Hand prints

The pristine, just-laser-cut blocks.
A pair of resultant prints.
Just before the blocks’ maiden voyage. I photographed them before they got little bits of ink stuck in them.

Next step is to heat-set them with the iron, and sew them into a test mask.

UPDATE: Masks!
My face is a little red because I rode my bike 67 miles today, including 10 miles in rain so heavy I couldn’t see and had to stop every few yards to wipe my eyes because OW rainwater stings, but I was sufficiently excited to come home to these masks to take these pix anyway.

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Eye mask design in progress

First I made this one…
Then I made this one…
Then I posted them on social media, where the feedback favored the hands…
This morning I designed this one, which combines traits of the first 2 designs.
Then I took this blurry selfie, because it’s raining this morning and very little light is coming through my windows.
A few more tweaks…
Ah, there we go. Still blurry, but the design feels much better to me.
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Angel O’ Death Mask Take 3: I’m getting tired

I’m now on my third set of laser-cut acrylic printing plates. Third time’s a charm. Even if it’s not, I’m not going through this again.

Below is design 3 (top) vs design 1 (bottom).

The Angel O’ Death face has become smaller still, so the wings could become proportionally bigger. Honestly I’m not sure I like this, but I’m tired and don’t want to go through yet another design iteration, so this may be it.

Momz sewed this new mask prototype, but I sewed the center seam, because it has to be sewn along the image line rather than the exact quarter-inch-from-the-fabric-edge she sews to. If I make a signed, numbered, limited edition handprinted mask run, I will be sewing all the center seams (and hopefully someone else will assemble the rest of them).

The new plates have finger holes, which are a vast improvement for handling, and work with a registration frame. Even with all the precision laser cutting, exact registration of the image on the pre-cut fabric pieces remains impossible, but this might be good enough.

Behold the glorious print process:

Registering a pre-cut fabric piece in the precision-cut frame.
Using the finger holes to line up the inked plate in the frame, which will drop right into the depression in which lies the pre-cut fabric.
Whacking with the rubber mallet. Whack, whack.
Lifting the plate with the finger holes.
The fabric is now stuck to the plate by the sticky ink.
A little finger burnishing. Not much is needed, as long as I slather on that gooey ink.
Peeling off the fabric.

Printed fabric pieces drying.
The finger-hole plates work fine without the registration frame as well, but then I have to hand-cut the pieces.

Oh, I actually wore one of these masks yesterday, while bicycling to Theo’s laser-cutting bunker to pick up the new plates. I’d been laid low with allergies, sneezing my face off, and thought the mask might reduce my inhalation of allergens. Maybe it did, but I will not bike with a mask again. I got out of breath quickly, and the mask became moist from my exhalations (which I then re-inhaled, hence feeling out of breath, because I’m inhaling my own CO2 instead of fresh oxygen), and when my nose got runny it got even more gross. So, not for biking. But I will wear one for shopping or other indoor public activities I can’t avoid. Still, all this work for something that’s just a drag to wear… No wonder I feel tired.

 

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Angel O’ Death Mask Project

UPDATE: Momz just sewed the first mask prototype!

Here she is modeling it:

Here I am modeling it:

We look similar, right? Must be that huge Angel O’ Death covering our mouths and noses.

This mask is sewn from the unbleached pre-cut cloth:

Even though I got better ink impressions on the bleached white sheet, in the end we couldn’t use it because it was too soft and floppy to work with. It was literally from an old white sheet I cut up when it got holes in it. The pre-cut is PaleGray Labs’ quilting cotton, which is stiffer and crisper and easier to cut and sew. In the end, though, the off-white cream color has a nice worn look with the hand-print ink texture, and looks as stylish as any mask can be on the face.

More tests to follow.

*******

A few days ago, Theo Gray implored me to design fabric for the high-end masks he’s producing here in Urbana Illinois, using his laser cutter to precision cut the fabric components. The Angel O’ Death was an obvious choice, so I got designing:

Because the mask has a curved center seam, the art had to be distorted. I don’t have a single “distort” button (but there are very nice point distort tools in Moho) so I went by instinct. The paper test here is scratched up because I turned it inside-out after taping, which crinkled it a bit.

Now, how to get it printed on fabric? In the past I have used Spoonflower, but they currently have a 15+ day three week delay. Plus the size has to be accurate to fit the masks, and it’s really hard to get that right with Spoonflower, especially given the uncertainty of laundry shrinkage. Because my design was black and white, I realized it could be silkscreened!

But we’re in the midst of a pandemic, so when I called the local screenprinter no one answered the phone. I emailed them but still have no response. Then I thought, “why not block print this sucker?” After all, I’ve used a laser cutter to make Angel O’ Death block prints before:

But where to find linoleum blocks in the midst of a pandemic? Theo doesn’t like using wood in his cutter because it “gums it up.” He prefers acrylic. So I thought, “why not block print using acrylic?” So Theo made these:

I was able to get screenprint fabric ink and a brayer from the local big box chain art store, by ordering online and getting local pick-up; I got special block print fabric ink from the local local art store, once they finally answered their phone (no pickup, so I got the $5 home delivery). This morning, I did my first tests.

The good news is, acrylic is a perfectly viable material for block printing.

The bad news is, block printing is very labor intensive and probably not the best medium for this project. I got enough decent prints to make 3 or 4 masks out of this batch. The impression below is about the best I could do:

Second test, with Speedball Screen Printing ink for fabric

The screenprint ink actually worked better than the block-printing fabric ink. I applied both with a brayer. I was able to load more screenprint ink onto the block, and the fabric seemed to accept it a little better.

First test, with Speedball Fabric Block Printing Ink

The image looks better on bleached white than the unbleached “natural” cotton I thought I’d prefer.

Theo made a system for registering prints on pre-cut fabric, which saves the work of cutting out with scissors later.

But it adds more labor “burnishing” the fabric onto the block with your fingers.

Impressions using this system came out lighter than my tests on uncut white fabric, even with all the finger burnishing. I’m not sure why.

The handmade, ink-textured look is hopefully charming and valuable. Maybe it’ll look cooler than silkscreen, but I’m still gonna try calling the local screenprinter again today.

 

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Muse Symbol

I’m looking at and thinking about religious symbols all day – ok, I admit it, CHRISTIAN symbols, those symbols I’m surrounded by here in Western Civilization, but which have always been forbidden because I’m an atheist Jew. Well, I’ve lifted that internal prohibition recently, and my symbol-loving mind has been wallowing in symbols like a pig in shit ever since.Crosses are everywhere, including the Venus symbol, also known as the Woman symbol. Some say the O represents the womb, and the + represents a man hanging off it. Obviously the cross symbol predates Christianity, and its meaning goes well beyond that religion, although it can’t shake its association in the West.

While I don’t strictly believe in any God of organized religion, I do believe in my Muse – at least I try to. So I made a symbol for Her. It looks just as occult and disturbing as any other religious symbol I’ve seen, which was the objective I guess. If I were the tattooing type, I’d consider it.

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