Sunday, December 13, 2009

How to Make a Fine Art Glass Tile Pendant -- The Hard Way

First, you and your art-making partner must be extreme perfectionists. This makes it really fun. Then you decide that your fine art glass pendants will be really high quality... because you're perfectionists, how else would you want them to be?

So... first off you decide that printing on Ultra Premium Matte Paper is not good enough. Your prints will be on Professional Glossy Photo Paper. Oh yeah. Unfortunately, the supplies recommended for making these Art Glass Tiles do not work well with glossy photo stock. Your glass tiles slide off the page over and over until you ruin several sheets of paper and give up.

The next time you try this process you remember this issue but decide that YOU must be the problem, not the process. You try again, deciding to work REALLY slowly and carefully this time. And you will only take the chance of ruining one. Lo and behold you appear to succeed! Hoorah! You walk away and let that one dry just to make sure it works okay. When you come back you perfectionistically attempt to sand the edges smooth and the back of the paper lifts away from the glass, leaving the image behind. What? You have inadvertently discovered the fine art of making Fine Art Glass transfers... which are kind of cool and may actually have great artistic possibilities because of their transparency... but it won't work with the other supplies you have so this discovery will have to be explored more thoroughly another day.

You go back to using Ultra Premium Matte Paper which really does look good. What were we thinking?

Then you look through the new glass tiles that just arrived and discover that every one has a scratched edge all around the top. The scratches come from the manufacturing process. Other people probably live with this imperfection but this is unacceptable to you. So the two of you go to the hardware store to find the perfect sandpaper to use to sand glass. This decision takes a lot longer than one might think. The decision is made to come back with 600 and 1500 grit paper -- ultra fine and super ultra fine -- and, as it appears at first, absolutely useless for the task at hand. Working really really hard using heavier duty sandpaper, however, ruins a couple of tiles by frosting it so you get frustrated. You've been working really hard not to ruin the nice clear top surface of the glass but in your attempt to polish out the frosting using ultra fine 600 grit paper you get mad, say it's ruined anyway, and go to town on it...which leads you to discover that that's all you had to do in the first place. All the scratches are, in fact, easy to smooth out as long as you stop trying to be so careful and just let yourself go up and over the top of the glass as needed.

Alright! That problem is solved so now we go on to the hardest part of all: how to adhere the photos to the glass without having a lot of bubbles and voids. Now a few bubbles and imperfections are part of the process but you decide you must get it bubble free. You work really hard at this and the harder you try the more bubbles and voids you create. So your boyfriend decides to try his hand at it. You've been trying hard not to make a mess and not to waste supplies. He goops it on, makes a big mess and then-- instead of very carefully and slowly placing the tile on the art-- simply drops the art into place from above. It goes gloop! And almost all the bubbles just magically disappear as the lacquer slops out the sides. He discovers that pressing the glass down too firmly messes this up, better just to lightly press and walk away then burnish it down more thoroughly after the paper has soaked up the medium a bit and the glass has started to stick. There are still tiny bubbles and imperfections but it is way better than the time-consuming slowly done ones you did without a lot of mess.

You vow never to do this messy process again but then your boyfriend asks if you got into trouble for getting dirty as a kid. The answer is yes. He didn't have that problem so placing tiles on the art is now his job. He does it well. You wind up with the project of cleaning up excess mess left on the top of the tiles and on the desk. No problem. An acceptable division of labor has now been achieved.

The next steps are to trim the excess paper from around the tiles so they fit more perfectly. Your boyfriend assumes a scissors would be right for this but, no, you were a graphic designer in the days before Macintosh computers. You "know" that an exacto knife is the way to go and after very slowly and carefully going ahead with this method you only have a few tiles done and your hands are starting to complain. You try the scissors and the job takes half the time. You get tired and get "sloppy" with your cutting and discover that your accuracy actually improves! It's becoming quite clear that perfectionism just gets in the way of achieving great results. You vow to loosen up.

People online then recommend sanding the edges. This is a mistake unless you go fast and just sand a little. The more perfectly you try to do the job the worse the edges start to look so you have to work twice as hard to sand the messed up parts out. You do half the tiles you have anyway before giving up. The unsanded tiles look best of all.

Then you turn the tiles over and lacquer the back. The war on perfectionism continues but you finally get it done and go to bed. Tomorrow the metal bails used to string the tiles onto a chain will be glued on. Your partner has agreed to do this because that can be a messy job, too. But the basic work is now done. When everything is dry the photographer can go to work photographing the pendants so they can be displayed on the internet. He will likely spend too much time Photoshopping them to look just right but that's another story. We won't inflict you with that one.

More pendants are coming. We rejected half the ones we made last time and turned them into refrigerator magnets. We only have four rejects this time around and the process actually went a lot faster! :-) We'll let you know when they're up and ready for sale.


Violets new Vintage said...

I used glossy paper on my first attempt too. I had fun making them though. Helpful post and funny too!

Photo Paper said...

that's a pretty cool idea, and it came out looking real pretty too.