Photos on Fabric

It always amazes me how quickly the months fly by, especially after summer is over. Once the fall hits things start happening so quickly! We definitely had an Indian summer here in Georgia, but now the temperatures are cooling down and the days are getting shorter.

I’ve been keeping busy in the studio these past couple months, in part because I’ve been inspired, but mainly because I can control the temperature in here and pretend we’ve been having that crisp autumn weather I love so much. One of my (creative) dreams came true last month; I successfully printed cyanotypes on fabric! Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m obsessed with denim, so naturally, I sourced some nice raw white denim from a local fabric shop for my prints. I also sampled a cotton/poly blend because the texture is more flat and even, but I settled on raw denim because I love the lines in the fabric and the frayed edges.

If you want to print cyanotypes on fabric, I would suggest using a cotton fabric with a low, even weave so that you can get as much image detail as possible. I am going for a unique collaboration of the two mediums I’m using here (cyanotype prints + fabric) so I don’t mind the loss of image detail I have on my prints. As always, for me, it’s all about the process.

LED UV Light Box

So, clearly I’m way into cyanotypes right now. But the process requires sunlight- and that’s not always feasible for me because I do a lot of my work at night. To make cyanotypes at home with a constant, reliable and controllable light source, I would need a UV light box.

Light boxes are priced in the thousands, even used ones can be quite expensive. There is a lot of information out there on how to build your own light box but most tutorials require bulbs. I wanted my light box to be as sleek and easy to build as possible. I discovered that a few people had successfully constructed light boxes with UV LED light strips.

There still isn’t a lot of information about this very specific topic out there so today I’m going to show you how I constructed my LED UV light box.WARNING: this process requires the use of a soldering iron and some electrical wiring. If you’re going to attempt to make a box like this one and you don’t know how to solder or anything about electrical wiring please get help from a pro.

If you are seriously serious about building a light box like this, please visit the following links. This thread on LargeFormatPhotography.info gives a general breakdown of how the box is made and this post on Greg Brophy‘s blog goes into much more detail. These are the sources I used to build my light box.

MATERIALS:

  • Two 20×24″ wooden boards
  • Two 4×24″ wooden planks
  • One 4×20″ wooden plank
  • Two reels of 5 meter 5050 LED UV lights 300 SMD 12V DC
  • 12 gauge speaker cable
  • 20 gauge copper wire
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Power supply box
  • Power cord
  • Hammer and nails

 

img_6093

I started with two 20×24 wooden boards, two 4×24 wood planks and one 4×20 plank. All of these were purchased from my local hardware store for like, $25. I sanded them all really well and made sure they were clean.

 

img_6094

I took one of the 20×24 wood boards and measured in 2 inches all the way around. This created a 16×20 rectangle (the size of prints that I will be making). On the two shorter sides of the board I drilled a hole at the middle point on each side where I would later run the speaker cable through.

 

img_6095

Next, I applied my LED light strips! I cut the strips so that they fit in my 16×20 rectangle in a staggered pattern shown above. When cutting the LED strips you have to make sure to cut between the copper pads, there is a tiny image of scissors on the strip to show where you can cut. Each copper plate has a + or a – next to it, it is very important to make sure they are all placed uniformly on the board. Just make sure when you are laying the strips on the board that all of the + signs are on the bottom. The LED strips have tape on the back so they stick easily to the wood. I accidentally bought the strips that came with the water protective coating on top. I had to pull it back and cut off a little to expose the copper plates for soldering.

 

img_6096img_6097

I’ve got two pictures for this next part. I stripped two separate 3 foot sections of the 12 gauge speaker cable (including the red and black wires that are inside the white one) and ran it through the hols I drilled earlier. I made the black and red wires run in opposite directions (it doesn’t matter which way they go) and stapled them down to the board.

