And now we come to the main event, the reason why I was taking this class in the first place – the layered block project! Woo Hoo! As I said in the first post in this series, I took this class because I wanted to make a series of red rock tiles and I was having a hard time creating the layers of the tile in a way that worked. In this project, we printed images onto three sheets of glass and then after they were sinter fired, we fired the three layers with a clear capping layer into a full fused layered block. In the picture to the left, you can get an idea of what we were doing, especially in the bottom part of the photo. You can see three layers of sinter fired glass fanned out, each with an image printed and sinter fired onto it, and then to the right of that the layered block that it was full fused into.
Needless to say, I was working with one of my red rock images for this project. I had the TA help me with the halftone of my 5″ x 7″ image once again, which she printed onto a film sheet for me. The plan was to print a block of red enamel onto a light blue sheet of glass for the bottom image, then print a block of olive green enamel onto a clear sheet of glass for the middle image, then print the halftone details onto a second clear sheet of glass for the top layer.
In order to burn the screen for this project, I had to create black and white film images for each the areas that I wanted to print on each layer of the block. So, first I needed to create a screen image for the red area that would be printed on the blue background glass, next I needed to create a screen image for the green area that would be printed on the clear glass, and then I would need the halftone image that the TA had already helped me print. When I checked in with Louise, she agreed that the easiest way to create the red and green blocks of color would be to use a black Sharpie marker on a piece of film, instead of trying to do a full color separation in Photoshop.
Since the halftone image didn’t take up the whole sheet of film, I cut the top and bottom parts of the film away from the halftone image and used those for the red and green areas I needed. I started with the red area and simply laid one scrap of film on top of the halftone image, then traced the outline of the red rock with a fine marker and filled in the rest with a big fat marker. I did the same thing with the green area and the second scrap of film, making sure to outline the trees and shrubs only. You can the three resulting film layers to the right.
Now I was ready to burn my screen. When that was finished, I mixed up the red and green enamels that I wanted for the print and did the regular screen printing – gee, this is beginning to feel easy! – onto glass again. By this time, I was getting good at the process and didn’t have to reprint any of my layers. All three sheets of glass went into the kiln to be sinter fired overnight. After cleaning up after myself, including cleaning the screen and coating another screen for the next day, I could head out for dinner.
The next morning we came in to find our sintered pieces laying on a pile waiting for us. Mine looked very different, as the red enamel on blue layer was missing and in its place was a plain piece of white glass. The white glass really made the green pop and you could clearly see the details in the halftone. When I picked up my pile to examine it more closely, I found the red enamel on blue glass layer at the very bottom of the stack. When I switched out the white for the blue glass, I could see why Louise was giving me options. With this combination, a lot of the halftone detail was lost and the red enamel had turned a purple-gray in the kiln, which wasn’t exactly the color I was going for.
After quite a bit of thinking on it, I decided to go ahead and use the printed blue glass instead of the white, because even if it didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked, it would give me the knowledge of what the color combination would look like in the final layered block. If I didn’t like it, I would know what to avoid and if I did like it, so much the better. So I cleaned the three layers of printed glass, plus the clear glass capping layer, and brought them over to the kiln shelves where dams had been set up for us to contain our projects. Remember the 1/4″ (6mm) glass rule? We didn’t want the four layers of 3mm glass to spread out, so we needed to keep the glass from spreading by containing it with dams.
You can see the final result of my layered block above and to the left. I also tried to take a close up shot of the layering effect by angling the camera to the side and shooting into the piece. Hopefully, you can see the layers somewhat in the shot to the right. The little air bubbles in between each of the layers in the block do obscure the detail a bit in a closeup. The air bubbles are so tiny, they aren’t really noticeable in the full fused layered block until you hold it up very close to your eyes.
This really was my favorite project for several reasons. First, it helped me to clarify the layers I’ll probably want to use in my series of red rock tiles. For my layered block tiles, instead of printing onto opaque blue glass, I’ll probably experiment with printing the red rocks onto transparent blue glass. I may even try using powder printing for the sky layer. I may decide to use an opaque white layer on the bottom, maybe not, I’ll have to experiment with that too. Also, instead of using the enamels for the red and green layers, since they aren’t anywhere close to the colors I want and they are fairly opaque to boot, I’ll probably do those as powder printed layers so that I can use powdered Bullseye frit.
Bullseye powdered frit comes in a much wider range of colors than the few enamel colors we were using, because those are the only ones Louise has found to be compatible with Bullseye glass and to be color stable at full fuse firing temperatures. The powder printing will also give me much more transparency in those layers, which I think will likely to work better in the final layered block tile. The screen printed halftone image in black enamel really helped to give sharp definition to the piece, giving the detail for the red rock formation and the trees and shrubs which really helps to pull the piece together. So, I know I want to leave that layer exactly as it is.
Another reason I enjoyed it was that despite sticking with the red enamel on blue layer, I really like the end result I got. Yes, I know I can make it better, and probably quite a lot better. However, I think it looks pretty darn good as is, especially for a first experiment. That is a real accomplishment!
The last big reason was that I have been trying on my own to create something even remotely close to this result without success. Yet here it was, only day 2 of class, and I had the beginnings of the answer. And more answers on day 3. And in our last day of class, as we looked at even more samples of where we could take these processes and talked about combining powder printing with screen printing, I got even more ideas. After so much frustration, it was energizing and exhilarating to get some real substantial answers and some specific possibilities to experiment with, where before there seemed to be way too many variables and options to figure out which way to explore first.
One final reason: it was just plain fun! And one should never discount the power of fun in encouraging us to pursue our dreams.
So endeth the second day.
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