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. πŸ™‚

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 – Β£5.99 plus shipping.Β  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.Β  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


August 19, 2010 - Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , ,


  1. Hi Fiona, I have worked alot with soya wax in the last year as well. I find it realaly works well to use on heavy duty archival paper, and on silk, I have had to be very careful, as it flakes off easily and won’t stick as well as regular batik wax. I try to mix it with beeswax, and that helps alot. It also has to be applied to both sides in order to make a good secure barrier. I’m always open to suggestions

    Comment by Muffy Clark Gill | August 19, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hi Muffy, great to get feedback from you. πŸ™‚ That’s interesting to know that it works on heavy duty archival paper. I’m going to be touching base with Joanna before I write my next post with more details and hopefully we can get some really good information and tips together.

    One thing I have already picked up on is that it needs to be properly hot or else it doesn’t penetrate the fabric properly. Looking forward to continuing this dialogue. Thanks for your contribution. πŸ™‚

    Comment by Fiona | August 19, 2010 | Reply

  3. Hi Fiona! Just read part II – this came out so beautiful! I LOVE how you used the gold accent, it really works! I was just thinking the other day about adding a metallic accent and wasn’t sure if it could also be added prior to removing the wax (around its perimeter) – when I get around to trying it, I’ll let you know what happens. I’m so glad to see the joy you are having with this technique! Don’t you think the process is a fun switch from gutta? Very freeing. I love the organic shapes, I bet it’s even more gorgeous in person – really nice job.

    Muffy, I am curious about your experience with the soy wax – are you actually immersing the silk in baths of dye, or are you painting directly onto the silk that’s been stretched on a frame? I’ve read that because the soy is easier to remove, it doesn’t make sense to try and use the dip-dyeing technique. I paint directly haven’t had much of a problem with flaking, but once I’ve applied the wax, I don’t remove or reposition it on its frame until I am finished painting. I’ve found that when working on 12mm satin, I need to increase the heat temp for better penetration. Charmeuse I haven’t had much luck with getting the wax to fully stop the flow of dye – will need to try you technique of applying to both sides! And a question about the heavy duty archival paper – is that what you use when you are initially ironing the wax out, or is it something you are also using for steaming?

    Thanks again for sharing your process Fiona, and Muffy for continuing this discussion – cheers and happy painting! :o)


    Comment by Joanna Read Cotter | September 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Glad you like the accents so much. I just felt they wanted to be added. I think it would be nice to paint a length of fabric and make some piece of clothing with it. I would have to experiment with the feel and see if the final wash makes it silk smooth and soft again.

      I painted this on satin silk and it worked beautifully. Charmeuse is so often a completely different kettle of fish, isn’t it? (that was a British phrase meaning something completely different altogether) πŸ™‚

      The reverse of charmeuse is made of crepe and it’s the twisted weave of this type of silk that makes it so hard to use resist of any kind. It’s as if the dye just keeps twisting back and forward with the threads to find a way through. That’s a good idea though, ladies, to paint the reverse with wax.

      When I did the crackle effect, I actually took the fabric off the frame, scrunched it and then stretched it again. It would be nice to try this on pongee or a wall hanging or the like. Mmmm….so many ideas.

      Re. the archival paper, Muffy. I know Joanna has already asked above. I was wondering if you actually paint with the wax on the thick archival paper and iron it off from there.

      I think I’d like to experiment with a very thin brush and paint a very delicate pattern on, much like a mandala and see how that works. I just like the ease of it and the fact that it is totally healthy.

      Enjoying communicating girls. πŸ™‚ x

      Comment by Fiona | September 6, 2010 | Reply

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