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Fabric and Epoxy Artwork

 

I've owned this piece of fabric for about a year, and I've been trying to figure out what to do with it.

About a year ago, my wife and I were on vacation and we decided to stop in and visit a quilting store. It was a large one with all kinds of interesting fabric and patterns. In the stacks I came across this woodworking-themed fabric. It looked interesting, so I bought it.

It has a kind of old-fashioned look to it. The tools pictures are not at all modern. I thought it was intriguing, and I wanted to do something with it. But what? And so it has just sat around for the past year. Every now and then I would take the fabric out and scratch my head, trying to think up something.

One idea I considered was using the fabric to fill in the panels of the cabinets doors in my woodworking shop. The piece certainly was large enough for that. I thought about cutting it up into four sections, coating the resulting pieces in epoxy and attaching them to the door panels. But then after I did some figuring I concluded that it would take a ridiculous amount of epoxy to do that, which would be crazy expensive. Even more than that, I was not really sure that I would like the results.

Here are the details of the pattern, in case someone else is interested in this fabric. This was printed along the edge of the fabric. It reads: "Dan Morris Design 2016 for Quilting Treasures. www.quiltingtreasures.com"

I finally decided that I would cut up the fabric. It is made up of small square pictures, so I could cut it up and end up with a bunch of woodworking themed images that were each just under five inches square. I would then put them together in a kind of intentionally messy layered piece.

For one thing, this would give me smaller and more manageably sized project. This would also allow me to skip some of the graphics that I did not like -- there are a number of images of mechanics tools, for instance, that don't really apply to my woodworking hobby. I was kind of thinking of a something like a "word cloud", but with images.

I started by cutting out one piece that I did NOT want, and using it as a test piece. My plan was to embed the fabric in epoxy, so I mixed up a small batch, and applied it to the fabric, on top of some thin cherry plywood. At the beginning, I had also thought I would have my website name as part of the piece (the words are partially blocked in the photo), so I also wanted to see what that would look like.

It's a good thing I made this test, as I was not thrilled with the result. The word looked okay, but the epoxy makes the fabric more translucent, which then is a problem as the dark cherry plywood shows through.

I should have expected this, as a similar thing happened a few years ago when I tried something similar with embedding a t-shirt in epoxy. That time it was white fabric. This time I had thought that the darker fabric of this quilting pattern would make a difference.

So instead of bare cherry plywood, I used a backing of white cardstock, which I glued to some plywood.

With the fabric cut into pieces, I started sorting. I sorted out the pieces I didn't want. I sorted out some of the "maybe" pieces. And, I sorted the rest into categories -- there were four power drill squares, for example.

I then started trying different layouts. I tried a few before settling on one that I liked. In the four corners I put the four pieces that looked sort of like blueprints. For the center, I reserved the piece with the "Work Zone" sign. And for the rest, I just tried laying them out in different orientations and placements. For instance, I didn't want two circular saw pieces beside each other. I also had to take care and consider what the partially covered pieces looked like. My wife came down at one point and noted that one of the drill graphics which was mostly covered, looked a lot like a pistol. That required a minor change.

Once I had a layout that I liked, I took a few photos of it, just in case the layout was disturbed. I then covered it with a piece of plywood, for protection, and left it for a while, to give me time to reflect on it and be sure that it was what I wanted.

Some time later, I came back to the project, and decided that I liked the arrangement. So it was time to proceed. I picked out each fabric piece one at a time, starting from the four corners, and starting with the pieces that were UNDER the other pieces. I applied some Spray adhesive to the back of the fabric, and then stuck it down permanently on the cardstock-and-plywood back that I had prepared.

This took some time and care. I had my tablet close at hand, with the photo of the layout, and I referred to that constantly, as I removed pieces from the "practise layout" and then glued them permanently in place on the backer board. One thing to note is that I took some of the rejected pieces and glued them down in locations where I was concerned that some of the background might show through. I did not want to see any of the white background, I wanted the entire piece to just be a collage of overlapping fabric. But at the same time, I was trying to keep it so that the fabric pieces were mostly visible. So there was often not that much overlap at some of the corners.

Here is a view of it when the gluing was nearly complete.

