Why trap your prints behind glass? Are they desiccated museum exhibits forever fixed in time?
‘A print that moves’ is part of my investigation into making prints that live outside the frame.
In this post I want to share some of my current work with you, so there’s a bit of a story about developing initial ideas, moving on towards a finished piece, which will form part of the final exhibition for an ongoing printmakers residency at Bradford Dyehouse.

Three dimensional prints

Making prints in three dimensions and encouraging people to physically interact with them is something I have explored previously, for example with the ‘walk’ series of prints. These etched lino prints on cubes are designed to be played with, picked up (they make a noise) arranged, and built into different structures all representing a unique walk.
blocks and tiles arranged

Experimenting with mobile prints

I wanted to find more ways to extend prints from static two-dimensional images into 3d moving pieces and create forms that change in response to the environment.

I started by cutting up old prints, this example has two similar prints glued back-to-back, combined into one moving sculpture. The two images re-configure as the hanging pieces turn and change in relation to each other, forming multiple new images.

This is one of my more successful mobile print test pieces, and the ideas sparked from this one led me on to more complicated structures and simpler prints…..

test piece by Emily Harvey showing prints made into a ganging mobile

Inkerwoven at the Bradford Dyehouse Textile Archive

I started just trying out mobile structures and then found a connection with my current work on the ‘Inkerwoven’ printmaking residency at Bradford Dyehouse Textile Archive, funded by Arts Council England. Members of Inkers Printmakers are creating a body of work inspired by the fascinating collections in the textile archive. (Look out for the exhibition in October 2022, also a programme of printmaking workshops.)

Weaving drafts

Part of the Textile Archive collection includes textile designs and weaving drafts spanning the last couple of centuries.

The weaving drafts unfold from long concertina books, filled with diagrammatic loom set ups as a key to create woven fabric patterns.

The grid formed by the mobile prints relates to these gridded weaving drafts, each separate element contributing to an entire complex whole.

Historic weaving draft from Bradford Dyehouse Archive

Patchwork Quilt block patterns

If you make pieced quilts, you will recognise how the grid of squares with simple light and dark designs resemble patchwork pieces. Any patch-worker will feel at home with small units that create big patterns, and the variety of patterns a single block can make when turned and reversed in an organised way.

The difference with a print that moves is that the pieces never stay still!


hanging printed mobile by Emily Harvey

Keep it simple

I like building up layers using colour and texture and my prints often become quite complex. However, the process of developing prints specifically for mobiles has forced me to take it back to a simpler image. I want people to spot connections and patterns as the pieces rotate; if the prints are overly complex you can’t comprehend the structure. When you add movement into the mix, too much detail in the printed image becomes confusing and the viewers eye and brain can’t compute what is happening, it all becomes a muddle.

A print that moves and changes constantly

The hanging pieces are suspended so they rotate randomly, moving with even tiny air flows and constantly altering the whole pattern. This means the overall patterns must be bold and strong enough to withstand being broken up and rearranged constantly.

A print that moves

Watch a relaxing video of the mobile print in action.

Static versions of a print that moves

I started arranging the prints to show some of these patterns – quickly became mind boggled, but here are some of the more regular possibilities…..

Infinite variations

The binary nature of each square produces an almost infinite complexity of patterns – here is a cardboard computer fixed together with cotton thread!

80 double sided squares produce a mind-boggling number of variations. In fact, this mobile print contains more patterns than there are stars in the milky way. I am reliably told that there are 1.2 trillion trillion patterns hidden within this mobile made from deceptively simple little prints.

mobile print zig-zag face by Emily Harvey
mobile print zig-zag and diamonds by Emily Harvey
mobile print triangles by Emily Harvey
mobile print diamonds by Emily Harvey
mobile print diagonals by Emily Harvey
mobile print corners by Emily Harvey

Pattern design

Each square is are made by gluing two prints together back-to-back, the arrangement of designs on each side is critical to the way the pattern changes and connects when each square spins in two directions in relation to the others.

Planning the mobile print colours

I love working with colour but my first attempts at making a print that moves with contrasting colour changes was very confusing to look at, and the colour masked the connecting patterns.  I restricted myself to a more subtle colour fade from a French blue through to a turquoise, taking in cobalt in the centre – I couldn’t resist this, why stick with only one colour? You may notice that the edges of each square are red, this reflects the red ink the students used in the weaving drafts and also the ‘turkey red’ dye colour used in many of the fabrics in the archive.

close up blue diamonds by Emily Harvey

Mono prints with insect netting

Close up you might have spotted that the prints are made from one of my favourite materials – insect netting. This is a fine plastic mesh for making fly screens. The regularity of the material and ease of cutting and inking makes it good to use for mono prints. It is similar to enviromesh but stays in a fixed grid.

I also enjoy the way the base colour can show as little dots through the mesh, these sporadic dots reflect the technical details on the weaving drafts.

insect netting for mono printing
mono print from insect netting by Emily Harvey

More movement

This is my first mobile print  for the dyehouse project, more ideas are forming and I am currently working out how best to mount it so it catches the draft, and planning a second design with circles, maybe with a bit of gold to reflect the light….