 

img_6099

This next part got intense! I cut the 20 gauge copper wire into short pieces and used them to bridge the LED copper plates to the wires that were stapled on the sides. You can see them in the picture above. On the left side of the board, I soldered the little copper pieces to the – copper plate on the LED lights and on the right side I soldered them to the + plate. Then I soldered the tiny wires to the big speaker cable wires I stapled down earlier. Basically, this made the large speaker cable on the left side of my board carry the negative charge and the right side carry the positive charge.

At this point I wanted to see if all of my connecting and soldering was a success! I grabbed my power supply box and power cord. I connected my – and + speaker cables from the board to the – and + segments on the power supply box. Then I connected the power cord to the the power supply by matching the wires in the power cord to their respective segments on the power supply box: black is live, white is neutral and green is ground.

I plugged it in and and POW! it all worked!!!! So, that’s pretty much the hard part. The rest was a cake walk.

 

img_6098

I took my other 20×24 board and hammered the 4×20, and two 4×24’s to it to create a three sided box.

 

img_6100

So, at this point this is what my set up looked like.

 

img_6101

Then I hammered the top of the box on so that the LED lights were the ceiling of the inside of the box. I left one of the short sides open so that I can slide my prints in and out easily. Later I will create a door to cover it, but for now this is cool.

 

img_6102

Inside my UV LED light box!

img_6103

This was a really fun project and I’m very please with how it came out. Hope you enjoyed seeing how I constructed my light box, comment if you have any questions or suggestion!

 

A Bit About Cyanotypes

The cyanotype process was discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842. It’s a photographic process made from a light sensitive iron based solution painted onto thick paper (or fabric, wood, ceramic… basically anything porous). A lot of people use this method to make photograms, which are images made by placing an object directly on the paper (contact printing) such as flowers and leaves. Botanist Anna Atkins  used the cyanotype process to document different kinds of algae and was the first person to publish a photographic book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

I’ve been working over the past couple months on my cyanotype set up at home. I built a UV light box to print with because light boxes are more reliable then sunlight. You can see how I constructed my light box here: LED UV Light Box DIY. I use the Photographers Formulary cyanotype kit which comes with all the chemicals you need plus instructions. The images I make are pretty big, 16×20, so I use a local photo lab to print my digital negatives.

This is a really great, hands on process. It’s easy to learn but not without its challenges. Figuring out exposure times and contrast control can depend on the type of paper you are using, your chemical mixture, UV light source and other things. However, the process is so rewarding these minor setbacks feel more like a fun puzzle.

IMG_6104

First cyanotype before washing…

IMG_6105

…and after washing.

IMG_6113

Printing digital negatives in the photo lab.

IMG_6121

Little cyanotype printed from original negative.

IMG_6135

Little cyanotype printed from original negative.

IMG_6190

Large print after exposure, before washing.

IMG_6156

Prints drying.

When dreams become day jobs

My Cyanotype Project was an idea I got about a year ago. I’ve always been way into alternative photography, old processes and mixed media art and one day while daydreaming, they all kind of collided into this idea; mixed media cyanotypes! I thought about printing beautiful images on watercolor paper and then painting over them with bright, neon colors. I even thought of drawing over the images, or making double exposures… I just let my imagination run wild. At that same time I was in a pretty hardcore Sergio Leone phase. Spaghetti Westerns were all I was watching! So, that western influence trickled into my cyanotype/mixed media/alt photography idea. Another project I used to dream about was taking portraits of all of my girlfriends. Like, really natural, laid back photo shoots that celebrated the natural beauty of the women I know and love. At this point I had all the pieces and I just put them together; portraits of strong women printed using the cyanotype process, painted over or altered by hand in someway with a western vibe.

It’s been slow going over the past year. I began experimenting with paint and drawing to figure out a look and pallet that I like, I’ve been reading up on cyanotypes (which I will describe in detail in another post), and I’ve been compiling a list of supplies that I need to get going. I recently changed my schedule to allow more time for photography. I’ve decided to actually, actively give my dreams the fire they give me. Yesterday I did my first official photo shoot for this project and I couldn’t be more please with the images. This morning I ordered the supplies to build my own UV lightbox for cyanotype printing (construction of which will also be getting its own blog post). This thing is happening now, and it’s awesome!

