On my Australia trip I got the opportunity to learn silk screening printing from the wonderful Leslie Keating at Maze and Vale. We were in Melbourne for 48 free hours in between the two retreats. Jules McMahon arranged for us to go meet Leslie one morning. I'd interviewed Leslie for a Modern Patchwork/Quilting Arts article before, but this would be a treat. We were in for far more than we expected!
Leslie invited us into her shared warehouse studio space. A number of different artists working on their painting, printing, sewing, and making in a sunny, crisp warehouse. Divided by plywood walls and mixed with creativity. The Maze and Vale space is long and narrow, perfect for a printing table. Perfect for Leslie's gorgeous drop cloths (which Jules and I really, really want), a cabinet with her base cloth, and shelves of inks. Not to mention the true value of her unique screens stacked under the window.
We, admittedly, thought we were going to have a cup of tea, a short tour, and a little chat. But no! Leslie gave us that and so much more. She gave us lessons, stencil papers, a blank screen, and access to her beautifully custom mixed inks. Before our tea was cold we were cutting stencils with an exacto knife.
To be put on the spot for this was momentarily disconcerting. Thank goodness for my nearly full sketchbook that I always carry with me! I flipped through the pages and came across these sketches. In an older issue of Uppercase Magazine there was mention of a paper folding technique called Kawasaki's Theorem. While me drawing it out has nothing to do with paper folding I loved the lines of the illustration. It screamed quilt block to me. And, on this day, I used it as my inspiration for a stencil.
Now, the last time I used an exacto knife I nearly sliced my thumb off and my brother had to practice his eventual doctoring on me. So, I was a little nervous. But with some good chit chat I calmly got through and got to the exciting part of the process - printing.
There is something wonderfully meditative and quite exciting about screen printing. You think you know what it is going to look like, how it will finish, but there is still some uncertainty at the beginning. I could see this being addictive for me. At least in the summer at home because I'm not sure I could appropriate the dining room table for this in the winter months!
My prints dried, we heat set them, and last week I put together a small quilt top with my fabric. We used Essex Linen as out base cloth. With a bit more of the blue colour and a paper piecing pattern drafted to take advantage of the prints themselves I made 4 blocks. The blocks themselves are the Kawasaki's Theorem on repeat. All very meta. I think I will continue that with the quilting.
Leslie was a wonderful host and teacher. If I lived in Melbourne I would hope we could hang out a lot more. If she lived back in her native Canada it is likely we would too. Then again, we may have in the past! It turns out that not only is she Canadian, she is from the same Prairie suburb as I am. We know mutual people and even now, her sister and my sister in law are friends! We discovered all this while chatting and printing. It was a crazy coincidence and I can't believe I had to go halfway around the world to discover the connections. My little quilt and my prints mean that much more now.
This day of printing was an excellent creative retreat for Jules and I. Working hard for others and doing all we could to nurture their creativity was decidedly fantastic. But getting a chance to play and nurture our own was such a welcome and needed break. Thank you to Leslie for providing the space, inspiration, and guidance to do so.