In the Studio with Carsen

It’s been a very busy week here at our house. With summer vacation drawing to a close, Grandpa and Grandma enjoyed spending a little time with grandson Carsen this week. He’ll be going back to school on the 23rd. We went a lot of places, did a lot of fun things, and played a bit in the art studio.

Of all the art supplies I have available, Carsen’s found his favorite — those delightful alcohol inks that create bold, bright colors. He’s especially fond of the metallic inks. He’s 10 years old and quite capable of creating art on his own without any assistance from Grandma, except for using the butane torch to complete the coasters he makes. Without a doubt, setting the ink on fire is what he enjoys most!

Here’s the beautiful coaster he made.

This is done on a 4″ x 4″ square glazed tile using a variety of different alcohol inks. It’s always fun to watch the grandchildren playing in the art studio, and I always learn from them. Had I been doing this coaster, it would have looked much different, I know. One of my faults is that I’m always too skimpy with my resources. I have to remind myself to use more oil paint, use more acrylics, or when making coasters like this, use more inks.

Carsen, on the other hand, is never hesitant about how much to use. If some is good, more is probably better! At least, that seems to be his way of thinking. He’s also quite free about mixing colors to see what might happen. Or sometimes he just changes his mind a bit and wants to add a different hue. That happened several times with this coaster. During the process, he used all but a few of the inks in my “Pinata” ink set.

We began with isopropyl alcohol, using a 50% solution. In my own alcohol ink experiments, I’ve tried 50%, 70%, and 91% concentrations and have found that I prefer the lower concentrations for art. Surprisingly, scientists also say that lower alcohol concentrations are also more effective in germ-killing, which is, of course, their primary purpose. When it comes to disinfecting, the additional water plays a key role. Maybe it plays a role with the inks, too.

Once the tile was covered with alcohol, Carsen began dropping in colors. Lots of colors. And let’s not forget that lovely gold metallic! He alternated between various hues  and the metallic. He did use a soft-tipped air blower to move the ink around a bit, then added more color. More gold. And maybe a little more gold.

Finally, he proclaimed it ready to fire! Now, this is not a necessary step in the process. You don’t have to set alcohol ink alight when making coasters. It’s just a technique I saw demonstrated once, and I couldn’t wait to try it. Neither could Carsen when I first told him about it. Now, even though it’s not required, it’s become part of Carsen’s standard procedure for making coasters.

When the flames die out — it happens naturally as the alcohol burns away — the coaster is set aside to dry. Later, it’s ready to be finished with a coat or two of clear varnish. I use a Krylon spray. The final step is to attach a cork bottom. For me, that’s one of the fun parts. They’re adhesive-backed, so it’s simple to just peel and stick.

The final product is a beautiful coaster, and Carsen’s mother has a growing collection now. I’m glad Carsen enjoys playing in the art studio, and I love seeing his excitement as he watches the inks swirl around.


      1. Wonderful. My pottery tiles won’t appear til September but I’ll give you a nudge when they do if you like. Just let me know either way, I won’t be offended in the slightest if pottery is not your thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I would love to have an opportunity to actually do some pottery. I’ve done ceramics in the past, but I’ve never used a potter’s wheel to “throw a pot” — or anything similar. It always looks so interesting.


      3. Crap on the wheel myself, but you can’t throw a cube on one and you can use a bowl as a mould for round things so I get by. Again not professional standards but good enough to please me. Must do some art today one way or another. Behind on my self imposed challenge and dabbling in acrylics at present. Best crack on. Catch up with you soon.

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