 

bbp_gabrielle_negatives_2016

Negatives from yesterdays shoot

 

Hampton, 2014

Oh! Hello.

I have been keeping busy catching up on work. Did you know I shot more film in 2014 then I did last year?

At that time I was obsessed with documenting the towns around where I lived (which was Hampton, CT). That area is known by the locals as “The Quiet Corner” because it is a very rural, somewhat low income pocket in the northwestern corner of CT. These towns used to host mills, factories and farms but now they are mostly residential.

Driving around Hampton made me feel like I was living in an old New England story. I couldn’t help but photograph it.

More to come.

Chapter 7: Back to Georgia

Hi there.

Remember me?

I know its been a while and I’m sorry about that.

But I’m back… in black… and better than ever!

Seriously though, a lot has changed since my last post. I’d love to share with you, if you’ll have me back that is.

The last time we spoke I was making jam in Asheville and it was summertime. Asheville sure was fun and it was a necessary change, a much needed adventure, but I began to feel stagnant by mid summer. The mountains can make you feel infinite at times, like they charge you with their immense power, but other times they can make you feel trapped and claustrophobic. After spending so much time in Connecticut away from my family in Georgia it seemed silly to move to a city in North Carolina where I didn’t know anyone… so close to my home in Georgia, yet so  isolated in my mountain town. I suppose the real issue was I needed to reconnect with my roots.

Move #7: Back to Georgia

In August I high tailed it back to Alpharetta, Georgia, the town I did most of my growing up in and also a place I only visited a handful of times in the past six years.

Life works in mysterious ways. This year began with a feeling; a feeling I needed to change my life, a feeling I needed to move, a feeling much like growing pains. I decided to follow my gut and I moved. I created a life that was truly and completely mine up in Connecticut, independent of my family and friends down south. I left all of that behind because something was telling me it was time to move on. The new path I fell onto was rough and I got hurt badly this past year but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I learned things in Asheville that I needed to learn. One of them being say goodbye when you feel it’s time to.

I had no idea why I felt the need to return to GA, but the feeling was so strong I could not turn away.

So here’s to new beginnings in old places.

 

 

 

How to make wildflower jam

Last year I began a photo series of portraits of wildflowers. They are beautiful close ups taken with my Mamiya and I love them dearly. My goal with the project was so identify wild plants, forage edible wildflowers and preserve them as jam. Once I finished shooting for this project, the wildflowers were past their prime so I decided to finish the last step of my project here in Asheville! I went out on some lovely hikes and gathered daisies, red clover, honeysuckle and spiderwort. 

I’ve been making jam almost every year since I was a toodler with my grandmother and mother, then I continued to make our famous strawberry jam with one of my sisters every summer as we grew up. I didn’t follow a recipe for the wildflower jam, just used what I already knew about jam making, but I wanted to share the steps I took because this stuff is amazing and everyone should try it! 

 
First I gathered the flowers, I ended up with about a cup and a half total once the buds were picked and washed. 

 

 I then picked all of the buds off the stems and washed them in cool water. I put them in a bowl and steeped them in 2 cups of boiling water.  

  The flowers sat in the water for about 24 hours.

 
Next, I straind the wildflower infusion into a pot (ended up being about a cup and a half). I added one box of pectin and the juice from one lemon. 

  
I stirred the mixture on and off til it came to a boil, then I stirred in two cups of sugar and continued to stir until the jam mixture came to a roaring boil.

  
I continued to stir the jam mixture for another minute. While this was going on I boiled a pot of water for the mason jars to process in.

 
This is the part where you have to move fast. I had prepared heated jars before hand to ladle the jam into. I filled up the jars as much as I could and then I put some freshly washed wildflowers on top. 

*Little side note: technically speaking, jam has little bits of fruit in it and jelly is made from an infusion. I thought that if I put whole flowers into my “jelly” that I could then call it jam. 

  

I covered up the jars and put them into the boiling water to process for ten minutes. Then I removed them and let them cool over night.

