08 December 2018

Flush It

Watercolor woodblock print (moku hanga)
11 x 17 inches (28 x 43 cm)
Made from 2 blocks, 3 hand-rubbed applications of color
Edition of 8 on Yukimi paper

Not that they actually hide anything (we all know what's under there) but toilet paper covers are a kitschy quirky way to cover up a spare toilet roll and also a fun project for people who crochet. They can be made to resemble animals or can have doll parts attached or… well, whatever you can imagine. I'm not sure the real purpose of toilet paper covers — maybe to keep dust from getting on the extra roll of paper?

I made a woodblock print of a beige crocheted toilet paper cover to conjure up all of the myriad issues around human waste, toilets, and water use. A study conducted in 2016 found that household water use via toilets has fallen from 18.5 gallons per person per day in 1999 to 14.2 gallons in 2016 but, that improvement notwithstanding, treatment of waste water remains challenging. Although I've known that flushing wipes or tampons will clog sewer systems, I learned while working on this print that even flushing kleenex challenges water treatment systems because kleenex is treated with a chemical binder to prevent it from breaking down easily (article here). I was also taken aback to learn that low levels of organic wastewater compounds, including prescription and nonprescription drugs and hormones, have been found in streams across the US and that some pharmaceuticals persist in drinking-water despite water treatment processes. Yikes, does this mean that I'm drinking your antidepressants? Also, apparently human beings now poop plastic.

At any rate, my mokuhanga toilet paper cover is not very kitschy. I wanted to challenge myself to represent realistic stitching, so this print relies on what I call "virtuoso carving" in order to achieve that goal. I have a love/hate relationship with virtuoso carving. I like it when it's finished, but the doing of it is pretty strenuous and it hurts my back and neck. It's worth the pain, though. Pictures below show the two blocks that define the two color levels needed to define the stitches as well as the intermediate stage of printing.

With two prints now completed (this one and "Fiji Water 1.5") I now have a direction for these water prints: realistic objects that succinctly represent the environmental issues humans face regarding water.


julie said...

Beautiful print and I love how you've come to the "theme" of the project. Not too many words for me! It's great to learn as well as see. One question I have is will these images remain floating? I could so imagine this roll on the back of the tank with the flush valve on the left. It would also allow you to add some of wonderful rich colors - say for the wall behind the tank.

Annie B said...

Oh gosh, what a good question and it brought a whole train of thoughts, which I'll list here in the order they appeared.

Yes, the images will remain floating, because:
- I'm lazy and adding the background you described would take about 6 weeks
- I like minimalism
- I want these images to remain generic. If I add a toilet and some wallpaper, then it would no longer be a generic toilet paper cover, it would be a specific toilet paper cover. It would belong to someone, in someone's particular bathroom, and then we would wonder whose bathroom is this and why are we looking at their toilet.

I'm glad you asked, because otherwise I wouldn't have known why I did it this way.