Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Personalized Coasters--A different direction for image transfer on polymer

If you love to take photos, this idea has endless possibilities for creating one of a kind coasters, bowls, or even wine skirts for yourself, as gifts or to sell.  I am writing about my first experiment with this idea, which turned out very successfully, and has inspired me to try more of the same type of creative venture in the near future.
I needed a gift for a dear family member's birthday.  He is a professional musician, so I wanted to make something special for him with a musical theme.  Several years ago we visited Cleveland, Ohio and while we were there we got to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and we went scavenger hunting in order to see and photograph all of the wonderful guitar creations for the United Way's Guitarmania.  Much like the Red Wolf Ramble here in Raleigh, NC, Cleveland's artists came up with many different artistic interpretations of guitars which were then auctioned off to raise money for charity.  I decided that our family musician needed some coasters with collages of the Hall of Fame and these guitars.

The first step was to experiment a little with my photos of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and arrive at a good size and resolution for making coasters.  Once that was done, I had to measure the size that the cropped photos of the guitars needed to be.  Once the guitar photos were sized and cropped, I used Microsoft Word and inserted the cropped guitar photos into a Word document.  Doing this, I was able to right click on the inserted photos and get them all exactly the same size.  Then I printed the Word document and cut out the guitars.  I used plain paper for these pictures, because my intent was to make several collages and then scan them and then print them out on Water Slide Transfer paper.  I used Papilio.  I did have one false start, because I forgot that I needed to reverse the images, since the Water Slides go face down on the clay and otherwise I would have the Hall of Fame backwards on the finished product.

I mixed up a batch of half and half Premo translucent and Premo pearl clay and ran it through the pasta machine on the thickest setting.  Then I took some silver leaf and mixed it into a batch of black Premo mixed with an equal amount of translucent.  I like mixing in the translucent because it seems to improve the texture of the clay.  I used the black Premo with the silver sparkles for the bottom layer of the coasters and the white layer for the top.  After transferring the images to the coasters, I added a thin layer of liquid Sculpey to protect the images and baked the coasters for about 25 minutes.  I decided to add a second layer of liquid Sculpey just for safety sake, because after all, wet glasses would be sitting on the art work and a second layer of protection seemed like a really good idea.

This was a fun and fairly easy project, and I plan to make some wine skirts and other home decorations using the same idea with other photos from my travels.  Waterfalls of North Carolina might make a nice set.  Landmarks of Raleigh, the state capital might be another one.  There are just so many possibilities!  Thank Heaven for digital photography!

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