Monday, April 19, 2010

Lessons Learned

Well, yesterday I was super excited to try batiking some of the fish prints on cloth I had made the day before. Like most things I get excited about, I didn't bother with researching techniques or anything like that, and just jumped right in, using whatever I had around the house for supplies and improvising along the way. Sometimes this approach leads to great discoveries, but this time, well, it didn't.

The first thing I learned was that you can't use hot water dye baths for batik because it melts the wax. As soon as I had done it, I thought to myself, "Oh, duh...". I was using RIT dye because I had some around the house and I knew it was suitable for cotton. I also knew I could get some wool dyed for some fiber projects at the same time - bonus. I don't usually use RIT for wool, but figured it was a compromise for the two materials. I didn't think much beyond that, but now I realize that one must use cold water dyes for batik. I prefer acid dyes for wool, which require a hot water bath, so don't think I'll be multitasking with the dye any more. I did get some nice somewhat subtle oranges and reds with the wool, though:
Yellow dye bath - pre-wax:
I used 100% parafin wax for laying on the resist areas - again, because I had some around the house. After doing a little research, I now realize that using a mixture of beeswax and parafin will make life much easier. The beeswax adds maliability and makes the wax less likely to crack and flake off the fabric.

After the yellow dye bath, pre-waxing:
After the orange dyebath:

As you can see above, when the wax melted, it allowed some of the orange dye to penetrate the resist areas. I had planned to overdye in a more saturated red color, but because the wax was melting off, decided against it for fear the entire piece would come out red. The result is a much more subtle effect than I was going for, but still kind of neat. The halo around each fish is from ironing out the wax. I'm investigating ways of fully removing the wax so the fabric does not have any stiffness to it in the waxed areas in the end. If anyone out there knows of good methods - let me know!

Wrasses and Tangs:

Little Tangs. This layout was Brian's idea. He said, "think Japanese", referring to the open space in the design.
Close up of little Tangs. Would have liked more contrast.
I'm now stocked up on more dyes and fabric and ready for round two. When purchasing the fabric, the sales person asked me what I would do with it. I told her about fish printing, and she looked a little mortified. I said that people often think Gyotaku is either really cool or kind of gross. She replied, "Yes, I can see how that might be..." in a tone indicating that she fell in the latter category. Oh well - can't please everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Hi guys. I took a class in batik back in high school. At that time, my teacher said that there really is no way to get the wax completely out of the fabric unless you dry clean it. As for the wax, we used a mix of wax that included mostly beeswax and used an old electric fry pan to keep the temperature at the right setting (just below the smoke point). It was great fun, especially playing around with mixing shades and with different overdye techniques. Have a great time!