Wednesday 17 December 2014

An Experiment. . . .

Glass coasters from my Etsy shop

As you may or may not be aware, I have been making and selling framed tiles and glass coasters of my digital designs for a while now. To do this I use a process known as Dye Sublimation to transfer the
printed images onto the tiles or coasters. This involves using heat and pressure via a special heat press, specially coated tiles etc, and special printer paper and inks.

OK, Dye sublimation likes certain kinds of plastics and I was pretty sure that Polymer clay was likely to take a dye sub image pretty well. 
I decided to experiment as I had my specially set up printer and loads of paper, so I printed out a sheet of small images to mess around with. 
What I decided to do was use a disk of unbaked clay to apply the image to, but put a thin coating of liquid clay onto the image so that it stuck to the image and to the clay. The reason I wanted to stick the image to the clay was that I was intending to use a heat gun to 'bake' the liquid clay and transfer the image to it. If the image wasn't stuck down it would end up getting blown away. (I'm too impatient to bake them in the oven, and I wanted to do one at a time to see the results quicker)

So I tried that. I gave the image about one minute with the heat gun on medium. ( my heat gun has a heat intensity dial, which is very useful - Wickes sell that model ) I was careful not to burn it. The image became visible through the paper quite quickly but I kept heating it just to be sure it had transferred. 
I then wetted the back of the image and rubbed the paper off. You can soak it in a bowl of water if you wish, same difference. The clay disks weren't properly baked so I baked them in the oven for about 15 mins or so to cure the clay. The results were very clean and clear.

More or less un-messed with image transfer disks. Just a bot of Alcohol ink round the rim.
Too clean and clear for me ;-) having established that my method worked I decided to get stuck into some surface treatment on some of them. I tried my usual various combinations of alcohol inks, inca gold and gilder's wax in various colours, sanding it off a bit and then adding more, and so on and so on.
They looked nice, but there was no way of stringing them if I wanted to use them, so I made them into the front layer of some circular hollow beads, using the Claire Maunsell method with different sized cutters. This of course required the whole thing to be baked. . .
The trouble was that baking would melt the gilder's wax and disperse or otherwise mess up the alcohol inks intensity. Oh well, couldn't be helped. They came out solidly baked but a bit muzzy and fuzzy. So I used the same alcohol inks that I was painting the back and sides with to paint round the 'frame' of the front image. The resulting beads looked seriously beat up but cool all the same. Like something dug up from some archaeological site, on another planet. . . Which is fine by me.

But not as beat up as my attempts at transferring black and white images onto already baked clay disks. The image didn't stick to the clay as nicely as with raw clay and kept peeling off in an annoying way. I used some 'heat tape' that I use for dye sub stuff to hold it down but that wasn't always successful. I did the same as the beads above, giving them the surface treatment, then deciding to make them into usable beads by sticking another disk of clay behind them and then baking.

These ones look like they've been dug up from an ancient site, thrown off a cliff and then run over repeatedly by a chieftain tank. I like them though.

Next time I shall do things in the right order, but I shall still go for the messed up look ;-)
I might even do a proper tutorial in due course.
Jon x

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