Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Screen Printing with Plants: Research into Alternative Ink Technology

The main purpose of Phil Shaw’s article, ‘Screen Printing with Plants: Research into Alternative Ink Technology’, is to investigate whether it is viable to use ‘water based’ screen printing inks on an industrial scale. These plant derived inks are known as ‘process’ or ‘trichromatic’ colours which have led Shaw to create the term ‘Phytochromography’. The article is an experimental text explaining the alternative natural ingredients available to create ‘eco’ prints and their success.

The key question Shaw aims to thoroughly explore is, ‘How far can we go in recreating the natural dyeing and printing processes of our ancestors?’

The information of greatest importance within this article is the findings of the author’s experiments, as they are individual and reliable experiences due to them being carried out primarily by the writer. Rather than compiling information from others Shaw validates his conclusions through this technique.

The secondary information within the article has been gathered from relevant journal articles, key texts and newspaper articles. It has been extremely important for the author to explain the history of the subject make he intends to explore further.

Primary sources as previously stated consist of the experiments conducted specifically for this article. Contacts such as Sue Minter of the Chelsea Physic Garden and John Keesing at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew have been aids in the sourcing of rare seeds and key information.

After much experimentation, Shaw concludes that it is viable to conduct a printing process with fully natural ingredients. An example of this is:

“On the industrial front, the Auro corporation of Germany has been manufacturing a range of vegetable paints for some time at a reasonable cost.” (Shaw, P 1997)

He is although realistic when he explains how unlikely it is that there will be a complete shift in the way the textiles/ dyeing industry use synthetic parts.

It is important to understand the printing practice itself and the techniques which produce these ‘green’ dyes. The concept surrounding nature’s capabilities creates further understanding on the subject and the idea of being as sustainable as possible. Using nature itself to prevent further environmental damage:

“once all the factors are taken into consideration, including those that concern the overall well-being of the planet, then any alternative resource ought not be ignored.”(Shaw, P, 1997)

It may be fair to say Shaw is over estimating the extent to which the use of plants can be still considered sustainable. If these techniques were used in excess it would almost inevitability result in the extinction of already scare plant material, unless of course they were managed sustainably and monitored closely.

If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications would be that the dyeing process would be overall a much ‘greener’ technique as it has been in the past.

If we fail to take the author’s line of reasoning seriously, the implications are that the textiles industry will inevitably come to an abrupt end. This would be due to lack of resources. The negative impact on the land itself caused by synthetic pollutants would be drastic.

The main point of view within this article is that nature can provide the key elements needed to create successful dyes, although exploration of these techniques needs to be taken further in the future.

Phil Shaw’s extensive research teamed with his practical approach makes this article more believable and admirable.