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Laminating Paper to fabric at Ally Pally

I came across an intriguing workshop run by a Christine Chester at the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace, so I booked it, did it, and thought about how I might carry it forward afterwards. Paper lamination, sounds fascinating! I hear you say. Well, it's basically a method of sticking paper (of a certain type) to fabric (also of a very particular type - namely, voile, a transparent sort of net curtain fabric). In a nutshell you lay out your image with the paper, lay your voile fabric on top, spread glue all over it through a silkscreen mesh, then iron it, then soak it in water and scrape the back of the paper off to be left with the image fused into the fabric.

Denise Linet, "Letters to Myself", 2013

Denise Linet

Where it gets interesting is in what sort of design (if any) or pattern you have on your silkscreen mesh. When the paper is then dissolved and scraped off, and what you end up with is the image on the fabric, but in the pattern or image from the silkscreen. And because it's on fabric now, you can then sew and paint that fabric to further develop it. And because voile is pretty transparent, you can layer it and hang it in ways that add to or underline the meaning, and have fun with those properties too. And since you are using polyester, you can burn and distress it too with some sort of heat tool!

For those trying this at home who do not have any pre-burned silkscreens you can buy some ready-made at Thermofax for example, or make your own if you are a screen printer.

Christine Chester's work currently deals with the effects of dementia on memory and the fragmentation of memory and its effects on others. The technique is a perfect one to deal with this sort of theme because the result always ends up being fragmentational and "not all there".

Christine Chester, "I don't remember", "Gaps", "Rusting Memory", 2014


Poor paper stock is best. Not too thick. You can think about using old photos, printed out with LASER PRINTER not inkjet or sheet music, newspaper (I used some old newspaper from 1943 and that was ok) , pictures of textures and fabrics, tissue paper, mono prints. The paper you use will be destroyed (by dissolving) in the process so make sure it's a copy if you don't want that original to be gone forever.

What you do NOT want (surprisingly) is GLOSSY magazine paper as it doesn't not laminate well.

So: make a collage or paper , on top of a heavy piece of felt, and lay it out how you'd want to see it on the fabric. You're pinning the fabric over this collage.


Needs to be sheer polyester voile You can use cotton silk organza but it's less robust. Polyester voile is acrylic.


needs to be FLUID matte medium. Theoretically you could use PVA but it's harder and too shiny.

You put a bead - snail trail at the end of the screen. After spreading the glue through the mesh with a squeegee, Lift off the screen mesh and be careful - this is why you've pinned it all so well.

Now leave it to dry.

Then lay it on felt and protect with baking parchment on both sides, then fix with the iron. Don't use the steam setting.

NOW put it in a bucket to soak for a bit!

Then you're ready to scour off the paper. If you're only going to see one side, it's ok to leave a bit of paper if you want, but if you'll see two sides and you want a lighter feel, get all paper off.

What's happening here is the top layer of the paper with the colour on has fused with the paper, but the back layer can be scraped off because the glue didn't penetrate that far.

Don't put the matte medium on the fabric without a screen mesh because it goes too thick.

Also the glue shows up on a transparent fabric where there is no collage paper, so don't put glue onto blank fabric.

Don't put the paper pulp down the sink!

Here are some shots of the two pieces I managed to make in the workshop. As you can see, each used a different silkscreen pattern, (One elongated dots and one swirls) and that becomes the predominant feature in the finished piece - in a way your original collage or picture becomes less relevant, and this is the challenge when using this technique.

Claire Benn is another artist working with this technique and integrating it with others, and writes about it in her book Paper and Metal Leaf Lamination.

She explains it well in this video, which also shows how you can work large with only a smaller size silk screen.

And here's another artist doing cool things using paper lamination as well as other techniques - Sarah Welsby:

A note on Copyright:

You basically can't use anything of someone else's art or photography, even phrases and sentences are the copyright of the writer/ artist, but when the usage is being so definitely changed and the result is unrecognisable from the original, it becomes arguably ok.

I am also examining dissolving fabrics as a technique, see this post here; what I would really like is to be able to actually DISSOLVE the non-printed/imaged areas rather than have them as just white transparent voile.

#art #technique #artcourse #textiles

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