I've been wanting to try out decal printing on pottery for a while. When I first noticed other potters using this technique I have to admit I looked at it as cheating. However, the more I saw, the more I liked, and there is a lot of room for creativity with combining the decals with washes, slip and underglaze designs. The main reason I'm interested in this process ( if it all works out) is it allows me to add a lot of detail to the surface of a pot for much less time than it would take to attempt a similar design by hand painting. Plus, I've never mastered lettering. I expect this to be only a small part of my work, but I'll see where it takes me. I don't know of anyone doing this locally so it took some online studying to learn this technique and I found the tutorials by Linda Arbuckle and Justin Rothshank. to be very helpful.
The printer journey: I first tried to find a local print shop willing to work with me that had the right kind of printer- black and white laser, as I preferred to give the process a try before committing to buying a printer. Thought I had one lined up, but once I got the decal paper, my images picked out and edited, and called back to set things up....turns out the boss, who was away when I called the first time, informs me that they actually do not have the right printer for what I want to do. Next step: ebay. Actually I tried Craiglist first, but nothing there. After much study and obsessing I chose an HP 1022 refurbished laser printer.
-Which didn't work at first. The paper wrinkled and instead of printing my images I got streaks. After reading online manuals and anything I could find that I thought would help, very little of which I understood, I called the guy I bought it from. He instructed me to clean several parts- Apparently the ink cartridge should not have been shipped inside the printer. Some residue from the used cartridge shook loose during shipping. I was skeptical that a little cleaning would do the job, but it printed just fine afterwards.
Some steamboats I plan to use on mugs since this is a river town and home to the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.
This picture shows the decal applied to a mug. The mug has been glazed and fired to cone 6, so, before applying the decal this could be consider a finished mug. It has a white glaze on it with dabs of clear glaze containing robin's egg Mason stain. To fire on the decal I plan to load this mug in the next bisque firing and fire in the cone 05 to 04 range. The ink should, should, contain enough iron oxide to leave a permanent image.
I can tell you that the variations in the surface of this mug made it challenging for me to get the air bubbles out when I was laying the decal on the mug. However, this is the first time ever that I have tried this process so maybe I'll do better after a few more attempts.
I just threw these tumblers/beakers today and plan using them to test different glazes with the decals. From what I've read, there can be a difference in how well the decals fire depending on what glaze is used. Once these are dry I'll load them in the kiln for a bisque firing and include the one glazed mug with the decal. See what happens.