Creative Vacation Memory Keeping + How To Make Cyanotypes

Creative Vacation Memory Keeping + How To Make Cyanotypes

Some of my fondest memories are of remembering. When I was a child I spent hours and hours looking through the photo albums and baby books that my parents had made. To the point that I'm pretty confident many of my first "memories" aren't memories at all, but memories of memories retold by others.

Back then memory preservation was so much more intentional and costly, both of time and money. Now, as a parent myself, I find myself conflicted by the desire to preserve the memories of my little ones' early years so that they'll have the opportunity to savor them the way I did. I wonder how the ease and lack of intentionality made possible by smart phones and virtual albums will change that experience for them. And I definitely haven't figured out the balance.

We recently traveled with our little brood and much of my extended family to celebrate Independence Day at my grandmother's lake-front house in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. We've been gathering there in both the cool, lush summers and snow-blanketed winters for literally as long as I can remember and, to me, it is the most wonderful and nostalgic place in the world.

It's not just the actuality of the place, but the feeling of it that I love. The forests feel like something out of a fairytale--tall pines and birch trees tower over carpets of magical little ferns. The air is cool and clean and all together different than the weight of southern humidity. In the shadows of the woods, streams of dark, cold water wind over and around moss covered boulders and cascade over waterfalls.

When I recently rediscovered cyanotypes, I instantly thought of trying to bring them to New York with us to bring home some of the memories, perhaps even the feeling, in a different sort of way.

Cyanotypes (which happen to be having a moment right now) are a kind of photography made from using paper covered with a chemical that turns blue when exposed to sunlight. There are lots of options for buying the paper, or even just the chemicals to make your own paper, on amazon. This is what we used.

To make the images, you place objects over the paper and expose them in the sunlight for a few minutes. Then wash the paper to remove the chemicals and set the image and you end up with a negative silhouette on lovely blue paper.

We didn't have to go far to find all kinds of interesting foliage right around my grandmother's house. The whole family got involved in foraging. While the girls were napping, my husband, Keith, helped make the images so I could get some pictures to show you the step-by-step:

Step 1: Gathering interesting foliage from my grandmother's yard.

Step 1: Gathering interesting foliage from my grandmother's yard.

You could get creative with what you use to make the images. It doesn't have to be foliage. In college I printed enlarged negatives of photos on transparency paper and used that.

You could get creative with what you use to make the images. It doesn't have to be foliage. In college I printed enlarged negatives of photos on transparency paper and used that.

Step 2: Arrange your objects over the paper in a dark-ish place and use the acrylic sheet that comes with pack to hold them in place. Then, carefully set the paper in direct sunlight.

Step 2: Arrange your objects over the paper in a dark-ish place and use the acrylic sheet that comes with pack to hold them in place. Then, carefully set the paper in direct sunlight.

Step 3: Moving quickly, remove the acrylic sheet and objects and you will see an opposite image of the final product. 

Step 3: Moving quickly, remove the acrylic sheet and objects and you will see an opposite image of the final product. 

Step 4: Wash the chemicals off the paper in a water bath. You can add a couple drops of lemon juice to the water for extra dark blues in your final product.

Step 4: Wash the chemicals off the paper in a water bath. You can add a couple drops of lemon juice to the water for extra dark blues in your final product.

Step 5: Lay the washed paper to dry. The paper will darken as it dries. I also found that the edges curled, so you can press the dried paper in a book to flatten it out.

Step 5: Lay the washed paper to dry. The paper will darken as it dries. I also found that the edges curled, so you can press the dried paper in a book to flatten it out.

The end result! I love having this piece of the Adirondacks in our home.

The end result! I love having this piece of the Adirondacks in our home.

 

 

 

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