Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

Painting on Silk with Soya Wax Part 1

I’ve been having a bit of fun over the past 24 hours playing with my latest toy – a kilo bag of soya wax pellets. 🙂

You know what it’s like when other people are having a discussion on a thread about their experiences with something that you have no idea about. You’re just dying to join it but can’t. Well, that’s exactly how I felt when I was reading about the fun some of my fellow silk painters were having on a forum that we meet up on.

They were all experimenting with soya wax and silk, something which I had never tried. Until now, that is.

Those of you who follow my blog will probably know that I have a preference for low toxicity when I paint on silk as my health is

soya wax fiona stolze silk painting

Soya wax pellets for silk painting

really of utmost importance. So whenever I hear of products that are healthy options, I always open my ears wide and pay attention. There is no need whatsoever to expose yourself to harmful chemicals when painting on silk. It’s always down to choice.

You can imagine my delight when I read all about soya wax. It was just perfect. First of all, it melts at a lower temperature than other waxes. There are no fumes coming off it, so no worries about breathing in anything that could make you feel unwell. And when you want to remove it from the fabric, you put newspaper top and bottom and iron it well. The remains will come out on the paper when you steam your silk and then when you wash it afterwards.

That puts it top of the league for me.

The only thing was, that it was slightly harder to find than the normal batik wax. I eventually found a supplier that sold candle-making supplies and had all sorts of unusual waxes, including rapeseed. Now that’s something I’d love to look into at a later point. I was able to buy a kilo bag of pellets at quite a reasonable price – £5.99 plus shipping.  So do be wary of just buying in the first shop you find. You shouldn’t have to be paying a lot just because it comes in dinky little bags.

soya wax fiona stolze silk painting

Silk painting with crinkled soya wax

So how do you use it? I put a metal bowl inside a saucepan with a little water and turned on the heat. I added a desertspoonful of the pellets and slowly stirred them until they had melted and we were ready to go. They recommend 45 degrees for candlemaking, but as I was advised, you have to make sure the wax is hot enough to penetrate the silk.  When this is the case, the silk looks sort of transparent and just glides on.

I found it very easy to apply using a brush. Once I got the hang of it, it was really enjoyable.

Afterwards you just leave it to dry and then you have the option of crinkling it so that you get cracks in the surface. When you apply the next layer of dye, the colour will seep through the cracks and give a lovely effect. Another tip I was given here was that you should take a piece of paper towel and carefully dab the pearls of dye away from the wax surface otherwise these will go into the silk when you try to iron the wax out later.

Well, I’ve been playing with my soya wax and have created my first ‘masterpiece’. It has been fun and I have already learned some useful things which will help me to make the next piece even better. These first pictures show you a bit of what I’ve been doing. The silk is due to be steamed either tonight or tomorrow morning. I’ll be posting the final thing after that and you can hear all about what I did, step by step, in putting it all together. It’s much easier than it looks and doesn’t cost much to do.

I hope this has been of some help and I look forward to publish further findings.

P.S. Big thanks to my lovely friend Joanna Reid Cotter who inspired me to get going with this and who has been helping me with great tips. Check out her amazing blog. xx

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August 19, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Stop Brick-Hard Gutta from Blocking Your Nibs and Keep Your Blood Pressure Down

Oh, yes. This is one that affects us all, regardless of how long we’ve been painting on silk. We take out the bottle of fresh gutta, give it a shake and then fill it into the smaller plastic bottle and fit it with a nib. And that’s us ready to go. The first lines come out beautifully smooth and easily. What a joy!

However, we get called away to tend to something and forget to put the gutta bottle away safely…….and the damage is done.

It might be the next day before we come back to pick up where we left off. And..um….oh, dear. The gutta bottle. We forgot to put the lid on, or the long pin in the nib to seal it. And no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get the gutta to flow out of the bottle. It’s all jammed up.

So we take off the nib and start to poke around inside it with the metal pin to loosen up any solidified gutta. Some rubbery bits and pieces fall out. We scrape around further and think we’ve got it free. Quickly pop the nib on again and give it another go. Not the slightest bit of difference.  Okay, next step is to take the nib and put it in some very hot water and using the pin again, scrape around inside to loosen up the guilty bits of gutta. At this point I turn on the hot tap and work under the flow of water with the pin.

