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All Things Ampersand

Featured Artist: David Somers

Seattle artist, David Somers recently started using Claybord™ for his laser engraving work and has shared his process and some of his work with us.  Below are two of his recent pieces in the process.  A big thanks to David for sharing so much of his learning and process with us.  This is such an interesting and original way to take on Claybord. 



Mt. Vernon Tulips, Laser Engraved Claybord, 5″ x 5″ 
before color application

“Laser engraving and laser cutting is typically done with lasers that create their beam by exciting CO2 gas using a number of techniques.  The materials they work on are mostly organic materials like wood, acrylic, plastics, leather, paper, glass, and rubber. A laser works by creating a coherent beam of laser light, one in which the rays of light are all parallel to each other.  Think of of it as a cylinder of light as opposed to the spreading cone of light you get from a flashlight.   That beam gets directed around the machine with mirrors until the beam is aimed down a tube and through a lens that is much like a magnifying glass.  That lens focuses the laser beam to a tiny point which is where it has the power to affect your material by either cutting all the way through it or just engraving a certain distance into the material.

In the case of Claybord I tried engraving the surface.  I found that by varying the power and speed of the engraving I could just kiss the surface of the Claybord, removing some of the clay layer without breaking through into the tempered masonite below it, or I could break through the clay layer and expose the dark board.  By applying more power and slower speeds I could dig deeper into the board if I wanted to create more of a bas relief effect.

Mount Ranier & Lodge, Laser engraved Claybord 
with Prismacolor pens & alcohol

My process so far is to take a photograph, usually a color image, and to convert it to gray scale.  Then I run that image through any number of digital photographic filters to reduce the image to a line drawing.   The laser engraving doesn’t show until the surface of the Claybord is breached to reveal the board underneath.   The result is a two tone image made up of the white clay and the darker under-layer MDF.  Lightly scoring the surface of the clay does create a faint subtle shadow depending on your lighting but that is not enough to simulate a gray scale image.  The process does create a certain amount of soot as the clay is lased away.   Once the engraving is done I have used plain water, dish soap and sometimes a mild scrubber to wash the soot off.   

Once I confirmed this process worked well I played with applying some media to the Claybord.  So far I have only tried Prismacolor pens and watercolor.  I am not an artist so these are fairly feeble attempts that someone with even modest skill in any painting media could surely improve on.  The engraving process didn’t seem to affect the remaining clay layer in terms of its ability to accept a paint.”

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

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