Ceramics transfers tutorial
As promised, here’s a tutorial showing you how Jesse and I got our drawings onto ceramics last month, creating two dinner services for the Rooms on View show. You can take a look at my finished plates here and see Jesse’s here.
Now, let’s get cracking:
Step 1 – Get transfers made
Getting transfers made was much easier than I might have thought. Just find screenprinters who will print in vitrifying ink on transfer paper, give them your positive, choose colours, and then pick up your stack of transfers. Jesse and I used JT McMasters in Cape Town, who were brilliant.
If you’re very DIY, you can also screenprint your own transfers, as long as you can get hold of the right ink and paper.
Step 2 – cut out and sort
Using my sharp knife, I carefully cut the images from each transfer sheet, going fairly close to the edges of the images, but not so close that the image became spidery and unwieldy.
Then I grouped the cut images in old avocado punnets. I was working in three colours with loads of different images, so it was important to keep some order.
Step 3 – Place transfers
This was a fun bit, but also quite overwhelming, as there are so many different designs you can put together with all those cut transfers. I found that using the same image (or a slight variation) in three colours gave a fantastic range.
I just messed around, placing the cut outs on plates, and when I was happy with a layout, I photographed it using my mobile phone camera. This was a great way to keep a record of a layout, as everything must be removed from the plate for the next step.
Step 4 – Soak transfers
Put the transfers into some water, and keep tweezers handy to get them out again (I used my fingers and they got irritated after a while). It doesn’t take long for the transfer to loosen from the backing paper. In fact, it’s important that they don’t soak too long, or they’ll lose their backing glue.
Step 5 – Apply transfers
Slide the transfer from the backing paper onto the plate. This is very exciting, because it looks fantastic straight away. The transfer is still pretty slippery at this stage, so it’s easy to slide around and place. However, don’t do too much sliding around, as you’ll lose the backing glue.
Step 6 – Remove water
This is a bit of a tricky operation, and it’s very easy to shift the transfers at this stage. Pernickertiness is essential at this point.
Step 7 – Dry the transfers
Step 8 – Firing
Now (and this is where Jesse and I almost came short), you need to find a friendly potter who will let you use their kiln. Tessa Blem Gawith in Muizenberg was kind enough to take us in when we had almost lost all hope! Here is her studio with her trusty assistant, David.
The next step?
I know there’s still lots to learn about ceramics transfers, and I’m looking forward to finding it out as I go along. Jesse and I are planning to do more for an exhibition at Curious, Whetstone & Frankley, opening in early July, so watch this space.