Last year, a friend and I visited Tanglewood Works in Hyattsville, Maryland. We were looking for some unique furniture for his dining room. We didn’t find what he was looking for, but I found a new obsession: alcohol inks. I didn’t really know what they were, but Sue — the owner of Tanglewood Works — showed me what they could do and said, “I feel like you’ll really like these.” I left the store with 6 bottles of alcohol inks. Came back a week later for 3 more bottles. And another week later for 3 more. Who knows how many I have now!
The great, and not-so-great, thing about alcohol inks is that — as hard as you try — you can never achieve the same design twice. You can never replicate a piece. This gets annoying if you want to replicate something really cool, but it does make for a unique collection. You never know what the paint will do. What will happen when two colors collide. How far across a surface the paint will spread. All you can do is sit there, wait, and watch the magic happen.
Sue introduced me to the art of painting tiles with alcohol inks. I’m an up-cycler, so I didn’t want to buy new tiles. I skipped over to The Community Forklift to pick up some used or surplus tiles. I painted a bunch of tiles, loved the results, and sprayed them with both Kamar varnish and triple glaze coating. I was ready to use my coasters! Except I wasn’t. The varnish and glaze didn’t do the job. It was okay, not great, for cold or room temperature beverages, but the coating completely failed when I plopped a hot mug of coffee on top of it. I mean major failure. The glaze sort of melted and stuck onto the cup, and the alcohol ink wiped right off. I live on the East Coast and spend half of the year drinking a crazy amount of hot tea. I needed a sealant that could get me through the cold winter days. (The picture below does absolutely nothing to drive this point home.)
Enter epoxy resin. The idea of using epoxy resin, ME using epoxy resin, freaked me out. The internet told me it’s dangerous to work with (not after it’s hardened; it’s fine after it’s hardened), and you need to wear protective gear, and if you’re even a tiny bit off in measuring the ingredients you’re going to fail miserably and destroy all of your hard work! I knew I needed to learn how to use epoxy resin if I wanted to make these damn coasters work. So, I took Sue’s 2-part epoxy resin class. Whoa. Epoxy resin changes ev-er-y-thing. It’s a beast to use, but when you get it right — ooooh when you get it right — it feels SO good. Not only is it waterproof and durable, but it makes the art pop in a way I hadn’t anticipated. It creates a sort of wonderful 3D effect because the design reflects against the resin. So many times have I felt “meh” about a design, only later to say “holy shit this is amazing” after the resin sets.
After playing around with ceramic tiles for quite a bit, I realized I could apply this paint and technique to other used items. I began collecting small dishes from thrift stores around DC and Maryland, cleaning them, painting them with alcohol inks, and creating colorful little jewelry dishes. Ugh, I simply just can’t get enough of them!
I added a couple of abandoned bowls and vases to the mix, which are now home to a couple succulents.
What’s next? Well, I have a new idea in mind for these alcohol inks. That idea involves tiny tiles and a serving tray. Stay tuned to see how that works out. Spoiler alert: I’ve already started this project and it’s much more difficult than I anticipated. Don’t hold your breath.
What about you? Are you using alcohol inks? What do you typically paint? Tell me everything!