Printing

January 7, 2009

Okidokie–the final stage of the project (other than installation of course) is the print transfer process.  Little did I know how unpleasant this would be…  Transferring a couple test prints was totally reasonable, why I thought this would be a good idea for nearly 300 tiles, I don’t know…

I’m making use of a photocopy transfer process that is fairly common in the graphic arts.  You take a nice fresh black and white photocopy, flip it upside down onto whatever surface you want to transfer the content onto and rub the back of it with some sort of solvent that breaks down the binder in the ink, allowing the toner to move onto the new surface.  You can do this with blending markers from your local art store, wintergreen oil (significantly harder to find) or acetone from any hardware store.  I’m sure there are other substances that will do this for you, but these are the ones I know will work.  Pretty simple, pretty straightforward–a little experimenting will quickly show you how easy it is.

For this project, I’m using acetone because I need a lot of it and blending markers are insanely expensive (and uber toxic) as is wintergreen oil.  It was also recommended by another artist who is much more experienced in this process than myself as a cheap and easy tool to get the job done, and I like cheap and easy.  Especially when I have to do it 300 times.

Photo essay style.  I apologize for the bad lighting, these were taken at some ungodly hour of night and I was probably shaky with sleep-deprivation:

padding, tile, documents (printed backwards on a photocopier), acetone, cotton rag (old socks), nitrile gloves, tacky cloth

The setup: padding, tile, documents, acetone, cotton rag (old socks), nitrile gloves, tacky cloth

First I clean the tile with this tacky cloth, which is exacty what it sounds like.  Sticky fabric that's perfect for finishing as it picks up all the little particles you've just sanded and can't seem to clean up any other way

First I clean the tile with this tacky cloth, which is exactly what it sounds like. Sticky fabric that's perfect for finishing as it picks up all the little particles you've just sanded and can't seem to clean up any other way

Place the document face-down on the tile and attack with acetone

Place the document face-down on the tile and attack with acetone

I've found the best way to do this is pour some acetone out in a disposable container, dunk the rag (old sock) in the acetone so it's basically dripping wet and then rub the back of the paper with it--the paper MUST be soaked with acetone for an effective transfer to happen

I've found the best way to do this is pour some acetone out in a disposable container, dunk the rag (old sock) in the acetone so it's basically dripping wet and then rub the back of the paper with it--the paper MUST be soaked with acetone for an effective transfer to happen

And hopefully, if all goes well, you magically have a print on your tile

And hopefully, if all goes well, you magically have a print on your tile

All seems easy enough, but wow has it been a nightmare.  First there’s the simple fact that acetone is nasty with a capital “N”.  I’ve got my scary respirator, a bottomless box of nitrile gloves, windows open and a fan behind me blowing toward the window, but it’s not really enough to counter the fumes.  Not to mention the fact that whoever designed these containers did not have pouring in mind.  Thanks Acetone Can designer, I now have acetone spills in my living room.  And because it evaporates so fast, I need a lot of it…

I'm hoping I'll be able to take one or two of these back, but who knows, I might need more by the morning!

I'm hoping I'll be able to take one or two of these back, but who knows, I might need more by the morning!

(Non-sequiter, but I just realized I designed a booth at work today with this exact same blue and orange color scheme…)

So the acetone in the house is horrific–the sooner I can be done with it the better.  The second unpleasantly disastrous issue is the fact that I’m trying to print on porcelain…  Transfers onto paper are really easy–the surface is super consistent so you don’t have to worry about any texture or defects disrupting how the print transfers.  This is not a liquid printing process so the toner can’t fill any divots or dips in the surface like a liquid ink would.  This means a perfectly smooth surface is essential to getting a legible print in the end and I’m finding I just don’t have any good surfaces.  Some of the tiles that I managed to sand really early on are working well, but those all have holes in them from back when I thought I was going to be hanging everything, so those are no longer perfect samples.  I also break nearly half (if not actually) of the tiles due to the pressure of applying the acetone.  In the rare instance when I actually get a good print, the tile is broken before I can mount it to a frame…  It’s all very frustrating.  I knew tiles would break, and in fact, they’ll break when I install them if they’re not broken ahead of time, but I was really hoping to get at least a few “perfect” specimens for the frames and I just don’t see that happening.  I’m OK with mounting one of the broken ones as long as the print is legible, but I’m still holding out, hoping the perfect set of tiles will come along.  As of 10pm, I have about 100 tiles printed and I still haven’t come across one perfect tile, much less 15.  Sad.

