It all starts with an idea, an inspiration. I’m constantly on the lookout for cool images – in magazines, newspapers, old books, advertising art, wrapping paper, vintage greeting cards, postcards, matchbooks, postage stamps, handwriting and doodles, children’s art – anything I see that I am drawn to and excites my creative imagination. I keep these found images in binders, and I also make “idea books” where I write down all my ideas for new plates, along with image clippings and sketches.
I combine my images into collages that will be the designs for a plate or one in a series of plates within a themed collection. Sometimes I incorporate my own original art work into these collages – paintings, drawings, sketches, doodles, patterns I create, hand-made rubber stamps, etc. And sometimes I paint and draw into the collages. Combining these images I go by pure visual intuition, trusting my “artist’s eye” and yet it always turns out that each image has it’s own special story and a meaning.
Printing & Cutting:
Once the collage is finished I make a print of it using a special printer with colorfast, light-safe inks and acid-free archival paper. This is critical so that the colors remain true and sunlight and time will not fade the artwork. Then I cut out the image in the exact size of the glass plate.
The Dreaded Gluing:
For gluing I need to have everything ready and set up. The carefully cleaned glass plate is placed face down on a wire stand, next I dip the cut-out image in a bath of water for about one minute, quickly remove it taking great care not to smudge or tear the wet paper, blot out any excess water and lay it on a bed of paper towels. Now I take a small palm-full of archival glue in my hand and spread it over the entire surface of the back of the plate. Them delicately lifting the circle of wet paper, I place it face down on the glue, on the back of the plate, and move it exactly into place. Another handful of glue is spread on top of the paper.
And now comes the tricky part. Air bubbles form between the layer of paper and the glass and these must be eliminated using a rubber squeegee to very carefully comb them out. This step takes some time and requires intense visual scrutiny, meanwhile the glue is rapidly drying increasing the chances of tearing by the minute. Nerve-wracking best describes this part of the process! Once the air bubbles are out, the plate is left to dry for at least 24 hours, sometimes longer as weather and humidity can effect drying time. When dried to a hard finish, I trim the edge of the paper circle to conform to the edge of plate, using an X-acto knife.
Each plate has it’s own special backing. For some I use patterned paper or tissue paper and add a tiny collage element like a single historic coin or jewel or a flower or cherub. For others I might use fabric patterns. Sometimes a simple black felt backing is best suited. The process of applying the plate backing is similar to that of the main image that appears under glass – the backing image is printed, cut out, immersed in water, damp-dried and glued (but face up this time), to the back of the plate. A small flower or jewel might be applied to the backing at this stage. Another 24 hours for drying and then the edges are trimmed.
Elbow grease dominates this stage of the process when glue must be removed from the front of the plate taking great care to avoid scratching the glass. Finally the plate back is sealed with a clear varnish and on most designs (but not all), the edges of the plate are painted with gold leaf. The very last thing I do is to apply my Portiaelizabeth label to the back. After the plates are finished I often stand there running my hands across their surface, amazed and satisfied that such a complete and solid object has been born from paper, glass and glue. I love the feel of their smooth, glassy surface the finished look of the gold leaf edges, the brilliance and depth the glass imparts to the artwork locked beneath it’s glossy surface.
you are invited to COME ALONG FOR THE CREATIVE RIDE!
I hope that my decoupage-under-glass plates and paperweights will bring visual joy into your life. I invite you to join me in my adventures of image collecting, collage-making and creating new designs for my plates and to take a front row seat in the creative process leading to the many other beautiful things that I have brewing in my idea books.
I would love to see photos of how you display my plates and paperweights, your ideas for grouping them on a wall or arranging them on a coffee table, desk or nightstand, or whatever creative thing you do with them. I would love to show some of your examples on here on the portiaelizabeth website! Submit pictures to: Portiaelizabethgallery.com.