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Silk artists and textile designers

Silk artists and textile designers around the world

Welcome to finding everything needed to paint on silk …

Finding everything I needed to paint on silk ...

I’ve been painting on silk since around 1980, when I studied with a silk artist in Paris [yes, THAT Paris!].

When I returned to Australia seven years later, I found it almost impossible to find the products, stores, books I needed, and it was a slow process to track them down over the next few years. I continued to travel and live overseas, and often shipped silk related goodies to my new homes in Europe or USA, or back to Australia.

I thought it would be great to share all this info with others, so I started teaching silk painting classes and taught wherever I happened to be living.

I created lists for my students where they could find products – silk, paint, brushes, books, steamers, cellophane bags for scarves and cards … where to get inexpensive woven labels, etc etc.

An idea was born!
An idea was born!

I started to build websites, and one day I had a brainwave … why not create a website and SHARE all my knowledge of where to buy bits and pieces all over the world??

I was amazed when I started to make a list of things to share, and the list of art links grew and grew and grew …

I launched the website in 2002, and since then many people have shared info with me which has been added to the site. So here we are in 2006, and I’ve decided it’s time for a facelift [for the website, not me] … and I am soooo excited about making the site look fabulous! Please join with me on my new adventure – let me know what you think!

Ciao for now,

Paintbrushes for silk painting

Which paintbrushes for silk painting?

Paintbrushes to use for silk painting

When people ask me which paintbrushes I use to paint on silk, I tell them I use a variety … no specific brand, but the brush must be soft, and must be capable of holding a log of dye.

Unlike many silk artists, I do not use huge brushes or sponges to do large backgrounds – I stick to the normal sized brush and paint every inch of silk slowly and carefully. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t time for change – there’s always room to learn new techniques, and to step outside your comfort zone.

You might even learn something new and valuable which could make your task much easier!

When I first started painting I used sable brushes, many of which I still have today. I also have a beautiful old Japanese brush which holds an amazing amount of dye, and as it was a gift the year I started painting on silk, it’s quite a ‘relic’ now and holds a place in my heart … full of memories.

There are now many brushes which are not made from real animal fur, and you will need to test them to see which one ‘feels right’ for you:

  • does it bend enough when you use it?
  • does it hold a lot of dye?
  • is it flexible?
  • is it easy to wash and clean?
  • is it still soft when you next use it?

If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions and the weight of the brush feels good in your hand, then you’ve found a painting partner.

Below is a photo of my paints and brushes – you can see I write on the lids of small plastic bottles, to quickly see which colour is inside. I also lay my brushes down on a tray when working with them – first I put down paper towel, then a chopstick to act as a ‘rest’ for the brushes, and then I put a dab of paint on the paper towel to mark the position of that particular brush:

Paintbrushes to use for silk painting and other tools (photo)

Paintbrush Tips & Care

Always treat your paintbrushes with respect
always wash your brushes at the end of every painting session, so they’ll keep their good shape for years to come
if you’re travelling with your paintbrushes, pack them sensibly so they won’t get scratched or rub against each other
keep paper towel handy so you can always quickly wipe excess dye off if necessary.

If you treat your paintbrushes properly, they give you years of loyal service.

How to clean your paintbrushes

The care of paintbrushes is very important, and also very easy to do.

Wash your brushes under running water [warm is fine, hot is not necessary], massaging the brushes gently with your fingers. If you think the brushes may not be clean enough, keep an old bar of soap at the sink; place it in the bottom of the sink and let it get wet, then press the brush gently onto the soap and move it in a swirling motion to make a lather.

Now gently massage the soap into the bristles with your fingers, and you may notice the lather changing colour from the dye it has found … rinse this off well, repeat if necessary.

How to store your paintbrushes

After I’ve washed my paintbrushes, I wipe them with paper towel [not rub] and gently press the towel around the bristles to absorb any left over moisture. I then stand them up in glass jars with the brushes pointing to the ceiling.

When travelling with my brushes, I have found a neat way of storing them. I have a bamboo mat [generally used as a table mat] which I lay flat. I have a piece of thin soft fabric [flannelete] which is cut slightly smaller than the mat. I lay the brushes on the mat about an inch apart, and then I slowly roll up the mat with fabric and brushes inside. When finished I simply tie a piece of ribbon around the centre, or you could even use a rubber band or hairband. I prefer ribbon as it adds a dash of colour, and rubber bands may rot over time.

Gutta and Silk Painting

Wondering what gutta and silk painting is all about?

Many people ask me about GUTTA [pronounced ‘goo-tah’] and I tell them about when I learnt what it was.

I had just moved to Paris [France] to live with my boyfriend who was a silk artist. I had never heard of this before, so for a couple of days I watched the amazing process of stretching the silk onto home-made wooden frames with nails along the sides to stretch the silk onto.

Then I’d watch him place a hand-drawn design under the frame, so he could see the design through the silk, and he would outline or trace the design with a squeezy bottle of some magical substance. I later learnt this was a French glue-like substance called GUTTA.

Those days really were magical, as I learnt to paint on silk and took to it like a pro from day one. I didn’t question the processes or products, I just followed instructions.

The best bit was taking the metro to go visit the little old lady who had a corner store where she ‘set the colours’ on the silk, hemmed the silk piece and sewed a label in it. Way back then that process cost around one dollar for all that – amazing!

It wasn’t until I returned to Australia and had to find the products and steam-set the silk myself, that I learnt about the idiosyncracies of GUTTA and how hard it would be to find someone to steam-set my hand-painted silk.

GUTTA

Gutta is a glue-like thick substance that is made from latex ( derived from the Pallaquium tree in Indonesia.) It is used almost exclusively for the French Serti Technique of painting on silk [this is the technique I learnt in Paris].

Gutta can be used with all dyes. It can be applied using applicator bottle with metal nib, brush or sponge. The metal nibs come in different sizes.

Gutta comes in clear, black, gold, bronze and silver metallics. It has a rubbery feel in contrast to the smooth drape of the silk, and it has a turpenoid base which can only be successfully removed by dry cleaning after steaming.

Traditionally, ONLY the clear and one brand of black resist could be dry-cleaned. The others remain on the silk and can sometimes pull at the silk.

WATER BASED RESISTS

“A ‘resist’ is anything that prevents the dye from reaching fabric
or from bleeding with other dyes; it RESISTS the dye – it forms a ‘barrier'”

These are gutta-like but because they are not made with gutta [gum], they are called ‘resists’. Resists are water soluble and come out with warm water and a little elbow grease. The resists work just like gutta and can also be tinted with dyes. Some can be steamed, others get too gummy. Water soluble resists CANNOT be dipped into fixative baths. They turn gooey and hard to remove. You can use them together but you have to paint the fixative on. Water-based resist is what I moved onto after about 10 years of solvent-based gutta – it was easier to remove.

WAX

Wax is used primarily for batik and batik variations. The wax is melted and hot wax is applied to the fabric with a brush or a tool called a ‘tjanting’. I have tried wax as a ‘resist’ but to be honest it wasn’t my cup of tea – too messy and very time consuming, but I know many silk artists who love the wax application process which enables them to build up layers of colour which no other process can do in quite the same way.

Which one do I think is ‘best’? Well, it does depend on what you like – you need to try all the techniques and see what feels right for you. If you decide to go with the water-based resist, I can highly recommend the best one I’ve found [and I’ve tried a LOT over the years] – Procolour from New Zealand, invented by John Mitchell – now owned by Jacquard in the USA.

  • Recommended book: The Artist’s Guide to Gutta and Wax Resist Techniques by Susan Louise Moyer