There’s also the whole issue that the adhesive for gluing the tile to the frame has to cure for 24 hours and I seriously have to install this thing tomorrow.  If I was doing it right and giving the adhesive its proper cure time, I should have mounted them all this morning… Obviously hasn’t happened and I’m not sure when it will!  But I really do not want to wait until Friday to install.  Something unexpected always comes up during install and I just know if I wait until Friday, something will go wrong and I won’t have any time to come up with  a solution.  On the other hand, if tiles are falling off the walls during the show, that would probably be worse than any installation disaster I can think of…

I just don’t know.  I’m pretty skeptical of this whole project at this point, and whether or not it’s actually going to come together.  I think if I had a fortune cookie right now, it would tell me that disappointment is looming on my horizon…

Final Count

January 6, 2009

OK, so I lied about concentrating this post on the printing process–too much to do!  I can’t seem to make enough time tonight for an actually informative entry, so instead I’m posting some photos and then getting back to work immediately!  I unloaded my final kiln this evening, so I have an approximate final count…  can you guess how many from the photos?

I haven't officially counted, but based on the foam sheets I've been using to pad them, which come in boxes of 100...

I haven't officially counted, but based on the foam sheets I've been using to pad them, which come in boxes of 100...

Drum roll please...

Drum roll please...

265!!!
Not too shabby I guess.  Of course, most, if not all, will break during their installation into the space so there won’t be much left to look at after the fact… It’s nice to see it all together now–I’ll try to get some photos during daylight since they will never exist like this again after this week.
And since I promised this a couple days ago and never actually posted it, some images of that old test tile of the cover page.  The previous image was before it had been fired, so the toner was still very black…
All of the black in the toner burns out and what's left is the rust red iron...

All of the black in the toner burns out and what's left is the rust red iron...

The same test piece, mounted to a sheet of glass... I broke the tile through my own careless mishandling...

The same test piece, mounted to a sheet of glass... I broke the tile through my own careless mishandling...

And one last closing shot for the night–various parts of the project taking over the entire apartment..
The other half of the room is equally bad, if not worse...

The other half of the room is equally bad, if not worse...

For realz, tomorrow will be about printing.  Stay tuned.

Test Pieces

December 18, 2008

So we’ve got the general manufacture of tiles down, the storage and transportation issues…  I would do an entry on firing, except I keep forgetting to take photos anytime I run a kiln so we’ll skip that until I can remember to bust out the camera before turning the kiln on…  The next step is sanding, which has been happening at home recently since the studio was closed for a while.  And after that, photocopy transfer!  I think I’ll use this entry just to show a bunch of test pieces–we’ll get into details of the finishing process later when I have some better photos to share.

My workspace at home

My workspace at home

Some tiles on my table at home, ready for sanding

Some tiles, ready for sanding

Sanding the tiles helps generate a more perfect surface for the image transfer

Sanding the tiles helps generate a more perfect surface for the image transfer

A cover page test-printed on an unfired tile

A cover page test-printed on an unfired tile

I loved this disclaimer page--especially in the context of the additional loss of information when I re-print it again

I loved this disclaimer page--especially in the context of the additional loss of information when I re-print it again

A test print of a map indicating Watertown's location--unfired broken tile

A test print of a map indicating Watertown's location

These tests were applied to very rough tiles when they were still bone dry.  They are far too fragile to handle the pressure required for printing at this stage so later versions are printed after the firing.  There is lots of texture from the slab roller canvas (this was before the silk) and they hadn’t been sanded at all.  This meant the transfer ended up being of very low quality–the dark areas are smoother surfaces, the lighter areas that didn’t print very well are rough areas.  Thus the reason for spending so much time finishing and sanding each individual piece.  I later fired the cover page, which turns the transfer to a rust red color as all the black in the toner burns out and only iron is left behind.  I’ll dig up a photo of this (if I have one!) and post it later on…

Installation Time!

