Thursday, January 7, 2016

How-To: Sentimental Dinner Plates

We're a week in to January, and I feel like I can safely reveal crafty gifted secrets now. I hinted at a few projects ongoing in the late fall, and most of them don't really need an explanation... a throw-sized quilt, a shadowbox containing a sentimental display, a string of beads, some matchy-matchy sibling pjs, an arty wall hanging. I bet there are a bazillion inspiring how-to pins on Pinterest for any of these if anyone wanted a go at 'em.

However there was one project that began with an inspirational how-to and ended (three attempts later) with me winging it and- eventually- figuring it out on my own.

I'm referring to Nanny's set of 18 sentimental dinner plates. I was inspired by an article in a 2013 Better Homes and Gardens special 'Christmas Ideas' magazine, which had a half-page how-to on making a set of clear glass dishes with sentimental photos on each plate's base. I skimmed over the project write-up in... like... June, decided I could totally do it in a day or two, ordered the glass plates off, and let them sit in my project room until mid-December.

OK that was my first mistake. I should learn from this and at least stop procrastinating projects that I have no experience with. Obv.

But anyho I'll cut to the chase: I burned through 6 plates and half a pack of vellum before finally accepting that the how-to in the BHG magazine was way way off, and this project wasn't going to work the way it was laid out in the DIY paragraph.

Here's how it actually should be done, or at least here's how I ended up making it work:

Sentimental Dinner Plates

You will need:
Clear glass plates with a defined, flat base (smooth, rounded edges will make this harder)
8X10 photos, one for each plate (I tried black & white, sepia, and full color, and found
full color photos seemed a little too busy and kitschy for me, for what it's worth...) 
Matte spray-on sealant specifically for photos/paper
A good compass with a good sharpened pencil
Sharp scissors
Dishwasher safe Mod Podge (it does exist!)
A rubber thing like this one for smoothing out bubbles (DO NOT SKIP THIS TOOL! 
Part of one of my problems in the failed attempts was not realizing how bad bubbles
look through the glass once the Mod Podge is dry... even really small ones. 
This thing is worth the $6, you'll wish you had so just do it!)
TIME. This Mod Podge takes a few hours to become dry enough to touch, but it takes 28 
days to fully cure (so you can't get the dishes wet i.e.wash them for a month after making them)

Tip #1: Choose high-resolution photos with the subject(s) clustered together in an area that will fit well into the diameter of the 'footprint' of the plate. Once the photo is printed use your compass to measure the area from the center of the plate to just inside the edge of the bottom, and use that measurement to define the circle on the photo that you'll be cutting out.

Tip #2: Use your compass to draw the circles to be cut out on the back of your photo(s) by holding the photo(s) up on a windowpane so you can see through the paper. Then center your compass point, lower photo and compass back to the table and then draw the circle. That way you won't have pencil marks and/or erasures on the image.

Tip #3: Keep a damp rag nearby and when you've finished a plate do a quick check for Mod Podge-y fingerprints or drips or whatnot that need a cleanup! That stuff will not come off once it dries!

The Method:
I'm not going to go in to the original directions vs. my adapted method, suffice to say there isn't
much left in my how-to that BHG suggested. 
The original idea credit belongs to them... and that's about it.

First, gather your supplies on a surface that can get a little Mod Podge-y, just in case. Wipe down your plates with a dry cloth to remove any dust and fingerprints, and make sure any price tags and price tag glue residue are gone (use alcohol if needed). 

Make sure you've printed your photos on photo paper, not regular printer paper. Take your photos outside or into your garage (well-ventilated garage) and spray image side with sealant. Allow to dry, flip photos over, and spray back side too. Allow to dry completely.

Measure radius of plate base with your compass, then hold photos up to a window- with the image side against the windowpane- and find the center of the image you're wanting to feature with the compass point (lightly encircle the image with the compass while you're holding it up to the window to make sure your circle isn't going to cut anyone's head off or whatever). Holding compass point at the image center, lower photo to table and then firmly draw a circle around the image. Double-check what your circle will end up looking like by putting photo back up to the window. 

If you're satisfied with the image within the circle you've drawn, cut out the circle. If any pencil is visible on the back of your circle, gently erase it (this will be the bottom of your plate and it will be visible through the Mod Podge as it dries clear).

Now take a glass plate and flip it upside-down. With a foam brush, apply a light coat of Mod Podge to the bottom of the plate (only where the photo will be). Gently place cut-out photo face-down on Mod Podged surface. With the flat beveled-edge rubber thing I insist you get for this project, start working the bubbles and excess Mod Podge out from between the photo and the plate. The best way I found to do this is to press firmly from the center of the image outward to the edge, curving slightly at the edge of the photo, then turn the plate a few inches clockwise and repeat all the way around, always from the center outward. Once you feel like you've removed all the bubbles and excess Mod Podge, flip the plate over and check. You do not want to leave any white filmy excess Mod Podge or teeny-tiny bubbles between the photo and the plate. 

If you can see that your image is crystal-clear, adhered all the way around, and bubble-free, flip the plate back over and apply your first external coat of Mod Podge directly to the back of the photo. Go light on the application because again you don't want any bubbles. Plus you're going to do 3 coats total so you don't have to seal it up completely on the first round.

Before you leave your plate(s) to dry, check them for Mod Podge-y finger prints, drips, etc. and wipe them off while they're still wet with a damp rag!

The Mod Podge directions say to wait 1-2 hours between coats and I waited about an hour between each and it worked great. Because you're prepping your finished product for the dishwasher (top rack), you want to make sure you don't skimp on the coats or the drying time. 3 coats minimum, 4 is better, and don't forget- let it cure for 28 days before you get 'em wet!

Photo by Nanny

Photo by my mother-in-law
Once I finally finished this project and got to experience the joy of gifting the finished set I will say this: they were worth the process. However I will also say this: I wish I knew there was a better way than how I first attempted them! But now you do, so go out and make it possible to eat off someone you love's face!

No comments:

Post a Comment