Monday, September 29, 2014

I Digress

So I have been tinkering around with the geopolymers, without great success so far. I'm attempting to make a couple videos of the process, so I won't talk too much about it except to say if anyone knows any free video editing software, that would be helpful.

I have a couple of ideas of why it hasn't been working out, but I'm having a hard time justifying spending more money on it until I know I've got a place to put the eventual forge. The good news on that front is that Bucket met a nice lady at a get-together who might have some property she'd like to see used for something interesting. We're going out on Wednesday to meet her and her husband and see if we can work something out, I expect I'll write about that and how it went soon enough.

In the mean time, I thought some of you might be interested to see how my other side-project has been coming along! During the summer I taught a class on photography, and one of the projects I did with the kids was Cyanotypes, (sometimes called "Sun Prints"). They're a really basic, entry-level, relatively safe developing style that was used to make architectural blueprints, as they're cheap to prepare, quick to develop, and give you extremely high contrast contact prints. 

Anyway, I had a lot of the chemicals and resources I needed leftover after the summer, so I've been messing around with it and seeing how far I can take it. Most of these are just little 4"x5" watercolor paper prints, but I did get some bigger ones in.

This is the only 8"x10" print that turned out in the first batch. I plan on doing most of the rest in this size eventually.
All of the first batch were supersaturated with the chemicals because I had accidentally mixed about 50x more sensitizer than I had paper for. As a result, they all turned out a little weird except the two that I left what I thought was a "normal" amount of sensitizer.

You can see along the right edge where the sensitizer was laid on so thick that when I fixed it, the sun hadn't penetrated deep enough to expose anything attached to the paper, leaving a big white strip.
 I've also been experimenting with toning them so they aren't all that eye-watering cerulean. The lovely folks down at Lone Pine Coffee generously donated some used grounds to my cause, but unfortunately I came away with extremely mixed results. The process involves bleaching the photos with sodium carbonate, and then re-toning the remaining gel layer with a natural tannin. You can use tea, wine, coffee, etc.

This was the only one worth sharing of the lot. This was a direct contact print of a handful of grass.
 As you can see, it didn't go super hot. I toyed around with varying levels of bleaching (from none at all to ultra-mega-super-bleached) and coffee strength/soaking time. Strangely, every single one turned out completely differently, and in ways I wouldn't have expected. In any case, I plan on trying again with some new prints using espresso instead (my guess is that the tannins will be more concentrated and the oils better released this way). I talked to a lady down in the Maker District who paints with coffee and beer, and she suggested letting it dry out/boil down a bit so there's a closer ratio of oil:water. We'll see how it goes!

 You can really see the difference between the supersaturated prints and the ones that just had a light brushing of sensitizer (the oval ones). I got some really strange dark splotches on a few of them that look like finger prints, but whether they were made during the initial sensitizing, the exposure, or the fixing, I have no idea.

I used Photoshop to make black and white negatives of a bunch of my photos, and then printed them onto transparency paper. From there it was just a simple 30 to 90 second exposure in direct sunlight to print them out.
This one got a lovely finger print right in the middle. :/

My favorite one by far. I've done a few prints of this one, but none have turned out as nice as this one. Thanks to Bucket for brushing the sensitizer on this one - I think it made all the difference.
So there it is! We'll see what comes of it. Hopefully I can combine the two projects and make some nice frames for the prints out of wrought metal.


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