March 20, 2007

Brochure Oustide Brochure Inside Inside Bios  Alright, so now we’re getting close to the real thing.  But first, these are the brochures printed by the museum about the Sitings projects. I didn’t really scan these correctly, but whatever, you get the idea.  Nice map of museum front and back.  Tri-fold thingie with both of our artist statements on the inside plus our bios plus a blurb from the museum director about why Sitings is so awesome.  Not sure how legible these will actually be when you look at them so if you want to know what they actually say, let me know and I’ll post the text alone in the next entry.  A grad student in graphic design who works for the museum on their special events advertising also made a set of invitations and posters for us for the opening reception.  I’ll get some photographs of those soon and post them in the next entry as well–they were beautiful and a pain in the ass to make happen due to museum negotiating…

Matt Helping around 2am More Bags Bags Pretty Bags  So here’s how the transporting and installing happened.  I bought a bunch of giant black garbage bags and string and basically bagged the bottom half of each frame.  Sadly, I don’t really have any good photos of what the room looked like in its bagged state, but lets just say it was creepy and leave it at that.  Matt came over to help because this was a process that just wasn’t possible by myself (you know I would have done it alone if I could’ve!), and he happened to be ready and willing that night.   We worked until about 4am on the first day of the spring semesterd, also the night before installation day, carefully shoving paper plants into these garbage bags and pulling them up as high as they’d go before the plants started getting destroyed.  It took hours and hours of fenagling…  But the result was beautiful and unexpected.  The lighting in the room just happened to work out so that a lot of the bags were illuminated from the inside out.  You’d get these amazing shadows of the plants pressed up against the sides of the bag combined with the transparency of the bags themselves and the effect was amazing.  See for yourself.  Gave me lots of ideas for a future installation project, purely by accident!

Pre-Installation Passageway  Anyways, here’s a big ugly panoramic of what the space in the museum itself looks like.  I meant to post some of these way back at the beginning of the project but never got around to it.  This is the glass passageway leading to the Pendleton House and the Radeke Sculpture Garden.  The door directly in front leads to the Pendleton House, which is actually just full of offices on this floor so visitors aren’t actually allowed in it.  The door to the left leads to a really tiny outdoor area with a table and chairs (not really sure what purpose they serve) and the door to the right leads to the outdoor sculpture garden.  This view is approximately what you see upon entering the space from the main part of the museum.  As you can see, it’s really tiny–only about 12′ X 11′ with 8′ ceilings.    I loved this spot because it was so obviously a threshold between outside and in.  Whoever built this little addition (and it was obviously an addition after both bulidings had been built since all the walls are exterior walls of brick and stone) was really thinking about what it would be like to slowly transition from cut and dry museum, to this odd little room and then out into the garden itself.  There’s very little lighting in here, minimal climate control, and as I said before, the walls and floors are all based on what was there originally–the outside.  Stone floors, stone and brick walls, and then just the addition of a ceiling and 2 glass walls on either side.  Pretty minimal.  This is the room that inspired the project that is to come…

