Handpainted silk chiffon haori coat

Monday, March 03, 2008

I was just going through some of my digital photos on my computer this afternoon, and came across this one:

In November last year, I was contacted by a delightful Scottish woman named Jan who was visiting her sister in Sydney. She was only in Sydney for a short time, which didn't coincide with any classes or workshops I was doing, so we met at my local cafe (Cafe Next in Rozelle).

I had my little wheelie suitcase with me and when I opened the Pandora's box and all the silk tumbled out, Jan was very surprised. In the photo above, Jan is modelling my handpainted silk Haori jacket, ankle-length, in silk chiffon.

I always paint on white silk, with a small artist's brush, with silk dyes.

When I lived north of Cairns at the top of Australia a couple of years ago, I was greatly inspired by the Great Barrier Reef and the amazing colours of the coral and the tropical fish and sea life. I painted the silk with splashes and dashes of kaleidoscopic colours whilst in the heat and humidity of my tropical location, just south of the equator.

On this gorgeous day that I was meeting Jan in Sydney, I'd brought along some Fredrix artist stretcher bars -- 2 x 14" ones and 2 x 10" ones for each frame. I also had a jar of coloured thumbtacks to use to attach the silk to the frame. The silk we used is white habotai 8mm.

Here are the other photos I took that day:

Above: Jan using Cold Wax for the first time. I showed her how to make an outline just inside the frame so the dyes wouldn't stain the wooden frame. The next was letting her imagination run wild as she doodled on the silk with the Cold Wax (which dries quickly on a summer's day).

Above: I had a few Dupont silk dyes with me, so we added some splashes of brilliance to the small sample pieces of silk. To do this we dipped our paintbrush into the dye, wiped off the excess on the lip of the dye bottle, and carefully placed the first colour. If you've never witnessed the way the dyes flow and merge, then you're in for a lovely surprise. We dabbed and painted the same colour in a few different places on the silk -- the colour was flowing across the white expanse until it reached the wax (barrier, or 'resist' in French) where it stopped.

We quickly picked up a new clean paintbrush, dipped it in a new colour, and then added that to the silk. Where these first 2 colours met, they flowed into each other and merged, creating a new third colour and at the same time, wonderful new patterns. We continued with the other colours.

I never tire of watching the silk dyes merge and sway, slip and slide into each other, to create a stunning mini painting at every turn. :-)

Above: Jan's really got the hang of it :-) Prior to today, her experience has been with silk paints (which lay on top of the silk) rather than silk dyes (which penetrate the silk and look the same on the front and back of the silk).

Above: And here's one of the finished pieces - very simple, and good taste of what one can do with a small piece of silk and some dyes. The Cold Wax does look grey at this point (sort of silvery like Gutta), and once the silk is steamed and the wax soaked out, the silk will show up as white again.

Dyes used: French Dupont silk dyes

Outliner used: Batik Cold Wax

Colour fixing: The French silk dyes will need to be steam set.

Removing wax: After steam setting, the silk can be soaked in Batik Wax Out - a very easy process.

Frames: Fredrix artist stretcher bars, available worldwide in art stores, sold in pairs.

How to use silk: Oh gosh - so many choices! This amount of silk, approx 7x11", could be used as follows:
  • made into about 50 silk cards
  • made into silk bookmarks
  • it could be framed
  • could be attached to a small stretched canvas
  • could be sewn onto a cushion cover as an attractive centre design
  • could be sewn onto a t-shirt or other piece of clothing
  • made into silk jewellery - earrings, brooches etc
  • made into hair scrunchies
  • and the list goes on :-)

So, if you've got 5 minutes to fill in, why not dabble in a spot of handpainted silk?

Hope you enjoy my student Jan's work!

Ciao ciao

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