KERAFLEX PORCELAIN: DIRECT LASER PRINTING 
Rachel Kingston




"...it was only with Keraflex that I was able develop my direct laser printing technique which allowed
me to attain my initial goal and create work that would be impossible to achieve
with any other ceramic medium."
Rachel Kingston











 

Rachel Kingston's goal was to develop a ceramic print process for her paper thin Imperial porcelain sculptures that would result in a photographic printed image that would be intrinsic to the 3d ceramic form.
A journey through many ceramic and print methods, finally culminated in a direct laser print process on Keraflex Porcelain that resulted in a cone ten photographic print on clay, which could be manipulated into complex 3d forms, and fired to cone ten, successfully retaining a crisp iron oxide digital image. The process is arguably the world's first direct digital print onto unfired clay.
After going on to develop a full color direct inkjet print process onto a pre-fired clay surface, Rachel is continuing this research to develop a  process which she hopes will eventually enable a direct full color print on unfired Keraflex Porcelain, that can survive a cone ten firing.
 
Keraflex offers a challenge to artists who work outside the box and who are prepared to stretch the limits in every way possible to exploit the material fully. As more and more artists explore the potential of this me­dium within their own art practices, it has become apparent that we have only just begun to scratch the surface of what is achievable with Keraflex Porcelain. Keraflex has revealed itself to be an innovative ceramic material that bridges the divide between many different art media simultaneously.

"As a ceramic sculptural material, Keraflex was the equivalent of my handmade porcelain sheets, which were flexible enough for me to be able to create complex 3D forms. However, my handmade sheets had to be manipulated wet and the process was messy. There was no way to print on them pre-manipulation. I did use custom made digital decals on my fired pieces. The decals were successful; however left areas of the folded form that could not be reached with the decal, leaving gaps in the imagery.
 
Even though Keraflex needed to be soaked in water before modelling, it felt similar to a sheet of rubber when wet. It retained its shape during firing better than my handmade sheets. All I needed to find was a printing method that would remain during the short soaking process and pigments that would survive a cone 10 firing and I would have my research solution. I started working with a laser transfer process that I had used with success on my 2D handmade sheets, but I had not yet tried it on Keraflex.

Knowing that the iron oxide laser transfer would survive a cone 10 firing, I hoped that the image would also survive being soaked in water so that I could then manipulate the Keraflex sheet after applying the transfer and was very excited when it did. Finally, I had found a way to print onto the sheet and then manipulate it. After firing, when held up to the light, the transferred image was visible through every layer of the 3D form.

I then decided to run a sheet of Keraflex directly through my laser printer. It jammed. I made adjustments for the thickness of the Keraflex, tried printing on the other side and it ran though without a hitch, achieving a perfect laser print. In hopeful anticipation, I soaked the printed Keraflex in water (trial and error determined the correct timing) and was able to work with the sheets retaining a perfect printed image. I fired the pieces to cone ten and the result was a perfect direct laser printed 3D ceramic form and the print was photographic quality.

Elated, I finally had what was a very simple answer to my initial research question. It is possible to create a 3D printed ceramic form, where the image is intrinsic to the form itself, using Keraflex...

 My research has uncovered a number of new 2D and 3D ceramic and print processes that can be used on a variety of fired and unfired ceramic surfaces. However it was only with Keraflex that I was able develop my direct laser printing process which allowed me to attain my initial goal and create work that would be impossible to achieve with any other ceramic medium.

Although Keraflex may still be ‘the new ceramic kid on the block’, this groundbreaking new direct digital print process requires material capabilities that are unique to Keraflex itself. Therefore enabling print results that cannot be reproduced in any other ceramic medium, and with that, Keraflex has surely earned itself a permanent place in the annals of ceramics and printmaking." R Kingston

This artist statement contains excerpt's from the article "A New Decade" R Kingston. Ceramics Technical #30 May-Oct 2010 pg.14-19, and additional information provided by the Artist to Ceramic ART Cart. Reproduced with Permission. All Rights Reserved.


Artist:Rachel Kingston. Processes/Medium:Keraflex Porcelain, Direct Digital Laser Print (Kingston Method) Dimensions:Variable. Year:2007. Image Courtesy of the Artist. All Rights Reserved.