Blah blah blah, so I came in on Tuesday (Day 1) and spent the ENTIRE day just installing the ceiling grid and bringing in the frames.  What a debacle that was.  So the plan was, I would make these column collars which wrapped around each column in the corners of the room so that they could be tightened down on the colmn and then angle aluminum fastened to each one.  The aluminum in turn would hold up the galvanized steel slotted ceiling in a 3′ grid formation and the wood frames would each be 3′ square so they could just be dropped in place with all the plants already hanging on them.  It sounds kind of complicated, but it’s actually really simple.  In the end, I decided to outsource the work for the column collars just because I didn’t have the time to make them nicely and wanted to be able to just concentrate on the paper and the other parts of the ceiling.  I outsourced it to a friend, who the next day told me he couldn’t do it after all and had handed off to someone else.  Just for the record, that’s really not cool.  Especially when I’m paying for the work.  You don’t just hand it off to someone else without asking me first–or hand it off and don’t tell me about it!  I didn’t appreciate the going-behind-the-back-ness of that particular move.  So the second guy down makes the parts for me and they seem fine so I pay him for the work without testing any of it myself first.  BAD IDEA.  I went to the museum on installation morning with all my parts and materials in hand and the first thing I had to do was put the column collars on before I could do anything else.  ALL of the ceiling parts relied upon the column collars, and I certainly couldn’t get any paper in there until the ceiling was up.  Well, the column collars he made didn’t work at all.  Like, not even a little.  It was a big problem.  I couldn’t fasten them to the columns correctly, then I couldn’t tighten them down at all so they would slide down, and then when I put up the angle aluminum, it didn’t fit because the collars were no longer at a right angle.  It was bad.  After lots of panicking and running around trying to buy some new fasteners and parts to make them work, I finally just bought a bunch of tiny C-clamps and clamped the whole thing together… Sketchy.  Thanks so much to Julia and Kent who worked with me all day that day and dealt with my panic attacks when things kept failing right and left.  When we finally got the collars to work, putting the rest of the ceiling up went really quickly-maybe 10 minutes to fasten the rest of the parts together?  But of course by then, it was already lunch time because the collars had been such a disaster.  So the afternoon was spent transporting all the frames to the museum.  We cut each frame down from the ceiling in the studio and carried them one at a time to the freight elevator and then out to the museum’s box truck.  We could only fit 4 or 5 frames in the truck at a time so it took a couple trips to get everything over to the museum.  Once we were in the museum, we once again had to carry each frame one at a time into their freight elevator, up the spiral stairs and into the space.  Each frame was dropped into its appropriate spot on the ceiling frame and installation was done for the day!  Don’t let me downplay it too much though.  Just carrying the frames around and loading them into the truck, driving them over and dropping them into place took the rest of the day.  We got the last frame in place right as the clock hit 5 and that was the end of the first day.  It was crazy.  Thanks again Julia and Kent–you guys are lifesavers.  I never would’ve gotten it done that day without you.

Installation in Progress! Day 2: Since all of Tuesday was spent just getting everything into the museum, that left all day Wednesday to de-bag the paper/plants and start arranging it all!  The way I set up the frames in studio was as dense as I could possible manage.  I didn’t cut or drape any paths of any kind–just left it all equally dense everywhere with the plan of waiting until I was actually in the room to “cut” a path and make room for people to walk through and open doors and get in and out.  Wednesday was much more calm and stress free.  Just me and a pair of headphones from 9-5 ditching trash bags and draping a path.  Note the Installation in Progress sign!  These photos are when I was halfway through the de-bagging process.  The morning light in the room was beautiful so I had to take a break to take a few photos…

Passageway Entrance Sun and Bags Garden View Panoramic Photo 1:  The door to the room–glass door with text printed that says “Radeke Garden” (kind of perfect).  You can see that I’ve taken the bags off the paper on the left half of the room and still have the right half to go.  Photo 2:  Sunlight striking the bags filled with paper on the right side of the room.  Note the trees outside in the background…  Photo 3:  A little panoramic of the view out the glass on the right out to the sculpture garden.

Aftermath  And of course a photo of my studio back in the ID building after all the frames had been removed.  Total empty wasteland…  It has since been cleaned up and re-organized for classes, but wow was it gross in there immediately after everything had been moved into the museum…

Next post:  Finished Installation Photos!  Opening Reception! (If someone sends me photos by then…)  Posters and Invitations!

Way Behind

March 1, 2007

So I’m well aware that I’m incredibly behind right now in updating this thing!!  My opening is tomorrow night and I haven’t updated in nearly a month!  It’s pretty exciting though, I can’t wait for everyone to come up and see what I’ve been spending the last 2 months working on.  Not to mention the opening itself is going to be a total blast!  Matt’s band will be playing, there will be catering by Kabob & Curry and hopefully all my friends and trusted faculty will be able to make it.  So excited!!  Just wanted to post the gorgeous B&W Invites Chrissi designed for us and promise that updates about the last couple pizza parties and the actual installation process will come soon.  Thanks Chrissi for working so hard on our posters and invitations, I know it was kind of a nightmare…

%d bloggers like this: