University of Iowa Honors Theses

Thesis Title

A Little Piece of Home

Major Department

Art, Studio


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2018

Honors Major Advisor

Kee Ho

Thesis Mentor

Sonya Naumann



Sarah Shoemaker

Spring 2018

Sonya Naumann

School of Art and Art History

Transferring photos to wood has been a longtime craft for people who want to add an extra element to their kitchen or change up the typical family photo print. For me, using family photos and wood cut from trees that came from my family’s land is my way of holding onto the memories that were made at the house that I spent 24 years in. The focus for this project is to research how different materials can be used to transfer photos to wood and which materials will be successful.

Knowing that I wanted to use found family photos, I searched through all of my parents’ photo albums and scanned several photos onto my computer. After selecting the photos that I wanted to use, I flipped them horizontally, so they appear the correct way when transferred onto the wood. I then cut slices of wood from a Cherry tree on my parents’ property about one to two inches in thickness. The first method that I tried, I printed my flipped photo onto freezer paper (thick, opaque and only coated on one side) using an inkjet printer. I laid the ink side down and smoothed it out onto the unfinished, non-sanded surface of the wood with a plastic card to get the air bubbles out. This method failed because the wood could not soak up the ink enough to make out the image. The second method that I tried was the same as the first method, but I used wax paper (thin, transparent and coated on both sides) and a sanded wood surface instead. Much like the freezer paper method, the wax paper method also failed due to the wood not being able to soak up the ink properly. The third method was a flipped photo printed on an inkjet printer using copy paper with Mod Podge Photo Transfer applied to the ink side of the paper. Laying the Mod Podge side down, I smoothed it over the unfinished, sanded wood surface with a plastic card and let it sit overnight or until it dried completely. After it dried I used a damp rag to gently rub the back of the paper off, leaving the ink side adhered to the wood with a fully recognizable photo. As I removed the paper with the rag, some of the ink came off with it. Out of curiosity, I tried this same method with a laser printed photo and I got the same results, a successful photo to wood transfer, but none of the ink was removed from the wood like with the inkjet printed photo.

With minor hiccups and little imperfections on each piece of wood, I’m very happy with the results. Looking back on my family photos, it took me back to the moment that they were taken. The moment of laughter or crunching leaves under my feet with the cool fall air hitting my cheeks. This project has helped me gain an appreciation for the imperfections that art can have that add to the aesthetic of the final product. So often, photos are printed and framed and never to be touched again. Wood has knots, cracks and uneven bark, which is what makes it beautiful and with the photos transferred to them, those imperfections add to the beauty of the photos and the experiences that each individual has in life. After successfully transferring the photos to wood, I am interested in using the Mod-Podge Photo Transfer method on other surfaces, like fabric or metal.

Total Pages



Copyright © 2018 Sarah Shoemaker

This document is currently not available here.