Survivor – gelatine printing tutorial

This textile piece uses a piece of gelatine printed fabric and some song lyrics – representing, for me, feelings around moving on from domestic abuse.

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I really love my homemade gelatine plate. My current plate is around 9 months old, and is pockmarked, cracked and with a layer of paint residue. Periodically I give it a clean and melt it down to restore a flat surface, but I like the texture these imperfections add to my prints.

For this textile piece I picked some plants from the garden and layered them using acrylic paint. Here is the process.

Gelatine Printing Tutorial

There are many interesting ways to use a gelatine plate to produce prints, here is my favourite, step by step:

I use acrylic paints for printing on fabric, mixed approximately 50:50 with a fabric printing medium like this one. I use a roller, and to hold the paint I often use the polystyrene bases that come with shop bought pizzas.

Once the paint is mixed I add a layer to my gelatine plate. I’m not too worried about getting the coverage perfectly even, and I quite like it when the edges are not too neat. When I have rolled the paint I add my first printing shape, I like to use leaves from the garden. I find it easier to use quite a large, sturdy leaf for the first layer as I will be rolling paint over it and don’t want it to move about too much.

I then take my first print, here I’m using newspaper but you could use fabric, in which case you will end up with a finished set of three prints. I lay a sheet of paper over the leaf and rub it well, to remove much of the paint from the exposed plate surface. The leaf forms a negative space print on the paper.

I then add another layer of paint, using a different colour. Here I am mixing on the same polystyrene plate, but you might prefer to use a different surface and a clean roller. Again I’m using a 50:50 mix of paint and fabric printing medium.

I then carefully roll a layer of paint all over the plate, including over the leaf.

Then I add another layer of leaves. Its fine to use leaves that are more feathery and delicate for this second layer, grass seed heads work well. Here I’m using some stems of cleavers.

Then I take my second print, this time I’m using fabric; my fabric of choice is preshrunk calico. I press the fabric down firmly and rub the surface to pick up as much paint as I can, then peel back to reveal the print.

Then I am left with the leaves, which I carefully peel away to reveal the layers of paint trapped beneath.

Finally I place another piece of calico on the plate and rub it to pick up this remaining paint, peeling it back to reveal the image.

The end result is 2 or 3 matching pieces of printed textile, I like to use these as a surface for stitching although I also think they are beautiful just as they are.

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