A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
From time to time I have mentioned the issues with your soldering iron, location and other problems.
Where do you put it when you have to put it down?
Margaret Beale advises using a terracotta – NOT plastic – flower pot turned upside down. You insert the hot portion of the soldering iron into the hole. It needs to be a larger one so that the tip of the tool does not touch your working surface.
The Margaret Beal soldering iron and some others have an attachment which can be used to hang the soldering iron on something. You can take it off and reposition it to suit your needs. This is useful. However, I find the hook bit gets in the way of how I hold the tool. So I usually take it off.
So the easiest way I find to park my soldering iron is a tall mug with a rock inside to keep it from tipping over.
Sometimes with a curved tip, you find you can’t hold the tool comfortably because the positioning of the tip is not natural for the way you hold it.
I have found that you can turn the sheath holding the tip around. This must, of course, be done when it is not plugged in and not at all hot.
Some of the issue with holding the soldering iron is the fact that the bit of the cord below the handle is pretty inflexible. Not sure of a solution for that except keep working to find a comfortable position for you.
Things about health to consider:
As with all things you need to beware of your health. Obviously with this tool, it goes without saying that you may burn yourself!
I haven’t had any problems with any fabrics catching alight, which is a big issue for those who are using candle flames and incense sticks. But I suppose it could happen. If you work over a non-flammable surface, then you don’t have to worry about any unexpected scorch marks. This could happen with your natural ‘jerk’ reaction when you burn yourself...you may automatically release hold of the soldering iron and drop it.
About the ventilation
What may be a greater problem however, is the smell of the burning. Burning silk smells like singed hair and burning cotton has a smell like burning paper. Cotton and silk are natural fibres, but you still don’t want to be inhaling them for hours! Little wisps of smoke/heat come from the fabric as it is being burnt...surprisingly, it can come from the back and curl round an edge to the front.
Often I would be doing this and a family member would come home and say, “What is burning!?!” The interesting thing is that I have grown accustomed to the smell and thus am unaware it may be causing me problems. SO now I do this at least by an open door or window. A fan may also be an option. Of course, this is where the soldering iron is a better prospect than a candle or lighter. If you have any breathing issues, it is a wise precaution to use a mask.
About the fibre content
If you are interested in trying mark making with a soldering iron on different fibres, a burn test chart is helpful in finding out how your fabrics might behave. It gives you a way to test fabric with unknown content. (although blends still can be rather mysterious!)
There are several of these charts to be found online, but here is one burn test chart with basic fabrics. A quick glance shows that there are fabrics you might not choose to use for Fabric Pyrography – perhaps because it won't suit the purpose you have in mind, but even more importantly, it may be that the chemicals in the fibre make-up could be toxic.
Additionally, it is worth looking for other burn test charts, because you may learn of other characteristics to the way fabrics burn.
Other links from commenters:
A sculptor who uses pyrography - with sunlight - is Roger Ackling ---Margaret Cooter
Burn Marks using Iron Soleplates: Willie Cole. His website doesn't seem to have as many images of the iron scorches, as he refers to them, but I see he also took the idea further and found a way to heat the metal perforated ironing boards and used them to print with. However, he even has a Wikipedia entry! If you want to find more images of his work, it is easiest to Google Images Willie Cole iron scorches or Willie Cole iron burns.----reg82
Madonna Yashinski, for Nov 2005 issue of SewNews. She had a pattern for wheat stalks and buds included. She used a low-temperature (750*) burning tool and natural fibers.----Luann Fischer (I was unable to find Madonna Yashinski's work online. Sandy)
The Cord Issue: I had a wood burning kit when I was a kid. I used the ironing board for my table since it was adjustable and my Mom already had one of those cord holders on the end of it. It kept the iron cord from dragging across the clothing so with my smaller hands, I figured it would keep the cord to my tool out of my way and off my hand/arm. Worked great!---Crystal Griffiths
Well, it seems there are no questions! So, I leave you with a photo of one more example of using Fabric Pyrography.
