Linda Stemer’s cyanotype business

An interview with Linda Stemer, and how she came to be the owner of Blueprint on Fabric, a cyanotype business.

Interviewed by / Malin Fabbri
Photography / Alex Stemer

Linda in her studio, holding a piece of art called “Midnight Window”. On the wall behind her is Barbara Hewits mural called “Home Sweet Home”.
Linda Stemer in her studio, holding a piece of art called “Midnight Window”. On the wall behind her is Barbara Hewits mural called “Home Sweet Home”.

How did you “discover” cyanotypes?

Linda Stemer: I was asked to facilitate an art project for my youngest son’s kindergarten class for an auction. I also wanted to teach the kids various fiber arts techniques, batik, shibori, quilting.

I must have remembered somewhere from college that there was this photographic process on fabric – so I went online to investigate and found Barbara Hewitt and Blueprints on Fabric. The quilt project we did was an amazingly successful project in many ways!

What is your background?

Linda Stemer: I have always considered myself an artist with a particular fascination for textiles.

Sewing and fabrics have been a constant in my life so when I went to college – I wanted to study Fine Arts with a Textile focus. I ended up in the theater department designing costumes but I became intrigued with the stage and set design. I had a lot of ideas but I couldn’t quite figure out how to do what I wanted with the sets so I started taking engineering courses. Through many twists and turns, I ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and working for The Boeing Company for eight years.

The cyanotype over batik art that is currently on the “design wall” in Linda’s studio.
The cyanotype over batik art that is currently on the “design wall” in Linda’s studio.

What is it that you do now?

Linda Stemer: I am currently the Owner of Blueprints on Fabric – I hand treat natural fiber fabrics for printing cyanotypes. Each piece is individually treated, dried and sealed in a UV protective bag so it’s ready to print! My customer base includes teachers, photographers, fiber artists and so many creative people. Most of them either do not have the space or the time to treat their own fabrics and they need to be able to get right to work – teaching a workshop or printing their images for an installation.

I love collaborating with artists on their specific projects and I do a fair amount of custom treating.

A batch of cyanotype fibre postcards made by Linda Stemer, ready to be sent out
A batch of cyanotype fibre postcards made by Linda Stemer, ready to be sent out

What were the steps to making a business around cyanotypes?

Linda Stemer: I was at a place in my life where I was prepared for the opportunity. I quit my job with Boeing when my oldest son was born (I now have three boys) and I am committed to being a full time, at home parent. When my youngest started school, I had more time to work but I knew I didn’t want to go back to a corporate position.

I felt an increasing pull to get back to my fiber artwork.

When I purchased the fabric for the auction quilt – I saw a notice that Barbara Hewitt and her husband, John Bayse were planning retirement and they were looking for someone to take over their business. They had created this business over the course of 25 years. They were so incredibly generous and kind on many levels and taught me so much about the cyanotype process and successfully operating this business.

How do you see cyanotypes surviving in a digital world?

Linda Stemer: I see an ongoing steadfastness to keeping traditional processes in practice – mostly for educational purposes – particularily in the U.K but also on the east coast of America.

The Blueprint studio after a snowfall.
The Blueprint studio after a snowfall.

I think there is a growing interest in historical processes in general, as the world is speeding up and perhaps there is nostalgia for what appeared a simpler, quieter lifestyle.
I am somewhat of an Anna Atkins groupie and I am fascinated with the fact that over the course of a decade, working rather consistently, she produced maybe 13 copies of her book. The intimacy, meticulousness and respect for the subject and the process cannot really be duplicated with computers.

Many of my customers have explained that they feel that so much of their lives are processed with the computer that they don’t want to also create their artwork that way.

To order precoated cyanotype material, go to Linda’s website Blueprint on Fabrics.

3 thoughts on “Linda Stemer’s cyanotype business”

  1. Happy Birthday to the young whippersnapper!

    Lin, have a great day today, and a great year!

    Always sending my best wishes to you!


  2. Hi Lyna Lou!

    Good to see you on Alternative Photography!

    John and Barbara have been retired now for 10 years. They are enjoying their time with family and keeping busy with many activities. They are still in California. I will let them know that you were thinking of them.

    Please contact me if you are interested in fabric blanks as I still manage that side of the business as well. 206-463-3369.

    Happy Holidays!

    linda Stemer

  3. Hi Linda!
    I wondered what happened to Barbara & John! I went on line recently to locate them. I used to buy their “blanks” to do my handpainting on fabric work using Procion MX dyes. I loved what my free style painting did on Viscose Rayon and did a line of scarves and outfits in the fabric. Looks like you have a viable business going! Congratulations! I always liked working with John & Barbara, but usually talked to John when ordering. Do you know where they landed? Will probably order from you at some point.
    Best wishes for continued success with Blueprint on Fabrics!
    Lyna Lou Nordstrom

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