Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Creating Cyanotypes at Sexsmith Elementary

Last week Erin took a class out on bee safaris while I made sun prints or cyanotypes with the students. I brought plant material from my back yard and the students foraged for additional bee-supporting plant samples in the school yard. I was impressed how many 4-leaf clovers they found.

We used a fabric that is treated with chemicals that react to sunlight.  The tricky part is taking one cloth out of the black bag without exposing the rest to light. Simply place the objects on the cloth and then cover with a piece of plexiglass or glass so they create a sharper impression and don't blow away in the wind. (You can arrange the objects in a darkened room and then move it into sunlight, but we were pressed for time.)

Then you wait until the fabric turns blue and there are shadows underneath. This takes a few minutes in sunny conditions, and up to twenty minutes if it's overcast. We found some pieces of fabric worked well and others didn't--maybe due to how well they were treated with the chemicals.

The large leaves of rhodos contrast with the needles from rosemary.

Fennel looks like seaweed and you can see the impressions of clover and dandelions from the school grounds.

That's a giant 4-leaf clover in the upper left. Can you see the tiny forget-me-nots?

Sweet cicely leaves are fine and fern-like.

Once they have finished being exposed, the cloths need to be rinsed in cold water to wash out the chemicals. Drying fixes the print. Cyanotype fabric and paper can be ordered online. I got mine at the Dharma Trading Company. It's an addictive activity and a good way to study botany.

Also a big thanks to Antoine, the substitute teacher who gave us this great quote: "Education is life itself." C'est formidable!

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