Let me know if you try Fabric Pyrography and how you get on with it! I would love to see how you incorporate it into the type of textile work you enjoy. If you want to keep up with other things I do, please visit my blog! I try to stay busy. ;-)
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Looking at Fabric Pyrography on Silk
Yesterday I showed a recent work ‘B is for Book’ which has Fabric Pyrography on two different types of silk. The background, which is a natural silk dupion with good weight and the little images of historical figures which are on a silk twill of a finer quality.
Whereas the line work is similar to writing with a clumsy pen...(the cord often causing drag on the soldering iron which you try to compensate by holding your hand awkwardly hoping you don’t get too near the hot part)... the shading is more like burnishing or colouring in with a fine circular motion. I find the curved tip of the Margaret Beal soldering iron useful for this because I can use the back of the curve.
If you look at the images of the historical writers above, you can see how the coloured areas on the silk twill are a golden colour rather than the brown of the line work. This is the awesomeness of fabric pyrography on silk twill! You can take advantage of this to create depth to your shading as if with a pencil. More burnishing or more time in one spot will give you darker colours. For this work, I was happy with a flatter image because they were images from a time when perspective and depth weren’t so important. However, it does help with defining one part of the sketch from another.
Here is another work using silk twill, also a few detail images showing how the colouring in or burnishing with the hot soldering iron works.
You can see how the different areas of the silk have been treated with a heavy or light hand in order to get different results. The rose was made separately to the couple and then arranged in front of it.
For the binding of ‘Tudor Rose’, I used the same silk, but made marks with the side of the iron to give a striped effect.
Problems and solutions:
As I mentioned, it is easier to make the burnt mark with the soldering iron if the work is in a hoop so that the air gets to both sides. Generally, the method is to move the tip of the soldering iron back and forth over small sections of your line until the burn mark is strong enough to suit your purpose, continuing until the pencilled line is covered.
The work is slow and methodical. There is no hurrying – for instance holding the soldering iron on a lower angle so more of the fabric is in contact with the soldering iron. This can result in unwanted marks in places you don’t want them! You are focusing on the tip and suddenly realise you have made a mark elsewhere with the side! Or that you have angled wrongly and gone off your line.
I know this, but it doesn’t mean it keeps me from learning the lesson each time!
There is not much you can do about these sorts of mistakes, so you have to get on with it the best you can! After all, burnt fabric cannot be ‘unburnt’!
If your mark is not too dark, you can scrape a bit of the burn away, but too much of that compromises the fabric. It may cause it to go fuzzy or even make a hole. So, rubbing a white colour pencil over the burn may be able to get your smudge to be a little less noticeable.
With the silk dupion, I came into a different problem, which was that when the line I was burning was in the same direction as the grain, the soldering iron would push through between the fibres. In this case I was able to limit the damage so that it was not so obvious.
Previous to the ‘Tudor Rose’ work above, I did Fabric Pyrography work on a thin habotai silk.
I wrapped a wooden frame from some packaging in order to hold the whole piece of silk taut as I worked on it.
On ‘Lady Constant’ there are smaller images on the golden colour silk dupion. This was early on when I was still developing technique. The golden colour silk was quite difficult to work on in that it really needed a lot of pressure and time to get a burn mark.
I can’t remember, but I think I was working on the pieces individually, so that is where I really learned you need the fabric to be held taut in some way. There is only so much you can do with the fabric held with tension between fingers...especially with some of the other issues I mentioned the other day about how to hold your soldering iron.
In the situation of using thin silk the burn mark developed very quickly. Thin silk needs very minimal pressure. Several times the soldering iron burnt right through the fabric.
This sounds drastic, but can be a positive thing in that you can work the mark as if on purpose. The idea of age with this piece was enhanced by the anomalies created with the mark making. Instead of trying to hide the problem, I used copper metallic thread to mend the burn tears.
And, as I mentioned yesterday with the “B is for Book” piece, I used gel pen to make the flourishes around the image and on the sleeves. You can see how the different metallic colours work with the burn lines.
