PC SUBSTRATES:LASER SCRIBING
James C. Watkins

 


"I was amazed at how versatile PC Substrates are. They are extremely strong.
They can be fired rapidly, cooled quickly and can be fired many times without stress cracks...
I have been experimenting with the laser to scribe drawings onto these ceramic substrate tiles
with exciting results. "
James C. Watkins







James C Watkins has been experimenting with a wide range of processes which in combination come together harmoniously! Here he gives a great explanation of how he builds layer upon layer of visual imagery. For more examples of James's work, please see the PCS Gallery page.

"I teach drawing and architectural ceramics in the College of Architecture at Texas Tech University. I became aware of ceramic substrates after attending a PC Substrates workshop conducted by Robin Hopper at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts in Lubbock, Texas. At that workshop I was amazed at how versatile these ceramic substrates are. They are extremely strong. They can be fired rapidly, cooled quickly and can be fired many times without stress cracks.  

As a member of the architecture faculty at Texas Tech University, I have access to a Universal Laser Cutter. Architecture students use the laser cutter to cut their architecture models.  The materials that the students cut are cardboard, wood and plastic. I have been experimenting with the laser to scribe drawings onto ceramic substrate tiles with exciting results.

The process that I’m using starts out with creating contour drawings of my pots using pencil and paper. I then scan the pencil drawings, process them through Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and then send the images to the laser cutter. The laser cutter can be thought of as a printer. Instead of printing the images using ink, the laser cutter burns the images onto the surface of the ceramic substrates.  I’m using a triptych format for the laser cut pieces.  I multi-fire the ceramic substrate tiles, using many different glazes and firing ranges between cone 019 and cone 10 to create as much visual and tactile texture as possible.  After the last firing I laser scribe the drawings onto the surface of the ceramic substrates.
 
My most recent experiments involves using ferric chloride, influenced by a tile created by Randy Brodnax* which was published in Robin Hopper’s PC Substrate article in the February 2011 issue of Ceramics  Monthly
"
CERAMIC CANVAS: USING SUBSTRATES" In these experiments I diluted ferric chloride with water. I’m still experimenting with the ratio of water to ferric chloride. So far, I’ve had the best results using three parts water to one part ferric chloride. I spray the water - ferric chloride solution onto the ceramic substrates using a Preval Sprayer. I then heat the substrates using a blowtorch to burn the ferric chloride onto the surface of the ceramic substrates. This process results in a surface that resembles the wet-in-wet watercolor technique. The PC Substrate™ tiles are then fired between cone 019 and cone 10 to solidify the marbled wet-wet surface. The colors will become richer and darker the higher the firing range. After the tiles are cooled and removed from the kiln, I make marks on the tiles using gold luster, platinum luster and mother of pearl. I re-fire the tiles to cone 019 to melt the luster. When the tiles cool down to 850 degrees Fahrenheit, I open the kiln and place two tablespoons of stannous chloride on a broken shelf inside the kiln to fume the surface of the tiles. The fuming process changes the colors to deep reds, purples and blues.

The last step is to laser scribe the drawings onto the surface of the PC Substrates.  I’m also experimenting with using commercial laser marking materials to create different colored lines. The materials that I’ve used are under the trademark name THERMARK. The available colors are black, red/orange, blue, green and yellow.  I spray or paint the THERMARK materials onto the surface of the ceramic substrates before the tiles are laser marked to achieve the different colored lines
."

*NOTE: To see the Randy Brodnax Raku fired work on PC Substrates™ that James refers to here, please visit the PCS Raku page on this website.

Artist:James C. Watkins, Title:Reflections #1. Methods/Materials: Ferric Chloride with Laser Cut drawing using Black THERMARK Laser Marking Material. Fired to Cone 04. Dimensions: 23 1/2 inches wide by 12 1/2 inches high. Image Courtesy of the Artist.All Rights Reserved. More Examples of James C. Watkins Artwork can be viewed in the PC Substrates™ Gallery.