My Silk Painting Process
All scarves and garments are individually hand-painted on 100 percent silk. I paint on white silk that I purchase from Thai Silks and Exotic Silks Co. Most of my silk scarves are already hand-rolled.
First I stretch the silk on a special frame that has adjustable wooden panels, that have special pin hooks that hold the silk tight. I use a combination of techniques to create my scarves, from a fluid watercolor method to a more controlled resist technique.
Using a watercolor brush, I paint on the silk using silk dyes by Tinfex or Liquid Reactive Dyes made by Pro Chemical and Dye Company. Tinfex dyes are diluted with a solution of water and isopropyl alcohol to obtain lighter pastel tones. When the dye is applied to untreated silk it will run and spread in beautiful but unpredictable ways. Sometimes I sprinkle salt or alcohol onto the wet dyes to create starburst effects after the dye dries. Sometimes I lay the silk flat and paint using thickened dyes.
But gaining real control, when I need it, requires the use of a resist of some sort to either create a linear barrier or simply restrict the flow of dye within the silk. A common characteristic of silk painting is the use of a clear gutta line to delineate areas of color, which sometimes gives an almost mosaic effect. Gutta is a latexlike substance and is diluted with a solvent. I gain more control when I pour the gutta into an applicator with a pipette with a nib of a size suitable for the width of line required. Then I draw my lines on the silk the same way you might use a pen, making a barrier in the fabric that the dye cannot pass. This process is the known as the Serti technique, or faux batik, and I create many of my most complex designs this way.
Sometimes I apply a clear or colored resist (made by thickened dyes) to the white silk to control the flow of dyes or as a highlighter in my designs. Often I will reapply lines of clear gutta to dry dye color to create interesting effects and depth. After the dye or paint has been properly set, I remove the clear gutta or resist by dry cleaning. A defining line that is the color of the original fabric remains.
I also occasionally use thickened dyes to control the flow of my designs. I thicken my dyes using a print paste made from sodium alginate, a gum extracted from the cell walls of brown algae. Sodium alginate is often used in reactive dye printing, as a thickener for reactive dyes (such as the Procion cotton-reactive dyes) in textile screen-printing. Alginates do not react with these dyes and wash out easily.
Linear Under Painting – Layering of Dye and Gutta
A fascinating use of gutta, described in detail in Susan L. Moyer's book Silk Painting for Fashion and Fine Art, is that of linear under-painting. Many of my most complex designs are done this way, and I apply many layers of dye to achieve textured affects. First I apply a shaded dye underneath where I want the line to be; then I apply a clear gutta line, fixing the underneath color in place. This can give a very painterly effect to a design.
All scarves and hand-painted garments are colorfast:
After a piece is complete, I steam-set it at home. To prepare for steaming, I roll each scarf in layers of fabric and newspaper and steam them in a pot for one to three hours. Afterward, I wash the scarves by hand. Dry cleaning removes the gutta from the silk. General washing in hot water removes any residue left from the sodium alginate thickener.
All my scarves can be dry cleaned or washed or by hand in cold water using a mild soap, like dish washing liquid or a small drop of shampoo.