I usually get pulled into botanical gel printing in the spring when plants start growing and my yard looks green again, but I first fell in love with gel plate printmaking through found textures and handmade stencils. Over the years I've collected bins filled with treasures found around the house or pulled out of the trash bin, everything from toy cars to bubble wrap to produce bags.
Truthfully, I often find myself reaching for the same textures, homemade combs, and cardboard collagraph plates, 90% of the time. This fall I've started a found texture exploration to help refresh and diversify my texture choices while gel printing. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook I'm sharing short videos of this exploration every Friday in what I'm calling #FoundTextureFriday. The first texture posted for #FoundTextureFriday was raffia, which is often used for basket weaving or as a ribbon substitute in gift wrapping.
I think of found textures in three categories depending on how you use them with the gel plate: stamp, scrape, or mask. Raffia is my favorite found texture for masking on the plate. Because it is a dried segment of the leaves on the Raphia Farinifera palm (commonly known as Raffia Palm), it works similarly to plants and leaves for botanical printing.
After loading a gel plate with paint I usually just grab a handful of raffia strands and drop it on top. It is a little lumpy, so the trick is to press carefully and firmly to remove as much paint as possible for the first print, which will feature a wild, organic shape created by the random placement of the raffia on the plate. After pulling the remaining raffia strips off the plate you'll pull an amazing ghost print from the texture left underneath. This second print is usually my favorite of the two, but both create wonderful shapes that give a feeling of movement.
Please let me know if you give raffia a try with your gel plate.