stiff brush
- An acetate or clear plastic sheet
- Tailor's chalk.
If your screen is new, prepare it with tape and shellac as detailed earlier in this chapter. Next, indicate a center line from top to bottom on the inside face of the silk screen, using a very soft pencil or fine nylon-tipped marker. This mark facilitates centering the design. Remember that the top of the design is to be at the hinge side of the frame. Place the design, covered with the acetate or plastic sheet for protection, underneath the silk screen, centering the design and taping it and the plastic sheet to the silk. You will be able to see the design through the silk.
Draw the complete design on the silk with a soft pencil or washable marking pen. Trace the complete design, starting from the left side so as not to smear the image. (If you are left-handed, begin at the right side of the design for the same reason).
Now remove the design and the plastic sheet and take the screen off its hinges, turning it bottom side up. Spread the screen with a mixture of eight ounces of water and one heaping tablespoon of cornstarch. Wash the screen with this solution several times, using a cloth or sponge. Let the screen dry between coats. The result will be a translucent white coating on the underside of the screen. When you turn the screen right side up again, you will note how much easier it is now to see the design.
Applying the Tusche is the next step. Shake the Tusche well, preferably from side to side. Using a number two sable brush, apply the tar-like Tusche within the lines of the design. Go over the design at least twice, waiting twenty minutes between coats. Be careful not to get the Tusche on any part of the background, but only within the area of the design. Check the screen when you have finished two or more coats, holding it up to the light to see if you have failed to coat any part of the design with Tusche. Correct any errors and let the screen dry several hours or overnight before the next step. Remember that the cornstarch mixture is applied on the underside of the screen, while the Tusche is applied on the top side of the screen.
Now you are ready to apply the glue sizing to the silk. Make the sizing by diluting water soluable liquid glue half-and-half with water and mixing thoroughly. Pour or ladle the sizing on the top side of the screen, spreading it lightly all over with scrap cardboard. Apply two coats, allowing it to dry between applications. A hair dryer will speed the drying process.
When you are sure the glue is dry, wash out the Tusche with a cloth soaked in mineral spirits or turpentine. The glue will remain on the background areas of the design, while the surfaces which were covered with the Tusche will wash clean. Always use solvents in well- ventilated areas. You may prefer mineral spirits to turpentine in that mineral spirits do not generate as heavy an odor and produce fewer harmful effects from inhaling the vapor. In some stubborn spots you may need to use a stiff-bristled brush or nylon net to remove the Tusche. It may also be necessary to flood the Tusche with solvent, over a bed of newspapers. You may have to rub the Tusche-covered sections with solvent on both sides of the screen. Check the silk carefully to be sure you have removed all traces of the Tusche, by holding it up to the light. Wipe up the excess solvent, allow the screen to dry, and you are ready to print. Follow the same procedure for printing as suggested for the silk screening technique at the beginning of this chapter. Note that if you are printing on fabric, register marks can be indicated directly on the material with tailor's chalk. You will need at least two tailor's marks for each printing.
When you have finished printing, scrape the residue of paint and remove all traces of paint with mineral spirits. Next wash the screen with warm water, to remove the sizing. The design is already clear of all substances, so the warm water softens, dilutes, and removes the glue sizing. If the paint is built up on the screen, you may have to go over it with a solvent an additional time. Once clean, your screen is ready for a new design.
After cleaning up and putting the screen away make sure the design is "set" if you have printed on fabric. You may press the area well with a medium hot iron on a reflective ironing board cover, after about an hour. Another method of "setting" the design is to put the printed fabric in the clothes dryer for an hour at the slow setting. A cup of vinegar used in the wash water the first time the item is laundered will also assure the permanence of the imprint.
The Tusche form of the Double Eagle design was made to be printed in white on red canvas bags. It would also lend itself to yard goods, place mats, and red "T" shirts.