Monday, July 23, 2012
Experiment with Epoxy
(Above: The EPOXY EXPERIMENT! Stirring the individual cans of epoxy before mixing them together.)
From the start I envisioned epoxy poured over my embroidered "sand" pieces. Why? Well, I have two wonderful mixed media pieces by Suzy Scarborough. Suzy and her partner Andrew often pour epoxy over her work ... an expanse of wet looking, highly reflective, eighth inch thick, crystal clear epoxy. It is magical. Suzy's brushstrokes and textures are all there but untouchable. Subtly, the glass like surface separates the viewer from the interior world of beauty, history, and mystery. It also reminds me of water ... liquid and wet ... perfect over "sand" ... just like on the beaches of Key West.
I visited with Andrew and got lots of instructions. It sounded scary. A propane torch was involved and a tyvek suit was recommended. The instructions warned of toxic vapors and a limited "open" time for working. Epoxy is also rather expensive. Andrew gave me a toll-free number for a company selling massive quantities at more affordable rates ... but ... what if this didn't work on fabric? What if I hated doing the pour? What if I couldn't operate the propane torch? Andrew recommended using clear epoxy for carports, available at home improvement stores but still costing $94 plus the tyvek suit and the propane torch ... as a "test", a major experiment.
Well, earlier in my preparation for Sun and Sand, my August show at Frame of Mind, I had nine "squares of sand" ready for the epoxy experiment. (I blogged about them HERE.) Then I panicked. How could I subject these works to an experimental epoxy pour? What if it went wrong? I really needed these pieces for the exhibit.
(Above: Wet Sand I, before the epoxy pour. Click on image to enlarge.)
Well, I ripped up two more pieces of the old painter's drop cloth on which I'd made my "sand" pieces. These two measure 16" x 16". Free motion and hand embroidery were added. (There's a layer of recycled acrylic felt underneath each one.) Then I added a layer of Golden's GAC 400. This unique produce stiffens fabric. I hoped it would also seal the surface, make the material less porous, and prevent the epoxy from soaking into the cloth.
(Above: Wet Sand II, before the epoxy pour. Click on image to enlarge.)
Next, I stitched each work to a piece of 15 1/2" x 15 1/2" acid free mat board. Finally, I went to Home Depot and bought everything I needed (plus PVC pipes and t-fittings for my "giant canopy" installation which is coming up next month at my art residency in Galesburg!). So ... yesterday was the day for the epoxy pour experiment!
So ... Here I am ... mixing the individual contains of epoxy ... dressed in the splash-proof tyvek suit, ventilator, plastic productive eye-wear over my bifocals but without latex gloves. This is our garage, aka our picture framing workshop. There are two big barn-like doors on the building. They are wide open. Mathias was a safe distance away snapping these photos.
Steve noticed my hands and brought latex gloves ... then evacuated. We only own one ventilator!
The two fiber pieces, sewn to their mat board bases, were placed on two boxes. The boxes were on top of corrugated cardboard. The two-part epoxy was stirred together in the large can. I poured smaller amounts into a throw-away plastic container and poured the solution over the textiles.
Epoxy can be created in various thicknesses for different functions. The stuff for the carport is rather runny but it doesn't cause many air bubbles. I now know that I'd like a thicker solution ... which would likely cause larger bubbles ... but I also know that the propane torch's emission of carbon dioxide really does cause the bubble to raise to the surface and pop! The propane torch was easy to use!
We also learned that the epoxy can and does soak into the corrugated and will run onto the floor. We will be "better" the next time and THERE WILL BE A NEXT TIME!
(Above: Wet Sand I and II on my mat cutter. Click on image to enlarge.)
I am so very, very happy with the results of this epoxy experiment. The surfaces really do look wet, like water on the beach. The only thing left to do was to glue these pieces to stretcher bars cut smaller than the outside edge, add a wire, and slap a pricing/info label onto the back! They are ready to go to the exhibit at Frame of Mind!
(Above: Mathias holding another epoxy pour experiment.)
Yet ... I'm not quite done sharing the epoxy experiment. The carport epoxy's box claimed that 250 square feet could be covered. I knew from the start that I'd have more than enough epoxy to try two other ideas. First up is an idea developing around the title of Pete Seeger's song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" Anyone whose been following my blog for the last few years probably knows that I have an obsession with artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters. I have bags and bags of dissected and washed "flower fabric". I've used the blossoms in my Last Words installation, in the creation of recycled dresses, on image transfers, on art quilts, in a store front window installation, and in my only performance art piece, Ophelia, which was also in a store front window on Main Street. The last time I dumpster dove for artificial flowers, I didn't toss the plastic parts. I saved them. I had this hair-brained idea of using them for other artwork.
So ... using a piece of 28" x 22" glass, I poured epoxy and arranged hundreds of plastic artificial flower parts. I worked! Mathias, fighting the bright sun in his eyes, held the results outside our back door.
(Above: Where Have All the Flowers Gone? epoxy experiment. Click on image to enlarge.)
The side with the epoxy and plastic flower parts looks like this!
The opposite side looks like this ... and is very, very difficult to photograph. The reflections off the glass were quite problematic! Now I have some other plans for future work using these materials!
(Above: Bat in a box with epoxy. Click on image to enlarge.)
Still, I had more epoxy but also one last idea. I found the dead bat carcass months ago. It was just lying by the sidewalk outside my studio. Of course I saved it! The badly worn, satin lined handkerchief box came from Bill Mishoe's auction. In the bat went. Over it the epoxy was poured. I cannot wait to use this in one of my 3D assemblages of found art objects.
I think I love epoxy!
Posted by Susan Lenz at 12:59 PM