Introduction to Surface Design 2020

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Introduction to Surface Design 2020


Previously called Wet & Wild

This course is a 7 weekend programme that enables students to experience and learn the full spectrum of wet techniques; screen printing, general surface design techniques, discharge processes, exploration of different media etc. It’s suitable for absolute beginners or those who feel they need a structured ‘refresher’. 6 week ends are taught by Claire Benn & Jo Lovelock and and I, Leslie Morgan teach one

The booking retainer is £120 which pays for the last weekend in November.

Claire and Jo’s dates are:  

January: 25 -26

March: 14-15

April 25-26

June 13-14 ( Leslie teaching)

July: 11-12

September: 12-13

November: 14-15


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The teaching format of the programme will include explanations, discussion and practical demonstrations, and we’ll provide a comprehensive set of handouts that include full recipes.

‘Homework’ exercises will be set after each session and we’d encourage you to do as much as you can in between sessions, although it’s not obligatory! Practising at home will help to consolidate your learning, develop good technique, get to grips with the media and generally develop confidence: use it, or lose it!  As such, you need to consider laying in some stocks of dye and related chemicals, all of which can be supplied through the studio, or bought from the various suppliers on the website.

Have a look to see what others have said about Wet and Wild

Consider doing a 5 day retreat to enhance your surface design

Unlocking the Mystery of Creative Play

This course could prepare you to discover how to achieve the ideas and imagery necessary to dye and layer your cloth. We will look at simple language and principles of design found in the physical world. Working from a personal starting point, discover tools to create contrast and harmony using colour, value, size, shape, and texture. Bring your curiosity to discover what you like and how to achieve the elements you need to work with your theme and create effective compositions. This is a 5 day retreat in 2020 and would give you the benefit of developing imagery for your introduction to Surface Design, formally known as Wet & Wild.

This is the year’s schedule.

If you miss any weekends you will be asked you pay in advance, but will be offered a Catchup on another date.


The first session will introduce you to the use of Mx dyes in liquid and thickened paint format. After introductions, this session will begin with key ‘technical’ information, followed by practical work:

  • Soda Ash: preparing the cloth to take the Mx dyes.

  • Technical Overview: the key ingredients/chemicals.

  • The basis of dye paints: how to make Chemical Water, and then turn Chemical Water in to Print Paste.

  • Thickened dye paints: demonstration on how to mix thickened dyes from Print Paste.

  • Colour: practical work to create a colour chart using a sponge roller.

  • Value: value plays a key role in composition so we’ll explore how to add print paste to the thickened dye and create a value chart across all of the key colours.

  • Exploring mark-making tools: we will be demonstrating the use of some key mark-making tools before you set off on your own practical explorations. We will also use a basic masking tape resist at the same time to explore how the use of a simple resist can introduce structure, a ‘doorway’ or a pathway.

  • The Process Cycle; we’ll review the process cycle for Mx dyes in paint format.

  • Batching; the key elements required to enerate a good strike or fix of the dye paints in the fabric.

  • Wash-Out/Rinsing; different approaches.


In March you’ll be focused on developing your own personal imagery. For this activity we will be asking you to prepare and bring:

  • Two sources of ‘inspiration’; this can be anything you wish.

  • Source references; up to 5 images/references that reflect your inspirational source.

    A colour palette; colour is subjective and we all have our own preferences. Learning new skills and processes is hard work and Claire & Jo feel that to make the journey easier, you must be allowed to work in a colour palette you enjoy. As such, please give thought to the colour range you respond to and/or that’s relevant to your source material.

Materials and tools for developing your own personal imagery will be supplied as part of the workshop and we will focus on key activities such as:

  • Stylistic; developing a variety of marks across varying styles including Graphic (lines, grids, meshes, structures, shapes) and Natural/Organic (curves, imperfection, distressed, leaves, twigs).

  • Photographs in to Imagery; how to translate photographs in to a composition and/or extract key imagery from them.

  • Right Brain ‘Drawing’; many of us are scared of drawing and this approach will help you to understand that ‘loose translations’ and simplified ‘essence of’ drawings are usually good enough.., if not better!

  • What If?; the key question that if asked repeatedly will lead us to endless variations of anything we’ve developed or thought of so far.

In addition to this activity, the weekend will also explore

  • Colour; the key principles of mixing colour, with practical work based on your own palette.

  • Thermofax screens: an introduction to using thermofax screens including suitable imagery, making a thermofax screen and developing good technique.

  • On cloth resists; such as masking tape, freezer paper, newsprint, book-cover plastic and soya wax with dye paint exploration.


Topics in this session will be a little weather-dependent, so we may email you and change the plan.

  • Breakdown Printing: with the chance of good weather, we will cover how to make a Breakdown Screen on the Saturday and you will print your own off on the Sunday. For this activity you can choose to use a decent-sized ‘virgin’ piece of cloth or use something pre-dyed in a pale value of a colour of your choice.

  • Composition group review; we will work as a group to review work-in-progress. Claire & Jo will discuss at least one piece of work per person, with ideas as to how to develop it compositionally and move it forward.

  • Introduction to the silk screen: you will explore four key approaches to using a silkscreen, including using a blank screen and making designs from freezer paper, stick-backed plastic and flour paste. We will also help you to develop good technique.


  • Tray dyeing There are many ways to manipulate cloth to get textural marks but tray-dyeing is one of the simplest ways to get great texture, and variegated threads.

  • Bucket Dyeing Learn to bucket dye and Machine dye for solid fabrics

  • Vilene stencils  for Screen Printing Reusable stencils, excellent for colour effects and texture

  • Permanent  Acrylic Screens Spray Delicate designs, positive and negative imagery.

