On February 15th and 16th I had the privilege of attending a workshop with Carol Gouthro. The workshop was on image transfers, not something that I've had an interest in (yet), but I'm always willing to try out new things to see if they might lead me in new directions. Part of the workshop involved Carol showing us how to use decals to decorate previously fired pottery, something that's pretty standard now. But most of the workshop was introducing us to a technique that produces toner transfer images that can be put on clay that is still soft but not wet. The first thing that Carol suggested that we do is to find an appropriate laser printer, and Carol gave us a list of ones that are appropriate. The key is the type of toner that the printer uses. Certain laser printers use toner that has a high percentage of iron. The toner has very small particles of iron, pigments, and plastic. The laser printer creates a static field on certain parts of the paper, the toner sticks to the static field because the iron is attracted to it, and the image is set by passing through a heat element that melts the plastic particles. With this technique, however, the copy machine is stopped after the toner has been placed on the paper but before it passes through the heat element. With decals you can fill up an entire 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper. With this techinique, however, you can only get an image about half that size. After stopping the printer, you open it up and gently remove the copy. The image is not set so it can easily be smudged, but that also means it can be transfered to the still soft clay. You cut around the image, lay the image face down on the clay without moving it around, and then peel the paper off. We tried several different things using this technique such as putting on slips beforehand, carving around images, and so forth. After the pieces are bone dry, they are bisqued. It's important not to touch the image until after they're bisqued because they can easily be smudged even after being placed on the clay. After bisquing they are low fired. If they were high fired, the iron image would disappear. From what I've seen, the image this technique produces is very crisp, as good as a decal, but it's a dark rust brown in color rather than being black. If you're looking for a black image, you probably don't want to use this technique. Carol also introduced us to a series of books published by Dover called the Dover Pictorial Archive. These are massive (and inexpensive) books filled with copyright-free images in black and white. If you're not familiar with them, check them out at Amazon. These are great for making decals or transfer images. I'm not sure how I'll use this technique, but I'm glad I learned it and will try to incorporate it in a way that appeals to me.
I began potting in January of 2012. Because I'm so new to potting, I think I understand the challenges of beginning potters and hope this blog will be encouraging to them and a source of helpful information and comment. I hope you'll join the conversation!