Neukölln map screen printing experiment

Earlier this year, I did a workshop at Vetomat in Friedrichshain (Berlin) with Dylan, learning how to screen print. I wanted to explore more manual processes of printing my work, as currently I only print digitally, and as a ‘hands on’ person I miss being personally involved in this final process. 

In screen printing each colour is applied separately and as this was my first time I decided to keep things simple and use just one colour, white. Most of my map designs are fully coloured, so I chose an A3 sized section of my Neukölln map to print, which is monochrome. My designs are detail rich with lots of fine lines. Dylan explained at the start that he hadn’t printed something with so many fine lines and concentrated detail, and couldn’t guarantee that it would be successful, as maybe a lot of the detail would be lost.

The process

1. Preparing the original artwork: First I photocopied my original artwork onto a transparent sheet of acetate film at the local printing shop. This film is going to be used to create a stencil on the silk screen.

2. Preparing the screen: Dylan selected me a silk screen slightly larger than my image. We then coated this in a layer of light-reactive emulsion. 

3. Exposing the emulsion: I then laid the acetate sheet over the screen and exposed the whole thing to a very bright light for around 10 minutes. The light hardens the emulsion where it is exposed, and the parts that are covered with my design remained in liquid form. 

4. Washing the emulsion off the screen: the areas that were not covered with my design (and therefore exposed to the light)  went hard under the light and stayed stuck to the screen, whilst any of the unhardened emulsion (that had been covered by my design) were washed away. Luckily all of the detail was picked up, leaving a super clear and detailed stencil of my design, that the ink will pass through.

5.  Printing! Now the screen was ready to print :) We fixed the screen into the printing press, securing it in place so that it can’t move during printing. I then placed my sheet of paper below, lowered the printing press with my silk screen on top of the paper. I then applied paint and using a squeegee I pressed the paint through the surface of the screen and onto the paper. And presto! On lifting up the press and screen, a print is revealed!

I ended up printing around 30 prints, on black, blue and grey paper. The prints vary a lot due to the different pressure I applied each time I printed, which I love. 

Once I was finished I washed the screen out and destroyed the stencil that had been created by the hardened emulsion. The 30 prints that I made are the only ones that will ever be quite like they are as it would be near impossible to create another stencil that is exactly the same as the one that I made on that day. This is because the emulsion is temperature and time sensitive so it is hard to know exactly how long to expose it, allowing variations to occur in each stencil that is created. 

What I loved about the screen printing process was the fact that due to a lot of variables (consistency of the paint / quality of the stencil etc.) every print is unique. It was also wonderful to be getting my hands dirty in the printing process!

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