And it still doesn’t work. Nothing is coming out of the nib. Okay, I’ve had enough. This is where I cheat, unpack a new nib and get on with my work before I totally lose my nerve. The blocked nib gets put into a pot with boiling water and left to simmer for a while until everything really loosens up.

When I have completed my line work, I can then tend to the boiled nibs (sounds like some tasty dish I’m preparing). I remove them from the water and lay them on some kitchen roll to cool down slightly. But I still have to use the pin to remove the last, by now soggy, remains of gutta. Whew, what a job.

Despite my good intentions, this does keep happening every now and then. So I just make sure I have quite a few nibs on hand to grab when I need to keep going with my work. They’re really so cheap that you can afford to have a big supply of them.  One of my standard phrases is: “I don’t have any time for this nonsense!” There are certain things which just get silly and spending half an hour on cleaning a nib falls into that category. I’ve seen me saving them up and boiling as many as 8 or 10 of them at once. I dream of having an assistant who has nothing better to do than stand beside me, keeping my bottles filled and the nibs free for me to paint to my heart’s content.

One tip I would like to share is to only put small amounts of gutta into your bottle and to use them up as quickly as possible for ultimate freshness. I used to like working with very full bottles but constantly ran into difficulties with this. Now I try to estimate how much I will need and only work with that. It’s a fact that the room temperature has an effect on how quickly the gutta dries in the bottle.

If you are going to be leaving your work for whatever reason, always make sure you put the pin in the nib again or push the plastic stopper back down on the nib. That at least ensures you can work for another session without it all drying up.

And that brings me to one last point. The elusive pin.

Just be aware of one thing. No matter where you lay it down, it will not be there when you go to pick it up again.

It’s a shape shifter and that’s a fact. Every silk painter will testify to this.

So, how to ensure that you find it again? Here’s a golden tip. When you take the pin out of the nib, get a piece of masking tape and affix it to the corner of your frame. Brilliant! No more crawling around on the floor with your hands spread out, looking like you’d just lost your contact lenses.

I just love the hi-tech solutions in the world of silk painting. I could fill a book with them. They make it all so much more fun. Anyway, I hope that you have a bit more fun and manage to cut down on the gutta blocks. Happy painting.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Paint One of Those Lovely Little Silk Window Pictures in a Flash

As many of you who have seen my work will know, I am rather fond of those lovely little round silk window pictures. They really are so handy as presents and relatively easy to work with.

I just wanted to share with you a few tips on creating your own beautiful works of art using one of these premade silk discs. Some of you have asked me how I manage to glue the silk onto the metal hoop. Truth is, I don’t make these myself at all. They are ready to buy in most craft and hobby stores that sell silk painting supplies. You can

Double happiness silk window picture by fiona stolze

Double happiness silk window picture

get them in different diameters but the size I prefer to work with is the 15cm (6″) one.

Okay, let’s look at the technicalities of painting one. First of all, I only use the silk paints on these, not the dyes. And that’s for one very important reason. You’re going to find it very difficult to roll one of these up in your professional steamer. In fact, it’s pretty impossible.

Another thing I’d like to mention is the use of gutta. I would strongly recommend using metallic or coloured gutta, as it’s easier to use one that stays on the silk. If you try using clear gutta, it could be very tricky to wash it out. Wetting the silk could cause the glue to dissolve and this would mean the silk detaching from the hoop which is something you really don’t want to happen.

You might now be asking yourself how on earth you fix the paints on the disc. I’ve just told you that you can’t steam the disc due to the shape, but isn’t it hard to iron the disc, too? Yes, that’s a difficult one as well. So we’re not going to bother with the iron. All you need to do it give the picture a blast for 2-3 minutes with the hairdryer. Keep rotating it as you go. This will fix both the gutta and the paint.

When you’ve finished, remember to attach a thin thread at the top so that you can hang the picture up. And there you are, ready to go.

The one you see here is a stylised Chinese symbol used in feng shui called Double Happiness. It’s one that is traditionally given to the bride and groom at weddings, or couples who are getting engaged to be married. It can also be hung in the relationship corner of your home to attract a new partner if you are solo or used to enhance any existing relationship you have.

I’ve just had a great thought. How about enhancing creating double happiness in your home by silk painting with your partner. Give it a try. It could be a lot of fun. 🙂

August 1, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment