Inventing the Layered Process

Jul 27, 2021

Before I began creating the Current Collection I knew just three things. I wanted it to explore the metaphor that grief is like the ocean. I wanted to create parameters as I did for “A Stirring” Collection. And I wanted it to be abstract. In the process of creating a collection that met these conditions, I invented a new cyanotype process. I’ve been calling it the Layered Process.

Traditionally there have been two cyanotype processes the wet and the dry process. The dry process is what I use for my work. With this process the artist allows the sensitizer (chemical solution) to fully dry in the darkroom before exposure and the result is the deep Prussian blue. The wet process can be achieved in many ways, but generally is accomplished by exposing the piece before the sensitizer has dried. The result can be incredibly varied from green, to teal, to yellow with intricate swirling patterns.

I originally thought I would use the wet process to create the current collection. However, after many tests and experiments with the wet process, I couldn’t achieve the aesthetic that I was looking for. But during this experimentation, I started to wonder – what would happen if I layered the sensitizer?

The process

Cyanotype’s dry process is done by coating cyanotype sensitizer onto an absorbent material like paper or fabric and dried completely in the dark before exposure. It is a contact photography meaning the paper will only capture the image of what is touching the paper. A stem that is mere millimeters above the paper will barely show up once exposed. So compositions are usually created by placing an object like flowers or a photography negative onto the paper and exposing this composition in direct sunlight.

However, the layered process creates abstract compositions from simply layering the cyanotype chemicals themselves. Each layer is given a full 24 hours to dry so that they can build upon one another rather than just mixing all together. This is the most simple explanation of this process. It is much more complicated than this but I will not go into all of the details at this time. Not to mention the discovery of this process wasn’t quick by any means.


The Discovery

When I first began to wonder what would happen if I layered the sensitizer, I didn’t set out to invent an entirely new process. I was just trying to solve a problem and create something beautiful. Any you might be asking yourself, is it really an entirely new process? After much thought, I would say is. I genuinely think this is a unique way of using the medium and that I invented it. I’m not sharing this in order to toot my own horn but rather to honor this beautiful discovery.  I didn’t see someone else do this and copy them. I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere. It is entirely possible that someone else somewhere has made a similar discovery, but I don’t think that lessens the fact that I also discovered it.

Something that confirmed this for me is that the Dry and Wet Processes have different requirements at every step of the process, and my Layered Process. Each step has slightly different needs than the wet and dry process. I discovered these needs and then how to meet them through great attention to every nuance and much trial and error. I loved this slow process, the fails, and the success because it allowed me to get to know this medium in a beautiful new way.

These pieces are not just deeply personal to me, add beauty to the conversation of grief, but also push the boundaries of the very medium itself.


You might be interested in:

Processing Greif with Art

The Ocean Taught Me to Grieve

Inventing the Layered Process

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