Saturday was the adults’ turn to experiment with cyanotypes. After reading a handout explaining a brief history of the process, the first stage of the workshop began. First, the participants arranged a selection of dried leaves and feathers in a pleasing design. Then, with the room darkened, we quickly transferred all the pieces on the pre-treated paper and held them in place under glass. Directly afterwards, they were taken outside to develop in the daylight. Gradually the paper faded until it was decided it was time to quickly remove the leaves and wash off the chemicals to stop the process.
Next, they were all hung up to dry. As they dried, the image reversed so that the dark shapes of the design became pale while the background progressively darkened. The next stage of the workshop was about creating our own cyanotype paper from scratch. Two chemicals were mixed in exact quantities to make a greenish liquid which was spread over strong paper. (It has to be thick enough to withstand being washed clean of chemicals later in the process). It dried as a mustard yellow. Immediately after drying, the paper had to be covered to stop it developing, even in the subdued light. This was for taking home and experimenting with later.
As there was time, we were able to make a sample sized piece and try developing another quick cyanotype from start to finish. After a quick arrangement of pieces on the dried paper, they were all covered with black card, rushed outside and uncovered to start the developing process. Gradually, the paper turned from yellow to light green to dark green, before becoming dark blue, which showed it was time to wash off the chemicals under running water again to stop the developing process. It is not an exact science, so results don’t always turn out as expected, but they are all individual.