Monday, 3 June 2013

4 months in...

I'm now 4 months into the project so I thought it was about time to do a little blog update. Research is going well so far. I've been juggling many aspects of the underglaze printing process and hope to tie off some loose ends soon.

Plate wise - I've been testing various brands and manufacturers of polymer and rubber flexo plates. If you ever need to know shore hardness comparisons, I'm pretty well versed now! I've also received samples of laser engraved rubbers and I'll continue to look at the feasibility of utilising laser technologies, ideally with polymer materials. I'm still troubleshooting initial problems with uv exposed polymer plates holding too little ink by modifying these recipes. It may be that I need to have 2 different plates - flat, uv exposed for internal use at CFPR and laser engraved cylindrical ones for use at Burleigh.

Relief print, separation and exposed flexoplate.

Ink - having scoured every piece of documentation that I can find on the process (which unfortunately is not much at all) I've been producing small batches of ink with more traditional materials. Laterally, the potteries were using pine based inks yet I'm favouring good old linseed, a material that I'm far more familiar and comfortable with as a stone lithographer. By combining this with flux and stains I've had some encouraging results to date. I'm looking forward to testing out more ink recipes on small ceramic wares in the our new gradient kiln.

Blades - at Burleigh, the inked plates are currently wiped by a steel 'doctor' blade. Unlike in traditional printmaking where we wipe by hand, this step is mechanised, with the blade scraping the ink from the engraved roller prior to it coming into contact with the tissue. At the moment, I'm thinking that the steel blades should be replaced with plastic or urethane as this should slow down the wear on the plates.
Steel doctor plate sitting against a clean, engraved roller

Files - as many of the existing engravings are worn down and damaged, I've devised a way of digitising the imagery and cleaning the files up prior to transferring onto printing plates. Although it's fairly time consuming, it allows for the patterns to be digitally archived and will make the production of subsequent plates quick and easy.
Sample of a digital file alongside the original, scanned plate
So - progress is good, even if it can feel slow at times. I'm learning so much about many areas of both print and ceramics and although much of the information which I gather will be irrelevant to this project, I'm sure that it'll come in handy for future projects. (eg: chewing gum has a shore rating of 00 20 - fact)

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