I knew early in this project that I wanted to use intricate fern fronds as part of my printing process. There are over 30 species of ferns to be found in Sussex and in parts of woodland around Hastings they grow huge, taller than me; ancient looking as they create a prehistoric view. I love the history of this plant; that is spans back to the Triassic period, and as The Observer Building itself is rich in old stories, I feel it's a fitting piece of imagery.
I packed my youngest son, a couple of large plant presses and my mother into the back of the car and we went hunting for Ecclesbourne Glen. Despite living in Hastings for 13 years I'd never set eyes on this place except in photographs, but once we found it, it did not disappoint. Giant ferns abound!
The ferns pressed beautifully and a week later were ready to use. I've been able to create some gorgeous cyanotype prints on charity shop vintage napkins and tablecloths; I love the way that the colours of each one varies due to the heat of the sun and how thoroughly the chemicals get washed out once printed. The rinsing of each piece is the unveiling of a sapphire coloured surprise, released by the light of the sun.
I've also been delighted with an experiment in creating a rust paste that can be passed through a thermofax screen, made using a photograph of one of the ferns. I created an iron and vinegar solution, letting it soak for about a week, then added Gum Tragacanth - a substance that is normally added to icing sugar to make a tough paste. The resulting colour will gradually change over time to create a beautiful golden hue.
There's an armchair chemist residing in me somewhere so I'm very happy with the mini laboratory that has taken up residence in my studio right now!