Friday, February 1, 2013

Do It Yourself - Transfer A Photograph to a Block of Wood

On Christmas morning our first-grader Paige proudly gave us a hand-wrapped gift.  She explained that she made the gift at school, wrapped it herself, then double-wrapped it just for fun.  We were thrilled when we opened the coolest gift a first grader has ever made for us.  It was a wood block with a beautiful portrait of Paige transferred onto it.  I instantly envisioned a cluster of these on my wall as a piece of art and emailed Paige's teacher for instructions.

Paige's creation
It should be noted that I am not known for being good at careful execution of projects, particularly ones involving glue, scissors, or anything else craft-related.  I start off strong, get bored, then sloppy to finish quicker.  More often than not I end up with a finished product that looks like it was created by a child.  In this case I figured if a six-year-old can do this craft then so can I.

Paige's teacher emailed me this tutorial.  Cute, quick, and fun, I was convinced I could tackle this project.  I made a list of my supplies:  wood blocks, Modge Podge, gel medium, and paint brush.  I rummaged through my craft cupboard and found a paint brush that didn't have dried paint on it and an old bottle of Modge Podge.  I then went to Michael's and purchased gel medium (found in the art supplies by the acrylic paints) and really cheap pre-cut craft wood squares.  I didn't want to make a big investment since I figured there would be a learning curve and I might need some room for a few do-overs.  

When the kids got home from school I took them in the back yard and shot a bunch of portraits of them.  It was Western Day at school so the girls are wearing braids and bandanas, but I liked that these were real-life pictures complete with stray hair and pattern-on-pattern.  I chose my favorite photo of each kid and printed them from iPhoto onto regular paper.  I had to customize the settings to match the size of my wood block and then cut the picture out once it printed.  FYI:  changing the picture from a rectangle to a square will crop out quite a bit from both sides of the photos so shoot your pictures accordingly. 

After the kids went to bed I started my project.  I took each square of wood and painted it thoroughly with the gel medium.  Then I put the picture face-down onto the block of wood and smoothed out the bubbles.  Once all six wood blocks were covered with the photos, I went to bed and let it dry overnight.

This morning I re-watched the tutorial video and set to work removing the paper.  Here's where I ran into problems.  The girl in the video makes the paper removal look like a twenty second project when in reality it takes a while.  I tried a combination of wet rag and using my fingers to rub the paper off.  But every time I thought I was done, I'd realize there was still paper residue on the block.  Back to rubbing I would go.  The closer I got to getting all the paper off, the more I scraped the image off the block.  HOUSTON - WE HAVE A PROBLEM!  When the girl on the video says, "gently rub the paper" she means gently.  I thought I was being gentle, but each of my blocks has shreds of the image scraped off.  Can you say irritating?


I experimented with different processes throughout the next HOUR of removing the paper from all six blocks.  Here's what I learned.  The block needs to be really damp initially.  The closer you get to removing all the paper residue, the drier the block should be to avoid scraping off the image.  I started letting the blocks dry a bit and then coming back to gently scrub off another layer.  This seemed to work well, but at that point the damage was already done.

Once the blocks were free from the paper residue and dried out, I painted a layer of Modge Podge over the top.  Then let them dry.  This is my finished product.


I'm okay with the blocks looking a little weathered and antiqued, but I'm not okay people's eyes being scraped off.  (Katie and Grant's are particularly annoying to me.) I also didn't like that the family picture was too light to really transfer well onto a block.

So...  I'm going to flip them all over and try again on the back.  I figure it can't get much worse.  I made myself feel better by comparing my work to Paige's.  She also scraped part of her image off and she left paper residue on her block.  Whew!  At least my work is comparable to my six-year-olds.

Happy crafting.

1 comment:

  1. Jodi, I have a link to the photos I took at George Klippenes's funeral. Send me an email and I'll give it to you and you can share with Jeff, Marcy and anyone else that might want to see them.
    dennis@dennisbenson.com

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