Die-cutting Polaroids

The next step in my die-cutting series was to die-cut a polaroid. This is an interesting process because you are not just cutting a shape from a polaroid, but also submitting it to a significant amount of pressure as it goes through the steel rollers in the machine. It’s a bit like putting a jelly through a mangle.

My first go involved quite a detailed die that has the word “love” inside a heart shape. I didn’t have quite enough pressure to cut through the entire polaroid, so ended up with a few bits of the die detached. What was really interesting though was what happened on the back of the print. The film emulsion squeezed through in several places, making something that was unique and defining of that moment in exactly the same way that the image on the other side was.  You could never make another one the same. I posted about it on the OCA board and received some encouraging feedback.


So the next step was to try it with a simpler die and a bit more pressure. I spent another afternoon with a Fine Artist friend, who always provides a welcome change of perspective on new work. She asked what it would look like if I didn’t develop the image first, if I didn’t allow it to develop in the dark… relentless avenues for exploration. My camera had a “new” film in, by new I mean an unused out of date film. So I took a picture of not much, steeled my nerve and left it face up in a bay window for 20 minutes or so. In the meantime I took some more photos of my friend’s own desteuctive project on my daughter’s Instax camera. They were actually too good to cut – I need to put a plain film in next time rather than one of the cute bordered ones!

Let’s go back to the Polaroid. It came out looking like a glossy deep blue ceramic tile with some variations. I used the plain heart metal die, added another shim to the machine to give more pressure, and cranked the rollers. This time it did cut right the way through, making me think that I can pop out the cutout, invert it, and rephotograph  or mount it so that you can see both sides of the print at once. I’ve not done that yet. The back was gloriously squidged with emulsion again. We’re a couple of days on now and the colours on the front have changed. I wondered about mounting it in a double sided acrylic frame so that the work is presented and protected whilst retaining the ability to be handled, which is one of the defining characteristics of polaroid prints. The OCA forum again came good in informing me that I need to search for “magnetic acrylic frames” (thanks Stefan!) and I have a couple of sources saved now. I also used a couple of existing polaroids that had been developed some time ago, one turned out well, the other didn’t have enough pressure to work well (not shown yet).

So I am very keen on the idea of developing this further, quite possibly for A5. Next up is exploring acrylic mounts, flipping the cut-outs, and trying the same thing with the smaller Instax prints (I will need smaller dies for that too). I really like the idea that something unique has been made from the original, and that the back can be as engaging as the front (possibly more so in some cases).



5 thoughts on “Die-cutting Polaroids

    • Kate March 3, 2017 / 4:31 pm

      Thank you Catherine. It’s intriguing because I don’t know how the polaroid will change as it “cures”, never mind the result of the die-cutting process.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Catherine March 3, 2017 / 6:27 pm

        An on-going project with much to discover. I’m enjoying following your progress.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Stefan J Schaffeld March 5, 2017 / 11:51 am

    Exciting and intriguing Kate – love the ambiguity of the double side effects of Polaroids and your approach to that. You keep my inspiration further flowing (idea: looking behind – looking through, a kind of Alice in Wonderland) like how to express the ‘curing’ of images. I am looking for forward seeing your next steps. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

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