Fern 2015 by Heidi Kirkpatrick

A vintage, child-sized dress with the image of a fern printed onto the surface
Fern 2015
Heidi Kirkpatrick
United States
Cyanotype on cotton dress


Top half of a vintage, child-sized cotton dress with the image of a fern leaf printed onto it
Fern Leaf

Look specifically at the cyanotype image of the fern leaf on the garment, rather than the garment as a whole. Have you ever seen a fern leaf before? If Heidi found this plant in her backyard, what could you find in your own backyard?

A vintage, child-sized dress with the image of a fern printed onto the surface

Pay attention to the size of the garment. Heidi chose to use a child-sized dress for this cyanotype. However, she could have chosen any size garment for this piece. Notice that the leaf imprinted onto the dress is the almost exact same length of the dress, therefore its size stretches across the whole garment.


What is it?

A photo of a Sword Fern which is similar to the fern that Heidi used to print on the dress. CC image by Katja Schulz on Flickr.

This is an image of a fern leaf printed directly onto a vintage child-sized dress. The image was printed onto this sheer garment using a photographic process called cyanotype. This cyanotype is a photogram, which means that it was made using an object rather than a negative image.

Who made it? 

Portrait of Heidi Kirkpatrick. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Portland-based artist Heidi Kirkpatrick created this image-infused garment. Heidi also creates cyanotype prints on vintage children's blocks, books, and tins. Her work explores topics such as the female figure, family narratives, and contemporary issues of being a woman.

How is it made? 

Heidi begins by choosing her materials. Then she coats the material, in this case the dress, in a light sensitive solution and hangs it to dry in her darkroom. Once the material is dry, she situates the material in her backyard studio until she finds the perfect position in the sunlight to expose it. She then exposes the material to the sunlight around noon, when the sun is highest in the sky, for around 7 to 11 minutes. When the garment is done exposing, she takes it back inside to her darkroom to wash the light sensitive material out. Finally, she allows the garment to dry in complete darkness. Once the material is thoroughly washed and dried the developed image is revealed.

What inspired it?

Heidi is inspired by working with different materials, including the remnants of nature that she acquires. The leaves and plant specimens open for a world of possibility to create new artworks. When asked about what inspires her, Heidi said, “Printing on film making transparent images excites me. Being at my work table in my shop excites me, and last but not least, cyanotypes in my backyard excite me. I am so looking forward to summer."


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