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Claudia Hollister : Cyanotype Collage

Updated: Feb 6

I tried my hand at cyanotype one summer afternoon not too long ago. In the company of a friend, we took advantage of one of the rare sunny days in Vermont. We diligently set up in my garden and got to work. By the end of the day I found myself the proud owner of five rather splotchy, faded blue pieces of curled paper. Success? I could hardly call it that, but being a complete and utter neophyte, I chucked the results to inexperience. Clearly, I needed more practice.


I knew that cyanotype is not an easy technique to master. Apparently, everyone can more or less immortalize the silhouette of a leaf, but that is a far cry from using this medium to the fullest. Practice, time and experimentation are key ingredients to making beautiful, intricate cyanotypes.


I came across the work Claudia Hollister serendipitously. She blends collage and cyanotype, so the idea immediately intrigued me. Claudia was very kind to describe for me some of the methods she uses, and I thought that her approach granted a little more than a mere text exchange.


What follows is based on her descriptions and her explanations. I'm very happy to be able to share it with you. Enjoy!


 

Visual Poetry is a new series of images created with cyanotype collage. The results are elegant floral compositions with a vintage feel and a modern twist.


Cyanotype is printed utilizing various techniques, and no two cyanotypes are ever the same. In Claudia's opinion, the design of the background often sets the visual dialogue that frames the remaining elements. Each element is unique, and they are individually printed from negative transparency film. The original images are photographs of flowers from Claudia's garden.


When printing a cyanotype, a piece of glass keeps the negative in contact with the UV light sensitized paper. Then, it is placed outdoors to be developed in the sun. Once the color changes from bright green to dark green and then purple, the image is ready to be washed to fix the image. The paper is submerged in water and the beautiful shades of blue start to appear. Once dry, individual elements are cut and glued onto Stonehenge paper. They are then thoughtfully assembled onto hardboard to create the final piece. At this point, they are ready for framing.


In a nutshell, this is the process used to develop the floral collages.



Beautiful Vintage Tiles by Claudia Hollister

Specific techniques are used to create individual effects. This is when creativity takes a leap of faith. For instance, Beautiful Vintage Tiles came about after a few technical failures. It started out with UV solution applied onto the paper via rubber stamping all over the background. Unfortunately, that choice turned out to be a complete disaster!


Claudia then attempted a variation on the theme, but soaking the paper in a bath of ammonia didn't yield any progress either. After soaking it in some black tea, the image was finally brought to life. Once the remaining elements were selected, they were collaged and the piece was completed.


Loop de Loop by Claudia Hollister

Loop de Loop underwent a different process altogether. The solution was applied directly on a linocut and pressed onto silver paper. As it turned out, this print was hardly successful in blue. However, once taken back to almost silver on silver by means of an ammonia bath, a rich background emerged. The result is quite understated, yet very elegant.


Long Hot Summer by Claudia Hollister

Long Hot Summer is created over a direct contact print. The Queen

Anne’s Lace was placed directly on the sensitized paper with a pane of glass on top. It was then exposed to sunlight. The background retains the delicate shapes of the plants with their frilly flower clusters.


Marvelous Spring by Claudia Hollister

Marvelous Spring has a background that resulted from several steps. The original image was applied by hand on acetate using white gesso. The acetate was then placed over a specialty paper with encrusted flecks of gold. Once again, a glass pane was placed on top prior to printing.


 

Claudia points out that regardless of what technique is being used, the paper can be quite fragile when wet. It can tear very easily, so extra care is needed when handling any of these prints. Be gentle and don't attempt to cut any of the cyanotype images while the paper is moist because the fibers will tear and your edges will be frayed.


Choosing your preferred method sets the intention for the final piece. You should expect minor mishaps and unexpected turns. It is part of the process. So, think carefully, but don't be afraid to experiment either. Perhaps you could start by using the same acetate image on an assortment of backgrounds to create a cohesive series of cyanotypes. Feel free to continue exploring new ways to create interesting effects. Keep your work fresh and enjoy beautiful surprises.


When Claudia is not in the studio working on her cyanotype collages, you might find her in the garden tending to her plants. She is a hands-on gardener. No task is too onerous: pruning, planting, or cleaning up after the winter season. All the while, she is always searching for new interesting plants to photograph.


In addition, Claudia is busy as a founding member of Ninety-nine Girlfriends, a philanthropic giving circle for women focusing on supporting local non-profits though grant writing.


In her own words, Claudia reminds us that "life often throws us unexpected gifts: friends, family, opportunities, all of which I have learned to embrace and cherish. I have also found the hardships that have come my way have unexpectedly influenced my art. I need to create more beauty in the world around me. As I move forward in my life, so will my art continue to grow."


For more about Claudia's work visit https://www.instagram.com/claudiahollister/




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