Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Here's some Methyl for you...

Methyl Cellulose, to be precise.

I've just spent the morning doing one of my favourite things - learning something new.  A Nelson artist, Susan Andrews Grace kindly came to my home studio to teach me about her unusual technique for using this product.

Susan started by explaining that  her initial work with methyl cellulose about twenty years ago was an effort to protect her artwork incorporating burnt papers.  The cellulose allowed her to to affix it to canvas without breaking the fragile pieces.

© Susan Andrews Grace

Her more recent works are deconstructed screen printings on silk and organza in multiple layers, all around the theme of worms.

© Susan Andrews Grace

A series of 500+ artworks revolve around the lives of these creatures.  I was fascinated to learn that worms have five hearts!
© Susan Andrews Grace
Methyl cellulose is a neutral ph substance used in bookbinding, paper repair and art framing.  Susan prepares it by adding 2 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon (depending on the thickness desired) of the powdery substance to one cup of water, mixing, and letting it sit overnight.  The resulting mixture is mucous-like and can be applied to the fabric with a credit card, palette knife, or the like.

One distinct advantage of this type of 'glue', is that it allows the fabrics to retain the feel of fabric, as opposed to other glue types which destroy the hand.  Another is that it can be used for two- and three-dimensional work.  And, it can be broken down with water;  the fabric pieces can be lifted, rearranged and pasted back down with more methyl cellulose, so it would work beautifully as a final layer in a mixed media piece.  One distinct disadvantage of this glue is that it can be broken down with water (yes-works both ways!), so I'll also be testing ways to fix it for those times when fixing is the only option.

Here, Susan demonstrates the application to the second side of the fabric after the first has been applied to a surface.

 You can see how several layers of transparent silks can create a rich and varied focal point.

 Susan spotted some cheesecloth under my easel, and added it to her silk start.

 A painted dryer sheet added yet another beautiful layer to her piece.

I layered several pieces of her luscious hand-dyed silks on a matboard, and then

 I tested one layer after another layer

 including two difference cheesecloths,

 a dryer sheet,

 and another of Susan's silks.
I couldn't make up my mind which I preferred, so I thought I'd let you have a say!  All comments are welcome, as always.

Before Susan packed up, we traded fabrics.  I scored some of Susan's incredible silks, and Susan got some of my painted cheesecloth and dryer sheets.  Somehow I'm certain I got the better deal!

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