Cyanotype Printing

As a fiber artist, my challenge is to figure out how to translate the cyanotype process into fabric—into silk—so I could integrate my images into my fiber work.

The history of the cyanotype process is a very old one. An English scientist, Sir John Herschel, discovered the procedure in 1842. An iron-based rather than silver-based photographic process, Herschel used it to reproduce diagrams (as in “blueprints”). Often recognized as the first female photographer, it was an English woman, Anna Atkins (1799 – 1871), who brought the process to photography. Anna, a botanist, documented plant life with her cyanotypes.

How does the process work? Two chemicals,
ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide,
are dissolved, mixed together, and then applied
to silk in low light. The sensitized sheets dry overnight and are packaged in a photographic bag the next morning. Most of the images I use come from my own photos and those of my father. I make negatives on my computer and sunprint in my dyer’s garden.

(Photos: Original photo, negative, and final cyanotype)

intro image