An interview with Linda Stemer, and how she came to be the owner of Blueprint on Fabric, a cyanotype business.
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.
What is it that you do now?
Linda Stemer: I am currently the Owner of Blueprints on Fabric – blueprintsonfabric.com. 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.
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.
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.
by Malin Fabbri and Gary Fabbri
A well illustrated step-by-step guide to cyanotypes.
A lot more information on the process, chemicals, coating, exposure, printing, making negatives, washing and troubleshooting is available in this book.
Strongly recommended for beginners