Low-Tech Silk Screens: An Easy Way to Repeat Images on Ceramic Art


Today’s feature comes to us from Ceramic Arts Daily subscriber C.A. Sanger of Waterville, Kansas. She was inspired to send this technique when she read Brad Menninga’s article “Making Custom Silk Screens for Ceramics,” which ran a couple of weeks ago. Sanger offers this tip as a way to make simple silk screens with inexpensive materials you might already have around the house or studio. Be sure to try combining this process with the technique explained in Susan Kotulak’s feature “From Flat to Round: Screen Printing Glaze Patterns onto Pottery.” I am sure it will open up new creative directions in your work! — Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

Want to print more than one copy of a simple image onto your work? You can skip the pricey silk screens and sensitive chemicals. Grab contact paper from the kitchen, scrap fabric from old curtains or clothes, and embroidery hoops from the dollar store.

Embroidery or quilt hoop
Contact paper
Fabric (curtain sheers, cheesecloth, nylon sports-net shirt,
handkerchief, gauze clothing, etc.)
Craft knife
Spoon, ribs, rubber spatula, scrap of lathe or paint stir stick, spackle knife, or plastic cut from a jug to use for squeegee
Optional: self-sticking letters, needle tool, small spray bottle

The Process:
Test various fabrics to find your best “mesh size,” and check the required consistency of your slip, glaze, etc., with the fabric. Place fabric in hoop and tighten. Further tighten, and lock the inner and outer hoop together, with thumbtacks pinned through the side. (figure 1).
Draw your image on the back, peel-off side of the contact paper. (Clear contact paper allows easy tracing and placement of the screen. Note: The black grid lines on the printing mask in figure 2 are for photographic purposes and denote areas that will not be cut out.). Use a craft knife to cut away areas you want to print (The cut out mask is shown on the left of figure 2).
Remove the paper backing of the contact paper and lightly position the mask on the BOTTOM of the screen (as shown in figure 3). Then, flip the screen over and lay it bottom side down on a firm surface. Use a spoon to firmly rub the fabric to adhere the contact paper. Carefully tape around the inner and bottom perimeter of the screen to prevent glaze from leaking around the hoop edge (as shown in figure 4).
If you use self-stick letters, apply them directly to the actual print (bisque-fired ceramic) surface and screen over them. After screening, use a needle tool to remove them. Use a small mask to lightly spritz the glaze before pulling off the letters. Or, use letter paper punches to punch out paper self-stick labels, and attach to the bottom of the screen. Next lay the screen on the print surface (as shown in figure 5), and pour in sieved slip, glaze, stain, etc. Use a stiff rubber rib or other tool to work the media around and through the screen.

The image to the left shows the piece after the image has been screened onto it with glaze. The inset detail was taken after the peel-off letters were gently removed with a needle tool.

Final Notes and Tips:
Increase glaze adhesion by lightly spraying a 30% starch solution on the surface and let dry.
• Glycerin may be used to retard glaze drying time.
• For an even “looser” effect, you can use scrap crayons, candles, or soap to “color out” the screen instead of using contact paper. This method also works well with fabric paints to print T-shirts, aprons, etc.C.A. Sanger operates Sparfish Pottery in Waterville, Kansas. Visit her Ceramic Arts Daily Gallery Page to learn more about Sparfish Studios.

  • Elaine K.

    great ideas and with the use of items easily accessable. Thanks CAD for such a great site, very resourceful, educational and inspirational. I love it!!!

  • Amarilis A.

    Excelentes y sencillas ideas. Son una buena solución para proyectos de producción de piezas en pequeña a mediana escala.
    Gracias por compartir.

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