Hi Aquilla followers! It's pretty hot outside as I write this....creeping up on 90. Feels too hot to be in the studio creating so I thought I would send out a journal entry all about the making of my new line of animal totems. For a while now I've been wanting to create talismans to honor animals of all kinds. I guess I was thinking of spirit or power animals in particular, but I think many of us feel a connection with the animal world even if we don't buy into the idea of guardian animals. Until this point, when I've wanted to take a drawing of mine and turn it into a stamp, I had to send my sketches to a company in California. It's a company which employs people with Cerebral Palsy so I felt good about giving them business, but the process of shipping-waiting-receiving took longer than I wanted. So I searched for another process, a quicker one, which would allow me to make my own stamps without the need to send them across the country. I happened upon an online class on photo-polymer etching and that was it! Now I can turn a drawing into a stamp (actually an impression) in a matter of minutes. I thought I'd let you see how this works.
First come the drawings. I have a sketchbook that I'm always using; writing down ideas, taking notes during classes, making lists, etc. I have a page dedicated to each animal I have in mind....a total of about 70 at this point, very lofty goal! As you can see, I play around with a variety of ideas as I try to figure out how to best capture the animal's essence while also keeping size in mind. The photo-polymer process only really works with solid black and white, no gradations, so that's another thing to consider. Once I've settled on the drawing I use the copier to get it down to size knowing that the final talisman will be about 5/8" across. Sometimes the designs don't work well at that size so it's back to the drawing board I go.
Once I have the sketches finalized, I print the designs on acetate...you know, that film used in overhead projectors? Does anyone remember those!?
In these pictures you can see that I printed two images of each animal. Although I'm no longer printing two (I've mastered the darkening feature on the copier!) I originally did so that I could layer them for an image which would be dark enough to use in the process. I then taped the two images together. Now the fun part!
The acetate images are then placed on a piece of polymer. I got the polymer pieces from a company in NY which specializes in printing. I'm not exactly sure what polymer plates are used for in the printing world, but in the metal clay world they are a great way to create an etching. Once the image is set upon the polymer plate it's placed between two pieces of glass and some bubble wrap, clipped together so things don't move, and set under an ultraviolet light for approximately 1 minute. The light cures all of the polymer which is not under the black part of the image. After the timer goes off I take the whole thing out of the blacklight, gently unclip it and peel away the acetate picture. Then it's off to the sink I go.
Using the baby brush you can see in the first photo, I gently scrub at the polymer plate under tepid water until the animal appears. The part of the polymer that was under the black part of the drawing is uncured and gooey. Brushing it removes the sticky polymer and what remains is essentially an etched image. The plate has to go back under the black light for a final curing and then it's ready for use as a texture plate for metal clay! I have to oil the plates before I use them with clay or else everything sticks together...not good.
That's the whole process, start to finish. I hope you enjoyed learning a little about the behind the scenes work which goes into the totems I sell. Until next time, here's a look at some of the latest one of a kind pieces I've done.
Stay cool everyone!