Saturday, June 25, 2011

Back To The Icons, or How To Do Image Transfers

I'm back to working on a Mosaicon that's been languishing for months - the icon based on the image of Diana the Huntress.  You first met it in my blog post back in September.  The Leonardo da Vinci icon pushed its way to the fore and the Dia de los Muertos icon bounced in and demanded to be finished.  Diana waited.  Fortunately, she seems to be willing to wait for me.  I'm grateful!

The June 2011 collection from Gecko Galz contained a set of Grecian Girls images.  One of the images seemed especially appropriate for the Huntress icon.  I decided to use that image transferred to a polymer clay tile.  I thought it might be appropriate to share the technique for image transfers here.  Or at least one technique!  There are many.

Choose Your Image
Choosing your image might not sound like a big deal, but it really is.  You don't want it so busy that little details will be lost in the transfer process.  There also needs to be a strong focus in the image.  In fact, the strong focus is what you will transfer.  Backgrounds need to be merged into the tile itself, usually with paint.  You will probably need to size your image, possibly crop it, and most likely need to reverse the image, all of which can be done in Paint, but I prefer Photoshop Elements.  Bear in mind that the image will transfer reversed from how it is printed, so plan accordingly. This is extremely important if there are words or if the image is so well-known that seeing it reversed will cause problems.

Once you've chosen your image and cropped and reversed it, make a page with several sizes of the image.  You're pretty sure what size you want the finished tile to be, but I'm always grateful to have several choices of image sizes to choose from.  For this technique, print the finished page of images on an inkjet printer.  I print them on matte brochure or presentation paper.  You want a good enough paper to get a good ink saturation, but you don't want a glossy photo finish.  After the ink dries, tear out the image you want to use.

Preparing the Polymer Clay Tile
There are several types of clay you can use to make your tile.  I recommend using either Sculpey white clay or Premo white or pearl clay.  The clay color will show through the image, somewhat, and will affect the finished image.  The whiter the clay, the less it will interfere with the color of the image inks.  In the following photos, I've used Premo pearl clay.

Prepare and bake several sizes of tiles.  Having several sizes ready to go makes it easier if you change  your mind about the finished product, or make a mistake that can't be recovered.

Gather Your Materials

For this technique, you'll need the image, the baked and cooled tile and a gel medium. I use Liquitex gloss gel medium. It's useful to have some kind of burnishing tool.  A good old-fashioned Popsicle stick works beautifully!  Having a box of baby wipes and paper towels on-hand helps with keeping the mess at bay.

"Gluing on the Image"
Coat the image with the gel medium and place it, coated image side down, on the polymer clay tile.  With your burnishing tool, burnish the image onto the tile, making sure the ink of the image is in contact with the tile and that there are no air bubbles.  Do NOT start removing the paper backing yet!  You'll be almost certain to tear the delicate ink film if you do.

Remove the Paper Backing
Removing the Paper
Let the image set and dry for a few minutes.  Dampen your finger and start rubbing the paper in small circles.  You'll soon start to notice the paper peeling up.  Gently continue the rubbing, dampening your finger again, if necessary.  You'll start to see the image appear beneath a haze of paper.

Image Appearing Through The Haze
It's tempting to stop rubbing when you see the image appearing, but you need to get as much of the paper removed as possible.  What you're going for here is the ink adhered to the clay tile without any paper marring it.  So keep gently rubbing.  This can take quite a while.  However you don't want to rub so hard that you remove the delicate ink.

Image Appearing
In the image above, you can see how the lower half of the image is revealed, but there is still paper to be removed at the top of the image.  Keep on rubbing!

Transfer Completed!
Once the paper has been completely removed, you need to work the image background into the tile.  This is normally done by painting the tile from the edges of the image to the edges of the tile.  In the photo of the finished tile, you can see that I chose to paint the tile gold.  In retrospect, I might should have painted it a deep rich blue.  It's all up to you!

Finished Painted Tile
Protecting the Tile
Once you have the image transferred and the rest of the tile painted, you might think you're finished.  Do remember to seal the tile!  The image will be delicate and can easily be scratched, especially if you're using the tile as a piece of jewelry.  You'll want to seal it with an acrylic sealer once the paint dries.  Apply several coats to adequately seal the image and paint.

