Iterations Photo Gallery: Printmaker Julie Rosvall Shares Her Process

12 May 2021

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Julie Rosvall is a knitter, textile artist, and printmaker based in the Gaspereau Valley outside of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. She has worked for Craft Nova Scotia since 2003 as an advocate for the local craft community, arranging craft shows and exhibitions, and generally promoting artists and their work.

In her spare time, shes an avid textile artist. She began with weaving, and progressed to spinning and then knitting. For many years she envisioned using textiles to emboss paper, and in 2010 she saw the work of renowned Canadian printmaker Betty Goodwin, who worked with items not traditionally used for printing, including clothing and textiles. Inspired by Goodwins process, Julie began to explore techniques to capture fabrics and textiles on paper, with a view to communicating her belief that these items, so often treated as mundane or disposable, should be revered, and documented for the historical record.”

Julie has experimented with paper lithography, solar plate etching, and soft ground etching of knitted samples, and through her explorations has created a body of work that features a variety of printmaking techniques to transfer knit fabrics to paper.

In 2020, Julie began planning for her first solo exhibition, and prepared a series of large-scale prints especially for display at Wolfvilles Harvest Gallery

The exhibition, titled Iterations, highlights the repetitive nature of printmaking, capturing the many phases of the process to turn a piece of knitting into a print on paper from knitted piece, to copper plate, to etchings, to direct relief prints on paper.

All was in place for the May 1, 2021, opening, when the Nova Scotia government announced that, due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, the province was going into a lockdown. The gallery would be closed. We have partnered with Julie and with Lynda MacDonald of Harvest Gallery to host a virtual photo (below) and video tour of the exhibition here at Digits & Threads.

Also in This Series

Video tour of the exhibition

Julie Rosvall describes her process:

“I begin by choosing a knitting pattern that has an openwork design. I use a smooth yarn with a visible twist to knit it, then lightly starch it using a mix of white glue and water. For etchings, I prepare a copper plate, file the edges, then sand and polish the surface. The plate is heated, and an acid resistant coating made of asphaltum, rosin, beeswax, and tallow is applied. The prepared plate with the knitted sample on top is put under pressure through the press, creating an impression in the soft ground. The plate is etched in a ferric chloride solution; anywhere that the impression of the knitting was made is etched, creating lines where the ink will hold when printing. For collagraphs, which I usually refer to as textile relief prints, I either attach the knitted swatch to mat board, or simply ink the swatch directly and print.”

image description: a knitting project, a blue lacy shawl

Vesna Shawl knitting in progress.

The shawl was designed by Susanna IC, and you can see and purchase the pattern on Ravelry

image description: a blue handknitted shawl, wet, balled up

Washing and blocking twice or more is not unusual in my process, as I always like to get a few images of the shawl as a garment before it is sacrificed to the printmaking process.

image description: a blue lace handknit shawl, pinned out to dry
image: a blue handknit lace shawl, draped around a woman's shoulders
image description: the artist showing a print made from her shawl

Deburring the edges of the copper plate so that they are bevelled. This creates a cleaner edge when printing, and avoids damaging the cotton rag paper.

image description: the artist showing a print made from her shawl

Plates need to be sanded and polished to avoid ink getting caught in even the tiniest lines or imperfections.

image description: the artist showing a print made from her shawl

Once the impression of the knitting has been made in the soft ground, any areas that have been marred that you don’t want to etch need to be protected. Sharpie is a critical tool at this stage.

image: a copper etching of the shawl on the right, a test print on the left

After etching, I make many test prints on newsprint to help find imperfections, and to see where my inking and wiping technique needs work.

image description: the artist showing a print made from her shawl

All images courtesy Julie Rosvall.

For the textile relief prints, the shawl is inked directly. It takes several applications of ink to get full coverage. Again, test prints on newsprint are a key part of the process.

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