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Pottery Tissue For Transfer Printing

transfer tissue printing inta

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#1 bny

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Posted 25 December 2013 - 05:10 PM

References on transfer printing refer to a material called pottery tissue or potter's tissue. Petrie's book Ceramic Transfer Printing (2011) suggests that this material has become hard to come by.

My interest is in intaglio printing to paper, then transfer to wares. Historically, this was realized by copper plate intaglio printing using oil or natural resin based inks and heat.

There are some modern commercially sourced preprinted underglaze transfers. I recently received some from Australia, apparently originally produced in Japan. These use a water-based system. The supplier also sells unprinted tissue. After looking at this, I have doubts that this paper will be useful for a classic oil or pine tar ink system and intaglio printing. It has poor wet strength, is applied with a damp sponge, and is peeled off after partial drying.

My understanding is that classic oil based transfer is removed by soaking, agitation, and sometimes soap. These would entirely dissolve the image from today's product.

Can anyone name a current source for classic pottery tissue, or describe in useful detail the characteristics of this apparently vanished material?

My experiments so far are showing sewing pattern paper to be the most promising. One side is quite smooth, and the wet strength is not as poor as one might imagine. Given that pre-printed sewing patterns are easily available for $3 and the existing print is not a functional problem, I just use these rather than trying to locate equivalent paper stock.

Various abaca tissues so far have disappointing take up of the ink (surface too open apparently), though some have good wet strength.

Ordinary wrapping or craft store tissue has poor wet strength and poor ink take up. Tracing/sketch papers have poor ink take up (probably from whatever sizing makes them translucent).

#2 DarrellVanDrooly

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 02:29 AM

I'm not entirely sure what you are asking what I think you're asking, but if you are: I use a rice paper from Blueheronarts.com that i believe is called called cicada wing. I use a linolium block printing stamp thing or a silk screen to print water based colorants onto the paper, let it dry then apply the paper to leather hard clay. I smooth the paper onto the clay with a rib and wait about a minute before slowly peeling of the paper, and when I do the colorant remains on the clay. I hope that was helpful!

 

Darrel


Derek Von Drehle - Bearded Lady Studio

Functional and bizarre porcelain works

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#3 bny

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 04:57 PM

Thank you.

 

Even though your process is different from mine, the specific paper that you call out looks quite interesting.  It also leads to the discovery that similar paper (Xuan / Shuen, of which cicada wing appears to be a specific type) exists in different thicknesses and conditions of sizing (the traditional sizing appears to have been alum), giving different degrees of absorbency.

 

This is especially interesting in light of a very brief video clip that I located, showing a tiny factory in China (a room with perhaps 3-4 work tables) where underglaze transfer papers are printed, giving glimpses of the behavior of their paper as it is being laid upon the plate before printing, then removed from the plate after printing (intaglio, bright metal plate, maybe chrome plated copper).

 

 

 

I'm not entirely sure what you are asking what I think you're asking, but if you are: I use a rice paper from Blueheronarts.com that i believe is called called cicada wing. I use a linolium block printing stamp thing or a silk screen to print water based colorants onto the paper, let it dry then apply the paper to leather hard clay. I smooth the paper onto the clay with a rib and wait about a minute before slowly peeling of the paper, and when I do the colorant remains on the clay. I hope that was helpful!

 

Darrel



#4 PeterH

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 02:38 PM

bny,

 

I'm not a printer, but from time to time have tried to fully understand the tissue transfer process,

with mixed results.

 

I've seen several believable quotes that "potter's tissue" is no longer available, and suspect that

this is true. However some people still claim to sell it (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/p2xngtl). However,

if they are simply selling the closest [readily available] substitute, this may be a genuine service

to their customers. And it is hard to find a definition of the term which excludes many/most tissue-

papers.

 

Looking at an old-ish book  (Pottery Decorating by R Hainbach) it devotes several pages to what

is obviously an involved process. On the choice of paper it says:

 

The transfer paper must be a thin as possible, whilst at the same time possessing considerable

strength. These two properties, which are difficult to combine, are most readily found in a carefully

made hemp paper. Other fine papers, however, can be used, the chief essential being that the

paper is of long staple, and subject to strong pressure in the finishing process.

 

Before use the transfer paper must be coated with soap on the side to be printed, so that the colour

does not come into direct contact with the paper, but rests on the layer of soap.

 

I once came across a referenced that stated that "potter's tissue" was simply a tissue that combined

considerable strength with the right amount of "give". At first sight this sounds a little trivial, but it is of

course essential when trying to apply a flat sheet of paper to a pot with compound curves. I've never

managed to re-find the reference thought!

 

I suppose it is also historically possible that potteries originally bought-in paper and soaped it themselves,

then switched to pre-soaped tissue when it became available.

 

Very happy to discuss the process in more detail if you are interested (e.g. should you let the ink dry?).

 

Regards, Peter

 

PS This "sizing" uses pure soap, and is functionally different from the rosin-soap-and-alum sizing familiar

to the paper industry.

