Wet cyanotype process. What is that?!
I have been experimenting with this process recently. I was intending to work with seaweeds whilst away at Vashon Artist Residency, but they proved quite elusive. A little bit of kelp and some sea grass, but not much else. So I experimented with other things, such as found beach objects and paper bags..... because that's all I had at hand. And that is the beauty of this process; it is perfect for experimentation and almost any relatively flat objects can be used to create your prints.
So what is it?
The cyanotype process involves mixing two chemicals to make a light sensitive solution. The solution can be painted onto paper, cloth or any other substrate that you feel like trying; even pebbles and egg shells.
Traditional cyanotypes are blue. The solution is painted onto the paper away from any UV light, and allowed to dry before exposing. Objects laid on the paper are left out in the sun to develop over minutes or hours depending on the UV availability on a particular day. Sunshine is faster than cloud.....
This very traditional approach has been around since 1842. You can read more about the history of cyanotype and how seaweed was one of the first subjects for this process in an article from Kew Gardens here
Wet cyanotype is a method that I embraced initially due to the technical issues of finding a dark place to coat and dry my papers.
Always one to look for an easy option, I decided to try the messier, more organic approach of wet cyanotype, which avoids the need to wait for the paper to dry in a dark place. For the wet process the paper is coated away from UV light, and exposed while still wet.
Now the fun begins.
Objects are placed on the paper and a variety of additional substances can be added at this stage. These include coffee grounds, soap bubbles, salt, turmeric and vinegar.
The plate is laid out in the sun to develop.
When the paper has fully changed colour it is ready to wash.
It is now ready for rinsing in tap water, after gently removing the physical elements from the paper.
What I love about this process is the unpredictability and detail brought out by the additional elements added to the paper. The image below shows soap bubbles and coffee on paper, before washing. I imagine a galaxy in space. Your imagination may take you somewhere entirely different.....
If you would like to try this process yourself I have created a separate web page with instructions that is available to anyone on my mailing list.
Caroline Fraser - an ordinary life
on life, suburban living, art, creativity, photography, book art and travel.
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Welcome to Caroline Fraser Photography
Colourful abstracted and traditional photographic landscapes, book art and workshops. Capturing the moods and beauty of nature whether in wild open places or in small sanctuaries in suburbia.