I hand-print my designs on velvet using screen printing. I learned to print on textiles when I was a student at Central St. Martin’s College of Art & Design in London. For my exam I had to print five large pieces of fabric and I spent hours and hours in the printroom to experiment and get interesting results. This is still how I work today in my own studio in Baambrugge (just outside Amsterdam) where I converted a cowbarn into a nice workspace with two large print tables.
First I develop my designs on screens in a dark room. This is a photographic process. I put a light sensitive paste on a silkscreen and with special lighting the pattern will attach on the screen. When I wash out the excess paste, this pattern shows. You can then sceege the dye through the screen and onto the fabric with a sceegee.
Making the dyes is a lot of work. I do this with love because I am passionate with color and I do want to get the colors right. I start with pigments and add environmently friendly chemicals to make a dye paste. Only: the colors are not what they seem. I can only judge what the colour looks like after testing, I have to mix the dyes, print the fabric, dry it, steam it, wash it and dry it again. Only then I get to see the real color. This is an intensive process which takes a lot of time because every kind of fabric needs different dyes, pastes and treatments. I developed my own ways of composing the dyes so that the fabric of the velvet stays incredibly soft, even after printing.
The dyes are fixed onto the velvet in my ‘magical’ kettle. On the picture you see me putting the fabric in this steamer which I made by welding two oildrums together and putting a gass stove underneath. One of my friends says that when I’m working over my steamer, I look like Vincent Price in the 1950s movie “The Pit and the Pendelum.”
Once I put water in, I bring it to a boil, and the steam fixes the dyes in the fabric. It’s a bit like my own laboratory, because the end color depends on my combination of the dyes, the light-sensitive photographic process, the steaming temperature and the ambient humidity. When I say all Velvet Matters products are unique, I really mean it. Nothing is exactly the same, because there are so many variables in the process. But, I can duplicate my colors. I just have to make sure everything is perfect!
I love playing with this process, for example by painting in the screens or immediately on the velvet, or by mixing dyes, adding water and doing things in another sequence to achieve different effects. The surprises, and sometimes even the mistakes, are delightful and keep me enthousiastic about working with velvet. This is why I continue to make beautiful Velvet Matters for you!
Thanks for reading my blog.