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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Surfaces and Strategies – Hands Off Activity

Module 3 Week 4 Activity Brief:

“This activity asks you to reconsider your relationship with your apparatus by not using it.

You have 24 hours to produce a mini-series of five images relating to your research project without using apparatus that is familiar to you.

All images must be produced on Wednesday 21st June between 00:00am and 23:59 (local time).”

– (Canvas 2017)

The first challenge was to work out exactly what I should do. I have always wanted to trial the cyanotype process, so this is the method I chose. With the spell of hot weather being experienced , the exposure of the images would be optimum.  Photographing images of people as fairies, makes the cyanotype process one that fits well with my project.

I decided to trial both paper and fabric versions of the cyanotypes on the day to make sure that I was able to produce images that I was happy with.

Cyanotypes have been around since the middle of the 19th century. The printing technique traditionally gives a vivid blue print and was a popular way to reproduce photographs and documents.  The process is relatively quick and inexpensive.

I purchased pre-treated fabric and paper from Amazon.  these are ready to use straight from the package. Each pack comes with instructions which are easy to follow.

Figures 1-3: Sutherst. 2017

I designed and created the cut out shapes using the laser cutter at school and exposed both sides of the fabric with different templates.


Figure 4: Sutherst. 2017

Figures 5-6: Sutherst. 2017

The fabric is coated in a sun sensitive layer (cyanotype process).  I placed the card cut outs on top of the fabric and left it in the sun for 15-20 minutes.  The reverse side was then exposed in the same way. The fabric was then rinsed in cold water until the water runs clear. Figures 7-10 show the process steps.

Figures 7-10: Sutherst. 2017

The fabric was then placed onto an absorbent tissue and patted dry.  I left the prints to dry for a couple of hours before scanning.  The fabric is 100% cotton and can be stitched into bigger pieces.


Figure 11: Sutherst. 2017

The paper cyanotypes were exposed in the same way, rinsed with a hose pipe and left in the sun to dry.

Figure 12-13: Sutherst. 2017

Once dry, the selection process took place. The resultant paper images are shown below.

Figures 14-19: Sutherst. 2017

The resultant fabric images are shown below.

Figures 20-29: Sutherst. 2017

I decided to submit a selection of the fabric images as the materiality and loose threads at the fabric edge adds to the effect. Also the colours were much more vibrant on the fabric prints than the paper prints and the different colours made the final sequence more attractive to me (and hopefully to the viewer).  The double sided exposures gave an interesting effect on my chosen prints. I scanned the images using an Epson Workforce printer.  The layout was done in PowerPoint and saved as an image.

The submitted set of 5 is entitled ‘What do you believe?’

20170622-js submission

Figure 30: Sutherst. What do you believe?. 2017

As a first attempt at producing cyanotypes, I am really pleased with the overall images. The colours are bright and vibrant; the theme of fairies and unicorns fits well with the work I currently do.

The process is a relaxing way to produce images and I felt more anticipation and excitement over the results. I guess this is because it is not an instant, back off the camera check to see how the image has turned out.

Comments from my peers included:

“The result is amazing!”

“Not only is the dual sided process interesting these are very you because of the colour 🙂 “

“Definitely gives a different perspective on making images using natural available light!”

“I love the way these turned out! So creative, fun and completely relates to your project!”

“Loving your fairies and unicorns (so very you :D), very well done Jo!  You should make cushion covers out of these (if big enough) and integrate them into your studio set… You’ve motivated me to try something new.”

These results have got me thinking now about how I might incorporate something like this into my future work.


Canvas. 2017. [online]. Available at: [accessed 20 June 2017].

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