Unfortunately, after all that work, the fusible I used at the time caused some real issues with the silk. But, there we are...one of those pieces where you have to look at it as a marker of where you came from! Perhaps I should revisit her, I always meant to!
More tomorrow about some problems and solutions for tools.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
I had an opportunity to do some wood burning when I was recently out of collage...at that time I ironed an embroidery transfer image onto the wood and burnt it away using a wood burning tool. Pretty basic, but it stuck in my mind.
Somehow I felt that technique could be used on fabric as well. I have rarely come across work by textile artists who have used hot tools solely to make a feature of burnt marks.
I remember hearing of one artist who used a regular clothing iron to do this. As I recall, he looked for different steam patterns on the soleplate and used them to differing affects, such as a mandala shaped burn pattern on cloth. If you know of his work, will you pass the details on?
EDIT: I knew someone would know the answer! thanks 'Reg82'! (sorry, don't know your name.) It is Willie Cole. His website doesn't seem to have as many images of the iron scorches, as he refers to them, but I see he also took the idea further and found a way to heat the metal perforated ironing boards and used them to print with. However, he even has a Wikipedia entry! If you want to find more images of his work, it is easiest to Google Images Willie Cole iron scorches or Willie Cole iron burns.
I did come across one artist who centred her thesis on the idea of the ‘Iron as Memory’. Shannon McCarty’s work consisted of framed and unframed work which had been burnt using the hot soleplate of an iron.
But now, onto that Fabric Pyrography!
For many years I have been making burnt marks on fabric using a soldering iron. I mostly draw or trace a design onto fabric (using a lightbox) and then follow the line drawing with a soldering iron.
Fabrics: I use silk and cotton the most.
Starting with cotton. For most of the works I have done using cotton, I used a thick cotton version of a fabric that we call Calico in the UK. It is a firm version of the American muslin. (All following references to Calico is the British version.)
The silks I used have been varied. I will mention a beefier type today and some finer and thinner types tomorrow.
Tools: For silk or for cutting synthetics, I use my Margaret Beal(MB) soldering iron with a curved tip. (White handle below) But for the thick cotton, I use a fine tip soldering iron made by Drapers which I got at a local ironmongers/hardware shop some time ago. (Blue handle below)
One of my students had a wood burning tool with exchangeable tips. This is also a good option. Since doing the research for this series, I am now determined to save up for one of the tools which has a temperature control!
Method of working:
Basically, you use the soldering iron as a mark making tool. This does take a bit of experimentation as you need to work out:
how to find a place to work within the range of the cord,
how to find a place to work with adequate ventilation,
where to park the soldering iron so you don't burn something else,
how to hold your soldering iron without burning yourself,
and so on! And that is just for the tool.
For the fabric, you also need to work out:
how much pressure to use when making marks (what your fabric can take!), how you will hold the fabric taut and other important considerations.
I have tried drawing directly on the fabric laid onto a non-flammable surface like tile. But I found you need to have the fabric taut, such as in a hoop. This allows a little give as you press onto the fabric, but the fabric is secure enough that your marks end up where you want them. It also allows more air, which is needed (as you may know) for burning.
The first piece in which I used Fabric Pyrography was a piece called ‘Uncommon Virtue’ for ‘She Made Her Mark’ exhibition which was the first art quilt exhibition at the Quilter’s Hall of Fame. I wanted to reference the stitching, weaving and making women have done over the centuries.
In this instance, all the marks were linear. But to draw the whole of the work together, I also seared the edges of the fabric from the mini-corset shape...just a light touch, which also served to control the fraying.
The most recent work I did with Fabric Pyrography was last year. I decided to do a set of Celtic inspired letters as part of an online group. We had each done a different technique for each set of letters we did. So, I chose to do this set using Fabric Pyrography.
I chose to use calico for my fabric - actually the back of some calico I used years ago for a toile/sloper when I was first learning pattern drafting. So, recycling!
I decided to create a sort of swatch book with the Burnt Letters.
I stitched a bead between each letter on the upper left to hold them together.
