Friday, December 3, 2010

The Last Experiment of the Term: Silk Painting!

The Painter on Silk
There was a man
Who made his living
By painting roses
upon silk.
He sat in an upper chamber
and painted,
And the noises of the street
meant nothing to him.
When he heard bugles and fifes and drums
He thought of red, and yellow and white roses
Bursting in the sunshine,
And smiled as he worked.
He thought only of roses,
and of silk.
When he could get no more silk,
He stopped painting
and only thought
of roses.
The day the conquerors entered the city
The old man
Lay dying.
He heard the bugles and the drums,
And wished he could paint the roses,
Bursting into sound.

~Amy Lowell

The last experiment in textiles for this term was silk painting, and it took us two weeks to complete it. One week to apply the cold beeswax paste, let it dry, and another week to apply the silk dye. It isn't really that difficult to do, you just need the right supplies.

Stretching the silk onto the stretcher- much easier with four hands!
First, we were given silk and stretchers in order to create our working surface. First, we wet the silk with water to make it easier to stretch. We then attached the silk to the frame by stretching in and securing it with thumbs tacks. It's important not to line the tacks up across from each other but to skew them so the result is even tension across the surface of the silk. It's not as easy as it looks and I had to redo mine.

Tacking up the silk.
Next, we took a bottle of emulsified wax, put it in a little squeeze bottle that had a metal nib on it and we began drawing our image, making sure all of the lines joined up in order to create an area of silk that the very runny dye could be spread and contained.

My drawing!

Our instructor told us she used to use hot beeswax in the classroom until someone tripped over the cord of the electric frying pan and sent the wax sailing. Though it smelled beautiful in there for months, it was such a safety hazard with the slippery floor, the students couldn't wear their shoes in the classroom for months! (Socks are less slippery on well-waxed linoleum!) So we used cold wax (and it certainly didn't smell as nice as the real stuff!)

My drawing placed under the silk as a guide.

Emulsified wax applied!

Then we let it dry for a week.

After a week, we began painting our image.

Our instructor showing us how it's done.

So here is mine once I had carefully painted in my areas. If you were careless with the brush, a spot might find itself in another area of colour you hadn't anticipated, so I learned that if you quickly scrubbed it out with a paint brush, you could stop those specks from spreading. I was also lucky with this design because I didn't have any huge expanses of areas that needed a wash of colour. It's important to paint quickly with silk paints as they can leave drags of colour if you aren't quick enough.

All ready to dry and have the wax removed!

And when I left it in the studio that night to dry, it was as perfect as it was ever going to be. So imagine my dismay when I arrived the next day to pick it up, to find someone a little less careful had splattered my little mosque with tonnes of splatters! I suppose this is one of the hazards of sharing studio space. Boo!

Ufff! Splotchy!!! Someone lost some karma points.
It might have been me with the torrent of swear words that followed discovering my speckled mosque!


Anyway, I brought it home and gave it a good iron between sheets of newsprint. The newsprint soaked up the extra wax but didn't transfer ink like using newspaper would have done. I know there are fancy ways of removing wax by steaming but truthfully, I was looking at this as a dud and just decided to get the wax off the quickest way possible.

Goodbye silk painting, and goodbye Vancouver for the holidays! I'm at the Naramata Artisan Faire this weekend and then it is full steam ahead on some painting.

and I've got some new ideas!


  1. I still think it's pretty - but yeah, the splotches do detract. I can't believe someone was so careless!
    Rachel (off to the Emirates now!)