Polaroid progress

Moving on my emulsion transfer experiments to prepared stretched canvas.

In my previous post I went in to some detail to show the emulsion transfer process that I found worked for me. Unfortunately, having successfully achieved transfer of the emulsion to watercolour paper, I discovered that as the paper and the emulsion dried they did so at different rates: this created tensions which caused the emulsion to part company from the paper and in one instance to tear completely!

I have since consulted several more knowledgable friends, seeking advice on alternative transfer media and on methods of protecting and preserving the finished transfer. Watercolour board was the most popular suggestion for alternative media and variations on using the varnish I was already using was suggested for protection and preservation.

I found some watercolour board in my local craft store and gave it a try, unfortunately with little improvement over my earlier attempts on paper. However, while browsing the store my eye caught the display of prepared, stretched canvases. Among them were canvases just 10cm square – a perfect size on which to transfer a single Polaroid emulsion!

I purchased a few of the canvases to try. Now I had originally been attempting to create dyptich or tryptich transfers using multiple Polaroid images but I decided to satisfy myself with single images for now. After all, I was working through my Polaroids at quite a rate and could not afford to be risking more wastage. In any case I could not see any suitably shaped canvases.

Top row L-R: emulsions 8 through 5, Bottom row L-R: emulsions 4 through 1

All went well, at first. I had ten canvases and made a selection of Polaroids remaining from each pack I had shot since I got the camera a few months ago. The first six emulsions lifted quickly and were easily slid on to the submerged canvases. They were easy to manoeuvre around and adjust with a fine brush with almost no splitting. Emulsions seven and eight (top left in the above photo) were a different story altogether.

The two troublesome emulsions.

The emulsion didn’t ‘bubble up’ at all in the warm water bath and had to be teased off quite severely with a brush: each emulsion took almost an hour to separate and as can be seen in the photograph, I was unable to avoid causing damage. I decided to stop there and not risk more Polaroids, and canvases, until I have worked out why these should be so different to handle.

These images had been taken only a few days before the transfer attempt, whereas the others had been taken between one and three months previously. That is the most obvious difference and the only way to determine whether it was the cause is to wait a few weeks before trying another transfer from the same pack.

The second thing I noticed was that the ‘difficult’ emulsions were from a newer batch of film. The colours in images made from this newer batch are also more saturated than those of the earlier batch. That would suggest the possibility of poor emulsion consistency between batches, or perhaps differences in storage or handling. Time will tell.

Moving on, the transfers to canvas have been completely successful in both maintaining adherence to the canvas and in accepting the application of a varnish to protect and preserve them.

Because the canvas is stretched over a wooden frame, all of which has to be submerged into the water for the emulsion to be placed, it takes a long time to dry out. I left the transfers alone for several days before applying a first coat of dilute (approximately 20%) Liquitex Matte. Once dry I then applied a second coat consisting of Liquitex Gloss (approximately 25%) and Liquitex Matte. This gives a pleasant non-glossy sheen and appears to be quite robust.

I can see this being the way forward towards presenting and displaying my Polaroid emulsion transfers. However, if I want to pursue my original idea of dyptich/tryptich presentation I might have to learn how to make a frame and prepare my own custom-sized canvases. I like a challenge!