Liz Ensz - Senior, Fiber major

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Materials and Process

  • silk screens
  • dyes
  • cotton fabric
  1. Wash fabric.
  2. Coat silk screens with photo emulsion.
  3. Expose image onto dry coated screen with UV light, then rinse screen.
  4. Make dye print paste using urea, metophos, pro-chem flakes, sodium alginate and powdered MX fiber reactive dye, mix with hand blender.
  5. Stretch fabric onto print table with drop cloth underneath.
  6. Using a large T-square, print images, one color layer at a time (I printed 5 layers).
  7. Remove fabric from table and wrap both sides in newsprint.
  8. Roll wrapped fabric up and place in the upright steamer to set the dyes.
  9. Remove fabric from steamer; remove newsprint.
  10. Rinse in cold water until water runs clear.

Note: Entire process takes approximately 20-50 hours per yardage.

Artist's Narrative

I make system-based patterns that are often narrative, socially critical, and also decorative. The ideas of repetition and variation interest me as a metaphor for the conformity of people to fit within a large group.

In a silkscreen repeat pattern when the rules of registration are followed, the pattern is upheld. Breaking the system can result in the module being printed upside down or in the wrong color or misplaced entirely. In a system with a prescribed course and outcome, spontaneous variation is undesirable and creates disruption and irregularity within a precisely regulated structure. The system produces a regularity that is calming and disarming because of its visual stability.

Likewise, a system for standardizing culture and personal beliefs is being instituted in the name of national security and global stability. In this design, I have used a floral motif and geometric structure typical of decorative Islamic tiles and introduced my own imagery as a critique of American car culture and its dependence on foreign oil.

The importance of each module being printed in register to fit within the greater pattern parallels the importance of foreign compliance to the United States' guidelines for international policy. In the context of international relations, assimilation is expanding a monotonous consumer culture in which exploitative corporations are the ambassadors. I present this practicum as a satirical vision of impending American globalization and world domination.

Teacher's Comment

Notice the playful inclusion of wheels and spokes with their radial symmetry, and bicycle chains to delineate the pattern. The relationship here of text and image is also an effective means of communication between artist and viewer. Islamic artists often played with the relationship of text and image in book illustrations in different ways to attract and keep the attention of intended viewers. Very often, the image penetrates beyond the frame of the page, reminding the viewer of an imaginary realm. This practicum conveys some of the same idea, leading us off in different directions at once.

more by Liz Ensz || back to other students' practicums

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