The article below appears in today’s Charleston Daily Mail.
By Monica Orosz
Daily Mail staff
Last year, local artists teamed up to create a series of flags that now grace light poles in the East End. This year, local artists are at it again, but they want you to look down instead.
Twenty-five artists created pieces that are being transferred onto bricks. Once fired to seal the images, the bricks will be laid along sidewalks in a two-block area of Washington Street East. The project was timed to be unveiled during this week’s FestivALL, which officially starts Friday.
“The banners we hung last year are very visual to drivers,” said Ric Cavender, program director for East End Main Street, sponsor of the project. “This year, we are promoting walking through the East End.”
An East End Main Street committee began discussing the project earlier this year, said Charleston graphic artist and designer Mark Wolfe. When the committee hit upon the idea of decorative bricks, the next step was figuring out just how to get an artist’s image from paper or other medium to brick. Wolfe said they considered etching, but were concerned that details might be lost in the process.
And here’s where West Side met East End in a collaboration of problem solving. The committee contacted Karen and Mike Garnes, owners of Capitol Clay Arts Co. on the West Side. The Garneses, in turn, consulted with local potter Eric Pardue, whose clay pieces often incorporate detailed artwork. Pardue suggested a process where the artwork would be scanned and the image transferred via laser printer to special transfer paper.
Wolfe practiced the process of scanning and manipulating the images in Photoshop, converting them to black and white if necessary, adding the East End Main Street logo and then printing the images in reverse. Mike Garnes took over the next step, figuring out the best way to transfer the images to 4-inch by 8-inch clay bricks he made in the shop and then firing them to “seal” the image on the bricks.
The final firing maintains the clarity of the artwork and turns it a sepia tone.
“The laser toner that the HP printer uses has iron oxide in it,” Garnes explained. “So when all of the (transfer paper plastic) burns off, you’re left with the iron oxide.”
Artists began the process of transferring their images on Monday and even the veterans clearly were learning something in the process. The scanned images were trimmed to fit the bricks, and then slipped into a pan of water before being placed, image side down, on the brick.
The paper backing slipped away from the plastic transfer image, which then had to be smoothed of bubbles before they headed to the kiln for the final firing.
“Can these be walked on?” asked Charly Hamilton, who created a wood-block print for his brick. Wolfe and Garnes assured him they are intended for outside use.
Vasilia Scouras made a small colorful painting for her brick, but said she used her digital camera on the black-and-white mode to envision how it would look when converted.
“And I wish I had a little more contrast in this part,” she said.
Artists were asked to create images that would fit into the strong horizontal dimensions of a brick. While they knew the finished image would be converted to black and white, they didn’t have to adhere to that in the original.
Nor did they all do simple drawings or painting.
Artists turned in everything from stained glass (Bob Rosier) to multi-media (Keeley Steele) to photographs (Chuck Hamsher). Rob Hrezo sought permission from the artist who created the sculpture in front of the Clay Center to draw it and use the image for his brick.
“I converted them the best I could,” Wolfe said, marveling at how the details are preserved in the final transfer.
The 25 bricks will be installed by city of Charleston workers on Washington Street sidewalks by the end of June. More bricks are in the works, including 25 that will be installed on the east side of the Bluegrass Kitchen restaurant.
The original artwork used for the bricks will be auctioned Friday night at Frutcake, 1599 Washington St. East, in an event that begins at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $20 for wine, beer, cheese and appetizers.
Other participating artists are: The 25 local artists participating this year are: Amanda Jane Miller, Amy Williams, Betty Gay, Brent Stephens, Dan Carlisle, Gary Needham, Glen Brogan, Heidi Richardson Evans, Ian Bode, Jamie Miller, Jeff Pierson, Joe Bolyard, Joey Elswick, Ray McNamara, Rebecca Burch, Rob Cleland, Rudy Panucci and Staci Leech.
For a complete FestivALL schedule, visit www.festivallcharleston.com.