The Creation of an Ornament

CONCEPT – Art and Design

The very beginning of the process of designing an ornament starts with you, the client.  You choose which images (photographs and/or drawings) to send to Tom Pollard Designs.  Perhaps there is a certain angle you wish to see of your building, or you have a new logo or mascot you would like to have made into an ornament.  Our artists will work within your parameters to design an ornament unique to you and your organization.

There are times when a client doesn’t have any images to send us.  They might just have an idea.  Our artists are designers who will bring your conceptual design to life both artistically and technically.  They pride themselves on their ability to communicate and creatively work towards a common goal to satisfy the customer.  In addition to providing us with images and conceptual ideas for your ornament, you will also be asked for any specific wording you wish to have incorporated into the design and whether or not you wish to have your ornament designed as a flat, pop-up, or multi-piece.

Pop-up ornaments create a dimensional look with one piece of metal. The way it does this is by having two frames, an outer frame and an inner frame. The two frames are connected by small pieces of metal, usually shaped like an “S”. These “S” connectors allow the inner frame to be pushed either forward or backward. The multi-piece ornaments are a bit more involved as they can incorporate extra pieces being held together with tabs and/or certain aspects of the piece having a slight twist in the metal.  Although most of our ornaments are made with a gold finish, occasionally a client wishes to have a silver finish or perhaps have both finishes in their ornament (as is possible with our three-dimensional ornaments).  Some clients wish to have color(s) on their ornaments as well.  These decisions are all made in the designing stage.  Sometimes our clients are happy with the first drawing and other times they wish to make revisions.  We won’t go to the next step without your 100% approval on the ornament design.

Once you approve the design, the artists make the artwork technically sound and put it in values of black and white so that it is ready for the etching process.  At this stage, white, equals metal and black shows the areas that are to be recessed and/or pierced.  The artwork is compensated technically for loss of metal from the etching process, insuring the beauty, quality, strength and longevity of each piece.

LAMINATION – Photo Resist to Metal, Masking and Printing

The sheets of metal that are to be used for your ornaments must be inspected and cleaned before any further steps are taken.  A technician laminates both sides of the metal with a photo resist (or photo mask).   From there the images will be transferred to both sides of the metal sheets.  The transfer of the image is accomplished by photographing the images onto the resist masks in the reverse value of the files; in other words, a negative is produced on both sides of the metal.   The photo resist lamination protects the metal from any etching or piercing taking place.  The lamination and images on both side of the metal tells the machine whether to pierce the metal or to etch the metal.  When there is the same black image on both the front and the back, the metal is pierced to leave behind a cut out.  When the black only appears on one side, this directs the machine to etch the piece, thus creating scribed detail.

ETCHING- Controlled-Acid Etch

The piercing or recessing of the metal happens to the areas without the lamination.  These piercings and recesses are done to make up the desired design of the ornament.  The etching effect is achieved by passing the metal sheets through a machine which applies a series of controlled acid sprays to the metal.  The machine monitors the sprays to insure the accuracy in depth or etching.   Length of exposure time as well as pressure, speed and temperature all affect the metal in various ways.   This process is tightly controlled so that the desired effect is achieved and so that each sheet of metal comes out exactly the same as the others; over etching will cause the pieces to become weak.  Once the etching is completed, the excess photo resist is removed from the large metal sheets, leaving behind a clean metal surface.  Now the sheets are ready to be moved onto the plating process.

PLATING – Quality Finishes Applied

Depending on the finish you wish to have on your ornament, the plating department electro plates the ornament sheets with the desired finish you choose.  The finishing options are gold, silver or variations of the two.  If you wish your ornament to have additional colors, the colors are screen printed onto the metal by using epoxy paints.  The metal is then cured insuring that the painted areas will be long lasting.

FINISHING – Rubber Wheel, Quality Control, Packaging and Shipping

The sheets of metal can contain at least 40 or more ornaments.  These sheets are then cut leaving behind individual ornaments that are ready for the final finishing process.  Any rough edges on the ornaments are smoothed by holding each piece up to a rubber wheel until all rough edges are gone.
The last step in this process is to assemble any pieces together that may need to be assembled, pushing forward or backwards parts to achieve the pop-up effect where necessary, tying the gold thread hanger onto each piece and inserting each finished ornament into individual plastic pouches.  If special packaging is desired, the ornaments are packaged in boxes or plastic sleeves at this time along with the custom-made package insert that is written with your input telling a little history about your subject or what makes your group special.  From there the ornaments are shipped to you to sell and/or share with others.