What are the essential characteristics of quality fiber art? Most quality discussions revolve around the aesthetics of art. I was interested in the physical characteristics of quality fiber art. If I entered a time capsule and jumped ahead 100 years, what would my masterpieces look like? Would the printed imagery stand up over time? Nobody can predict the future but a strong foundation would increase the odds that my printed babies would still be there for future generations to enjoy.
From the drudgery of doing laundry, I knew that faded clothing did not last long in my wardrobe. Neither did faded outdoor couch cushions after a season of being exposed to daily sunlight. Resistance to water and light would be crucial to the longevity of my printed wonders. The last secret to longevity emerged from an impromptu experiment.
One day, I approached family members with a piece of framed art and a piece of fiber art. As we discussed the visual impact, I found that they would instinctively reach out and touch the fiber art. There was an automatic yearning to understand what was creating the visual texture. To gain that information, it needed to be touched. So resistance to abrasion would be an important quality consideration. As I moved forward, the acronym L.A.W became my shorthand for fiber art's ability to resist light, abrasion and water. It was the technical standard I used to measure the physical durability of digitally printed fabric.
It seemed cruel and unspeakable, but in the name of science and the "Pink Cut Velvet Box", I tore my printed children into quarters. One quarter went into the sun. Another into hot water. The other two quarters were on standby. Looking for immediate gratification, I focused on the washing experiment. One can always avoid light. Moisture was much harder to escape.
Pretending I was having a spot of tea, I poured my the fabric into a cup of hot water. Like a teaspoon of sugar, my precious images dissolved and vanished leaving a fabric "teabag" floating aimlessly around the edge of the cup. My stomach turned as the hot water became a lovely shade of muddy gray. The verdict was swift. My prints were not water fast. In desperate denial, I took standby piece #1 and rubbed it vigorously between my hands. Known as crocking, the color abraded off with little effort. Sharing was suppose be a good thing. However leaving color on my hands was not. At this point, my light test seemed like a moot point but I completed it anyways. Three days later the results were undeniable. The sun had caused significant fading. A harsh reality slapped me in the face. Even if printer 1 and Rosie had survived, the prints failed to meet the technical standards of L.A.W...
When I began my adventure, my hope was to eliminate the "middle man". Perhaps I was premature. Clearly I needed a better understanding of the technology I was trying to harness and repurpose. To fight the effects of L.A.W., it was time to zoom in from the big picture and start looking at the details.
Unlike the printers, I did not have the heart to bury what remained of my printed babies. Instead, I made a banner out of them. I pinned them to my design wall next to a picture of the pink cut velvet box. They would remind me that my dream of personalizing fabric was, after all, a quest.
Until next time.
Forever dreaming of the "Pink Cut Velvet Box".
Julie S. Brandon
Where Digital Meets Fiber