Primary Tools & Materials:
SUNLIGHT, SOLAR REACTIVE PAPER
Additional Tools & Materials: lace paper doilies, xacto knife, inkjet printer, card stock, cardboard, glass pane, camera
Today I played with another solar reactive material that behaved very differently than the last - solar reactive Inkodye. The two categories I pulled from are Advanced Paper & Materials (solar paper) and Natural Elements (sunlight). The process for exposing the materials was quite similar to my last solar experiment (which was also the letter R - though this is the first day I've messed up and made the wrong letter - today was supposed to be F. Oops).
Since I already had an idea of how solar masking works, I wanted to try a more detailed medium to block sunlight this time. I had a stack of white paper doilies which were very complex, and I wanted to see how well they might mask out the sunlight. Since I was working with a complex material, I decided to go to both extremes with my letter choice - one relatively simple lowercase R and an ornamental blackletter uppercase. I printed each letter at the appropriate size, then placed the doily over the printed letter until I liked where the pattern was. Then I carefully used an xacto knife to cut the doily in the shape of the letters. The only thing I didn't plan carefully enough was in attempting to keep the cutout letter from the doily in one piece. Sometimes the letterform required piecing the paper back together when the design of the doily made connecting all the pieces impossible. (see the upper bowl on the uppercase R or the serifs at the foot of the lowercase r).
After cutting out the letters I darkened my office as much as possible, removed two sheets of unexposed paper from the black lightproof packaging and carefully placed my two doily letterforms onto the solid blue paper. I then covered them both with a sheet of clear glass and threw a dark teeshirt on top for the trip outside.
The packaging said to expose the paper between 1 and 5 minutes, depending on how much sunlight was available, and to stop when the paper turned "almost white." The paper immediately began to lighten, and I left it out for about 3 and a half minutes, not wanting to overexpose. The next step was to bring the sheets inside, run water over them, then lay them flat to dry. This is where the material surprised me - with the Inkodye, the masked areas remained white while the exposed areas took on color, and you could see this happening throughout the process. With this solar paper, however - the paper began as blue then faded to white, so when I removed my mask, the unexposed letter underneath was still blue. So it surprised me that when I rinsed the paper in water, the colors reversed. The letter lightened and the exposed background went back to a dark blue. WEIRD. Also, for the record - I think this letter could have gone the full five minutes for a bit more contrast.
Reflecting on the results, the characteristic that strikes me most are the variations in the line quality that comes from such a detailed light mask. There are blurry edges and sharp edges, and a good deal of shadowing within the letterform. The pattern also comes much into play - the mind wants to connect it and recognize the pattern, guess what might come next. To translate this into a full typeface, it might be interesting to play with the idea of connecting the patterns across negative space - maybe there's a "correct" order of letters a user could find while using the font, where the pattern is complete. Or maybe the font could behave as a live typeface, changing out the pattern as you type so that the pattern would never repeat or bump up against a similar composition.