  • Structured Breakdown with layering Use multiple layers


  • Composition: review of works in progress with discussion on ways forward..

  • Large-scale mono printing: classic mono printing techniques covering wet and ‘dry’ approaches, some of which you’ll prepare on Saturday and print on Sunday.

  • Formosul Discharge: health and safety with discharge media, making discharge media as a liquid and thickened paste, applying and activating the media, stabilising the cloth. You will have the option of using your own cloth along with discharging commercial black cloth and/or other hand dyes.

  • Surface Design: continuation of development of work-in-progress and use of the tools and media of choice.


This session will introduce the development of large-scale stencils, liquid dye paints and the use of fabric paints/acrylic media:

  • Using acrylic/fabric paints & mediums: the world of acrylics & fabric paints, different mediums, guidelines for use.

  • Paper lamination stencils: using plain newsprint, your first fractured lamination will help you to understand the fracturing process and generate a small-scale stencil for you to use later with thickened dyes, discharge paste or fabric paints. Having experienced the process you will then move on to use newspaper to make a larger laminated stencil. These stencils are washable, re-useable and extremely useful in the ‘toolkit’.

  • Liquid Dye Paints; dye paints in liquid form aren’t used that often but can be useful for certain approaches. Claire will demonstrate how to make and use them and if the technique appeals, students can undertake their own practical work.

  • Surface design: a continuation of layering works-in-progress, and once a again, recaps on composition (as composition is one of the hardest things to learn!).


Our final session will cover:

  • Happy Endings: various approaches to finishing and presenting art textiles.

  • Group and one-to-one discussions: around specific pieces of cloth in terms of composition and resolving how to move them to a finished piece.

  • Consolidation: time will be allowed for you to continue moving works-in-progress to completion.



The programme fee covers tuition, the use of the facility, tools and media but DOES NOT include your cloth and other certain supplies such as sheet plastic etc.  There is a large selection at the studio for you to choose from, or you can of course buy from other suppliers.  The cloth must be natural fibre; cotton, linen, viscose/ rayon, hemp or silk (but not wool).  If you bring your own cloth and are unsure if it’s PFD, please make sure it is scoured before use. We advise you to budget for about 20-25 metres of cloth in total, with a lower-end price of about £3.50pm to a higher-end price of about £12 per metre.

The following five, key fabrics are worth considering and prices can be found on the supplies list Leslie will send you:

  • ·Cotton sateen; a very high quality cotton with a soft sheen on one side. Measures 280cm wide so a one metre pieces actually yields two metres. Good for almost any project involving machine sewing but not good for hand stitch as the weave is too tight.

  • Kona cotton; a quality cotton measuring 115cm wide. Good for almost any project.

  • Pre-scoured linen; no need to pre-wash, a linen mix with a not-too-tight, even weave measuring 150cm wide. Good for hand stitching and almost any project – potentially a little loose/stretchy for pieced quilts.

  • Silk-cotton (‘Silkco’); a mix of 57% silk, 43% cotton for those who want the sheen of silk with the stability of cotton. Measures 114cm wide, good for most projects but the fairly tight weave makes it a challenge to hand stitch.

  • Cotton Drill: this is the fabric we use for dropcloths, and you’ll all need a dropcloth for the duration of the Wet ‘n Wild sessions, and for use should you be working· from home. It comes up 150cm wide and you’ll need 3m to allow for shrinkage.


If you choose to register for Wet & Wild Level 1 you will be committing to attending all five weekend sessions costing £120 per session, so a budget of an annual class fee of £600 will need to be allocated.  A deposit of £120 will be taken on registration, which will effectively pay for the last session.  All other sessions will be paid for at the end of each weekend and a card reader is available at the studio.  Please diarise all sessions, as it is difficult to catch you up if a session is missed and please note, payment must be made even for a missed session.  If you have a difficulty with one of the weekends please contact Leslie.



Teaching hours will run from 9.30am to 5.00pm.  Please turn up between 9-9.30am and if it’s helpful to arrive earlier to avoid traffic, we will ensure the studio is open for access at 8:30am.  The studio will close at 5.00pm.

Whilst tea, coffee and biscuits will be available all day, please ensure you bring a packed lunch for each day.  We have a microwave if you wish to re-heat soup or ready meals.


Many students complete a City & Guilds programme, a Diploma, or Wet ‘n Wild and then wonder; what next?  Various options on ways are available to enable students to be part of a group.

Wet & Wild, Level II

This is the recommended course immediately after Wet & Wild 1

A continuation of Level I enabling students to further explore surface design and layering of multiple processes.  This programme is run as a day-a-month event.


Stitching with Intent: construction and stitch based with the option to engage with wet processes as your ‘plan’ dictates.

Working with Intent: working towards a specific plan or goal with your cloth using wet or dry processes.

Colour Studies

This is a 5 day retreat which is one of the best courses you can take. The greatest challenge in making complex cloth is to achieve the appropriate colours and tonal contrasts to achieve successful layering. This course gives you a way to create a personal study of colour and how to mix and achieve the colours you want and experience in layering them. 

Unlocking the Mystery of Creative Play

This course could prepare you to discover how to achieve the imagery necessary to dye and layer your cloth. We will look at simple language and principles of design found in the physical world. Working from a personal starting point, discover tools to create contrast and harmony using colour, value, size, shape, and texture. Bring your curiosity to discover what you like and how to achieve the elements you need to work with your theme and create effective compositions. This is a 5 day retreat in 2020 and would give you the benefit of developing imagery for your introduction to Surface Design, formally known as Wet & Wild.