 



#5 bny

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 08:57 PM

I have recently obtained several abaca (Manila hemp) tissue papers whose performance I will be investigating.  (The sized cicada wing paper suggested by D.V.D. above, whatever its fiber, arrived on my desk a few hours ago.)  Quick tests with several of the abaca tissues so far, give results inferior to what I have obtained with sewing pattern tissue.  One problem has been that the surface texture of these papers appears to be too open, with the result that ink forces through the tissue (to a backing sheet) and leaves too many holes in the ink.  Wet strength of some of the papers is quite good (the strongest one perhaps due to resin treatment), but that does little good unless the paper can be made first to take ink, and second either to let go of the ink, or to disintegrate and get out of the way once soaked after transfer.

 

Clearly I need to experiment more with the soap sizing.  I have been spraying the tissue with soapy water (in concentrations that are not quantified and systematic) just before making the impression.  This might not be doing much good.  A literal reading of the source that you quote above, suggests that the paper surface ought to be thought of as a matrix supporting a reasonably contiguous film of soap.  That idea is especially inviting when considering the prospect of wash-off of the tissue.  In principal, if the ink is standing upon a soap film rather than infusing the paper fibers, once the paper is made wet, it should release much more readily from the ink and ware.

 

Charles F Binns' The Story of the Potter (readily available online at Google Books, digitized copy published 1898, though my physical copy bears no date), p. 226, says "... takes a sheet of fine tissue-paper, makes it thoroughly wet with a solution of soap and water and lays it down upon the copper [plate]."

 

My ink uses a very viscous and tacky oil (Graphic Chemicals burnt plate oil #8) and heat, which seems to align with Binns' description of the ink and process.  My guess on letting the ink dry is "no".  I print on bisque fired or fully fired wares, and believe that I need as much tack as I can get.  I have tried transferring prints that have sat even overnight, and the results have been inferior to fresh prints.  If your experience differs, I would be very interested to hear.

 

Thank you for the reference to Hainbach.  I have ordered a copy.

 

My interest is not so much in actually doing much of the process for decoration, as it is in trying to reconstruct the essentials of the historic process, but using materials that are currently available and are not too hazardous.

 

Papers under investigation:

 

  sewing pattern tissue (ordinary sewing store patterns, inexpensive and readily available)

  University Products: L-2 Spider tissue, Japanese Lens Tissue, L-tissue (back ordered, not yet arrived)

  Talas: Wet Strength Tissue Paper

  Tissutex: 9 gsm and 21 gsm varieties

 

Of these, the sewing pattern tissue so far gives the best results.

 

Arrived but not yet tried:

 

  Blue Heron, Xuan papers: "cicada wing" single-weight / sized, double weight / sized, Stonebridge sized

 

Ordinary craft store tissue papers have near zero wet strength and seem useless.  Art store Japanese papers (e.g. mulberry) are a little better, but are expensive and have too much surface texture.



#6 PeterH

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 05:36 AM

bny,

 

Should you let the ink dry or not? Many references I've seen indicate that you should. While others

don't mention the subject. However some are explicit that you must not: e.g. “You’ve got two hours

to use the tissue before the ink’s too dry,” http://tinyurl.com/o2ld4lv - in this case I suspect that you

leave the tissue stuck to the pot until the ink is dry, but would welcome your experience.

 

I've seen - but cannot find at the moment - a reference which states that the paper should be dry

when printed. Which makes some sense, as I expect that dry soap takes an oil-based image quite

well, while protecting the paper fibres. (And it's possible that [too much] water about might leave the

soap molecules showing their hydrophilic ends.)

 

Do you use any frit in your ink? I've seen several references to the rapid wear of the copper plates

caused by ground glass in the ink.  [Only relevant if you do a separate low-fire to drive off the ink and

harden the image.]

 

Regards, Peter

 

BTW If your region still sells soap-flakes (e.g. for washing woollens), it may be a convenient source

of "shredded" soap.



#7 bny

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 11:26 AM

I use Ferro 3134 frit, oxide pigments, and #8 burnt plate oil. The frit seems essential. Given that I use Solarplates, wear is not an issue, as it is easy to just make a new plate. Everything is on a very small scale: patterns just a couple of inches on a side.

I have tried using Mason stains but the ink seems to behave poorly with them plus enough frit to melt. The fragments of transfer that I get can develop good color, but impression to paper and the transfer both seem poor.

So far dry paper gives poor results, and soap sizing seems to be inferior to plain water for ink contiguity. I should try being more patient and allowing the transfer to stay much longer on the ware before trying to remove the paper.

Waiting even 2 hours between printing and transfer seems to lose too much ink adhesion, so my experience aligns with what was in the article that you linked.

I suspect that rosin or some other tackifier might help the ink performance. Given that petroleum products were not available in the era that I am trying to model, I would rather avoid solvents and synthetic resins.  I am perfectly willing to use modern materials that allow me to avoid e.g. lead compounds and to save effort and extraordinary skills like copper plate engraving / etching.  What I would like is for the ink medium and transfer process to be credible models for what was used in, say, the 1870s.

