Arts4All Blog

Learn More About Block Printing on Fabric Workshop

Posted January 19th, 2018  |  By A4A.admin

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This Spring, CSMA is hosting a variety of one-day art workshops. Get to know the Block Printing on Fabric workshop instructors, Luanne Seymour, Erica Larson, and Wren Sauer. They are current and former Adobe designers, and this is their first time teaching at CSMA. Learn more about their background and get an inside look at the upcoming workshop.

Luanne Seymour (right) with one of her students

Luanne Seymour, Erica Larson, and Wren Sauer

For our students who might not know, what is “block printing”?

Erica: You can think of a block like a rubber stamp. First you carve an image into a material like linoleum (a block), then you apply ink to the surface and make an impression on fabric or paper. The raised areas of the block, or the parts you didn’t carve away, make the image.

Luanne: I would add here that carved printing blocks can be made of almost anything — wood, rubber, potatoes, etc. For our class we will use a rubber-like product that is rather soft and is perfect for beginners.

Give us a little background on yourself. How did you get into design?

Erica: I come from a family of creative people. My grandmother was a fashion illustrator for catalogs in the 50’s. Her love of art rubbed off on her kids (all seven of ‘em), so it was something I was always around growing up. After some exploring at community college I went to a tiny art school with a very mighty printmaking studio, where I learned how to letterpress, silkscreen, and block print. I was studying graphic design, but made a point of using traditional print techniques in my projects just to spend more time in the studio.

Luanne: I got my BFA in graphic design from California College of Arts & Crafts (CCA) and had a long design career at Adobe. When I left Adobe, I wanted to return to non-digital forms of art and I took a block printing class. I started inviting my artist friends to block print with me and I now have a small Etsy business (Luanne Seymour Design) where I sell my handmade and block printed goods.

Wren: I went to a small art college in Portland, Oregon. While I had dabbled in printmaking methods before then, the classes I took during my BFA helped inspire and cultivate my practice to what it is today. Screen printing and block printing made me rethink how images are created and colors can be used layer by layer. It influences my work outside of printing as well, especially when I work digitally. Some of my illustration work can be found here

What do you hope to bring the students at CSMA and how do you describe your teaching style?

Erica:  For me, the main draw of block printing is how cathartic the act of carving is. There’s something freeing about knowing that once you make a cut there’s no taking it back — you just have to go with it. I hope to cultivate a relaxed atmosphere for students where we learn to embrace perceived mistakes as opportunities for creativity.

Luanne: I like to provide students with the tools and some basic techniques and then let them experiment and discover. The best way to learn is to practice, make mistakes, and be surrounded by others that inspire you.

Wren: Play is incredibly important, especially when it comes to printmaking! Allowing students room to experiment with techniques and colors to create something they would have never come to is something I value when teaching. I hope folks come home with not only new printmaking skills, but new ways of thinking about their work through that experimentation.

What can students expect from this workshop?

Luanne: The class will be roughly set up in 3 parts. In part 1 we will learn how to use the tools, make sketches and start on our block designs. Part 2 will be refining the blocks and learning various carving techniques and styles. Part 3 will be printing onto different fabrics. I’m thinking that the students will leave the class with several pieces of fabric that can be used in their own projects. Also, there will probably be a finished piece like a tea towel, napkin, or small drawstring bag — that has yet to be determined.

There is a beautiful rabbit design by Erica Larson that is featured on Luanne’s etsy store. How did this collaboration come about?

Erica: Normally I create graphic, simple imagery. I wanted to challenge myself to make something outside my comfort zone. I love the way it feels to carve, so choosing a furry subject gave me an excuse to get detailed.

Luanne: One of the goals I have for my Etsy shop is to promote young or unknown talent by printing and selling products with their designs. The rabbit design is the perfect example. I pay the artists a small royalty each time I sell a product which uses their artwork. Also, I do the fabric printing for Erica since she loves to carve more than print.

Luanne, you mention in your etsy store that you use reclaimed materials. It seems like you are all eco-conscious, what are some ways you create and work with that in mind?

Luanne: 12.8 million tons of clothing are sent to landfills in the US every year. That’s just the clothing. For several years, I’ve been involved with a group in Mountain View called FabMo. Every week they collect fabrics, wallpapers, tiles from San Francisco design showplaces and clothing manufacturers. If FabMo didn’t collect them, they would end up in landfill. They distribute these items to artists, teachers, and crafters for re-use.

All of the fabrics I use in my classes and in my shop are fabrics from FabMo. These fabrics are very high quality designer fabrics that usually cost more than $100/yard. The challenge is that they are sample swatches and come in various sizes, shapes, and colors. My goal as a designer is to figure out how to use them in creative ways. One of the ways I use the plain fabrics is to block print them. I like taking something that was considered trash and making it into something beautiful.

Interested in the workshop? Register here!

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