I take a piece of white silk, and soak it in vinegar - this will activate the dyes. Next, I draw or trace my image onto the dried silk, using first pencil, then resist lines. I usually use a gutta resist which is petroleum based. This is the “serti” or “stained glass” technique. ( Batik implies the use of wax and can be a very different technique).
The resist lines function as a dam in the silk and restrain the colors in the designed area. Within the area, the pure colors of the dyes mix and blend delightfully. Unlike paints, which have some “body”, dye is completely soluble. The dyes move and create effects in the silk. The dyes must be steamed to set them into the silk. I use fibre reactive Procion dyes.
Silk Painting -My Story:
In the late 80’s I was visiting my brother in Melbourne, Australia, and as he was at work during the day, I was at liberty to amuse myself. I came across a silk painting class, which I took on a whim - and changed my life. I have been painting on silk ever since.
I am still delighted by the vibrant color of the dyes which are set in the silk and enhanced by the lustre and sheen of the silken fibre. The paintings appears so vivid because silk fibres are faceted and so reflect more light than the usual painted surface.
The silk is wrapped in other fabric and put in a steamer for 1 hour. Later it is washed, ironed and prepared for the frame.
Interestingly enough, I have an old medical instrument steamer from 1908 found in a defunct doctor’s office in Ybor City. It is perfect for the purpose.