Saturday, August 17, 2013

it works!

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.

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