Renate Smitham - Bespoke Cyanotype Earings
cyanotypes on fabric earrings.
Each are hand "printed", hand sewn and one of a kind.
Botanical Designs is a series of earrings made from double-sided cyanotype prints on fabric.
Cyanotype process was first invented in 1842 and has remained essentially unchanged since then. It uses iron compounds (potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate) which create a photosensitive solution when mixed together. This solution is then applied to paper or another receptive surface (in this case- fabric) and allowed to dry in a dark place. Objects or negatives are placed on the sensitised surface and exposed to a UV light source (typically sunlight) to make a print. The Botanical Designs cyanotype photograms have been created with various plant materials and sunlight; as it was winter, exposures were quite long between about 30 and 60 minutes on each side.
After exposure cyanotypes are developed by rinsing with water, a white print on a blue
background is revealed as a result.
Creating this series has been both an exciting and a very experimental process from working with different plant materials and exploring various designs to combining photography with jewellery making. I tested a few types of fabric and chose this particular cotton as it absorbed the cyanotype solution well and allowed to capture fine detail while providing sufficient transparency for me to be able to incorporate the reverse side prints into the overall design of the earrings (with two exceptions where I felt a plain blue reverse side was preferable). It has also been quite exhilarating and fulfilling to use a mid 19th century technique and to be able to make the work with my own hands without employing any machines or digital technologies. I feel I now have a new appreciation for the uniqueness of everything hand made as well as the uniqueness of everything in nature – having looked very closely at the plants I was using, I found no leaf or blade of grass, or piece of grain was identical to another.
Botanical Designs are hand printed, hand sewn and complete with matching blue anodised titanium earring hooks. Each pair is unique and has taken up to 10+ hours to create.