Cyanotype on ceramic surfaces – Test 1

I’ve been playing with clay  for the past few months with lots of grand ideas swirling around in my brain about getting Prussian Blue cyanotype on to porcelain vessels. 

I got all inspired for a little afternoon experiment after my friend Kim  ( )  put a call out for me on facebook to her ceramic network for advice on the ‘how to’ of getting cyanotype on to clay !! 

The Sun was strong this afternoon so I thought I’d just start with basics & try and just get the solution onto a few bisqued   porcelain beads & not bother with imagery to begin with.  My aim with this experiment was to: 

1)achieve a strong & stable Prussian Blue. 2) check to see if the clay was porous enough to take the solution &  3)See wether all the usual cyanotype rules would apply

I used some old solution that has been stored well in the dark & my little experiment was very successful.  

I managed to achieve a good Prussian Blue (even in the 4pm sunlight & with old solution!)  Midday sun is usually the best exposure time & freshly mixed solution is best.  

The exposure time is possibly longer than a paper surface & I think the washout time is longer too.  

 I bound one bead in thread to see if the same principles of cyanotype  applied with good clear results  ie: “if it lets the light through, it will turn blue, if it blocks the light out, it’ll stay white”  It was very successful ! photograms will work very well on a clay surface  

I’m incredibly excited about combining my cyanotype printmaking & ceramics and I can’t wait to conduct a few more initial experiments with photograms & digital negatives & get some imagery happening.   I’m not sure, however, that it will fire.  I still have to do much research about firing cyanotype.  

Here’s a few photos – 

These are the southern ice  porcelain beads I made. They have just been bisque fired (I’m not sure what temp as I’m such a newbie to ceramics & someone else packed the kiln !!)

Into the solution for a short soak 

Out into the Sun 

Strong Prussian Blues beginning to appear after about 6 minutes – (oops a bit of staining on the front step!)

 Yessssss- Beautiful Prussian Blue achieved

Washout ….. I have a feeling that they may even need soaking for better & more stable results ? If you don’t get all the solution out – the exposure process continues, the printed image blurs & the white areas  become blue as well

This is the bead that I’m most excited about. I bound it with thread. The  result  tells me that fine images from digital negatives & photograms  are going to be possible & very successful on bisque ware 

The colour is holding well – doesn’t scratch or rub off & seems to be deepening as it develops, which is usual for cyanotype. 

As an after thought, I decided to soak the test beads. This is to  entirely remove the solution that seemed to keep seeping out of the porous clay & dulling the whiteness of the white areas.  Soaking will stabilise the cyanotype & complete  the developing process correctly.  I know this as I’ve had problems with unstable cyanotypes on paper  in the past & I’m guessing the same rules would apply to clay bodies. 

I’m all fired up & excited about my ideas now.  Next sunny day, I will try a few photograms for test 2.  It’s going to be a bit of a journey as I’ve only just dipped my toe into the ceramic world with a recent 10 week course. There’s  a lot to learn.   Luckily I have a pottery wheel here at home  on loan from the fabulous Kim, so I am also trying to develop my throwing skills. 

Stamping & signing

I designed a monogram for myself this year & with the help of graphic designer Sarah Owen  & Roeszlers Engraving in Melbourne, I had an embossing stamp made.  It was a costly process but well worth it in terms of being able to put my mark on my work in a professional manner.  The ‘Bird on  Rock’ series is the first time I’ve used it.   I really love it ! 

Solo, solitary studio !


Stepping back into the Studio again. I hope to finish the work for the wall & move on to the smaller prints for the desk & my market stall. It’s solitary work. Yesterday, the winner of the Bruny art prize made mention, in her acceptance speech, of the isolation of artists & the hours of solitary time spent working. It’s true. Life doing art can be a such a lonely old path.
I guess that’s why shared studio space & collaborations are a good idea.

Spatula rest

It’s very easy to get into a big inky mess at the inking bench. This week I created a rest for my ink spatulas.  Such a simple thing… I just screwed a piece of dowel to the table next to my ink slab.  It’s made such an incredible difference to the order, cleanliness & how I work at the inking table. 

Happy dance

Detail of “Forty Spots on the Rocks”

I began the actual printing of my Collagraph plates this week & after a week of burning the midnight oil, much experimenting & testing, proofing, puzzling & pondering…. I’m finally getting some clean un chaotic compositions & colours with my Bird on Rock series. I very nearly gave up on this idea so  I’m pretty ecstatic right now.

A slow & labour intensive journey toward the manifestation of the final prints that are worthy of showing is always the way with printmaking.  I always used to feel so frustrated & disappointed that my artist proofs were crap & now I accept that the APs are the learning, the testing, the figuring out. It can be a painful journey for a novice like me. Rome wasn’t built in a day !! Printmaking definitely teaches me patience. Oh…. the feeling when you get when you peel back the blankets on the press bed & voila ✨… There lies a beautiful print, with all areas resolved. Your heart sings, you whoop some crazy bird sounds madly into the air, you do a happy dance. That feeling is the reason I do printmaking. I’m so glad I persevered through all the “frustrations & disasters with this set of prints. It’s been in my head for a long time. 

I’m on a roll now …… I still have a lot of work to do but I’ll be proud & excited  to show my final resolved work in a months time at the Bruny Island Bird Festi Woooohooooo

Nearly at ink stage ! 

So much has to happen with printmaking before the ink comes out.  

Collecting!  The collecting is an integral part of my printmaking. I’m forever collecting stuff for my plate making…..bits & bobs, scraps of this & that, botanical specimens etc. The foraging & collecting is a continual & ongoing process for me. 

Next…. The worst part for me is nutting out the scale & measurements of print area, paper size & borders ! 

Next ….. Design the bare bones of the composition & make the printing plates & stencils (my favourite bit). I never go overboard with the planning here & I leave heaps of things unresolved for spontaneity later on in the process. The ink has a mind of its own ! My plate making / stencil making takes weeks. 

collograph plate detail o

Next…..when the plates are complete its paper time. Tear all the paper down to size. A printmaker always tears the paper ! Soak the paper, blot the paper, stack & wrap the wet paper.  

Set up the press ….make the registration sheet & adjust the pressure on the press… Each plate needs a specific & ideal pressure. A task in itself but I’m getting better at it. Too much pressure can wreck the printing plate, not enough pressure & you get a crappy print.  

Then the ink comes out & colour mixing & testing begins. Ink is not like paint….& colour mixing is an art in itself. I use plate oil & transparent ink to achieve my colours. It’s tricky. I write down most of my colour recipes. I’ve still got so much to learn here. 

The actual printing (my other favourite bit) is where the magic happens ….. But that’s another story ! Better get to work …. I’m nearly at ink stage for my series “Bird on Rock”