My first experiments with resin have now completely cured. The results are definitely interesting.
I started with several 6×9 proofs that I had printed, most of them quite a while ago. The proofs were on different sorts of paper (Epson luster paper, Hahnemuhle ultra smoothe matte paper, Hahnemuhle sugar cane paper); I wanted to see how they would fare under the process. A couple of these pieces I treated with fixative first; I wanted to see if it would make a difference to the end result.
The pieces were, for this experiment, to be fixed to 6×9 pieces of MDF. I used the router to cut keyhole slots in the backs of the MDF pieces so that they can be hung. In order to keep any acid from the MDF from seeping into the photos, I treated them with a clear sealing polymer (Golden Mediums GAC 700). The sealant was a bit of a challenge to brush on, since it tends to foam, which is exactly what you want to keep it from doing. After it dries it remains a bit tacky.
The next step in the process was trimming off the paper edging. I then used a spray adhesive to affix the photos to the MDF, and used a roller to smooth out the paper and squash out any air bubbles. After this was all dry, I applied three layers of decoupage glue over the photo and sides of the MDF; without this sealant, resin could seep under or into the photo and cause discoloration.
After I finished treating the photo-blocks, I was able to begin with the resin. I lay a plastic sheet onto my work table, and put the photo-blocks onto small pieces of wood on the table (I didn’t want to glue the blocks to the sheet, after all). Epoxy resin is some pretty toxic stuff to work with, so I wore goggles, a higher-end respirator, disposable gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt. Like an epoxy glue, one mixes together equal quantities of the resin and the hardener and stirs for several minutes. Once I mixed the resin and hardener, I poured away on the photo-blocks. After spreading out the resin, coating the sides of the pieces, and taking time to brush off the drips along the bottom edges, I let the resin cure for a few days.
The results of this experiment have been interesting. The final product is quite beautiful. The epoxy resin produces a high-gloss, glassy layer over the photo, similar to face-mounting the photo to a sheet of acrylic. The process transforms the photo from being a paper-based artwork into being a more unique art object, which is something of a mixed result: it is more unique, but at the same time you can kiss goodbye any notions of archival preservation – it is stuck within the resin and can’t be reframed. It also makes it look more like it was produced from an industrial process.
I got some interesting results from the different papers coatings. The texture of the paper is still visible through the resin, so that can be used for effect if I so choose. The fixative also appears to have made a difference with the photos; on one of the pieces that didn’t receive that treatment, I can make out some of the brushwork of the decoupage glue in one spot. So fixative it is for the future (and since the fixative also contains some UV protection, that isn’t a bad thing).
For the purpose of this experiment, I deliberately coated the sides of the blocks, partly to see if it would seep through the sealant, and partly to see if I like the effect. The multiple layers of decoupage glue created an effective seal, so in that sense it was a success. But I’m not sure about the effect, so in the future I’ll probably tape the edges of the substrate to keep the resin from coating the edges.
The MDF is also kind of a mixed bag to work with. It cuts easily, but it is too heavy to use for anything but small pieces. For anything larger, I’ll likely work with some thinner materials (probably a thinner plywood, or maybe gatorboard). And for those pieces, instead of routing keyhole slots, I will likely create a frame to float the substrate layer off the wall.
All told, though, the experiment was quite a success. Over the rest of the summer, I’ll be producing some more and larger pieces for sale, and I might even offer this as an option for sale here on the Web site.