This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Among the many crafts in vogue at the present day there is none, perhaps, which lends itself more readily to the requirements of the amateur than stencil painting. No long course of study is necessary for this work, a certain knowledge of drawing and a sense of colour being alone indispensable. There are two kinds of stencils, viz., that which shows the "ties" (parts of the plate which are left standing to hold the design together) as part of the pattern, and which cries out, so to speak, "I am a stencil"; and that in which no ties are used, and which seems to be rather ashamed of itself, and to be trying to appear anything but what it really is. With this latter I have nothing to do.
Stencil Painting, Or Printing: Fig.I, showing the first step, viz. - setting out the design, which in this simple example is based on the diamond. The finished design, Fig. 3, is the result of printing the two stencil plates (given working size in Supplement B).
The first step is the setting out of the design. The simple tulip design which we shall use for our demonstration is designed, as may be seen, on a diamond; let the beginner, therefore, rule up his paper in this manner. The size he may determine himself, but the greatest care must be used to have the setting out absolutely true, as a great deal depends upon this. Then let him draw the design inside one of the diamonds, trace it (at the same time marking on his tracing the corners of the diamond) and transfer into the other spaces, where each one should occupy exactly the corresponding position to the diamond as the first one. Two of these drawings must be made - one for each colour; they should both be transferred, or rubbed, from the same tracing; and care must be taken that the tracing does not slip while being transferred. A thick cartoon paper is the best for this puropse.
Now let the student take a small, sharp penknife, and laying one of his drawings on a good-sized sheet of glass (which he will find it better to lay, in its turn, on a thick cloth, to prevent it cracking), cut out the flower heads, as in plate 1, using the point of the knife for this purpose. A little practice will enable him to do this quickly, and, indeed, a slow movement is to be avoided, as in such cases the edges are likely to be uneven. It is advisable to have a small whetstone handy, as the knife rapidly loses its edge.
On the second plate the leaves will be cut, and the tips of the outside petals of the flowers, which must correspond exactly with those on plate 1, as they will be used as guides, or keys, for the laying down of the plate. Each plate should have a coat of hard oil or knotting varnish on each side, and be allowed to dry thoroughly before using. If the material to be printed is a paper, the stencil plate may be cut so as to take in the whole width at one printing; but in the case of cloth, which is usually much wider, it will be better to work a smaller plate down the entire length in the centre of the material first. To this end, all folds should be pressed out with a hot iron, and a light line marked down the middle of the cloth, while another must be ruled down the centre of plate I, as shown in the illustration. Now lay clown the plate with the line corresponding with that on the cloth at top and bottom, and fasten down with three drawing-pins at the top, leaving the plate free to be lifted from time to time. I have always found that the best kind of brush for small work is a rather large sash-tool, which should be bound tightly with cord to about half the length of the bristles. This binding may be diminished from time to time as the brush wears down. With regard to colour, either oil or water-colour may be used. With the former, turpentine is the only medium required; with the latter, gum arabic and water. The use of white should be avoided as far as possible. It is rarely needed, for, the colours being transparent, the depth may be emphasised by the use of less medium.
Fig. 2. - The Second Stencil Plate.
Fig. 3. - Impression of the Completed Stencil Design, Printed in Two Colours.
Fig. 4. - Stencilled Frieze, showing how the Tie Lines may be used as part of the Design.
Take your brush, and, having your colour ready on a large tile or sheet of glass, pour a few drops of medium from a bottle (which may have a small channel cut in the cork for that purpose) on the tile, and mix with a small portion of the colour. Try the brush, by rubbing it on a piece of waste paper, to see that it contains very little moisture - it should, in fact, be almost dry - and lightly rub the colour through the plate. In the case of a large space, the proper method is to move the brush with a circular sweep from right to left; but with a small object like the present, two or three light downward sweeps from the top and the same up from the bottom ought to be better, as the clanger of scraping superfluous colour against the edge of the plate will thus be avoided. These heads having been done, the plate must be dropped so that the top row of flowers fits on to the bottom row on the cloth, the centre lines always corresponding, and so on to the end of the piece. The middle having been finished, the plate must be taken again to the top and repeated from the sides. If we work to the right, the three flowers on the left of the plate will fit as a key on the three already stencilled on the right of the cloth. This may, of course, be extended indefinitely. When one is working to the left of the pattern down the centre, the same rule holds, only, of course, the sides are reversed.
The cloth being now covered with flowers, take the second plate and carefully fit the keys over the corresponding parts on the cloth. Having pinned your plate as before, take your second colour, and rub through a faint tone in one or two places, such as the top of the stems, so that by gently lifting the plate it may at once be seen if it fits or not. If it fits it may at once be worked to an end; if not, the plate must be made to fit, or cooked; that is to say, each individual form fitted and printed separately - a process both laborious and unsatisfactory. If, however, proper care has been taken in the initial stages of preparing the design and plates, it is safe to assume that there will be no difficulty about the fitting.
The beginner will find it advisable to keep to quite simple designs of one or two colours until he has mastere:! the few technical difficulties which must necessarily beset him on trying a new process, and which united with a complicated design in four or five colours would prove more than disheartening. Should a shaded effect be desired, the flat colour should first be printed over the whole piece, then the same plate used again with a much darker colour, which must be started at the end of a leaf or flower with a comparatively heavy pressure, and gradually lessened to soften off into the first print. This shading - which, by the way, is practised by nearly all the stencil printing firms in this country - is not considered, artistically, to be good, it being held that this work should be essentially flat. If this be so, however, there is still a rich mine of colour to be worked by the means of stencil printing, the scope for this being practically-; unlimited.
Always remember: (1) To keep the plate in position with the left hand while printing with the right; the pins will not always prevent slipping. (2) To have as little colour in your brush as possible. (3) That care will reduce to a minimum the danger of ties breaking, though this must occasionally happen. When it does, the surrounding part must be cleaned, and a larger piece of paper of the same quality, covered with very thick gum, pressed tightly on the upper surface and allowed to dry thoroughly; when dry, the plate may be turned over on the glass and recut. A broken tie will cause a delay of an hour or so, which cannot in any way be avoided.
Ordinary colours ground in oil sufficiently good for this purpose may be had from any oil shop. If colours of finer quality be required, they must be obtained from an artists' colourman, and considerable expense will be incurred.
William Morris Dawson.
Object Drawing for Craftsmen.
By Edward Renard, A.R.C.A. (Lond.).