There are several types of printmaking techniques, with silkscreen printing, engraving, and woodblock printing being among the more familiar ones. But have you ever heard of cyanotype printing? Despite it not being the oldest printmaking method, this form of printmaking is still not as widely known despite having been around for over 180 years.
However, with our current advancement in technology, the need for this time-consuming process has diminished, and without deliberate preservation efforts, this art form runs the risk of fading away. Fortunately, Project Blue, a cyanotype printing studio in Singapore, is determined to keep this printmaking technique alive.
Before that, let’s talk about what exactly cyanotype printing is. This printing method is a distinct technique initially created by Sir John F. W. Herschel, an inventor in the 1700s. Its primary function was to produce technical drawings (blueprints) and mathematical materials. This printing method emerged during a period when photocopier machines were not yet invented, but there was a need for rapid reproduction of prints.
Cyanotype printing uses light-sensitive chemicals to create blue and white prints. The process involves applying the chemicals to paper, compressing objects on top, then exposing them to ultraviolet light or sunlight. The areas that remain unexposed to the UV light retain their original white colour, while the exposed areas transform into a striking Prussian blue hue. All excess chemicals are then washed away to reveal the final print.
The beauty found in the silhouettes and details amidst the shades of blue give images a timeless and ethereal beauty that inspires me whenever a new print is made.
Founder Odelia Yen, 30, who has been practising cyanotype for five years and counting, shares, “I first came across cyanotype printing during my studies at Lasalle College Of The Arts and have been captivated by the beautiful blue-hued images produced by this method since. The beauty found in the silhouettes and details amidst the shades of blue give images a timeless and ethereal beauty that inspires me whenever a new print is made.”
Today, cyanotype printing is not only an art form but a form of therapy as well.
This traditional method of printmaking has evolved into an art form for image-making. It is also more accessible than other printmaking methods due to the minimal equipment required for cyanotype practice. “I feel that in cyanotype printing, you will love it as a whole because you do not need a dark room or specialised equipment to start making prints. All you need to develop your prints is simply, tepid water and the UV light from the sun, which is free and all around us! Furthermore, I love working under the sun as it helps with our circadian rhythms and alleviates anxieties. And the best part is, embracing the unknown! Today, cyanotype printing is not only an art form but a form of therapy as well,” she says.
As with all kinds of tangible art, wastage is inevitable. In this case, paper and materials such as cotton are often used for Project Blue’s workshop. But Odelia is taking the extra step to ensure as little wastage as possible. This also further pushes the boundaries of the technique, which typically involves using chemicals on paper. “We are looking into sustainable mediums, such as upcycling the waste papers, as different mediums produce different outcomes. Of course, other mediums such as glass, acrylic sheets, and any medium that you can think of,” she shares.
In addition to being an art form, Project Blue seeks to advocate for the therapeutic benefits of cyanotype. Attending the workshops offers individuals a valuable opportunity to relax and alleviate stress. “We want people to feel that this art form has a therapeutic essence to it. At the same time, anyone can feel the excitement of creating unique art prints that subconsciously rediscover your inimitable identity,” she explains.
Our goal is to initiate a “cyanotype movement” in Singapore to create a platform, a community to bring people together to inspire, advocate and support one another.
Despite being perceived as an obsolete printmaking technique, Odelia feels it is important to conserve this art form for the future generations to come. Through their workshops, Project Blue provides a gathering space for like-minded individuals to connect, relax, and explore their creative abilities. In doing so, they foster a sense of community and provide a platform for shared relaxation and creative expression. Odelia shares, “It is paramount to preserve this art form as cyanotype printing has a lot of benefits and that includes mental health. Our goal is to initiate a “cyanotype movement” in Singapore to create a platform, a community to bring people together to inspire, advocate and support one another.”
Find out more about Project Blue's workshops here.