Part 2 Screen printing – Sketchbook work and printing techniques

After working with photography and feeling that it wasn’t going where I wanted it too, I decided to look at what fabrics were used and also if symbols were used in telling the story of the wearer. I have in the past bought african beads from The African Fabric Shop, and have seen the vast array of fabrics being imported into the U.K by this company. I enquired if they could tell me how their fabrics were printed and, kindly they sent me many samples and emails explaining processes.

bark dyed fabric

bark dyed fabric

shwe shwe fabric from South Africa

shwe shwe fabric from South Africa


kente woven cloth (Ghana) and wax printed fabrics using kola nut dye. kolanut is deemed as being sacred and is used in ceremonies

kente woven cloth (Ghana) and wax printed fabrics using kola nut dye. kolanut is deemed as being sacred and is used in ceremonies

Whilst looking at symbols used in African fabric printing I came across a variety of resources and i chose some symbols that told of strength, femininity, bravery, fragility etc. that i associated with the women and children who had undergone F.G.M. I explored using them as designs for borders on fabric and also centre panels.






Whilst I could see easily how I could produce innumerable patterns and designs, I just couldn’t see that this work told the story in a way that I wanted it to be. It all looked quite twee. I was still curious about printing using blood, but what image or design would I use? I looked at outlines of countries in Africa where record of incidences of F.G.M were recorded in detail and began to form some ideas. I wanted to show something of the innocence that is taken at the hands of F.G.M and thought initially of something that symbolised innocence to me that was familiar. I chose a christening gown. I collaged what I envisaged it could look like.




I decided it was really time to see what printing with blood would involve. I had purchased dried blood from a butchers on-line as it was the only source I could find to buy blood. I made a screen using screen printing fabric and stuck to it a stencil made of sticky plastic This I used to make prints on a variety of fabric to see how it reacted.





Often I find I find I am unsure that the path I am following as the right one, and I have taken to simply doing a basic mind map in order to get me back on track or to help me focus on what I feel is important at that time to move forward. I had worked on many ideas and was feeling I was wandering and not actually committing to any one idea. The above paper was what I decided to tuned to after printing with the blood. I wanted to know that I was using the blood in the correct context and not just using it because it was to me an unusual medium.  I found that yes, it was unusual but to me it was the best suited medium to use, not to sensationalise in any way but I could see that if I was to develop this idea further I would take it to the extent of working with women who had endured F.G.M and, using their blood I would want to print the area where they were living when their cutting had taken place. I was aware that all my designs were of African countries and I wanted to get away from the stereotypical idea that this is the only place F.G.M took place. There is documented information now of the numbers of girls that are cut in this country. I spoke to someone from the Orchid Project based in London, and also Ashiana based in Sheffield to find out a little about what was happening in the U.K and especially my home city of Sheffield.

I had felt pulled back to the brief outlined in Exploring ideas of developing patterns to be printed, so I worked by hand drawing designs using countries in Africa and then I worked using Photoshop to produce some designs using cities in England where high growth in reported cases of F.G.M .


Hand drawn patterns below.






Photoshop designs below.

border design

border design




Whilst I find it easy to create patterns using repeats etc. I was thinking that twee patterns didn’t actually hold the weight I wanted to offer the subject. I then began to this that it was actually where the patterns were placed that would add gravitas to the design. I thought again of the christening gown and even an alter cloth, to express the ceremonial aspect of the cutting. I returned again to the idea of the christening gown as it resonated with me as part of my own culture intertwined with the culture of where F.G.M is seen as a right of passage. I thought this would speak of girls who are now brought up in the duality of British culture and that of their parents and grand-parents county of origin.

I also thought of adding stitching to the piece which I explored in the sample below.



I am now I feel ready to complete this section of work by actually printing my final sample. I have decided to use the simplest method of printing and, I am going to use a stencil of the cities in England to create a border onto a Victorian christening gown I have, using blood.



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