Using mica powder with a silkscreen can create some stunning effects, especially if you’re using a dark coloured clay. I find I much prefer mica powders on a darker clay surface and this process is no exception.
The process I’ve used here is almost identical to the chalk pastel/powders but I’m going to show you an additional piece with a step added and how the two are slightly different. Please note I’m also using the coarse mesh silkscreen.
- Condition some black clay and run through the pasta machine on a medium thin setting. Place on some scrap paper and burnish your silkscreen onto your clay.
- Pick up a small amount of mica powder on a firm bristled (dry) brush and brush gently over the surface, moving the powder around to cover all areas of the screen. Do not pounce as this will cause the mica powder to “fly” everywhere. Do this slowly and carefully.
- Lift your screen from one end just to about the half way mark.
- Replace the screen very carefully and continue working over with your brush. This will cause more mica powder to “push” through the screens which means you get a “richer” coating of mica on your design. Do this on the other side as well.
- Take your paper with veneer outside and blow away the excess mica powder very carefully. You can also remove the excess by brushing over the surface with a paper towel – do this carefully.
- Place some baking paper on top and burnish well being very careful not to “move” your paper or your mica will smudge. This will embed some of the loose mica particles into the clay.
- Remove the baking paper carefully and your mica sheet is finished.
Embedding Your Mica Particles Further
- I’ve created the above sheet of clay with the same design using the same mica powder. I started with my clay at the thickest setting on the pasta machine. Everything else was done exactly the same – the clay was simply thicker to start with.
- Once the design on the thick sheet of clay was finished I burnished with baking paper then ran through the pasta machine on the second thickest setting, rotated the clay and rolled through the next setting down and repeated this step. My pattern distorted slightly but by rotating the clay prior to each roll through the pasta machine, it evened out in the end. By doing this step you end up with the majority of mica particles well adhered to the clay which means you can use this sheet in a piece which may require additional manipulation. You will note the design is now larger but not that much different.
- I firmly rubbed the surface of each sheet with my finger and you’ll see the piece on the left (run through the pasta machine) had little smudging of the mica powder. The one on the right was the opposite – very heavy smudging.
Important Things to Remember
- Never (ever) use a damp silkscreen when working with any sort of mica powders. The powders will instantly clog up the screen. Even if you think your screen is dry there could be tiny water droplets in that fine mesh. Leave mesh overnight to dry before using with powder.
- Always use a very dry brush – not just a blotted dry brush (for similar reasons mentioned above.). The powders/chalks will clog up in the brush and you’ll never get it to work.
- Remember to brush carefully when using mica powder – do not pounce as you would if using pastels/chalks etc.
- Wash your mica-filled screens in warm soapy water and use a soft toothbrush on the right side of the screen to remove stubborn powders (if you can read Moiko it’s the right side).
- If you brush or rub on the “underside” of the screen you risk damaging your image.
- Make sure you handle any silkscreen design created with powder very carefully. I would highly recommend not using these clay sheets for anything which requires heavy manipulation unless you are using a clay sheet which has been run through the pasta machine to embed the mica particles further.
- I would also recommend sealing any surface with a mica powdered silkscreen design in some way if it’s going to endure heavy wear and tear.
- This process also works incredibly well with pan pastels. In fact I had more success with the pan pastels “staying put” after burnishing than the mica powder.
Knowing how to create a silkscreened design using mica powder can open up a world of luscious possibilities. Remember this is how I do it – there are probably many other ways to get a good outcome.