World Cyanotype Day is a yearly event that takes place the last Saturday in September. It came about as a group effort ’round a kitchen table. Here we talk to db Dennis Waltrip, the contact person for the website and the Facebook Group. She does stress that World Cyanotype Day is a group effort and Judy Sherrod – who sadly passed away a few summers ago – was the spark for it all.
How did World Cyanotype Day start?
Well, it all started with Judy Sherrod and “shootapalooza.”
Obviously, the next question is who is shootapalooza? It’s kind of hard to describe. We call ourselves a “murmmuration of artists.” We’re a collective of photographic artists, mostly women, and we gather every so often to share creative photography experiences. Most of us work in more than one discipline of photography, including cyanotypes. So back in 2015, Judy and several other artists from shootapalooza were planning an upcoming reunion (wherever two or more are gathered, it’s a reunion).
“We were talking about making a large cyanotype and someone asked, “When is World Cyanotype Day? That would be a GREAT time to do it!” So out come all these iPhones and Pads and, lo and behold, there was no World Cyanotype Day. So we made one!”
Why did you think there was a need for a special day for cyanotypes?
About the same time, we were also planning a little shootaReunion at the A.Smith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas that was coming up the weekend of September 19, 2015.
It was Amanda’s idea that we should make the largest cyanotype ever. So, we decided to make the two — World Cyanotype Day and The World’s Largest Cyanotype — happen simultaneously.
Additionally, we wanted World Cyanotype Day to serve as a worldwide opportunity to create a work of art. We chose the idea of making prayer flags, or peace flags that resemble the Himalayan prayer flag strands. Just as the flags are connected together, one to the next, so we hoped the project would connect people together, one to the next, around the world.
Is cyanotype your favorite process?
Hmmm, that’s tough. I started my photo studies in the darkroom with black and white silver gelatin prints. I work extensively in digital now but there are so many things I love about cyanotype. It’s a beautiful, versatile process yet it’s simple enough to be accessible to people of all skill levels. It’s a delightful way to connect with others.
How has the success been so far?
Oh my word, it’s growing like crazy! I haven’t actually counted countries, but in just four years we’ve gone from a handful of artists in the U.S. to a Facebook group which is now approaching 3,000 members from all over the world.
How do you work with the physical meetings versus the online entrants?
We call the A. Smith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas our “World Headquarters.” Amanda and shootapalooza host informal workshops and gatherings there to celebrate World Cyanotype Day on the last Saturday in September every year.
Everyone in the world is invited to submit their cyanotype flag to A. Smith Gallery for display! No entry fee – the only cost involved is for shipping. And for those of us that can’t make it to Johnson City? September 28th is your chance to put the “World” into World Cyanotype Day. We encourage everyone to gather with friends in backyards, parking lots, galleries, parks – wherever your gathering spot may be – to connect, create & celebrate this beautiful planet we inhabit by creating cyanotype flags together.
Of course, the Facebook group is open to all as well and it’s a great place to connect online. There are so many people of all skill levels in our group that are extremely generous with their knowledge and expertise. Consider yourself invited to join the group and post pictures of your flags and gatherings for all to see.
Have you seen any initiatives anywhere else in the world?
We have a very active Australian group and the groups in China, Germany, The Philippines, Mexico, India, U.K., France, Canada, Spain & Argentina are growing quickly as well.
What are the worst things about running World Cyanotype Day?
Ha! Trick question? Well, unfortunately there just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all we have in mind! We’re 150% volunteer-run. I guess the frustrating part is that we haven’t been able to offer as many online shows on our website as we want to. Still working towards that though!
What are the best things about running World Cyanotype Day?
Well, this is definitely a group effort! There’s no way it could happen without the artists of shootapalooza behind the scenes and the constant, positive interactions in our Facebook group. I’d say that forming a genuine connection with people from all over the world has been one of the biggest blessings.
Any final words to anyone who wants to take part?
Yes! Please join our Facebook Group facebook.com/groups/1624164174525710/ and check out our website worldcyanotypeday.com for details on how to participate in the Johnson City show. It’s easy to connect with us.
World Cyanotype Day will always be a ‘grassroots’ sort of movement. The heart of the event is simple – to connect with others by making cyanotypes. So, everybody, grab a friend you haven’t made yet and make something blue!
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