Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Opium Cyanotype: the Barbarians

This summer I'm concocting experiments in my studio (er, my current bedroom with floor-to-ceiling windows), to take advantage of China's clear skies. These images have been brewing for quite some time.

Here for the first time are some of my works-in-progress. Some I've rejected, but shots of them illustrate aspects of Cyanotype printing that give ideas for further experiments.

Porcelain snuff bottles were small, meant to be held in the palm of your hand. They were in vogue in China during the Qing dynasty (when snuff boxes were popular in the West) and were miniature works of art. You can find reproductions at any tourist market in China and Hong Kong.

I painted the photochemicals at 1am, went to bed, then was up early the next morning to get a jump on the sun.

Laying out the text with Xuan paper:

Laying out the bottle

The bottle is four feet tall, and has a human presence. Phrases swirl around the inside, inspired by Deng Zhaoping's famous phrase: "If you open the windows for fresh air, some flies will come in" – flies have been replaced by foreign barbarians.

Printed bottle (before ironing):

Bottle printed

detail of textured cotton:

Bottle cap detail

It's been half a year since I last had the space to print Cyanotypes, during a residency at USM Malaysia.

Find out more about Cyanotypes in this how-to post.

More images from this series in the Flickr set

Intro to the series.


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