  

The jam came out exactly how I had hoped! The consistency was perfect, just like any other jam or jelly, and the taste was…well, floral! It was a little sour and delightfully sweet. 

I had so much fun making my wildflower jam! I hope you find my instructions helpful and decide to make some jam of your own!

Sometimes things break

So, I broke my laptop. It was the weekend before my birthday and I woke up super excited to drive to GA to visit my family. In a rush to turn off my alarm I knocked over a glass of water that landed on my poorly placed laptop. Didn’t think the damage was that bad… But It turned out to be pretty bad. Luckily, the lovely gentlemen at geek squad helped save my hard drive. Silver lining. 

Photo work has been slow going since the incident. Since I can’t edit photos right now I’ve been focusing on artist statements. I have a few almost completed bodies of work that are missing statements and it feels great to finally explain my intentions and flesh out my ideas. Finishing an artist statement is like putting on lipstick. 

Here are some photo sketches of a new series I’m working on, Urban Flora.   

     

Social Media Abuse

Hello, lovely.

I decided to conducted a little test/experiment on myself and took a social media hiatus. But now I’m back, in black and better than ever! Seriously though, the break did me well. For once I wasn’t checking facebook while cuddled up in bed about to go to sleep, no logging into my email as soon as my alarm went off in the morning, I didn’t pine over lovely mermaid hair on pinterest while eating lunch. In short, I realized social media can be a serious addiction, one we don’t even realize the scope of until it’s gone.

The first couple days were a little rough, I was definitely restless and felt a lack of connection. I wondered what people were up to, but mainly I wanted them to know what I was up to. That’s when it hit me: social media isn’t so much about being connected as it is about showing off. I mean, a little bit, right? Not entirely, not all the time, but a lot of the time it is. I wanted to post pictures of my outfit, where I went hiking, a pretty sunset, my adorable niece and I wondered about my friends less and less.

After the first week of my experiment, I didn’t even miss social media. It was easy to get through the day after a solid week of avoiding temptation, and I was amazed to find my iPhone still had about 70% battery life at the end of the day. WOW! After that second week I noticed I had better concentration and I was sleeping better at night (can I get a hell yeah?!).

Now I’m connected again, which has brought a whole new lesson: I realized social media itself is not bad but that I had been abusing it. I recently had a very emotional day where I was questioning every decision I’ve made in recent months. I went on facebook and made a post about it and I was overwhelmed by the response from my friends. My silly status update brought so much support and love from friends near and far, I sat at my laptop and cried tears of joy at all the positive messages popping up before my eyes. This is what it’s about people!

Social media is fun, it’s supposed to be fun, you are supposed to post pictures from your awesome vacation to Hawaii (and it’s even alright if you sort of hope your friends are jealous), but it is also a support network at times. When someone is feeling down, a simple emoji can express their feelings of hopelessness and can illicit a powerful response from friends and family. So I am vowing to stop over doing it on facebook and instagram (my two favs!) I will pay more attention to my friends posts and not just concern myself with my own.

It’s a gift really, this magical portal that can connect me to my friends who are far away.

#lessonlearned

Wish You Were Here

I have the travel bug.

There is no sense denying it and I wouldn’t want to anyway. I want to experience as much as I can in as many different places as possible. My latest leap has brought me to this magical place known as western North Carolina. Asheville is a lovely city and the Blue Ridge Mountains have completely consumed me. There is so much to discover right here under my nose!

IMG_1998

That brings me to the purpose of this post; I wish you were here. Lately I have enjoyed a whirlwind of adventures hiking these magical mountains. The beauty I’ve seen has taken my breath away and I wish so badly that I could share my experiences with my family in GA, my friends in CT and many other friends who are adventuring around the world. All of this has inspired me to start a social media series which I’m calling Wish You Were Here. This project will consist of pictures form my adventuring and short video clips of the beauty that is all around just waiting to inspire us.

Look out for #wishyouwerehere on my other pages: Instagram facebook tumblr