Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

Buying Silk Painting Supplies at Low Cost

I recently posted an article about how to do silk painting on a shoe-string budget and not long after that a friend asked for some help on how cheap this whole thing can be.

Well, I had a look into this and came to the conclusion that you really can do it for very little money if you are prepared to just start with the absolute basics and not invest in lots of fancy equipment. Why spend a lot if you don’t really know if silk painting is going to be up your street. Wait until you are hooked (which will happen very quickly) and then think about spending on some of the more specialist products.

Okay, back to the silk painting supplies.

When you are starting out, I would recommend you buy the silk paints, not the dyes. The paints are fixed into the silk using your household iron whereas for the dyes you’ll need a steamer of some sort and it can be a bit trickier. There is one exception and that’s silkpainting with the microwave which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Get yourself 3 small jars in red, blue and yellow so that you can mix whatever shades you need. If you’re in the USA the store to contact is Dharma Trading. And if you’re in Europe, try out Rainbow Silks. These will cost around $3.99 or £3.95 per jar.

The next item is a square blank silk scarf which you can tear up into 4 smaller pieces. If you buy a 90cm x 90cm one made of habotai or pongee 5mm, you might pay around $5.19 or £6.00, so each piece costs a quarter of that. This is the thinnest quality shops sell, but it’s perfect to get started with.You can get these at the stores I mentioned above.

Next you’ll need some pins or tacks which you’re bound to have lying around the house. And finally, instead of a frame, you can stretch the silk over the top of a cardboard box. There is a delightful little video by Yanghaiying which shows this silk painting technique.

Use any watercolour brushes you may have in the house and if you need to buy some, you can pick up a couple at very low cost from any hobby or craft store.  Old mugs or empty jam jars are perfect as mixing pots or water jars.

And finally you might want a tube of water-based resist to draw some lines with, but it’s not essential. This will cost around $2.89 or £3.75.

So adding all of that up we come to a figure of around $12.00 or £22.00. That’s enough for four  45cm x 45cm pictures, which makes each one cost $3 or £5.50. Oddly enough the US prices are much lower than the UK ones,

I hope this price list helps. It is just an approximation so you’ll need to check things out for yourself. And if you have, how did your calculations go? I’d love to hear if you managed to kit yourself out for this or less.

Oh, and don’t forget to let me now if you got hooked after the first go.

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January 22, 2011 Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Revamp a Silk Scarf and Give it a New Lease of Life

I was just wondering if you have any silk scarves lying around at home that you attempted to dye and just weren’t happy with. Or maybe you’ve put some dye on them and they’re become a little faded. Well, I just wanted to let you know what I’ve been doing to one of my scarves. I’ve revamped it, given it a fabulous new lease of life. And it looks really snazzy. So how did I do it?

I simply added some new layers of dye on the colour that was already there. The one I worked on was plain blue with some white shimmers showing through. I had had it lying around for a while and for some reason didn’t really like the look of it.

So I gave it a good soak, got out the plastic sheeting and added some bright shades of blues and turquoises. The finished product was bundled up into the microwave and cooked for 5 minutes again.

Redyed silk scarf

And here you can see what it looked like when it came out. Pretty cool, eh? Well, I think so and I’m sure it’s something you could do to spice up a dull accessory in your wardrobe.

When the festive season is over I’m going to post some photos and more details so that you can go ahead and do this for yourself.

But in the meantime, have a fabulous Christmas. Enjoy your break, just enjoy being and have fun.

I’ll look forward to seeing you very soon.

December 23, 2010 Posted by | EXPERIMENTS IN SILK | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Create a Beautiful Designer Silk Scarf Using Your Microwave

That’s quite an odd title coming from me, isn’t it? If you’ve been following a lot of my writing here and on other sites, you’ll know that I’m a real believer in good quality steaming for silk painting. But….in view of the fact that not everyone has the time, space and funds for this whole process, I thought I would share with you some of my escapades with microwaving. So here’s how I’ve been doing it.

The first problem I had with microwaving was that I didn’t own a microwave oven. I’m not going into the details here, but I prefer to cook all my food by conventional means. Okay, so that meant I had to go off to Morrisson’s and luckily they had a really basic model which suited my needs. Two dials for timing and heat. That’s all you need for what I’m going to share with you.

Materials for microwaving a silk scarf

You’re also going to need some silk dyes, remember, the ones that are specifically for steam fixing. Not the paints which you set by heat. Read the labels on the bottles if you are unsure, or ask the shop assistant for help. You’ll also need a plain white scarf with rolled edges that you can add the dyes to.

Before you start you’ll need to get a bowl, add a mixture of 2 parts water and one part vinegar, then soak your silk scarf in this for at least 15 minutes. This will improve the dying process and ensure you get lovely bright colours that last.

You then take the silk out of the bowl, squeeze it out gently and lay it out on a surface covered with plastic sheeting. Have the dyes and brushes you’d like to use at hand, and you’re ready to go.

Tie some knots into the wet silk

There is one other thing I need to point out – you will get very messy hands doing this unless you put on some rubber gloves. Which I never do, but I’m passing on this tip to you if you don’t want to run around with ghoulish fingers and nails for the next few days. 🙂

What you do next is completely up to your own imagination. You are going to start adding dyes to your heart’s content. Pick a nice colour range that would suit you and this will ensure the colours don’t clash. Splash them on with big brushes randomly. Or you can scrunch the silk up and dribble the dyes into the silk. Or what about folding it up and then painting the colours on in patterns? The example I’ve shown here is tying loose knots in the silk before applying the dye. The good news is that I’m in the process of putting together a video we took of me demonstrating this technique at a fair back in the summer, so you can copy what I did to get you started, if you like.

The important thing is that you keep the silk nice and wet so that you can properly ‘cook’ it afterwards.

 

Place the silk scarf in the bowl ready to microwave

Right, now you’re going to lift your silk and place it into a microwaveable dish. Don’t worry if the silk gets a little scrunched here too as your finished scarf will have an abstract pattern to it anyway. What I do next is get a piece of clingfilm and stretch this over the dish – I think it’s called Ceran wrap in the USA (that’ll save a few emails).  – ah, thanks Muffy. It’s Saran wrap. 🙂 One thing you need to do at this point is prick a hole in the foil. And if you don’t do this? The foil will bulge up and may explode….making a bit of a mess.

Now we’re going to place the covered dish in the microwave for 5 minutes at a medium-high setting.

Use this time to go back and wipe your plastic covered surface clean. The last thing you want is to have dye spillage messing up your finished scarf. Or you can just lift the sheeting to one side and put it out of harm’s reach. This may sound like Kindergarten stuff, but it’s one of the main causes of people messing up their lovely silks after all the work is done. So, I just thought I’d throw it in again here.

 

Finished effect of tying knots in the silk scarf

Right, the 5 minutes are up, so remember to use some sort of cloth or glove to lift out the hot dish. Carefully remove the foil and lift out the wet scarf.

Yes, it will still be totally wet at this point but the dye is fixed so the wetness only comes from water.

Now all that is left for you to do is hang up the silk to dry. Later you can rinse it in warm water with a touch of mild shampoo to remove any excess dye and then dab it with a towel. Iron the silk dry from the reverse with a medium hot iron. Another thing you can do for a really fashionable look is twist the wet silk and leave it to  dry. That will give you the look you can see in this final photo.

 

A gorgeous designer silk scarf

And there you are, ready to go. You’re now the proud owner of your very first original silk scarf. I don’t know about you, but I think this is a great way to make yourself something gorgeous in such a short space of time.

Do watch out for the video I’ll be posting in the next day or two, so that you can see the whole process in action. Have fun and let me know how things work out for you. I’d love to see your designer scarves.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Silk Painting with Om and Soya Wax Part 1

Pastel background and Om template

Yes, I’m painting with soya wax on silk again because I had such fun the first time I tried it a couple of weeks ago. And this time I thought I would try using a template I had instead of just drawing the pattern free-hand like I did last time. As I write the wax is still hardening properly and so I’ve decided to document what I’ve done so far.

I began by stretching a piece of silk on the wooden frame and applying some

Tracing the Om symbol onto the silk

pastel shades of blue, turquoise and fern green. I really watered them down so that the effect would be very light and diluted. This was because I wanted to get a stronger contrast between the first and the second layer of dye I applied. If you read the post on my first soya piece, you will remember that everything was a lovely medley of fuchsias and purples with all the tones blending into each other.

I chose to use the Om symbol for this piece and looked out a computer printout I had that I could use. The next step was to trace this symbol onto the silk. I very rarely trace things, only for designs that I want to repeat such as greeting cards or very small pictures but when I do, this is how I do it, so to speak.

The soya wax granules in the hot water bath in the saucepan

I place one or two books on the table and the pattern on top of the books. Then I lay the frame over this and position it so that the design is nicely centred.  Using one of those magic fabric markers, I trace the lines onto the silk. Mine is purple and fades within a day or two of using it. The greater the heat in the room, the quicker the lines disappear.

Okay, so far so good. Next I got out my soya wax granules and popped a handful of them into a metal bowl which I placed in a saucepan of water.  I turned the heat on and watched while the granules melted, ready for me to start painting. It’s surprising how little wax I have needed for my work so far. I had some solidified wax left in the bowl from last time and added more granules for today’s session but at the end I still had some left!

The last time I used a flat brush but this time I used a finer round one which

Painting the Om symbol with soya wax

was great to work with filling in the pattern I had traced. I kept the wax really hot, dipping my brush in again and again  to avoid the wax cooling and therefore ensuring it penetrated the silk properly. I had to keep watching that my fingers didn’t brush against the parts that I had already painted as this would smudge the wax.

I was aware that I was creating work of a very different quality from usual gold gutta lining. With the wax I found my first picture was full of movement and different textures and so the individual outlines were not key to the overall look of the painting.  We’ll see how this one turns out when I have completed work on it.

Okay, so I completed outlining and filling in the symbol I had traced. It was already beginning to solidify and turn white where I had applied the wax. When you paint the wax on, it should be dark and make the silk look see through. That tells you that the wax was hot enough. In fact, you can see here a picture I have taken holding the frame up to the light to show you what the design looks like. And when I turned the completed frame over, the reverse actually looked as if I had applied the wax to that side. Excellent. No worries about the wax not fully working as a resist. This is satin silk I am working on and it appears to be very well suited to this sort of work. I have yet to try out crepe de chine which could turn out to have very different results due to the twisted weave of the fabric.

The waxed silk held against the light

When I had completely filled in the Om symbol, I decided to add some squiggly lines to give some substance to the background of the picture. This would give a lovely interplay of colours after adding more dye.  I’m having a break at this point and will continue

The completed picture with squiggly lines on the background

with applying the second coat of dye tomorrow.

The last picture here shows the frame from the reverse and you can see how

The soya wax lines on the reverse of the silk

the wax has completely come through the silk, creating an effective barrier for further painting. I’m intrigued as to how this will look when finished and so will probably get going with this soon after breakfast.

I hope this was of some use to you and hope to see you for part 2.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Better – Silk Paint or Silk Dye?

The bottom line here is that there is no right or wrong answer. It’s important for you to know the difference between the two and then be able to make your own decision on which to use.

I’m sure you’ve heard that only the professionals use the silk dyes and the beginners use the paints. Well, that’s no really true. There are many so-called professionals who heat-fix their paints on silk, just as there are many starting out who prefer to use the dyes and fix them in a steaming pot.

So let’s get right down to brass tacks and see what the difference between the two is.

The first ones are the paints. These are sold in bottles and have very matt looking colours. They are made from pigments and are applied to the silk using watercolour brushes. If you need to dilute them, they can be mixed with water to give lighter shades. If you don’t want them to run, then you can apply watercolour base to your silk before painting to give you more control over the process.

To make the colours permanent, you have to fix the paints into the silk using heat, normally applying an iron on the reverse for 3 minutes. Afterwards you are able to wash the silk without the paints washing out.  The paints ‘stick’ to the silk, forming a layer on top. This means that the silk loses a bit of its softness and original tetxture, resulting in the fabric being a bit stiffer.

The dyes, often called professional dyes, are acid-based and are very transluscent. It’s difficult to tell from looking at the bottle what colour the dye will be when painted on the silk. These dyes can also be diluted, either with water or with a special dilutant, which helps the dyes to flow better on the silk as well as allowing you to create any shades you choose.

These dyes have to be steam fixed so that they chemically bond with the silk. When the process is complete, the silk retains its original softness and takes on an incredibly beautiful sheen. The dyes are now light and water resistent.

Always check with the retailer that you have the correct type you are looking for. Iron fix paints cannot be steam fixed. If you try to do so, the colours will smear and mess the silk. Likewise you cannot ironfix the dyes. They will just wash out of the silk afterwards.

So why choose one over the other? If you want things to be quick and simple, go for the iron fix. You don’t need any special equipment and so it’s more cost-effective if you want to have some fun. However, if you make your own steaming device (and there are plenty of tutorials on the web), then by all means treat yourself to some dyes .

As I’ve mentioned before, don’t try to paint a picture mixing paints and dyes as you will only have a mess in the end. The one thing you can do, however, is to paint with dyes, steam fix them and then later add some details with paints which you then iron fix. If you have to. 🙂

The most important thing is to give it a go if you want to get started. Don’t worry about what’s better. If your local supplier only has paints, then paints it is.

Whatever you do, enjoy.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can I Mix Iron Fix Paints and Steam Fix Dyes…???

Believe it or not, this is one of the most common questions I get asked. It’s really important to know what you can and cant’ do with silk paints and dyes so it’s good that this question has been raised yet again as it can’t be said often enough.

So what is the answer? Well, it’s yes and no. Depending on what you are doing.

First of all, a quick definition of what iron fix paints are. They are bottles of paints for the hobby silk artist, made of pigments. You apply them with your brush, dilute them with water and fix them using a warm/hot iron from the reverse for 3 minutes. The paints sit on top of the fabric, leaving a matt finish. The silk loses some of its softness and sheen.

The steam fix dyes are acid-based, can be diluted ad infinitum and are steam fixed so that they bond with the silk, allowiing the fabric to retain its silky sheen and drape.

So basically the paints give you a quick fix. 🙂 If you dont’ have a steamer, or someone who can steam for you, then you need to opt for these.

And can you combine the two types? If you are painting with the acid-based dyes and then steam them, it is possible to add some iron fix paints afterwards which you would then iron to fix. So create your artwork with the dyes, steam it, and then add highlights with some favourite iron fix paints but don’t put it near the steamer, whatever you do!

What you musn’t do is paint with both the iron fix paints and the acid-based dyes and then try to steam the silk. This will just get really messy. And ruin your artwork into the bargain. The paints cannot bond with the silk and so leak all over the paper and down through the layers.  They will also leak over your artwork and mess it up. You will get pale and blotchy patches where the paint was originally applied.

And remember that you cannot iron steam fix dyes into the silk. They will wash out in water as I found out much to my surprise in the very early days.  I had a couple of bottles of what I thought was paint. I lovingly painted a picture and carefully ironed it for 3 minutes, thinking I was fixing the colours. When I held it under the tap, a constant stream of vibrant colour gushed out of the silk and rushed down the plughole. Lesson learnt.

Please always check at your supply store what you are buying. Read the bottle label or ask for assistance in buying the right kind if you are unsure.

And don’t worry if things do go wrong. It happens to us all.  And you won’t be so quick to do it again so it’s a very effective way oflearning.

Happy painting. 🙂

June 10, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Art For Art’s Sake….Or Is It Just Another Job?

Last night I just completed one of my latest artistic creations. I had painted a premade silk top in varying shades of pink and fuchsia and then applied some gold patterning to the front in gutta for special effect. I then sewed it together, ironed the seams and put it on in front of the mirror. I was really thrilled with the final result, mainly because it was in my favourite colours and because it was a great fit.

My eldest son was really supportive when he saw it and assured me that other people would be interested in having one, too. So I began thinking about different ways of marketing this sort of product and how to go about it all. Then came the process of working out how much it would sell for.

Now that’s where is gets really interesting. The bottom line is that I have spent a few hours creating a beautiful work of art and in order to fully honour myself and the whole process, I have to put a price label on it that boosts my self-esteem. And yet, the average person somehow doesn’t go there with their thoughts. They see a top, work out in their head what they would pay at their favourite store, and wonder why on earth I would be charging so much more…..

I wonder why, indeed.

It’s funny when you turn it all around. If I were to ask someone how much they earn per hour, then get them to add up what they would be earning doing my work, plus the material costs, they begin to look a big sheepish when they realise that it’s all fair play.

And then of course, when someone buys a piece of art, whether in a frame or as wearable art, it is to some extent totally unique and expresses a very individual energy. This is an element which needs to be fully honoured too.

In fact, it’s a very long story when you sit down and think about it.

But at the end of the day, each artist needs to work this out for themselves. Their prices will reflect their self-worth.

Being an artist I know that you can’t but help create artwork. It’s totally inbuilt. So it’s no use pretending that you can work in a 9-5 job and find satisfaction. The resentment and the lack of fulfillment creep in at some point and burst it all open at the seams. Try forcing yourself to do something else and notice how the headaches, or the sleeplessness creep in. There’s just something really huge missing. And yet how many artists are faced with the dilemma of holding down a job they hate in order to pay the bills, while juggling with their artistry after hours or at the weekend.

I would so love to earn a very good living through my artwork and know I am not alone there. Every day all sorts of issues around this topic crop up that I need to look at. It really is an ongoing process and a journey that is fascinating. And knowing so many other artists, I see them too working their way through exactly the same questions.

Lots of food for thought. And I shall continue to document this journey and the insights I gain as I move forward.

Thanks for listening. 🙂

May 22, 2010 Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How to Keep Your Silk Painting Brushes Clean

This is one that many of you ask and  it’s actually a really fundamental one. We all get swept away applying a wide palette of gorgeous dyes to our silk but when it comes to keeping the brushes clean for the next time, that’s when difficulties can arise.

How often have you started a new painting with some pastel pink only to find that the first brush stroke is tinged with dark blue from your last session. Mmmm…not really the sort of thing you want happening during your creative spells.

Well, all is not lost because there are some basic things you can do to ensure that this doesn’t put a permanent damper on your enthusiasm and spoil your works of art.

The first thing I would recommend is to keep separate brushes for lighter and darker shades. I’m not saying you need one for each individual colour but it does make sense to keep the pastelly shades for one brush (or set of), the reds and oranges for another and your blues and greens for another one. If you use browns and blacks, they definitely deserve a brush of their own, too.

But I still suggest getting used to giving your brushes a thorough clean in between painting sessions. And this is what I do. I take my dirty brushes and plunge them into a large jar of clean water and really swish them about for a minute or two to get the worst of the dye off and repeat this if the water gets really dirty. Next I take the first brush and hold it under the running tap, gently rotating it on the palm of my hand in the full flow of water. Then I turn it upside down to allow the water to penetrate the wrapped upper part where the bristles are wrapped together. This is where the dye accumulates and is hard to get out. When you paint later the residue gets reactivated by the water and slides down the bristles onto the silk.

And then I take clean jar of water and a clothes peg. I suspend the brush with the water level parallel with the beginning of the wrap around and leave that over night for the dye to work its way out again into the water. Next morning I swish the brush around vigorously for a moment or two, run it under the tap and then squeeze dry between my fingers. I mould the bristles gently into shape and lay the brush down to dry on a sheet of kitchen paper. Your brush should be ready to go again and any remaining excess dye can bleed out at this stage.

This is about as good as it gets without using anything abrasive. I find it works if I do it thoroughly. See how you get on. 🙂

March 3, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Steam Fix Silk Dyes for Best Results

I was very recently asked a question about steam fixing silk dyes and this prompted me to write the present article. We’re not talking here about iron fixing as that is quite a straight forward process and needs no further explanation. It’s the French dyes which need to be steam fixed and that’s what we’re going to be looking at here.

One thing that is important to remember when you are painting with silk dyes is that both your gutta (if you have used any) and your dyes themselves will need to settle into the silk fabric, so it’s really recommendable to leave your work on the frame until the next day before attempting to fix it. This will ensure your work is completely dry. As the fixing process takes around 3 hours, it’s best left until the next day. That is the main reason why I offer to steam fix any work done by my workshop participants and to send it on to them a few days later.

But what about the actual steaming itself? How is that done? Well, I have always used a professional steaming device to do this. Mine is a horizontal one and has a roof-shaped lid as you can see in the photo here. The advantage of this is that any condensation can easily drop down to the sides and past the silk without harming it. I find it fantastic and haven’t had a piece of ruined silk in all the years I have been painting. It is electric and has a thermostat, ensuring a constant temperature all the way through. You may well have seen vertical models which are basically the same but most of them have to be used on top of your cooker on or electric plates.

These professional steamers are quite costly and the average hobby person will not be wanting to make such an investment. You can, of course, look on the internet to see where the nearest steaming service is. Many artists offer to do this for a reasonable fee per metre of silk plus postage. But there are ways of reaching similar results by making up your own steaming device at home. It is tricky to do it with constant good results and there is always the risk of drops of water getting onto your silk and spoiling it.

If you are attempting to do this at home, you will need a vegetable steamer of a decent size. You can wrap your silk artwork up by laying it flat on a piece of muslin and then on blank newspaper (or similar quality) and carefully rolling it up, taking care to seal the ends. You will have to fold in the ends to make a little parcel so that it will fit inside your steamer. This is where the difficulties start because ideally the parcel should not touch the sides. Your package really needs to be suspended freely in the steam for best results. Also, be careful not to package too much because then the steam won’t penetrate the wrapping in order to effectively fix the dyes. There are many artists who have developed their own methods for doing this so you might want to use your search engine to have a closer look. I have read time and again of disappointments when, despite this, condensation ruins the final effect of the silk.

One thing to bear in mind is that creases and marks tend to get fixed into the silk. So if you are not very careful in wrapping it up, it can come out with some permanent creases in it, depending on the silk quality. Satin silk is particularly sensitive so take a bit of time to ensure a smooth rolling up.

When you have steamed pongee or habotai (often used for wafty, translucent scarves), it is quite easy to rinse them in lukewarm water until the bleeding stops. Satin silk loses part of its sheen when you do this, so be warned. Also, make sure that you only swirl it about in the water and then lay it flat on a tea towel or the like to dry, as any squeezing or wringing will result in creases which will often not come out again. Ironing creases in satin silk often just irons them in. I paint my mandalas on satin silk and since they mostly get framed behind glass, I do not wash them afterwards. They just get ironed carefully and pat in a safe, dry place. Anything that is intended for wearing gets thoroughly rinsed.

When I prepare my work for steaming in my electrical device, I use a length cut off from a huge roll of blank newspaper which I have specifically for this purpose. One end of the paper is taped to a metal pole. I then begin to roll up my silks, taking care that both the paper and the fabric are completely flat and straight. I also allow for a good few inches space at both ends of the tube as well as at the start of the roll and the end. A few pieces of masking tape hold the roll closed. I then suspend it in the steam bath, close the lid, set the thermostat and leave it for 3 hours. When the time is up, being careful to use oven gloves or tea towels, I open the lid, lift out the pole and package and lay it down on the floor on plastic sheeting to cool. After a few minutes I unroll it and let the pieces of silk cool at room temperature. They look gorgeous, really glossy and translucent. Mmmmm…..the best part.

If the paper is not too messy, I recycle it in the next steaming. Any bleeding on the paper depends on how concentrated the dyes were when you painted and how liberal you were in your application of them.

And you don’t ever have to worry about overdoing things. When you are steaming your artwork, the process completes and if you forget about it and go off to do something else, leaving your silk in the steamer for even double the time you intended to, this doesn’t have any adverse effects. It’s not like overcooking veggies in the steamer. 🙂

You might find it worthwhile searching for sites that sell steaming devices because there’s nothing to beat them in simplicity and magnificence in results. I never have to worry about whether or not my work will turn out good . I paid more for mine because it is electric however you can get the version that you can warm up on your cooker for quite a bit less. You could also watch out on Ebay to see if you can pick one up at a good price.

One last word on this topic. There is also the “microwave” method. This is how it works – If you have painted a silk scarf in the wet in wet technique, you place it on a plate and put it in the microwave for a few minutes to fix the colours. You can only do this if it is very wet and there is no gutta. Since I originally posted this article, I have delved into this area and found it to be quite enjoyable. What you can make with it is very limited as the silk needs to be very wet before you pop it in for ‘cooking’. If it’s too dry, it’s just going to singe and burn…not very nice. I’ll be exploring this more and hope to have something in writing quite soon. 🙂

So, good luck with your work. I hope this article helps. Let me know how you get on.

December 12, 2009 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , | 15 Comments

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