And always remember the most important thing:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weaving in the Heat

Ah, the Texas Folklife Festival!  Three days outdoors, demonstrating in 100-degree heat.  Yeah.  My idea of a lot of fun!  Actually, in many ways it was fun.  We were sweaty and exhausted every night when we got home.  But the response to our demonstrations was enthusiastic.  We could hardly leave the booth.  When one group would leave, another would arrive.
Spinning on the Polonaise
This is the second outing for the new Kromski Polonaise spinning wheel.  She is a joy to spin on.  She looks antique, but she's a beautiful modern wheel.  Since I'm the best wheel spinner of the three of us, I would sit and spin.  The wheel is so eyecatching - as soon as I set her in motion, the crowds would gather around.  After three days, I'd spun an entire bobbin of yarn - and Kromski bobbins are larger than average!!  I'll ply the yarn and dye it this week.  It may be knitted into socks or it may find its way into a woven piece.   You never know!

We also received more requests for photos than we've ever had before.  People seemed drawn to the prairie dresses worn by both Cassandra and myself.  Cassandra looks so natural in her grey dress.  I just look really, really OLD in mine!!  But they are comfortable - or as comfortable as anything can be in this heat!  I insisted that Cassandra put on her bonnet whenever leaving the tent, as did I.  Neither of us burned.  Hey!  Our ancestresses must have known what they were doing!

George got a proposal of marriage!  A charming Czech lady came to the booth to watch us spin.  She had a miniature spinning wheel - most likely a woodturning apprentice's "final exam" piece.  It had been "fixed" by somebody who "knew all about spinning wheels."  Needless to say, the poor thing couldn't spin.  Honestly, it probably never did well, nor was it intended to.  However, George went with her to look at the wheel.  He was able to fix it for her and get it going again.  As if that weren't enough, he noted the red dye on the decorated eggs the ladies had on display.  They told him the dyestuff was cochineal, but they didn't know anything about it.  He was able to fill them in on the story of cochineal.  They were delighted!

Czech Decorated Egg
So they gave him one of the beautiful decorated eggshells, an information sheet about the eggs, a hug, and a proposal of marriage!  Let's see...  He's up to how many wives now??

I've known about the Polish version of the decorated eggs - Pysanki, I think it's called.  I didn't know about the Czech eggs - Kraslice.  Instead of drawing the design on the bare egg with wax, dyeing the egg so the shell takes the color everywhere except where the wax is, and then melting the wax off, Czech eggs are dyed a single color and then the design is scratched off to reveal the egg underneath.  Cochineal is commonly used to get the strong, bright red color.

Fabric View of the Draft
But the excitement for me was the weaving of my very first design!  I've been wanting forever to do the overshot patterns in Marguerite Porter Davison's A Handweaver's Source Book.  But for years they've made no sense to me.  I decided that I would finally come to grips with them.  I chose Soldier's Return (page 40) for my first foray into understanding these drafts.  It really wasn't all that hard.  However, the floats were longer than I wanted.  So I started to tweak.  And tweak.  And really tweak.  And suddenly, I had a fabric that didn't look like the original, exactly, but it looked beautiful!  So I thought, why not?

Why not?  Well, it has to be crazy to use an untested draft at a demonstration with thousands of people watching.  Okay, 99.9% of the thousands of people don't know anything about weaving, so you can get away with some things.  However, your 19-year-old beginning weaver daughter needs to be able to weave this pattern and she's never woven overshot before.  And so???

And so I did it.  And it's beautiful!  People were fascinated with it.  Cassie was able to weave it with no problems after the first repeat or so.

Cassie at the loom
When I took the runner off the loom, I was suprised to see that it was almost two feet longer than I thought it would be.  Hmm...  I'm still not sure how I did that.  It's really too long, but it's so pretty.  I think I'll try weaving it off in a finer thread.  I have a large cone of natural 20/2 perle cotton and a large cone of 16/2 perle cotton coming.  (Excitement!!)

The Finished Runner
Overshot In Color

Overshot In Color Runner
I finished this overshot runner several weeks ago, but didn't get photographs until after the Folklife Festival.  This is a draft from the November / December 2010 issue of Handwoven magazine.  It is a beautiful runner!  Three closely analagous colors are used for the warp and tabby weft.  The warp alternates the mid and light tones of the color while the warp is the darker tone.  This gives the background fabric a depth that it usually doesn't have.  I liked this project so much that I ordered silk to do another "colorwork" overshot piece.  This will be interesting!

And in the meantime?  Well, I'm making up another prairie dress and pinafore for myself and another shirt for George.  When we do these multiday demonstrations, we need multiple outfits.  And it's fun to have costume pieces to mix and match. I found an antique end-feed shuttle in an antique store this week.  The wood is dry and the metal rusted, but I think it can be brought back into service and that will be fun!  And on to weaving off the colorwork pillows I started before the Festival.