Screen Printed Graphic Transfers on Clay

photoOnce upon a time, I started out as a graphic designer. In the dark ages. Really. Meaning; I cut amberlith, rubylith (my spellcheck doesn’t even RECOGNIZE these words) and frisket very expertly with a swivel xacto knife until I could do it in my sleep. Those who know me well, know I have a love-hate relationship with my electric kiln (there’s a segway here, please keep going)… I’m lucky to have one and I love that, but I hate the often one dimensional look that comes from it, and often strive to do more, with hopes that it will be something I will like and continue; and can transform bits here and there as I go. And so, long story short, I thought maybe I’d take a little part of the me that was, and add to it, the me that is; and that’s when I thought of the silk screen process.

Just to give it a try, I ordered a Speedball all-in-one ‘kit’ from Amazon for $20. It consisted of a small silkscreen on a frame, squeegee, ink (which I didn’t use) an xacto knife and acetate (flashbacks!). The directions said to cut out your stencil for your silkscreen from the acetate, place it between the silk screen and the paper, then create your print. Now I did a lot of serigraphy back in school, in fact, it was my favorite type of printmaking, however, this is definitely NOT how it was done; but, for cheapskate-sake, this is how I did it here. If I like the results, I’ll splurge for a real screen with either a lacquer based transfer system or photo emulsion transfer.

The photos below show the results of the silk screen transfer. It didn’t come out very crisp on the clay, but that was ok with me – I was really just looking for a multi-layered effect. Perhaps it was because I screened on unprinted newsprint and that really soaked up the water – I’ll keep experimenting because I’m sure there will be an occasion when I want it crisp.  I screened with engobes in the process documented below. I tried oxides, mixed with water and added wallpaper paste for thickness, but these really did not screen crisply onto the paper at all. I got the wallpaper paste idea from Matt Hyleck, but I’ll have to experiment with the proportions more before I’m happy with it. The engobe in this case, worked out much better.

Basic White Engobe Recipe I Used (cone 6-10… this is a vitreous engobe, even semi glossy at cone 6. Colorants were added to get brown, blue and golden tan engobe)

Minspar 700

OM4 Ball Clay 200

Talc 100

Bentonite 100

The pattern was screened onto the paper. I screened quite a few prints in different colors, washing out the screen between colors.

The pattern was screened onto the paper. I screened quite a few prints in different colors, washing out the screen between colors.


I coated the area of the plate where I wanted the transfer with engobe, then placed the cut transfer over it, pressing against the back with a damp sponge.

I coated the area of the plate where I wanted the transfer with engobe, then placed the cut transfer over it, pressing against the back with a damp sponge.


Here's the final plate with a variety of engobes and transfer colors, including a paper resist of the same pattern

Here’s the final plate with a variety of engobes and transfer colors, including a paper resist of the same pattern

 

This was the first day it was above 60° in the studio and it was such a pleasure to work in. The first time in a long time I was able to take my time and experiment comfortably. I’ve got some glaze tests to do before the final pot is done, but check out my facebook page and I’ll post the glazed results there when they’re done!

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7 Comments

  1. Rebecca Catterall

    I’ve been doing some screen printing too. Why don’t you screen directly to a wet slab of clay? I roll out the clay and let it set up for 30 to 60 minutes. You can do multiple layers if you keep your registration. Try Speedball for the printing “ink” – Went to the Potters Council workshop in San Diego last fall and one of the speakers used it right out of the container. Seems to be working for me too. And if you want to do transfer, I’ve seen it done with tissue paper – not as absorbant. PS – I’ve not gotten good results with a screen I made from a photograph when I had to make it a half-tone and I think that made it too dense for the ink to go through.

    • I like the transfers because I can do 30-40 at a time easily and store them for when I want to use them, without dragging out the screen whenever I need to print. Besides, I like to try them on pots while they’re still on the wheel and expand them after applying, too. Thanks for letting me know about the ink – interesting that it doesn’t burn out. I have some here I can test. Wonder if anything harmful leaches out for functional ware?? I’ll probably just try it on the outside of pots for now just to be on the safe side. If you use a photo emulsion transfer for your halftone – it should screen fine. Set your print out for the halftone to a 65 line screen.

  2. GARY ZIELKE

    I’m looking for some pottery printing tissue. The rolls I have purchased in the past were the 24″ wide rolls and were from the (Ivy house paper mill). I purchased them from Brittains Tullis Russell Inc. and they no longer handle this product.
    Can you give me an idea where I may purchase this product.
    Thank You for your help,
    Gary Zielke
    amtex100@aol.com

  3. Liz Fox

    I understand screening it to remay (builder’s paper – also known as tyvek) gives the crispest image. I’m going to try to do the multilayered effect that Mitch Lyons uses, screening onto a slab of clay, adding layers of other colors & prints, and using the remay to pick it up and transfer it. Also, the remay can be washed and used again….I have tried rice paper, as well…it works well but is expensive. The next best solution that creates crisp images is tracing paper – the yellowish kind. I use that all the time for layered monoprints.

  4. Gary Zielke

    would you have any rolls of the pottery paper for sale?? Or do you know where I could find some?
    thank you
    Gary Zielke
    amtex100@aol.com

  5. patricia french

    Where can I buy transfer design/patterns for clay ? ? ?

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