Sunday, October 26, 2008

transferware, the modern version

Many customers ask me how I get the images onto my pieces. It is a process I learned at RISD, thanks to Jacqueline Rice, one of my ceramics professors.

Here is my transfer process: There exists a laser printer cartridge containing a colorant that is commonly used in glaze recipes, and it fits into a regular laser printer. I feed special paper through the printer. Any image I want is printed on the surface.

When the paper gets wet, a film with the image floats off, similar to a fake tattoo. I apply this film to the surface of a glazed piece.

I then fire the piece one more time, a third firing (the previous two being a bisque and a glaze fire). During the firing the film burns off, the image melts into the glaze, and turns a sepia color, which works well with the glaze colors I use. Because the image has melted into the glaze, it is permanent and food safe. Voila!

It is not as easy as it sounds. It took me a while to find a glaze that would behave well in a third firing and not totally dissolve the transfer image. Still, I get glitches. Like mysterious bubbles on some items, while the rest in the same kiln are perfect. Still learning to let go...