Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

How to Wash Out Water-Soluble Gutta

I just wanted to say a quick few words about gutta or resist. It’s a topic which comes up time and again and just needs to be gone over when it does.

The resist technique in silk painting is when you use substances to create a barrier in the fabric which hinders the flow of the dyes. When you apply dye freely to your silk, it flows in an uncontrolled way, giving you a pattern without form, so to speak. In order to give structure to your design, you can use any of the resists available to gain this effect.

Technically speaking, gutta is a rubbery type of resist which has to be removed by dry-cleaning. For those of you who don’t like fumes or paying for dry-cleaning, there is a water-soluble version available which should not be called gutta even though it does get called this. This is what we are talking about here.

It is only the clear version that you can wash out of the silk after the colours are set. After ironing or steaming setting, hold your silk under the running tap and gently squeeze the fabric until all remains of the resist have gone. Roll your silk in a towel and dab it dry. It’s as simple as that.

The other types of resist cannot be removed after application. These are the coloured and metallic versions. When they have dried, ideally over night, you iron them into the fabric using a hot iron and then proceed with either more painting or fixing. These are an integral part of the design and the lines you create with them remain in the pattern. This is the case with my gold gutta lines on the mandalas (you see, I’m calling the resist by the name gutta – it’s a bad habit). 🙂

If you are using any of the solvent-based guttas, then you will have to remove them via dry-cleaning.

So, that was it. Hope this helps.

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July 31, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Dry Gutta Quickly When Silk Painting

If you’ve ever created a silk painting using the resist technique, applying gutta, then you’ll know that it is very difficult to get it to dry quickly. That is, if you are using water-based gutta. So we’re going to look at one or two ways of speeding up the process so that you can on with applying your colourful silk dyes.

There is one point I would like to make clear here before we go any further. There are two main types of gutta. One is solvent based and this type dries almost instantaneously which means you can apply your dyes straight away. I never use these guttas for two reasons. Firstly I don’t consider healthy to be inhaling the fumes from them. And secondly, I have to run off to the drycleaners to totally remove them from my silk artwork. This is both time-consuming and expensive. The second type is water-based and technically isn’t gutta at all, but “resist”. But for the purposes of this article we will be using the word gutta to refer to them both.

So, I use water-based guttas which unfortunately don’t dry immediately. However, when you know this, there are some things you can do to make sure your gutta dries quickly.

I would recommend that you get yourself a set of those small plastic bottles which can sit comfortably in your hand as if you were holding a thick pen. You can buy them from most craft shops that sell silk painting materials. Or you can order them online from any website selling them. You can then pop a fine nozzle onto the end of the nib which will ensure that the lines you draw are not overly thick. The nozzles come in different sizes. I use 0.5mm and find this thickness works very well. These thinner lines dry quite quickly at room temperature. If you use any tubes you can buy over the counter, the disadvantage is that the gutta can bloop out with air bubbles and this is going to make an awful mess of your work. Also, the lines are going to be so thick that you’ll really have to wait until the next day before you can start painting. I’ve seen some tubes create the effect of an iced cake.

When I do workshops I always have a hairdryer to hand so that we can blow dry the gutta lines to get them dry enough to move onto the next stage of applying the dyes after just a short break. Just switch on your hairdryer and give the silk a quick blast, taking care to keep the hot air flow moving so that the silk doesn’t over heat.

In fact the hairdryer is the standard method of drying objects with gutta that can’t be treated any other way. This could include round window pictures which consist of silk stretched over a metal hoop. These cannot be ironed if you are using iron fix dyes.

I have often guttaed my mandalas in summer months when the temperature was very high. This is ideal for getting your work to dry quickly but on the other hand you have to work quite quickly. So if you turn up the heating this will dry the gutta faster than if you work in a cold room. When you have completed the design, place your work near a radiator or even over it if this is possible. Take care that your silk doesn’t come into direct contact with the heater. Place books under the frame to raise it a bit higher.

Always remember, too, to fix your gutta into the silk when you have completed the painting. The gutta gets fixed at the same time as iron-fix dyes. For steam fixing, iron the silk on the reverse for up to 3 minutes.

And if you have the time to spare, I would always recommend that you leave the work overnight to allow the gutta to thoroughly dry at room temperature.

If you have any further questions on this topic, just post them at the end of this article. I look forward to hearing from you.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resist Technique – How to Put Gutta on Silk Without it Flooding

Okay, once you’ve decided which type of gutta to buy,what on earth do you do with it? Knowing how to put gutta on silk is not as easy as it looks but with a bit of practice and some useful tips, it should all start to flow a bit better.

If you’ve had a look at my post on which type of gutta to choose, then hopefully you’ve invested in some gutta that you’re happy with.

Now you may have bought a tube of gutta. In which case, all you have to do is take off the cap and start to apply it to the silk . But in actual fact, you may well find that the hole is a bit big and the gutta comes out really fast and thick which makes it difficult to control. These tubes are intended for beginners who want to just get started on some very basic patterns without worrying about finer details.

What if you want thinner lines? Well, the solution is to buy bigger bottles of gutta, small plastic bottles to refill and a set of nozzles to apply to the plastic bottles. It can be a tricky business filling the little plastic bottles but once you know how, it becomes a piece of cake.

First of all you have to match the nozzle to the plastic bottle. And this is how you do it….

You have to get a sharp pair of scissors and cut the tip off the top of the bottle. Be really careful only to cut off a small piece to start with. Next, try to fit the metal nozzle on top of the plastic. If it is still too wide, cut off another small piece. Try on the nozzle again. Do this with a twisting motion until the nozzle hugs the plastic. If it is still not perfect, slice off yet another piece of the plastic and try the nozzle again.

It’s really important to make sure you don’t chop off too much at the start as you may find that the nozzle just falls off and then you have wasted your money! So do it bit by bit.

Okay, so now the nozzle fits. And why is it so important to make sure it fits snuggly? Because when you are applying the gutta, there may be moments when you press the plastic bottle a bit too hard. This is when any badly fitting nozzle is likely to come flying off leaving you with a big puddle of gutta on your silk. And that can be rather off-putting to say the least.

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest. Your nozzle can still come flying off even if it fits perfectly. I overcome this by checking the fit every few minutes. I gently press it into place, twisting it firmly onto the bottle. But yes, I have had a few crises which ended up with a gooey mess of gutta on my beautiful masterpiece. 🙂

Right, you’ve cut the top off the plastic bottle. Now we need to fill it with gutta. And this is how you do it. Press the plastic bottle until all the air goes out of it and then hold the nib down into the gutta. Let go of the bottle and you will hear the gutta being sucked up into the plastic bottle. Now take the plastic bottle and gently bang it on the table to let the gutta settle. Repeat this procedure a few times until the bottle is at least half to three quarters full of gutta. You don’t want it to be completely full as that increases the risk of everything bursting out onto your silk.

Now you’re reading to start applying the gutta to the silk. Okay, so you are holding your bottle with the fitted nozzle in your hand, giving gentle pressure. You’re making sure that you are keeping the nozzle in contact with the silk, much the same as if you were writing your name, but with a little less pressure. An important thing to note is that you are putting pressure on the bottle itself with your thumb and forefinger so that you have an even flow of gutta. You are not pressing on the silk itself. Just maintain very gentle contact.

There is a chance that the gutta can ‘bloop’ at this point. This is when an air bubble comes out and the gutta makes a mini explosion over your silk. It can make a bit of a mess of your artwork. But you know what? This happens to me at regular intervals, too. And what do I do about it? I just make a creative feature out of it.

What do I mean by creative feature? Well, just pretend that it was meant to be that way. Turn the bloop into something that makes your design look really cool. Repeat it a few more times. Really, there are no mistakes in silk painting. Have fun and get creative.

I remember a few years ago when I was holding a workshop in Glastonbury. One very lovely participant suddenly lost her nozzle in the midst of a very creative phase. So I came over to the rescue. We made a golden butterfly out of it and added a few more for good measure. You would never have been able to tell from the result. And she was very pleased with it.

Now there is something I want to mention about resist technique. When you are drawing your lines, you want to make really sure that they stop the dye from ‘escaping’, so to speak. Hold your frame up to the light and you will be able to see easily where the weaknesses are and where the dye might be able to flow through when you begin to paint. Make sure all areas are properly closed and touch up any lines that seem a bit thin. It will be worth it when you come to apply your dyes as they will remain intact and keep the dye within its boundaries.

Have fun, then. And do let me know if you have any further questions or need any guidance on anything relating to this.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gutta For Silk Painting – What’s the Best Kind to Use?

When you’re starting out with silk painting it’s hard to know which materials to go for. Yes, there are many books and sites out there telling you which brands to go for but often they have a vested interest in promoting one over the other. So this post is just going to take a look at the pro’s and con’s of gutta for silk painting and leave the choice up to you.

I was just wondering how many of you actually know where the word gutta comes from. Well, it’s from the gutta percha tree which grows in Indonesia. The latex-like gutta from this tree was used in all sorts of industrial and medical applications

Gold gutta in plastic bottle with nib

Gold gutta in plastic bottle with nib

including the lining of golf balls. One of the types of gutta available to silk painters is solvent based and seemingly contains this gutta, which has a rubbery feel to it.

Serti or resist technique is a method used in silk painting to create boundaries which limit the free flow of silk. Gutta is applied in small bottles with nozzles on them to the silk so that it pentrates the fabric. As it dries, it hardens to form a barrier which gives form to your painting. This is my preferred method of silk painting and indeed, I wouldn’t be able to create these detailed mandalas without the resist technique.

So back to the different types of gutta for silk painting. Basically you can choose between solvent-based gutta and water-based resist. And what is the difference? Okay, let’s start with the solvent-based type. You always have to remember that when working with solvent, it’s really important to keep your working space well-ventilated. This type of gutta needs to be removed after your artwork is complete and the only way to do it is by dry-cleaning which some of you might find impractical. One big advantage is that you can paint your dyes on very quickly after applying this gutta.

The other type is water-based and technically isn’t called gutta, but resist. However, I still refer to it as gutta. What you need to watch out for is that it needs a bit longer to dry because the dyes can dissolve it a little if it is still too wet. One great way to speed up this process is to give your painting a blast with the hairdryer. I do that in my workshops so that we can get on with the colours. As to the question of dry-cleaning, this doesn’t apply to the water-based version.After you’ve fixed the dyes into your silk either by steaming or heat treatment (ironing), your can wash any clear gutta out by hand. One of the big advantages of the water-based version is that there are no fumes to contend with.

Now my preference is to use gold metallic gutta. The bad news is that you can’t dry-clean the solvent-based version. But I choose the water-based type because I want the lines to be a major feature of my finished work anyway.

However, I have had situations where I have tried to wash out gutta after I have changed my mind about the composition of my artwork. If you leave it too long, you might have a pretty hard job on your hands.

Now I wanted to address one particular point here. It is one which crops up again and again and I must admit that I have never had any difficulties with it. Many artists maintain that when they have completed their silk painting and then subsequently steam it, they never know how the finished work is going to end up because the lines tend to move and smear, letting the dyes blur at the edges.

I have never experienced this, either with iron-fixing or with steam-fixing but this appears to depend on the chosen brand.

In case you are interested in which brand I use, it is by Marabu Silk. I have used gold and silver gutta, as well as the clear version. All of these are the water-soluble types as I’m not keen on fumes and dry-cleaning.

I hope this helps. I am intending to post something on the art of resist technique itself so watch out for that soon. If you have any questions, please post them here and I’ll do my best to help out. Enjoy.

February 7, 2009 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Which Silk Quality Can I Use?

I often get asked by people which is the most suitable silk quality to use for silk painting. What I am sharing with you here is based on my personal experience over the years.

Generally light-weight silks are used for all silk painting and crafts. You would look for a medium-weight or heavy-weight if you wanted to make some quality, long-wearing clothing, such as a bride’s dress or a suit. I will be looking at silk weights in another post.

To answer the question in this post, the most important thing to know would be what you are intending to make. My personal favourite for wall hangings and other pieces which are meant to hang free and “float” is definitely pongee. It has that lovely wafting effect and is almost see-through depending on which quality you use. When you buy printed silk scarves, they are often extremely thin and this doesn’t allow for the same colour intensity as thicker ones. When I paint silk scarves, I don’t use anything under 8mm (momme – see upcoming post) and actually prefer to go for a 12mm for extra quality and still be able to use gutta.

satin silk background

Mandala Cushion on Silk: satin silk background

The mandalas that I mount and frame are all painted on satin silk, the Queen of Silks. It rightly deserves that name as it has an illustrious sheen, literally outshining all other silks I have worked with. When I have steamed a silk mandala, I don’t rinse the silk out until the bleeding stops, as with other items which are to be worn. This is because it is to be framed behind glass and so there will be no liquid, steam, etc coming into contact with it, nor will it be in contact with skin or other light-coloured fabrics. The disadvantage to washing out satin silk is that it slightly loses the beautiful sheen and most importantly, if there are any tiny creases, I cannot remove them with the iron. They simply “iron in”. So, for me, this is definitely not a quality to wash, only dry clean. Other types of silk can be washed by hand with care at your own discretion, although most manufacturers’ instructions (including mine) are for dry-cleaning only.

My personal favourite for clothing is crepe satin. This is a combination of satin silk on the top with a crepe backing. You can tell the difference when you have satin silk and crepe satin side by side. On the reverse, the satin silk is smooth and matt. The crepe satin, on the other hand, has a twisted weave. The advantage is that this quality is easier to drape and has a more elastic feel, not nearly so rigid as satin silk. My cushions are made with crepe-backed satin which makes them slightly softer.

An alternative to crepe satin is crepe-de-chine. This has the twisted weave on both front and reverse and doesn’t have the sheen of the satin. However, it is an ideal choice if you want to make gorgeous scarves, blouses, shawls, etc. It feels lovely against your skin.

Now, one or two words of caution. If you are intending to paint on these qualities, I would recommend you watch out for the thickness of the silk you want to work with. I have painted on different qualities over the years. My speciality is using gutta, the resist technique, which I will talk about in another post. After a bit of experimentation I came to the conclusion that the thicker qualities don’t allow the gutta to fully penetrate them, leaving gaps, so that you end up with a messy piece of work due to bleeding of colours. I wouldn’t recommend that you work with anything thicker than 12.5 for this reason.

I would also recommend that you wash any pongee or crepe-de-chine before you paint it and sew a garment, and this will avoid any disappointment due to shrinking. Silk has a tendency to shrink and that is one reason why people often find that their artwork turns a bit wavy after fixing due to the fact that the gutta lines don’t “fit” the shrunken silk any more.

You can pick up lovely offcuts of silk in bridalwear workshops. I would recommend only painting on them using washes of colour rather than attempt any resist and then cutting and sewing them into the desired article. Please refer to my upcoming post on silk weights for further details.

If this post has been of use to you, please let me know. If there is anything further to this you’d like to know, just ask below. If there is no comments box, click on the title of this post and one should appear. I look forward to hearing from you.

October 3, 2008 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments