Tag Archives: art

Cyanotypes with Kathy Kinakin

Kathy Kinakin taking large format photographs, Stanley, BC, 2008.

Kathy Kinakin making large format photographs, Stanley, BC, 2008.

I first met Kathy Kinakin when she walked into our gallery about seven years ago with a Brownie camera in a leather case. It didn’t take long for our conversation about photography to cement a friendship we have enjoyed since that day. Kathy works at Beau Photo in Vancouver, BC, one of the best camera stores anywhere, and knows a lot about a very wide range of photographic techniques, as well as professional gear. Here she is demonstrating an emulsion lift with impossible project film – very cool!

Kathy has also participated in the Seven Summits here in Wells, and has given me pointers on how to handle my mountain bike on the trails around Wells. She is a lot of fun to ride with 😉

Kathy riding back to Wells from the Valley Mountain trail.

Kathy riding back to Wells from the Valley Mountain trail.

In August, Kathy offered a workshop on historic photographic processes at Amazing Space here in Wells. I was late getting the word out, and those who had wanted to attend could not get off work, so there was just me and Kathy – lucky me!

I’ve used low tech, less toxic screen printing methods for many years, such as sunlight photostencil exposures. The sun is the ultimate point light source and works even in the winter; it just takes longer to “burn” the stencil image, e.g. 40 minutes in January.

Sunlight photostencil exposure, Wells, March, 2014. Glass clamped on top of film positive, sensitized screen, foam, & a plywood board.

Sunlight silkscreen photostencil exposure, Wells, March, 2014. Glass clamped on top of film positive, sensitized screen, foam, & a plywood board.

As a result, I was interested to see how Kathy would also use sunlight to expose cyanotypes and Van Dyke images. Her first step was to coat several sheets of paper with those compounds, then let them dry; all done in a dark place. When ready, we used my screen setup, except this time there was just paper and a reversed film negative under the glass, snugged flush to the paper supported by foam. And we used bricks instead of a clamp to weight the glass.

Cyanotype exposure in sunlight.

Cyanotype exposure in sunlight.

Exposing a cyanotype photogram with fireweed and a Van Dyke image with a film negative, both in sunlight.

Exposing a cyanotype photogram with fireweed and a Van Dyke image with a film negative, both in sunlight.

Here’s how Kathy’s old photo of the Good Eats building turned out:

Good Eats, Van Dyke print © Kathy Kinakin.

Good Eats, Van Dyke print © Kathy Kinakin.

And here’s one of her plant photograms; Van Dyke process:

Wildflower photogram, Van Dkye print © Kathy Kinakin.

Wildflower photogram, Van Dkye print © Kathy Kinakin.

Beautiful! To give an idea of the progression of images, here’s a black & white image of mine that I took of black spruce up north:

Photograph of swamp spruce, converted to greyscale from RGB using adjustment layers, then flattened.

Photograph of swamp spruce, converted to greyscale from RGB using adjustment layers, reversed, and flattened.

Here is the film negative image:

Swamp spruce film negative image, not yet reversed.

Swamp spruce film negative image.

And here is a cyanotype print of the spruce, still wet from its rinse in water, resting on a silkscreen with another print:

Rinsing two cyanotypes on a silkscreen for support; buckled paper flattened after drying by placing in a heat transfer press for 15 seconds.

Rinsing two cyanotypes on a silkscreen for support; the buckled paper flattened perfectly after drying by placing in a heat transfer press for 15 seconds.

Northern spruce cyanotype © Bill Horne

Dried and flattened: Northern spruce cyanotype © Bill Horne

Fireweed cyanotype © Bill Horne, dried and flattened.

Fireweed cyanotype © Bill Horne, dried and flattened.

I learned a lot from Kathy and it was a pleasure to have her visit. She even helped grind wheat for Claire’s home made bread, and split a massive pile of firewood! Thanks so much!

Kathy wields the splitting maul. One whack did it!

Kathy wields the splitting maul. One whack split this round of dead pine!

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An Excursion to El Hacedor

On our way to an International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) conference in Montesclaros, Spain in 2011, Claire Kujundzic and I visited Dorien Jongsma at El Hacedor – Imágenes y Palabras in the tiny village of La Aldea del Portillo de Busto. We each did some hands-on printmaking, and I did another screen printing demo there last fall. In our conversations with Dorien, we could all visualize the logic and beauty of a papermaking workshop there. When I told Juan Barbé about this unique art centre, he was immediately interested in meeting Dorien. And Dorien was interested in meeting Juan.

I realized this could also be an opportunity to demonstrate a sunlight photostencil exposure and at the same time make an Eskulan logo stencil that Juan could use for printing on his papers or packaging, etc. So one morning during my last week in Tolosa-Billabona-Zizurkil, Juan and his wife Carmen Sevilla picked me up and we drove to La Aldea, with a blank silkscreen in the trunk and the jar of photoemulsion I had bought from Garikoitz at Boxa Arte Elkarte (see previous post).

On our return from La Aldea to Tolosa, we took the BU-520 shortcut over the mountains to avoid looping back through Oña.

Our route from Tolosa to La Aldea. On our return, we took the BU-520 shortcut over the mountains to avoid looping back through Oña.

Pancorbo, between La Aldea and Miranda de Ebro.

Pancorbo, between La Aldea and Miranda de Ebro.

It’s a spectacular drive through mountainous terrain, into La Mancha, and then back into wide mountain valleys. On our way, Juan and Carmen picked up some prize winning organic sheep cheese in La Barcina de los Montes from Isobel & José who are friends of Dorien’s – a gift for the table.

Isobel, Juan and Carmen at the cheese shop in La Barcina de los Montes.

Isobel, Juan and Carmen at the cheese shop in La Barcina de los Montes.

With Emilio and Carmen in the gallery. Juan Barbé photo.

With Emilio and Carmen in the gallery. Juan Barbé photo.

After a tour of El Hacedor, the gallery, and encantapajaros, plus a delightful lunch hosted by Dorien, Edo, and Emilio Zaldívar, I set up Juan’s screen outside. I had coated it with photoemulsion on arrival and set it to dry in a dark cupboard.

Coating Juan's screen with photoemulsion. Juan Barbé photo.

Coating Juan’s screen with photoemulsion. Juan Barbé photo.

Ready to tidy up the emulsion. Juan Barbé photo.

Ready to tidy up the emulsion. Juan Barbé photo.

We were using two photocopies of the Eskulan logo on acetate, doubled up and taped together to increase the density of the black. The always-enterprising Dorien found me a piece of foam rubber and a sheet of glass, and I set them up outside in the daylight.

Using a window as a light table to align two photocopies on acetate. Juan Barbé photo.

Using a window as a light table to align two photocopies on acetate. Juan Barbé photo.

Sunlight exposure setup. Two weights tighten the contact betwen the glass, positives and screen.

Sunlight exposure setup. Two weights tighten the contact betwen the glass, positives and screen.

It was overcast, and I wasn’t sure of the sensitivity of this batch of emulsion, but I set a timer for 12 minutes. It’s always better to slightly over-expose and risk losing detail, because underexposed emulsion can be very hard to remove from a screen.

Rinsing the exposed screen under a tap before using a plant sprayer with more pressure. Juan Barbé photo.

Rinsing the exposed screen under a tap before using a plant sprayer with more pressure. Juan Barbé photo.

I thought the photocopy toner was a little too thin and grey, not black or opaque enough, and should have taken the time to reinforce the logo’s lines with a film marker pen. When I rinsed the screen, sure enough, the sun’s UV rays had penetrated the toner and hardened too much of the emulsion. It wouldn’t print well. However, we did succeed in demonstrating how it’s possible to expose silkscreen photostencils without fancy equipment! And we learned that a mid-afternoon exposure on an overcast day in early October needs about 10-12 minutes 😉

Dorien, Juan, Carmen & Emilio with overexposed screen.

Dorien, Juan, Carmen & Emilio with overexposed screen.

Dorien showed us how to drive back to Tolosa without going through Oña and bid us farewell. It was a long day, but rich with conversations, laughter and camaraderie. I’m grateful to Juan and Carmen for the excursion, and to Dorien, Emilio and Edo for their warm welcome. No doubt it won’t be long before Juan returns to El Hacedor to lead a workshop in papermaking or artists’ books.

Dorien & Juan in conversation.

Dorien & Juan in conversation.

Boxa Arte Elkarte studios and GKo Gallery

One day after my shift at Eskulan I stopped in the old medieval centre of Tolosa on my way back to Zuloaga Txiki to pick up my repaired shoes and buy some cheese. I had been practicing a Basque phrase for about half an hour (gazta pixka bat mesedez = literally, cheese + a little bit + one + please) and mentally prepared myself to blurt it out. I was rewarded with a tasty wedge of semi-cured sheep cheese from the Idizabal region south.

Looking into the GKo Gallery window.

Looking into the GKo Gallery window.

Part of GKo Gallery.

Part of GKo Gallery.

As I walked out of the deli, I saw that the GKo Gallery, which Brian at the Tolosa Tourism office had told me about, was open. GKo is a unique enterprise that sells work for some Chilean artists who in turn sell art by Basque artists. It’s name is a clever Basque play on words.

Garikoitz Cuitlahuac Murua Fierro greeted me with a big smile and we fell into a long and interesting conversation about earning a living as artists, as well as copyright, culture and food (a typical mix of topics for many artists!)

Garikoitz Cuitlahuac Murua Fierro of GKo Gallery & Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

Garikoitz Cuitlahuac Murua Fierro of GKo Gallery & Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

His mother is Mexican, hence his Aztec middle name, so I found his Spanish much easier to understand than some of the Castellano I had been struggling with (I had first learned Spanish in Nicaragua). I was excited to learn that he works in silkscreen as well as murals. It’s always a pleasure to chat with one’s peers about a common craft, and we compared notes about various low-tech exposure methods.

I had brought a silkscreen for Juan Barbé and had been wanting to find a way we could test out a sunlight photostencil exposure of his logo so we could do some printing on hand made papers. But for this I need photoemulsion.

A lovely hand silkscreened poster produced by GKo Gallery at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

A lovely hand silkscreened poster produced by GKo Gallery at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

I asked where I could buy some and he gave me a name and phone number for someone in Usúrbil, which is west of Donostia. Two other people had mentioned this contact before, including a T-shirt printer I had met in Deba at the beginning of my trip. I had stayed in Usúrbil for two days last year and liked it. Maybe I should take a little train detour back up there…

Just as I was pondering the logistics of this, Garikoitz said if I only needed a little emulsion, he could get me some from the co-op studio he was part of. We arranged to rendezvous the next morning at the “cigarillo” pastry café by the music school and Tolosa Centro train station downtown – a short bike ride from the Zuloaga Txiki hostel where I was staying.

He showed up on his bici and I followed him through downtown into an old industrial district where the Boinas Elósegui beret factory used to be. Eventually we arrived at the Boxa Arte Elkarte studios in an old warehouse. The town provides this space to a group of local artists in exchange for their participation in community projects and contributions to the culture of Tolosa.

T-shirt screen printing press at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios in Tolosa.

T-shirt screen printing press at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios in Tolosa.

There’s a large shared studio space, a workshop, and a silkscreen printing studio, complete with a darkroom, exposure unit, washout room and a four colour T-shirt press. There are washrooms, showers, and downstairs, a kitchen and lounge that makes it possible for visiting artists to stay while working on a project. Very cool.

The kitchen-lounge at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

The kitchen-lounge at Boxa Arte Elkarte studios.

Garikoitz poured some Murakami emulsion – my favourite brand! – into a jar and taped it  up for me to prevent spills. I contributed some Euros to the studio cash box and cycled back up the road to Eskulan to show Juan my exciting find…

P.S. At the end of November, 2013, GKo Gallery won a Gipuzkoa business & tourism prize in recognition of their innovative work since 2008 – zorionak! ¡Felicidades! Congratulations!

Director de Desarrollo Territorial de la Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa, Pedro Iturbe, Director de Comercio del Gobierno Vasco, Jon Zarate, Aritz E. Murua, Kizkitza Lasa, Garikoitz C. Murua, Presidente de Cámara de Gipuzkoa, Pedro Esnaola.

Director de Desarrollo Territorial de la Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa, Pedro Iturbe, Director de Comercio del Gobierno Vasco, Jon Zarate, Aritz E. Murua, Kizkitza Lasa, Garikoitz C. Murua, Presidente de Cámara de Gipuzkoa, Pedro Esnaola.

Paella and Artists’ Books

At the end of my last day at Eskulan, Juan and I walked back to the flat in Billabona where he and his wife, Carmen Sevilla live. While Juan busied himself in the kitchen, Carmen, a printmaker and book designer, showed me around their place and the many pieces of art they have collected over the years. Some were her monoprints; all were pieces beautiful in their own right.

I had accompanied Juan earlier on his shopping expeditions, going from store to store to get all the necessary items. And I knew that an artisan like him who enjoys fishing, cycling, and patiently scraping bark would probably be an excellent chef. But the paella he served was absolutely outstanding – wow! What a wonderful gift to partake of, followed by a delicious fruit salad that Carmen prepared.

Cocinero-papelero orgulloso ;-)

El cocinero-papelero orgulloso ¡salud! topa 😉

After this fine lunch, they brought out their collection of artists’ books. I knew that Juan sometimes leads artists’ book workshops, as well as papermaking workshops, so I was interested to see some examples. Several were one-of-a-kind books Carmen had made using letterpress on exquisite hand made papers or her own pulp painting. They were stitched in innovative and traditional ways.

Juan had been telling me how ingenious Carmen is with book design and bindery, and he was right. One of her pulp painting books evokes the coastline and crashing surf of Asturias where she is from; another conjures up forests. Anyone who has ever attempted pulp painting knows how much labour, skill and serendipity go into this process. She generously gave me a copy of a catalogue of her pastels published by the Caja de Asurias in 1997. Sparse, gorgeous work.

Innovative stitching and folding show in this example of Carmen's artist's books.

Innovative stitching and folding show in this example of Carmen’s artist’s books.

Carmen's forest book made entirely with pulp paintings.

Carmen’s forest book made entirely of pulp paintings.

Another page in Carmen's forest book.

Another page in Carmen’s forest book.

Closeup of a page in Carmen's pulp painting forest book; note her "chop" at the corner.

Closeup of a page in Carmen’s pulp painting forest book; note her “chop” at the corner.

Semblanza de Gijón was one of Juan’s first commissions as a professional papermaker. It’s a boxed edition of 75 books printed with letterpress and etchings by Pelayo Ortega on his hand made paper. Traditional Spanish binding allows the reader to fully open the book without it cracking or breaking.

You can see the letter press impression in this title page.

Carmen leafs through their copy of Semblanza de Gijón.
Carmen leafs through their copy of Semblanza de Gijón. The sepia toned etchings bleed off the outside edges.

Juan showed me what he described as his “only book”: a leather-bound journal of stitched, hand made paper. Each page documents a fibre he has made into paper, with its characteristics, time boiling in lye, time in the Hollander beater, etc. Each has a small sample of the paper attached. Truly a one-of-a-kind document in the world – a live, ongoing and dimensional parallel to Lillian Bell’s classic “Plant Fibers for Papermaking”. A life’s work in progress.

All these are precious objects that would win the top prizes at international book fairs. Carmen and Juan, though incredibly modest, are masters of their arts and crafts, among a handful of such people in the world, and I’ve been extremely fortunate to spend time with them.

Visiting the Tolosa Paper School

I met Juan Barbé serendipitously in 2012 through the Tolosa Paper School (EPT). I had planned to visit their facility and gift them one of my prints of Broom silkscreened on Broom paper, but by the time I got to Tolosa, Vicky at the EPT explained that the school would be closed for a holiday that day. However, in lieu of a tour, she asked if I wanted to meet a former student, Juan.

The Tolosa Paper School.

The Tolosa Paper School.

Juan explains how students operate the school's production line.

Juan explains how students operate the school’s production line.

Bill ready to shut down production ;-) (Juan Barbé photo)

Bill ready to shut down production 😉 (Juan Barbé photo)

One of the first rooms we entered has a scaled down version of a typical paper mill production line with rollers, felts and cutters. This permits students to practise their skills and mechanical abilities with real equipment. At the end of the line is a large bin with crumpled paper tests destined for recycling.

Hollander beaters.

Hollander beaters.

Circular paper testing equipment.

Circular paper testing equipment.

Another room has an amazing collection of scales, beaters and pulping machines. Some units are used to make circular test sheets; one device delivers pulp under pressure. The school’s café has wall displays that illuminate the papermaking process. We were immersed in paper theory and practice!

Wall display about paper production.

Wall display about paper production.

Idoia Egurdibe showed us around the laboratory, which is full of microscopes, scales, chemicals for analysis, samples of various wood species and a digital microscopy unit. This is what Juan and others use to examine the fibres they work with. At some point he’ll use it to make micro-photographs of the Rumex crispus paper we made, along with the Fresno and Adelfa.

One side of the school's laboratory.

One side of the school’s laboratory.

Idoia Egurdibe operates the school's micro-photography unit.

Idoia Egurdibe operates the school’s micro-photography unit.

Pablo and Idoia were very generous with their time and kindly gave me and Juan copies of a new DVD history of the school. Eskerrik asko! To learn more about the school, visit their website.

Bill Horne, Idoia Egurdibe, Juan Barbé & Pablo Eguskiza.

Bill Horne, Idoia Egurdibe, Juan Barbé & Pablo Eguskiza.

Inner Bark

Part of my apprenticeship at Eskulan involved investigation of plant fibres that none of us had ever made into paper. When I taught a class at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas in Managua, Nicaragua in 1986, we made small test batches of paper from gato tree seed fluff, breadfruit branches, pineapple leaves, coconut fibre, palm, plantation bark and several other sources abundant there. This got me interested in other potential fibres that could be made into paper, and inspired me to do a series of silkscreened plant papers in the early 1990s.

Last year I learned that Juan Barbé has been experimenting with various fibres for many years, documenting them in a marvelous hand bound book that notes each paper’s properties, the length of time the fibre boiled in lye, time in the beater, properties, etc.,  each with a sample attached. A life work at a professional level.

As a complementary business to Eskulan, he operates Paperlan, a paper and fibre supply. In addition to storing traditional paper fibres like kozo, gampi and abaca there, he stashes and dries new ones that he collects for use in trials when time permits.

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So while my Curly Dock stalks were soaking, we started preparing two other plant fibres: Fresno (ash) and Adelfa (Nerium oleander). I had read about using inner bark for paper, but this was the first time I had worked with it from scratch. All very interesting to me, because my own previous plant paper making efforts had been crude by comparison, often using parts of the plants that contained little or no fibre. I had read about the use of inner bark with certain important species, so I was excited to be investigating these ones.

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Juan had soaked a bundle of Fresno bark in water for a couple of days, not so much to loosen the outer bark as to
make it possible to flatten the curved, curled bark for scraping evenly.

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It’s slow, finicky work, and we agreed that it’s the kind of meditative task to submit to, not to hurry, but to enjoy. Put on the radio or some music and start scraping.

I used a small, curved knife. Some segments were much easier to peel and scrape than others! I wished I had brought an Inuit ulu knife with me – scraping bark is not too much different from scraping hides.
Over the course of several days at Eskulan, I scraped all of the Fresno bark and a portion of the Adelfi, which wamore fragile and difficult to work with. Hand made papers, especially from plant fibres, are extremely labour intensive.
Short video clip: scraping Fresno bark.

At some point Juan will make them into paper and I’ll find out the results. Then we’ll each start our next tests…

The Nepalese Style

For their typical production runs, Juan and Javier use a classic western paper making technique which consists of scooping from a tank of pulp onto a screen with a deckle attached. This requires an excess of pulp and regular top-ups, as well as skill and acute awareness, in order to maintain sheet consistency.

At a certain point, though, there’s not enough pulp in the tank to dip a screen into, so they drain and strain the tank, then squeeze the remaining pulp into balls. Dried out, they can be rehydrated later and used again in another batch.

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With the Nepalese style, it’s possible to use all the pulp, which offers an important advantage when working with a small test batch, especially a plant fibre that has required so many painstaking steps.

For our Rumex crispus test, Juan filled a small rectangular container with water beside our bucket of fresh-milled pulp. He placed a screen at the bottom and held a deep-walled deckle tightly to its upper surface.

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With his free hand, he scooped a cup of pulp from the bucket and poured it into the deckle, which was 3/4 full of water. Then he lifted the screen and deckle straight up. The water poured out and the pulp remained on the screen, ready to be couched onto felts.

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Each time he poured the same volume of pulp into the deep deckle, which ensured consistent sheet thickness. Very simple, very efficient.

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