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“The Widening Gyre” by Jeremy Joan Hewes

Caerus note: This mulberry paper printing technique creates the most transparent, delicate collage transfer I’ve ever seen (note coastline edges above).  It’s as clear as plastic transparencies or acrylic gel, but totally natural, and absolutely melts into the surface with no raised edges.  

Printing on Mulberry Paper

Reading all the posts on this bounteous blog, I’m enthralled and a bit awed by everyone’s energy and productivity. Not to mention that the work is lively, fetching, surprising, and quite beautiful. What a collection!

As I consider my own participation in the residency, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy both making artwork and also sharing ideas and techniques. With the latter goal in mind, here’s a process I find find very useful that I learned from my friend and studiomate Joyce Libeu (www.joycelibeu.com). I hope it’s beneficial to some members of this outfit.

The process is printing images from the computer on mulberry paper or other very thin, perhaps textured papers. What’s terrific about the mulberry paper is that when it’s collaged to a painted background, the image sits up strongly, the mulberry paper disappears, and the background’s colors still show through the image.

Most color printers can handle thin paper such as mulberry, but it’s advisable to attach any thin sheet to a standard piece of paper to send it through the printer. This procedure follows, but first an example of a finished piece that combines my photo and a graphic (from a Dover book) with a canvas I painted with acrylics.

In the work I’m doing currently, I like to fashion mixed-media pieces by painting on paper or canvas or making a monoprint, then collaging images on that background. I’ve often printed my photographs or other graphic images on the thinnest paper I can find so that the paper is invisible when it’s collaged to the background.

To assure that the mulberry paper will go through the printer, I attach it to a regular sheet of paper, cutting the mulberry about one-half inch smaller than the support sheet at the bottom and both sides.

Then I tape the mulberry to the support sheet across the bottom and partway up both sides. This is a little tricky, because mulberry wrinkles and folds easily, so I use short, skinny pieces of blue masking tape to keep the mulberry flat while attaching it.

When the mulberry is taped to its support paper, I set up the images on the computer. The important thing here is to make the image size an inch or so smaller than the mulberry paper to be sure that the image doesn’t print on the tape or miss the mulberry (I’ve done both). For printing, I change the print options so that the printer applies less ink than normal (otherwise much of it goes through the mulberry and onto the support paper – see the details at the end for tips).

I insert the paper taped-end-first into the printer and make sure the top, untaped part of the mulberry doesn’t crease or flop forward. (My printer takes 13-by-19-inch paper, so the mulberry can flop over if I don’t watch carefully as printing begins.) Then I print the image.

That’s the printing part. At the studio, I cut out the images as desired, then use matte medium to attach the mulberry pieces to my background (see “Adhesive” below for more). The detail of a work-in-progress below shows the transparency of a mulberry image; the horizontal orange strips are visible through the kimonos of the two women.

The details – supplies and settings

– Mulberry papers I use: (a) tengucho (from Daniel Smith) – 10 grams/square meter – extremely thin; (b) unbleached mulberry (from Art & Soul in Sebastopol) – 15 grams/square meter. Other mulberry papers or thin Japanese papers work also but may not disappear quite as well as the very thin ones.

– Support paper for printing: ideally heavier than plain paper, such as Epson Premium Matte (a bit thicker than regular copy paper); matte paper is preferable to photo paper for this purpose.

– Printer settings: this may require experimenting, but reduce the amount of ink that’s used during printing if possible. My Epson has a “paper configuration” setting that lets me reduce or increase the “color density”; I generally set this to minus 20 so that much less ink is used. (This saves ink and keeps the image from being so heavily printed on the support paper under the mulberry, which I like to reuse when possible.)

– Adhesive: I brush matte medium onto the target area of background; next I lay down the mulberry image, starting from one edge and easing it onto the background; then I cover the mulberry with a thin second coat of medium to secure it.

Jeremy Joan Hewes

Caerus note: to see more examples of Jeremy’s beautiful mixed media, please visit http://www.jeremyjoanhewes.com/new_work/index.html .