I have read one place or another that the pottery referenced by your link use pine tar in their ink. The type sold to treat horse hooves is too fluid to be useful. Thicker varieties seem to have disappeared or to be unavailable in small quantities. Aha! A few sources still offer several varieties of tree-sourced pitch for optical polishing... ordered.



#8 bny

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Posted 02 January 2014 - 12:30 AM

Thanks again to D.V.D. for the cicada wing paper reference. This paper looks promising when sized by rubbing one side with bar soap and printing that side after lightly misting the other side with water.

The bar soap is a locally handmade product: olive, coconut and palm oils and NaOH, no fragrance or additives.

This paper has poor wet strength, but it has a more closed surface than tissues, and seems to take the ink without sending it all the way through pores.

The wet strength seems adequate to make the impression, and the weakness seems to help it conform to compound curves when dampened during transfer to the ware.

#9 bny

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Posted 14 January 2015 - 07:00 PM

In case someone is interested, there is one source who still sell a paper that they specifically call "pottery tissue": Potclays Limited, Stoke-on-Trent, item 5785-02.

 

I just received some of this and have not yet tried it, but decided to give an early report.  It is around 30 cm wide and appears to be cut to order length from a roll.  It appears to be substantially similar to cigarette paper, but almost certainly without the whitener/opacifier additives (calcium carbonate, titanium dioxide) or combustion/ash modifiers that go into the paper for factory-made cigarettes.

 

It differs from typical MG (machine glazed) tissue like medical table paper, in having both faces compact and smooth, but without either surface being glossy.  It differs from roll-your-own cigarette paper in size and in not having a distinctive watermark (though it does have a faint rib or grid pattern, probably from a screen in the papermaking machine).  The weight is comparable to cigarette paper.

 

The width of this material suggests that it is or was specifically made for whatever might remain of the traditional transfer printing industry (Burleigh being perhaps the only survivor), who print from engraved cylinders.  The width looks very much like what may be seen online from pictures of Burleigh's printing operation.

 

I have found that smooth (not creped) medical table papers can work reasonably well for transfer.  A distributor of this paper commented that it is a low-end commodity, and within his experience does not appear to be highly consistent even within their container-load lots.  It is however quite cheap and readily available.

 

I have also found that especially Elements Kingsize brand of roll-your-own cigarette papers (110 x 55 mm, so the design must fit within this constraint, and these are the largest papers that I can locate) are better at wash-off than anything else that I have tried to date, though they might not be as good at ink holding as medical table paper or sewing pattern paper.  Amusingly, I have also found that wrapper paper from some types of individually wrapped toilet roll may be usable.

 

I soap the paper by brushing with a fairly strong solution (cloudy/turbid at room temperature) of a locally made simple bar soap (Bare Bar from Swan Haven Soap, Petaluma, California), allow the paper to air dry, then iron against a glazed ceramic tile with a household clothes iron.  Unlike what appears to be described in the old books, I do not print with the paper wet.  Instead I print dry, with a slightly moist backer sheet of newsprint.

 

I will post again once I have had a chance to try the paper from Potclays.



#10 BeckyH

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Posted 15 January 2015 - 02:22 PM

Just an idea from years of playing with paper making- take a sheet of unsized abaca and wet it with a sprayer. Press it onto a sheet of glass, either a window with good sun or a sheet that can be moved into the sun, and smooth it with a roller. Let it dry in the sun. When you peel the dry sheet off it should have one very smooth, calendared surface. It should look almost glazed. That might tighten up the surface enough to need just a light rub with bar soap to act as a release agent.
(I drove my studio mates crazy by covering the huge windows with fresh sheets once in a while. The linty look between peeling off and a through washing just wasn't attractive to them, I guess.)

#11 bny

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Posted 15 January 2015 - 04:53 PM

The idea of resurfacing paper is interesting; I might give it a try.  I already have tried crayon-ing bar soap onto paper, and obtained poor results: uneven distribution of the soap, and poor ink take-up.  Interactions between ink vehicle, ink solids, plate features, paper, and sizing are manifold and baffling.  "Cicada wing" paper for example is alum-sized, takes ink beautifully without soap (less well with soap) but does not want to soak off even if soaped.

 

Interesting behavior observed with the Potclays tissue: it shows some promise of soak-off release without soap sizing, at least with one of my inks.



#12 bny

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Posted 17 January 2015 - 10:36 PM

The Potclays tissue goes beyond "some promise" of soak-off release with no soap or other special treatment, and with the simplest ink vehicle: #8 burnt plate oil, no pine tar.

It would be good to understand exactly why this paper works as well as it does.

#13 PeterH

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Posted 30 January 2015 - 02:16 PM

The Potclays tissue goes beyond "some promise" ... It would be good to understand exactly why this paper works as well as it does.

 

 

I'll guess that it is because the sizing is different, possibly absent.

 

Two weak points supporting this guess are.

 

This oldish patent for a duplex pottery tissue states that the transfer surface is unsized. [1st page line 28on]

https://drive.google...fs/US745390.pdf

 

Cigarette paper (which you have mentioned favourably) also seem to be unsized.

http://www.paperonweb.com/grade.htm

Cigarette Paper This light weight, high strength, unsized paper






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