Nina's Textile Trail 2

– Textiles 1: Mixed Media for Textiles

Project 4 – Scratching & Embossing – Exercise 1 Embossing



Earlier in November I visited The Masters|Relief Prints exhibition at Bankside Gallery 3-15th November, 2015.

The exhibition was dedicated to relief printmaking (woodcut, metalcut, linocut, wood engraving, relief etching and block press), curated by Angie Lewin RE.

I was particularly drawn to  Lines exploring space outside the [Building] B(l)o(cks)x (xii), relief embossing using dust and stitch by Sumi Perera RE

The piece was an assemblage of white square paper sheets embossed to form tray-like shapes with a gentle curved lip on three sides and an undulation in one corner. Each ‘tray’ held two or three smaller rectangular pieces of paper, heavily embossed with a variety of lines and shapes, mostly straight edged, presumably by relief printing.  There was also some stitching, the pierced paper creating lines of tiny raised peaks, adding to the texture, and the loose uncut thread ends causing whispy shadows, both of which contrasted with the embossed lines.

Each tray was about 25cm x 25cm and they were displayed horizontally to be looked down upon.  The modules were arranged differently at The Bankside Gallery, than the example from Saatchi Art (link below) and on Pinterest, above, which was exhibited at the Barbican Centre 2015.  The installation probably covered approximately 1 metre square.

The paper was white and although I can’t be certain, it appeared that the dust had been used in the flat areas of the printing, introducing a very pale grey, accentuating the areas in relief. The thread was off white and cream just contrasting with the background and the overall piece, delicate neutral tones, added to by the subtle effect of shadow from the embossed areas. Most of the modules also had a circular embossed design including Sumi’s name.

I found the piece successful, enjoying the combination of raised textures, the cohesion created by the use of limited materials and palette and the interest created by the actual texture of the embossing and stitch, accentuated by the dust and shadows.  The similar but different combination of embossed shapes and paper size within each identically sized tray added to the uniformity.  It was also interesting to note the flexibility of having a number of modules which can be installed differently on each occasion.


My first thought was that embossing is raised pattern but Sarah Taylor, Derwent refers to indented pattern as ’embossing’, although the definition is ‘debossing’.

Embossing in this way was quite straightforward on cartridge paper, although embossing tools were easier to use and more efficient than some of my found objects.




There is potential for some quite original marks, but not very exciting at this point.

Moving on to look at my original concept of embossing, a key was stuck to the cutting mat with double sided tape and some khadi paper taped on top and the outline of the key embossed with various sized embossing tools. The technique requires patience, too much force results in holes, better results are achieved by gradually increasing pressure as the paper fibres are softened.


Cartridge paper was less successful but experimenting with different papers proved that blotting, Fabriano 5 watercolour paper and khadi were easier to emboss. Slightly different results were achieved  by trying dry, damp and soaked paper.


The paper lightly sprayed on each side was most effective with Khadi and watercolour paper.  The blotting paper was a little more inclined to hole and produced a softer edge.

Using the same papers, it was possible to emboss a scallop shell.

Although encouraged that I had a reasonable idea of embossing, I wasn’t very inspired, apart from the possibility of enhancing a coloured pencil drawing with texture created by an embossing tool.

An alphabet stencil and some biscuit packaging were reasonably successful.

Trying a more organic form, in some different weights of hessian, I was rewarded for persevering, more interesting lines, more energy, more potential.


All four examples of embossed fabric have more potential than all the previous samples, but my preference is for the loosest weave, then the sacking and lastly the denser weave which has less texture and movement than the others. Varying the pressure when embossing and working some areas more heavily than others influences the texture.


The above sample is the most interesting as the central square, more heavily embossed, contrasts with the surrounding weave which fades towards the edges.  The gentle curves and uneven units create texture and lend movement to the sample.


Plowman, John (2007) Papermaking Techniques Quantum Books Ltd

Thackeray, Beata (1997) Paper Making Decorating Designing Conran Octopus Limited




2 thoughts on “Project 4 – Scratching & Embossing – Exercise 1 Embossing

  1. Very interesting research here Nina. I am currently working from leaves – having troubles with getting fine veins of a lighter quality to shine through using aquarelle colours, so this could have been a way. I particularly, however, like you more organic webs-like embossings. Very inspirational.!

    • Thanks Inger, I was relieved to arrive at something more interesting after the slow progress but like you “I love to learn new techniques and try new implements”! Your blog looks very inspiring, I’m looking forward to revisiting it later.

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