Art students delve into vinyl

FAIRMONT – Kandice Petschke’s art students are on the cutting edge – of a vinyl cutter, that is.

The upperclassmen at Fairmont Area High School are learning how to imagine designs and transfer the images to vinyl, which can be used for a variety of things, including careers.

“Art in general is a great resource for kids to take,” Petschke said. “It requires a higher level of thinking where there’s never one right answer,” she said, noting that 2 plus 2 always adds up to 4, “but yellow and blue don’t always make the same shade of green. It’s a challenge and something always comes up that needs some kind of creative solution.”

Petschke started the kids off with a Cardinal head, and now has them working with their own design, highlighted with their initial.

“I think it’s a new experience; it’s something people normally don’t do,” said Sarah Ostlie, a junior. “I like the designing and being creative. My favorite part is using Adobe Illustrator because you can create anything.”

“I’ve done this before in other classes,” said senior Tadd Abel. “I think it’s a lot of fun. On my vehicle, I actually have a Cardinal head and Luigi decal I’ve made in these classes. It’s fun to express yourself.”

The process begins with learning how to operate Adobe Illlustrator and the basics of working with vinyl.

“We talk about what makes a good graphic,” Petschke said.

The students saved their creations to a flash drive, and Petschke sent it through the vinyl cutter. What comes out is a thin sheet with each student’s design measuring about 6 by 6 inches.

On Thursday, the teens undertook the tricky part: “weeding” or peeling the extra vinyl away from the image, sometimes with the help of an X-acto blade.

“This tiny intricate stuff isn’t fun to weed,” Petschke said.

Most of the kids did what is called a standard weed, taking out the background and leaving the image, but some did a reverse weed, taking out the original design and leaving a reverse image.

Transfer tape is placed on top and squeegeed; the transfer tape is peeled off, then the image is placed on a permanent surface like foamboard and squeegeed again.

Petschke has the kids working with smaller images and a single color, but the vinyl can be used in very large, complicated color projects.

“I’m getting them used to the process of how to do it,” she said. “If we’d go into a large project, it’s overwhelming and they don’t know how to do it and we go through an incredible amount of vinyl.”

This is the first class that’s really gotten to work with the vinyl cutter, which arrived in the spring.

The students have designed covers for the Community Education and Recreation brochure and the student planner, images for T-shirts, signage and decals.

“Eventually, I’m hoping to have these students do other work for the district,” Petschke said.

Her plan includes the kids doing signage, posters, decals and other work for businesses and people in the community.

“I want it to become self-funded,” she said.

It could be a springboard for their life’s work.

Knowing how to work with vinyl can be the basis for a home-based business, with clients coming to you, Petschke said.

“You’ll get clients that want signage, door numbers, decorative things,” she said. “A lot of home decorating things (on walls) – “Home is where the family is” – that’s vinyl. It’s fairly easy to do if you have the vinyl and the cutter.”

Bigger businesses can produce window signage, graphics for the sides of cars, boat decals and license numbers, to name a few.

Ostlie isn’t sure if she wants to make it her career.

“If anything, a side career, a hobby,” she said. “It’s fun to play around with.”

“I’ve actually looked into an art institute and doing graphic design and advertising,” Abel said. “Not sure what I want to do yet, but it is an interest of mine and I can see myself doing it in a job some day.”

Petschke is glad the students are considering the possibilities.

“Vinyl is limitless, you can do a lot of things with it,” she said.