Thursday, October 07, 2010

Batik Etching
I have been meaning to blog about this for quite a while, but hadn't gotten to it yet. So, here it is. How I made Fifty, and Female, and Fearless.

It started from a photograph, that I enlarged and simplified into a sketch. Then I taped it to a sliding glass door, and put my yellow fabric on top of the drawing, and sketched with a pencil the outline of the figure. The dark lines are shadows from a tree. That gave me some idea of how much surface area to cover with wax.

Then downstairs in the batik studio (some people call it a garage), I put the yellow fabric on a discarded glass door, and began covering it with hot wax applied with a wide paint brush. The real trick is getting the wax to cover the fabric completely, but also in a very uniform layer (okay that part is IMPOSSIBLE), but it is the goal. If your brush strokes overlap, the wax is thicker there, and creates problems later.
Then I placed the wax covered cloth on top of the drawing (which is made darker with a black sharpie marker), and painstakingly carve in ALL the lines. It is not too hard to do the straight lines, but carving the curves in wax is difficult. I have tried many different tools for the carving. It needs to be a sharp tool, but you have to be careful not to cut the fabric. Examples include: a screwdriver, a seam ripper, toothpick, bamboo skewer, clay carving tools, and dental tools. It will make your hand cramp, so it is essential to do small portions at a time and take lots of breaks.

Then, when I finished the carving, I mixed up some soda ash in some black dye and water, and brushed it on, letting it soak into the cracks that I carved. After batching 8 to 24 hours, you can rinse in cold water to get rid of excess dye, and then boil out the wax. Then I usually wash in hot water with a cycle of Synthrapol, and another with Retayne.

Next is the blue background which was made with batik also. I painted stripes of wax, then bleach discharged the fabric, and the overdyed the samples in different colors of blue.

I made the central figure a reverse applique, which means I cut the background to fit around the figure. Next they are fused, cut to shape, and then ironed on. Last step is the quilting. I quilted everything except for the letters in the figure, and along all the lines in the background. This last part seemed a bit excessive, but there you are, the process of an art quilter, driven by the relentless muse.

Here's a photo of the quilting. You can see the problem I referred to earlier where the white arrow is pointing. This is showing a place where the black etched line went through a thicker section of wax. When you carve the thicker wax, it cracks around your etched line. The dye seeps in and makes a wider, less defined line.

For more on batik etching, you can see my first attempt here, and another quilt, here.


Laura said...

When I saw this on the QA cover, the background is what intrigued me the most--I wondered how you got all the lines so perfectly lined up in your blue fabric, thanks for sharing your process.

Gerrie said...

Oh thanks for sharing this process, Kathy.Great work!!

Nancy said...


Susan Brubaker Knapp said...

Thanks for explaining your technique... I love this piece!

Kathy York said...

You are welcome! I meant to do this much earlier, when I first posted about this quilt, but I lost track of time. I love it when artists show the process photos, so I thought this would be cool. My favorite is the photo with the dye pooled on top of the etching. oooohh!

Deborah Boschert said...

Cathy Kleeman and I were just talking about your quilt TODAY! We were both wondering how you created the variety of tones in the stripey background. You must have heard us. Thanks for all the details.

I can't wait to see the quilt (and you?) in person in Houston.

skye said...

Thank u so much, Kathy! It triples & quadruples my admiration for this wonderful piece to see how you created it! And also I loved the earlier pieces, esp. Planned Obsolescence. Incredible!!
I look for ward to seeing your latest @ Houston!

Cathy Kleeman said...

Deborah pointed me to your blog so I could read how you did the background on this quilt. I love it! Thanks for showing the process.

Kathy York said...

Well then, thank you Deborah! I hope to see you in Houston too! Skye,
I didn't have anything new to enter to Houston this year, it's a piece that had been touring with Art Quilts: Transitions. It is still a lovely piece though, and I am happy it got to go to Houston!

Unknown said...

Kathy - thanks for sending me to this article. It was most interesting reading about how you did the project. It is absolutely lovely.