What is Enviromesh?
If you grow cabbages you will probably be familiar with Enviromesh. It is that springy clear plastic mesh made to keep the butterflies from laying eggs on your precious brassicas.
It is a very effective protection, although they usually find their way in round the edges.
However enviromesh has another interesting use….
Why is it so great for printmaking?
The mesh is robust but malleable, it doesn’t go all floppy and get clogged up with ink like some natural fabrics. The thin filaments are stiff enough to handle easily and print really well.
Its simple woven structure makes a great starting point for prints. You can play around with distorting, unravelling and melting it too.
When printed, enviromesh produces a transparent textured screen on the paper which is good for experiments with optical colour mixing, (think of the red and green effect of 3d glasses, or the little dots of different colour in Impressionist paintings).
When the mesh is printed several times the overlapping threads start to create interesting 3d effects.
Read on to see some of my printmaking experiments with enviromesh – I am confident you will be able to develop more ideas once you get a supply of your own….. let me know what happens!
Where to get it
If you don’t already have some in the shed, you will probably find it on wide rolls, sold by the metre at you local garden centre. It is also available in cut lengths on line – try Enviromesh.co.uk for example.
The fact that it is cheap, easy to find, and comes in big sheets means you can feel free to experiment wildly!
Inking Enviromesh for printing
I find the best way to get an even layer of ink onto the enviromesh is to first roll ink on to an acetate sheet. Lay the mesh onto the ink, and cover it with a second sheet of acetate; run the whole sandwich through the press.
When you separate the 2 pieces of acetate the enviromesh will emerge pressed a bit flatter, (easier to handle) one side evenly coated with colour and ready to print onto paper.
If you are feeling fancy you can roll the acetate with a graded colour, (see the feather print below) or try patches of different colours.
Some experiments to get you going
These are all mono prints. This means there is no printing plate, you ink the enviromesh up and then print it directly onto paper. I enjoy this approach as it means ideas and designs develop as you go, (no prior planning) and you will probably discover some surprising effects and images.
Cutting, tearing and fraying
You can’t actually tear it as it is very strong, but cutting it roughly and then pulling it will produce some pretty dramatic ripped effects.
Creating frayed edges is easy and strangely satisfying; the contrast between a structured woven grid and fibres being released from their constraints has interesting design possibilities.
Individual filaments are easy to remove, and have a subtle zigzag shape from being woven.
Pulling and separating threads
If you grip a piece of environmesh and pull the fibres around you will create interesting patterns of flow, the dark areas where the threads are bunched up contrasting with lighter open patches.
The effects start to become quite 3d and much more dynamic than a regular woven grid.
In this sample the same piece of mesh is printed twice; after the first time I re- inked it and moved it slightly. (It would be impossible to line up exactly anyway!)
Optical illusions start to happen as some of the threads are more offset than others and the interplay of contrasting colours can play games with your vision.
Combining mesh with other images
In this example the printed enviromesh appears like a curtain or screen over other images.
You could also introduce folds and print multiple layers to obscure the underlying image.
I had the idea of things getting caught up in the mesh – feathers are trapped here, but many other objects or people come to mind!
Melting / heating
Enviromesh melts. Hold a heat gun near it and it will start to shrink and crinkle up. You can control this and create definite shapes.
(Its probably best not to let it actually catch fire though – have a wet towel handy to put it out if this happens.)
The finished prints on paper are physically flat but have optical 3d qualities.
Never mind the cabbages
If you have been inspired to rip the enviromesh off your cabbages they are probably full of holes and fat caterpillars by now, but I hope your creativity is blossoming regardless. You can always get a cabbage from the supermarket after all.