Photogram Work in the darkroom at Cleveland Print Room

I wanted to explore something completely different when I began the residency in Cleveland. I am always working with print, which requires a really specific way of thinking about image making. You must think in terms of layers, and keep the process you're using in mind at all times. With the exception of monotype, it's sometimes hard to be spontaneous in printmaking. The chance to work with photography for a while was a chance to refresh things and make something visually different, because I'm literally having to think differently during the process.

Of course, I still wanted to make work relevant to me. I love photography and taking photographs and have never used them in my own practice. So in the beginning of the residency period I did a lot of research and reading on alternative darkroom techniques, and ways in which I could use black and white photography in more abstract and spontaneous ways than I would have otherwise.

Ripple - Silver Gelatin Print

Ripple - Silver Gelatin Print

I had been thinking about the images made by surrealist photographer Man Ray, who popularised photograms, although he referred to them as Rayographs. Here is a little collection of my research images, all Man Ray photograms featuring hands:

These photograms really inspired me, as they were so unique, having a dreamlike, surreal mystery to them. I managed to learn the technique from the wonderful staff at CPR. The process is the same in the darkroom as it would be if you were making prints from a roll of film, just without the film. Essentially, they are camera-less photographs. The print room has great facilities for creating enlargements up to quite a large scale, so I was excited to work on some big photograms using my own paintings as transparencies. 

In my work have used hands as a symbol representing people, emotion, movement. Using the cutout hand shapes is also a callback to silhouette papercut illustration, and shadow puppetry.

A work in progress image from my sketchbook. I laid out the cutout hands in different ways to decide on compositions.

A work in progress image from my sketchbook. I laid out the cutout hands in different ways to decide on compositions.

To make my photograms I began with painting on transparencies, using sumi ink and salt, which I then cut up into shapes. I then brought these to the darkroom, where I arranged them under an enlarger directly on top of photo paper. These objects acted as a stencil for the light from the enlarger, and once exposed to that light, the photogram could be developed as usual.

Cutout hands on photopaper. This one actually ended up as a lumen print.

Cutout hands on photopaper. This one actually ended up as a lumen print.

I then brought these shapes to the darkroom, where I arranged them under an enlarger directly on top of photo paper. These objects acted as a stencil for the light from the enlarger, and once exposed to that light, the photogram could be developed as you would a normal black and white print. Below, you can watch the process of developing one of the photograms at the print room.

katieravenscraig photogram.jpg

I love this process and will be making more.

Check out the full project for more photograms! 

First Sculptural Project in Cleveland with Brick Ceramics

Waterloo Arts District , Collinwood.

A few weeks into my time in Cleveland, I was shown around the Collinwood area, in particular the fun Waterloo Arts District. It was the best day to go, as they were having the monthly Walk All Over Waterloo event, which is great if you want to meet all the creatives that have set up in spaces in the area, attend local art and music events, and generally have a good time. It's great!

Collinwood started to get redeveloped in 2002, from dilapidation caused by postindustrial economic decline. Artists and enterprising residents completely transformed the area, opening arts and music venues, coffee shops, studios and small businesses. Today, its a bright, clean, thriving little neighborhood full of street art, with events happening constantly. It really does show the transformation cultural investment can bring to communities.

There are some really stunning facilities for artists to use in the area, and I really wanted to work with one of them. I loved Brick Ceramics, and felt that exploring sculpture would be a really logical avenue for me in my own work. I've been drawing vessels for a few years now, so it was only a matter of time!

Below are some photographs of the process of making my giant bottle, built from slab by hand and using decoration methods like wax resist, photo transfer and finally sealing my finished bottle.

 Rolling the porcelain into a slab

 Rolling the porcelain into a slab

First forms being joined together

First forms being joined together

Getting some help from expert  Val,  learning how to join the seam.

Getting some help from expert Val, learning how to join the seam.

Letting it rest and dry off a little in the studio heat.

Letting it rest and dry off a little in the studio heat.

Forming the bottle shape.

Forming the bottle shape.

 I wanted it to look like my drawings of vessels, not perfectly straight, mimicking hand drawn lines.

 I wanted it to look like my drawings of vessels, not perfectly straight, mimicking hand drawn lines.

Fresh from the first firing!

Fresh from the first firing!

If you look closely here, you can see the wax hands I painted on the surface.

   Painting on top of the wax resist... magic!

 

Painting on top of the wax resist... magic!

Painting the textural wash of paint over the wax resist.

Painting the textural wash of paint over the wax resist.

Ready for glazing

Ready for glazing

Big bottle awaiting glazing. My other bottles and objects have already been glazed here.

Big bottle awaiting glazing. My other bottles and objects have already been glazed here.

All packed up in the huge gas kiln!

All packed up in the huge gas kiln!

The process for making the little message in a bottles was a bit different, as I wanted the pair of bottles to be twins. We decided to slip cast them, using a mould Val had already made. Here's some bonus process pictures of that.

Filling the bottle mould with slip

Filling the bottle mould with slip

Excess slip dripping back into the bucket

Excess slip dripping back into the bucket

Fresh out of the mould

Fresh out of the mould

I used a photo transfer technique to make this little bottle. My other one had hand painted designs on it.

I used a photo transfer technique to make this little bottle. My other one had hand painted designs on it.

After glazing! This one was destined for the water...

After glazing! This one was destined for the water...

The cork wasnt an exact fir, so I sealed the top with some specialist sealant for good measure.

The cork wasnt an exact fir, so I sealed the top with some specialist sealant for good measure.

Click through for more images of the finished works .  This is what it looked like after glazing, and in the  Cleveland Print Room  gallery!

Click through for more images of the finished works.

This is what it looked like after glazing, and in the Cleveland Print Room gallery!

I ended up with three pieces, one big scultural bottle, and two small bottles that were designed to be used as message in a bottles. One ended up in Lake Erie, the other has travelled home with me to Dundee. Check out the rest of the project here.