(Next photos) I left the glue to dry for a short time, and then flipped the panel over and used my wife's rotary fabric cutter to trim the fabric off right at the edge of the backer board. (For all the woodworkers out there who know nothing about fabric or quilting -- this is basically a sharpened metal disc that is mounted to a handle and used to cut fabric in a precise way. It's kind of like a pizza cutter.)

And then you can see the finished backer board with all the chosen pieces glued down and trimmed to fit.

The next step was to frame the piece. I am not going into detail about making the frame in this project. I have previously made a dedicated project page and video about how I like to make frames, so I am skipping over that in this project.

In brief, I prepared some cherry stock to a width of about two inches and a thickness of about seven-eighths of an inch. I glued it together using a strap clamp, and later added some splines across the miter joints. I like to run a couple of grooves down the face of my frame stock, and then I added a chamfer around the outside. Once it was complete I applied 3 coats of spray lacquer.

I did test fit the piece before I took the frame out to the garage for the spray lacquer, and I thought it looked amazing.

I could have stopped at this point. The fabric collage looks great. The frame turned out great. I'm really happy with the overall look of the piece. I could add a piece of glass or plexiglass over the fabric and call it done. However, my intent right from the beginning was have fun experimenting with epoxy, and so I moved on to the resin part of the project...

As I was getting ready to do the epoxy pour, my very wise wife asked me how I was preventing it from leaking out of the bottom. I'm sure I would have remembered that... eventually. I applied packing tape to the back of the artwork, covering up all the gaps and cracks where the artwork was fitted into the frame.

I used "ArtResin" for this project. I'd seen this used in a youtube video, and I liked the fact that it was advertised as a "No VOC" product. No respirator is needed. These are mixed in a simple 1:1 ratio -- equal parts resin and catalyst/hardener.

I wondered how much I would need, so I measured the area of the artwork, assumed a depth of 2mm, and converted the result to litres. It turns out that I would need almost a half litre to fill the piece to a depth of 2mm. But I realized that 2mm was not enough. It is certain that the epoxy would soak into the fabric, and there was also 2-3 layers of fabric in places. So, I did not think 2mm was sufficient. Therefore, I ended up using the entire amount in both bottles. That is around 900ml of resin, or .9 of a litre. This should give a depth of 4mm over my workpiece. (The artwork is 16.5" by 21.5" in area.)

Here I am at the start of the actual pour. I had mixed all of the resin and stirred thoroughly for 3 minutes. The resin started soaking in very quickly. You can see towards the bottom of the photo how the resin was making the blue fabric appear darker.

I used a heat gun on the low setting to help clear away any bubbles in the epoxy. There were not that many bubbles.

The next photo is an extreme closeup of the piece at a sharp angle. The epoxy was clear like glass. In this photo I am using a toothpick -- as directed in the instructions -- to try and pick out little dust flecks.

Of course, this is a woodshop. There is dust everywhere. I try to keep it clean, but it is most certainly dusty. I tried draping a piece of fabric over the piece to protect it from dust as it dried. (I placed a clamp at each corner sticking up, to give me some "legs" to drap the fabric over.)

And the result is gorgeous. The frame looks great with the dark glossy artwork.

In the interests of full disclosure, the next two photos show some of the problems I had. First, one of the fabric pieces lifted up along one edge -- indicated by the red arrows. I don't know if the epoxy lifted up the fabric, or if the spray adhesive just wasn't properly applied. It is a small 1-1/2" line of fabric that is sticking JUST above the surface of the epoxy.

In the next photo you can see a small horseshoe-shaped piece of dust. There were several of these in the piece, but they were almost impossible to photograph. You need to look closely to see them, but they are still a small disappointment. Next time I need to be more careful with making the area as dust-free as possible.

This was also hard to photograph, but the epoxy made the fabric somewhat translucent. This gave a very interesting depth to the piece, as I can see shadows of the fabric pieces showing through. So in this photo, for instance, you can see the "Under Construction" piece showing through the "Clamp" piece at the bottom-right section of the photo.

And here is the final piece. When this project started, I was somewhat ambivalent about it. I knew I wanted to do something with the fabric, but I was not completely sold on this plan. But, as the project proceeded, I became more and more delighted with the progress. Once I had the pieces glued down, I loved it. Adding the epoxy just made it even better by adding a rich depth to the piece.

Thanks for stopping by.

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)

 

Thanks for reading!

See Also:


Picture Frames Build


Epoxy T-Shirt Experiment