If I did this again, I wouldn't cut all the squares of fabric first because sometimes it gets pretty hot when you are burning a section near the edge. (See the advice about how to work out how to hold your fabric!)
You have to also take into account that the just-burnt section of fabric will be HOT. So when you reposition where you are holding the fabric you have to be careful not to touch the section you just did. It cools fast, but you don't want to touch it straight away. (How do I know?)
This is a natural silk dupion. It doesn't take as much heat or pressure to make the marks as cotton does, but is a lot easier to handle than thin silk which I will cover tomorrow.
The wording is in progress for an Illuminated Letter B for Book.
First I traced the lettering onto silk for the phrase and was in the process of etching the letters with the soldering iron. The wrapped hoop helps to hold the silk without damage.
I used a finer silk twill to create the figures at the bottom of the letter. The technique for fine or thin silk is a bit different, so I will talk about it tomorrow.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Beth asked for guests for this month and I thought you might like to get into some of the 'Setting on Fire' part of the "Fire Blog"! ... or at least burning fabric or "Fabric Pyrography", as I call it.
Today we start with looking at backgrounds of this type of work and some artists using burning in their work.
Pyrography - The term means "writing with fire", from the Greek pur (fire) and graphos (writing).
Pyrography can be practiced using specialized modern pyrography tools, using a metal implement heated in a fire (pokers or needles), incense sticks on paper or cloth, or even sunlight concentrated with a magnifying lens. Others have perfected their technique using candle flame; adding smoke to the burn marks made.
Pyrography was known in China from the time of the Han dynasty, where it was known as "Fire Needle Embroidery". But it seems the technique used in more ‘modern’ times was developed in the late 1800’s by adapting an electric cautery tool, one of the latest medical technological advancements of the time.
There is a lot of information about the popularity and development of “Les Arts du Feu: La Pyrogravure” as the French called it, at the very eclectic E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.
The most frequently used material for this technique is wood. Any search on Pyrography will bring up images, forums, tutorials, books and more.
Work and tutorials by Lora Irish, author of definitive books on Pyrography and other wood techniques, can be found on her website.
You may have also seen the wood burning technique used on leather. Actually a lot easier than pyrography on fabric.
A variety of ideas, photos and information on tools can be found doing a search for pyrography on leather. For instance, this video by Harry Rogers is quite informative, though the image he draws is a quick sketchy one.
If you want a video of a Master at work, this link takes you to the Takis Leather Work Shop in Greece.(Accompanied by Greek music for your pleasure!)
You are probably familiar with work done using a soldering iron and synthetic fabrics. A few artists who use this technique to create very different looks.
Margaret Beal – Fusing Fabrics and New Ideas in Fusing Fabric - Margaret layers synthetics and sheers over acrylic felt. Then she uses the soldering iron to make marks through the layers. Margaret's website
Kathleen Laurel Sage - Uses dissolvable film, machine embroidery, trapped organza fabrics, cutting back techniques and use of a soldering iron to produce lacy see-through panels. Kathleen's website
Kim Thittachi also uses soldering irons in many ways. Kim's website...Kim uses the technique as one of a wide variety of things she teaches. Jo Vandermay showed her experiments on Lutrador following ideas that Lesley Riley uses. This was on the Fire Blog last year
I use this technique of soldering iron with synthetic fabrics in my own ways, too. However, for this series of posts I want to talk about using a soldering iron to burn marks onto fabric. I will go into this further tomorrow. Meanwhile, do check out some of the links above.
If you have a soldering iron, you might like to get it out so you can get ready to try some of the techniques. If you have used it previously with synthetic fabrics like the artists I mentioned above, you should also get a metal scourer (like for pots and pans) and clean off any residue. *While the soldering iron is cold and unplugged!*
During this series of 4 blog posts, I will keep track of any questions and try to answer them fully on the last post.
EDIT: I will collect any links from the comments and put them at the end of the last post, as well.
Friday, April 24, 2015
Just make sure it’s lying flat, taut and square before putting in the final staples.