Switch Plate Art for the well curated home, meet Lora Serra of SerraCraft

By Lisa Salerno

So, Tell me about your switchplate art.

I draw and paint the art for many of the plates. Currently in the shop, I have 12 plates I have painted original watercolors for. Some plates are a combination of painting and digital collage. Other Plates are complex digital collages, where the original picture[s] used are altered into a new image. And some are very straightforward found images cropped to plate size.

I view my switchplates in all but the last category as handmade multimedia art. The last category is more of a salute to art history, [ and an attempt to raise the aesthetic in available functional art for the home with some fun camp images.]

Why Switchplates?

I started making light switch plates about 15 years ago when I bought my beach house in Gerritsen Beach. I have always hung a lot of art on my walls, both collected, and my own, and in my new house it was no different. Wall space was a well utilized commodity. But I do love images, and wanted to add more. So I began decorating my light switch plates.

At first I decoupaged medieval calligraphy plates onto simple switchplates, for my own home. Later I experimented with more durable sealants such as resin. I was pleased with the results and the opportunity to display more art in my home.

When I started my Etsy shop, I did not think of listing Light Switch Plates. My motivation in opening my shop was to get me back in the studio to paint, so I displayed my watercolors. But I really loved my own switchplates, and enjoyed the opportunity it provided to me to enhance my home decor. I also loved searching for images [I am quite a pinterest junkie, as well as an art history buff. And I only had a limited number of switchplates in my beach bungalow.]

So I started by listing a few,.. They became popular, and more and more I liked the idea of providing aesthetically pleasing functional art for the home. {and offering an alternative to the kitch BS usually available.}

I also love sharing my “art finds” with others and sharing the images’ back stories.
So now that I have earned my artistic freedom in retirement, at Etsy I focus almost exclusively on switchplate art. Because at my house, turning on the light is an asethetic delight. And what a wonderful “cheap thrill” to be able to share….

So that’s the story of my switchplate art.

Can you tell me about your process of how you create each switchplate (from idea to finish)?

There are basically three types of plates I do: plates from my original art work, altered image plates, and ‘homage to the image’ plates.

Original Art Switchplates start with lots of drawing…. I start with a large proportional template of the switchplate base I am planning to use. I will trace this on my pad first and work the image around it so that the placement of the switch and fastening screws works within the image. Then I will work on sketches until I am satisfied.
I will then retrace the template on watercolor paper.

I like using a watercolor block and prefer 300 lb cold pressed paper. I will then lightly draw in the image, and then paint it in watercolor. Once I am happy with the watercolor [ sometimes the first painting, but sometimes I will have to paint it several times to work out the image until I am satisfied]… Anyway, once the image is complete, and dried, I scan it at high resolution and size it to the plate digitally.

The finished sized image is then printed on a heavy weight paper. It will then be ready to be cut and mounted on the plate. From here on out the finishing process is the same for all 3 types of plates. My “Sarafina Blingfish (image above)” is an example of an original art switchplate.

Altered Image Switchplates start with lots of browsing of images. I may have an idea in mind, a theme in mind or just browsing and saving things that strike my fancy. I do a lot of browsing on Pinterest and store the images that strike my fancy on my Pinterest boards. I maintain public and private boards and save stuff I definitely am seriously considering creating on in the private boards, while saving intriguing images on my public boards to share.

“Kuba Cloth Pattern” and “Bunny Hug” are examples of altered image switchplates. These are so much fun to do!

If you look at “Kuba Cloth”, it is a repeat pattern of a small swatch of fabric, made my reversing, inverting, cropping and piecing the pattern. The color was also digitally altered to modify the deep tan of the original print to a paler ivory, to match the ivory coloring of the dalmatian jasper chips I added to the four corners of the plate.

The bulk of my plates are altered image plates. Some have ‘major alterations’. The alterations on other images are minor but judicious crops and color changes, when done strategically, can turn the viewer’s perspective on its head. A good example of this is the Face of Antiquity Light Switch Cover. The image is a cropped detail of an ancient Roman elite soldier’s face mask. By closely cropping, strategic positioning and punching up the gold and silver of the finish on the armor, the resulting image is subtly erotic, revealing a tempting curve of the lip that is nowhere in evidence when the lips are seen as a whole. And the screw at the edge of the lip …. a nod to body piercing.

‘Homage to the Image’ Switchplates: This third type of process involves no real alteration aside from the cropping needed to accomodate the size of the plate. An example of this is “Museum of Wonders”. The image is a children’s book cover from 1884. Placed on a switchplate in your home’s entryway, it gives the image a whole other layer of meaning, as it invites your guests to delight in your collected art and objects.

From Printed Image to Finished Switchplate: The printed images are cut to fit the plate. Once cut, the image is sealed in an acrylic varnish, in a 6 step process of applying successive layers. The image is then adhered to the switchplate base and sealed in poured resin. Once the resin has cured, the switchplate is complete.

What kind of paints do you use, and do you need to use a varnish for durability?

I mostly use watercolor when I paint. I sometimes use acrylic for decorative additions, but enjoy working with watercolor when I paint.

The acrylic varnish I mention above is used to waterproof the paper and protect it from the resin while the resin is wet.

The resin itself hardens to a very durable finish. To test the finish, I hung 2 switchplates in the open on my outside deck over a year ago. These plates have gone through 100 degree temps, single digiit temps, blizzards, and storms with high winds, and show no noticeable signs of wear.

Connect with Lora Serra of SerraCraft





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