We are back with another DIY at home Seek Salon activity. This time it is hand block printing...with potatoes! In addition to hand loom weaving and natural dyeing, hand block printing is integral to the Seek design process. The artisans who block print the fabric made for Seek clothing have four centuries of tradition behind them and you can learn more about their process here. Using potatoes, something many of us have at home already and if not something easy to get, is a simple way to try your hand at printmaking at home.
All you’ll need to start is at least one potato, a knife, paint or ink, a sponge or roller and paper or fabric to print on. Creating something beautiful often does not require a lot of fuss and you can use things at home (or maybe just one trip to the grocery store).
Block printing is one of the oldest, earliest, and slowest methods of printmaking on textiles in the world. If you do not have any fabric or clothes lying around that you’d like to print, printing on paper is a great way to create artwork for your home or as a gift for someone. At our block printing workshops we have often seen people get nervous about placing that first block down on the paper of fabric. Remember to let loose and enjoy the process!
We looked to our past seasons’ prints for inspiration for our potato prints this time. You might recognize a nod to our 2016 Griffa print, 2017 Bursts print, 2015 Eclipse print, or 2020 Polka dots! We leaned into a sense of graphic minimalism. Some artists and designers you could look to for inspiration are: Giorgio Griffa, Yayoi Kusama, Sonia Delaunay, Matisse (during his paper cut-outs period), Louise Despont, Terence Conran, as well as global vintage textile designs. We gathered some inspiration for you in a Pinterest board for you here.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
- Knife and optional additional carving tools
- Paint, ink or ink pad (because we might want to wash our fabric eventually, we used a permanent, screen printing ink)
- Brayer (ink roller), sponge, or brush
- Paper or fabric (note that if heavily textured this will affect outcome)
- A hard, flat surface to print on
1. Cut your potato. You can start with cutting it in half, long-ways if you want to get the most surface area. Make sure this first cut is level
2. Cut or carve away to create your design. You can also keep it simple and print circles by just cutting the potato in half and leaving it at that.
3. Dry your potato block off, and roll, dab, or brush your ink or paint onto it. Run some tests on newsprint to find the right amount of ink.
4. Print away and remember to have fun with it! Imperfections and happy accidents are natural and we recommend embracing them. You can create repeat patterns or unique abstract artworks.
- For a more sophisticated print, keep your palette down to just one or two colors
- Cut away a legibly potato silhouette
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
- Experiment with not inking up your block every time you make a print to vary the tone
- Geometric play: with smaller, geometric shapes, you can make a more complex and playful design
- Polka dots: use the end of a wine cork for a smaller dot and intermix it with a larger, potato dot
- Stripes: repeat your print, but flip the block 180 degrees each time for more continuity
This was so fun!!