By Melissa Donovan
Part 2 of 2
Rigid substrates are directly printed on digital flatbeds, however they are also used in non-printed applications, such art installations and decor. Sign industry professionals are aware of the many substrate options and can parlay this knowledge when personal interests lead them down a different path.
Passion and Purpose
One of JF Jones of Greensboro, NC’s previous jobs was creating signage for the City of Greensboro. It was here that he grew knowledgeable about SINTRA graphic display board by 3A Composites USA.
A high-performance moderately expanded PVC board, SINTRA is available with premium bright-white surfaces designed to produce excellent digital printing results. In addition to the brightest white, SINTRA is available in a range of colors and in gauges ranging from one millimeter (mm) to 12.7 mm and in standard sheet sizes ranging from 48×96 inches up to two meters by 120 inches.
Experienced in set and prop building for theatrical, television, and film productions as well as furniture making, Jones has held a special interest in mobiles since he first saw one by artist Alexander Calder for The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. “It was Calder’s ability to use simple material to create work that was so simple in structure but so complex in its language and visual effect,” says Jones of what attracted him to the medium.
Jones began creating Calder-inspired mobiles from SINTRA in 2007 for residential display. This grew into a full-time business, Modern Mobiles, which offers mobile-making kits for anyone looking to construct their own mobile.
The mobile kit includes a series of modern geometric-shaped pieces made from three mm SINTRA in primary colors. Customers build their own mobiles with these shapes by attaching them to aluminum wires and positioning them with plastic sliders. The shapes can be repositioned to create a variety of designs. In addition to being available for sale on Etsy, the Mobile Kit by Modern Mobiles is available for sale at several museums throughout the U.S.
Additionally, Jones started teaching mobile-making classes. “When I taught classes on mobile making, students would ask if I could make something that they could put together. So I developed a slider and made pieces to attach from SINTRA. It is a very available material and possesses all of the properties needed.”
Jones purchases SINTRA graphic display board from the Greensboro location of distributor Piedmont Plastics.
In 2012, Jones began toying with the idea of a mobile that included pieces that resembled the heavy structural steel girders used to construct skyscrapers. Envisioning creating components that looked like I-beams, he turned to SINTRA for its durability yet lightweight properties, as well as its ability to be easily cut.
“I wanted to find a material that would create the illusion of an I-beam but would be lightweight. I had encountered SINTRA for display work. It was flat, clean, and perfect for applying vinyl graphics and it could be drilled easily. It was very consistent in color and density,” explains Jones.
The I-beams were created by cutting strips from 4×8-foot sheets of six mm SINTRA in gray. The beams were constructed just like steel I-beams with a top plate and a bottom plate, which are both grooved to accept a vertical piece that is secured with epoxy.
Adding to the I-beams were three-dimensional (3D) characters. These were designed with model-making computer software and gaming animation and then 3D printed out of ABS plastic. One of Jones’ characters is distracted by his cell phone and appears to be close to walking off an I-beam. Other characters—inspired by the 1932 Lunch Atop a Skyscraper photograph credited to Charles C. Ebbets—enjoy a lunch break seated on a beam.
“I thought that it was funny to see a guy walking off the end of the beam looking at his cell phone. There is an instant connection with the audience. It’s also a very contemporary distraction,” admits Jones.
Eight I-beam sculptures in varying sizes have been commissioned for public and corporate display. The first was selected in 2016 by the North Carolina Art Council as a public installation at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Guilford County, NC. Jones’ latest work, entitled Beams, is displayed at Artplex Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.
The inspiration for the I-beam mobiles comes from two of Jones’ favorite things—the illusion of weight and humor. “The sculptures look just like real I-beams, so people assume that the piece weighs a ton when in fact one of the largest mobiles weighs less than ten pounds. It gives the impression of weightlessness the same way the large Calder piece does. It floats effortlessly.”
Whether used in an art installation or printed directly to for graphics, rigid substrates are a handy consumable. Print providers and many others are able to utilize these boards for a number of activities.
Dec2020, Digital Output