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Fabric Design - Deconstructed Screen Printing

Fabric Design - Deconstructed Screen Printing

Deconstructed Screen Printing is a way to create organic patterns that are impossible to draw. We use these patterns as a starting point for fabric design. Our process yields a look completely its own, which is why we love it.

We start by making a thickened dye paste that we apply to the top of a silk screen. We make impressions in the paste with textured objects, such as oyster mushrooms, cross sections of brussels sprouts, or the ends of bamboo sticks, to name a few. These objects help create the designs we have in mind. Once we feel the screen is complete, we remove the objects and let the paste dry for about a week. Our next step is to “deconstruct” the dried dye paste so we can collect the impressions we created. We do this by running a new, clear print paste through the screen.

To prepare for the printing process, we pin white cotton fabric (pre-treated with a fixative) to a large padded board we specifically make for this purpose. The fabric and board need to be big enough to make a dozen different prints.

Now for the exciting part! We lay our dried screen face down on the cotton fabric, pour the new print paste onto one edge of the screen, and use a squeegee to firmly run the paste over the screen. It takes many passes to get the thickened dye to start breaking down for the first print, but as it starts to loosen the dye, an image will appear on our cotton fabric. At this point, we continually move the screen with each pass. Every print we create is amazingly unique, depending on where it was in the dye’s cycle of deconstructing. We plan for what we want our designs to look like, but what appears is often different and better than we imagined because of this process. Once we’re done printing, we cover the fabric and let it cure for twelve hours, then rinse. Now our patterns are ready to be photographed. This was all just the first step! 

decontruction screen printing - print paste - ColorUpLife  decontruction screen printing - breaking down the thicken dye paste - ColorUpLife

In the next design phase, we upload the images to our computer and manipulate them in various ways to create our fabric designs. This can take eight hours or more as we layer, color, and often merge several prints together. Our computer work becomes as intuitive and organic as the printing process, meandering through layers, hues, and filters until we reach a finished design that makes our souls sing! Our process is a real marriage of old tools and new tools.

Below are two sets of photographs showing our fabric design process––what we start with, our deconstructed print, and the final fabric swatch.

oyster mushrooms  oyster mushroom deconstructed screen print - ColorUpLife  turquoise reef fabric swatch made from the deconstructed oyster mushroom print - ColorUpLife
Oyster Mushrooms

brussels sprouts  brussels sprouts deconstructed screen print - ColorUpLife  plum watercolor circles fabric made from deconstructed brussels sprouts print - ColorUpLife
Brussels Sprouts

We hope you enjoy wearing our designs as much as we enjoy creating them!

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