Mintio's Open Studio Cyanotype Sessions

Singaporean photographer Samantha Tio (Mintio) has been in town since early this year for the artist residency program in MES 56, working with cyanotype combined with traditional batik printing process on fabric (read more about her project progress here), and recently she's been generous enough to hold weekly open studio sessions for anyone who wants to try their hands on cyanotype process. I thought it was too great an opportunity to miss so I came by with Aul, who has also been assisting Mintio during her stay.

At the first session last week I just wanted to see how the process worked out, but it turned out to be pretty simple so the next time around (last Tuesday) I brought my own material and an image to print so I could try it myself. I also took some pictures, and while this is by far not a comprehensive guide I hope it could illustrate the process a bit.

So, the first thing you need to do is prepare the material you want to print on. Aul and I both used plain white shirts. Supposedly you could use any material as long as it's porous, but different materials will of course have their own characteristics.

Sensitize the material you want to print on with the light sensitive chemical.  Apply the chemical with brush according to the size of the image you want to print. All this needs to be done somewhere dark, though as you can see from the picture above, it doesn't actually have to be pitch dark, a dimly lit place will do. Once you finish coating it, leave the material to dry in the dark. Ours took around almost an hour with the help of a fan.

Mintio's test prints.

When the sensitized material is dry, it's time to expose it to UV light, in this case we use the sunlight. You can use a negative transparency to print a photograph on your material or you can put objects on top of it to make a photogram. The procedure is very much like creating a contact print. Put your transparency directly on top of the material you want to print on, then put a piece of clear glass over it and clamp them together to make sure the transparency is flattened out with the material.

When using sunlight, the exposure time really depends on the weather. It could get tricky when during exposure the light intensity changes from sunny to cloudy and vice versa. If you're going to use this process to print important works like Mintio, it's crucial to leave nothing to chance. She's trying all different combinations to make sure she gets the perfect one. Different fabrics, different methods of printing on transparency, even down to different resolutions on the transparency to find the right tone. And all this just for the cyanotype process alone, I'm sure there will be all different set of considerations too when she eventually gets to batik printing process. One single mistake and you're back to square one. Even just hearing the breakdown steps already made me exhausted. 

Since Aul and I only wanted to try out the printing we skipped the whole test print process and print our images straight to our shirts. Mintio suggested 5 minutes exposure and that's what we went with. The light sensitive solution on the material changes color pretty quickly during this stage.

My shirt. I used a cropped version of this photo.

Aul's shirt.

After the material is exposed next is 'developing' the image. At this point you should be able to see a faint image on your material (forgot to take picture of it) but washing it with water will make it come out even more. Yup, you only need water. You can add bleach to add more contrast. Wash it until the color no longer changes.

And that's pretty much it! The image is permanently printed on the material now, just need to leave it to dry. 

Oh by the way, meet Nona. She pretty much owns the house.

Since it took a while for our shirts to dry, Aul took Nona out for a walk.

See, I told you it's her house.

So anyway, if you're in Jogja and you're interested in making your own cyanotype prints, Mintio will still be holding weekly open studio sessions every Tuesday until she finishes her project. She's generous enough to let us use her chemicals, so you will only need to bring an image to print and a material to print on. Here's a map to get to Rumah Nona, or just contact me if you want to go together, I think I'll go again next Tuesday.


Dropping another hint: There's a rather small detail in the above frame which gives a clue of what I'm currently working on (different from the previous post). There's also something about the aforementioned detail which causes this particular frame to be unusable. Which sucks cause I really like what's happening inside this frame. I might revisit this spot and see if the problem can be worked out. Didn't have much time exploring while taking this picture since I was walking with a friend at that moment. 

110816 - Cranes

Some pictures of recent developments in Jogja. Still not sure whether to turn these into their own little series (as the format seems pretty clear already) or to incorporate them into a larger narrative, since I also have other ideas on documenting these physical transformations of the city... You could actually see hints of it here and there in some earlier posts on this blog, if you're interested.