If you are looking for a printmaking activity that is quick, exciting, totally absorbing and completely addictive, you have come to the right place! Creating moire mono prints will keep you (and your printmaking frieinds) busy for many happy hours.
What is moire?
Pronounced mwah – ray, this effect on fabric is also known as watered silk.
Traditionally moire fabric was made by the process of calendaring; the silk fabric is rolled tightly and pressed under very heavy weights.
This creates a beautiful flowing pattern with lively movement as the light reflects off the distorted fibres.
Inspiration from an Artist’s Residency
Inkers Printmakers group are currently working on a printmaking artists residency at the Dyehouse Textile Archives in Bradford college
The residency provides the chance to spend time researching deeply into a subject area, and develop new work in response to the wonderful textile collections at Bradford College.
We are grateful to have funding from the Arts Council to support our work here. The project started in 2019 and culminates in an exhibition and public workshops at The Dyehouse Gallery in 2021.
I was inspired by fabrics with moire effects, and this has led me to experiment with various different printmaking techniques, including the one described in this post.
Echoes from my past
In my younger days I worked as a sign writer and scene painter. This involved a City and Guilds in Signwork, and also long hours learning graining and marbling techniques.
The graining and marbling kitbox includes all sorts of odd and improvised implements, and one of the interesting ones is a wood graining rocker tool.
This came to mind when I was wondering how to make moire effects, so I dug out my old rocker and found it worked brilliantly for mono print moire patterns…..
What is a wood graining rocker tool?
Basically, a panel of textured concentric rings fixed to a curved surface.
The tool is easy to use. It works like magic, and is one of those engaging activities where you get instant results with no previous skill, but with practice can become much better at controlling it and manipulating the effects.
Get your hands on a graining tool
These are available on line for a few pounds – just google ‘wood graining tools’.
It also occurred to me that you could make your own (any size) from soft vinyl lino, or pvc sheet.
I guess you would cut lines of concentric semi circles into it and stick it onto a section of tube. I haven’t tried this yet but if you give it a go please let me know how it works….
Watch a video showing moire mono printing in action
Here’s how to mono-print a moire pattern
1. Roll ink on to a smooth plate, eg acetate, acrylic or Perspex.
Loosen the ink with a bit of oil as it works better if it is not too stiff.
2. Become one with your rocker tool!
Stand up straight, take a breath, centre yourself. Hold rocker firmly but with arm and shoulder relaxed. (You will discover this is quite a ‘zen’ activity)
Now for the magic bit…..
3. Drag and rock the gaining tool through the ink
Press one edge of the tool on the inky acetate. Slowly and steadily pull it towards you while smoothly rocking it back and forwards.
watching the video will give you an idea of the movements you make with your arm and hand.
I still can’t get over how amazing this is, I hope you share the same feeling!
4. Check your moire design
If you are using a transparent plate hold it up to the light to get an idea of how your moire pattern is looking. Alternatively, putting a piece of white paper under it will help you see how it is developing.
Not keen on the patterns? just re roll the ink on the printing plate and do it again.
Do it again – and again!
Once you get in the graining zone you will find you can control the patterns almost intuitively by moving your arm at different speeds and twisting and rocking you wrist in different ways.
5. Print it
When you like the look of it lay your paper on the acetate and rub the back all over. I run it through the press to get a good even print.
Warning this is addictive!
Be sure to have plenty of paper ready as you will not be able to stop.
It maybe wise to let someone know you are starting a moire session, so they can rescue you if you don’t emerge before teatime.
If you print on dry paper you will get a bolder pattern with more contrast.
Uaing damp printing paper gives a softer more detailed print.
You can also experiment with smooth surfaced paper as well as rougher textures, and papers of different weights, all these variations will affect the type of print you get.
Print one pattern on top of another for a more complex effect. Try combining colours to see how the pattern changes.
Feed your soul
I find this is a very meditative technique; you become totally absorbed in it, losing track of time completely.
Whether you are just giving yourself time to play, making wrapping paper, or creating prints to frame, I am sure it will feed your soul and make you happy….