Last week I dyed my fingernails blue. They stayed blue for a few days. They were blue because I took a screen printing workshop at The Make Lounge in Islington, North London taught by Helen Rawlinson. I did not resent the blue. I kind of liked it. It reminded me of a night of learning a new skill with a good friend surrounded by like-minded women. No reason at all to feel blue.
Plus, I made some super cool bags and a tea-towel so rockin' that my husband refuses to use it as a tea towel and wants to frame it.
Ever since I took a natural soap making course at The Make Lounge last year, I've wanted to take another one, but life conspired against me so that it took a whole year for my friend Bex and I to get back through the doors of the Make Lounge's workshop space.
But make it we did. Helen gave us a brief run down of the screen printing process.
And before we knew it we were wielding crafts knives and cutting our images out of paper to use on our screens. Helen came around and helped each person with their image. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to get your head around the negative versus positive image thing, so Helen was on hand to help.
In my usual way, I was a complete geek and brought my own craft knife, a ceramic bladed beauty called the "Slice ". Because of how precisely you can cut with this tool, I was able to use both the negative and positive image that I cut from my paper stencil. I actually found the image that I used at the Graphics Fairy, so you don't even need to be able to draw to give screen printing a try.
Once the stencil was cut, it was straight on to applying ink and creating my image on fabric.
And it was at some point after this that I dyed my fingernails blue.
You'd think with help from Helen, our workshop assistant Becky (who was a rockstar, by the way), and my friend Bex (above), I'd avoid any and all calamity, but I still managed to get some stray ink where I didn't want it. However, as I tell my students when I teach, "There is no such thing as a mistake. There is just creative redirection".
Nothing a well placed ruffle couldn't fix.
I love to try out new crafts like this and ever since I read A Field Guide to Fabric Design: Design, Print & Sell Your Own Fabric; Traditional & Digital Techniques; for Quilting, Home Dec & Apparel by Kim Kight, I've wanted to give this handmade version of fabric design a try.
Normally, I'm very happy to buy a book and get stuck in by following the instructions. That is how I first started making cloth dolls. However, trying a new craft that requires specialist equipment without taking a course has pitfalls.
- you might not already have the equipment
- you could go through a lot of unnecessary trial and error that a teacher could have steered you clear of
- you could buy all the specialist equipment and find that you don't like that craft after all and then be stuck with it
Unlike cloth doll making, screen printing can be very messy and you need a lot of space. And space is just not something I have a lot of. So, The Make Lounge is my my messy craft oasis away from home. Complete with cool people to hang out with, experts on hand and a power hose for washing down ink-laden screens. What more could you ask for? Except maybe an in-house manicurist for those blue finger nails.