Sunday, February 23, 2014

DIY: Batik Fabric, Keith Haring Style

Hey there, kids! When my students were working on figure drawing a couple weeks ago, I got the notion that I'd introduce Keith Haring as our next Artist of the Month (granted, the month is almost over...so it looks like we'll be chatting about him next month, ahem). I've been wanting to do some batiking for a while...and the designs of Haring seemed like a good fit with this technique.
Have ya'll ever batiked fabric before? I have a love for all things textiles (except for big loom weaving. I had to do one big ole weaving on a loom for a textiles class in college. I warped that thing all wonky and my finished weaving looked like something my cat threw up. Stupid project brought my grade and GPA to a new low...that and the C- I got in...wait for it...karate). I was first introduced to batik in high school and I've played around with it on and off since then. Back then I created weird wall hangings (that have more than likely met their fate in the bottom of a trash can) but this time I decided to create fabric for a new dress!
Now in the past, I always drew my design on the fabric in pencil and then traced those lines in wax. The problem with that is the wax then seals in the pencil lines. I never liked being able to see those pencil lines in my finished piece. So I got the idea that I'd draw my design on paper, trace in sharpie, place that under my fabric and trace that in wax. I know, you'd think I woulda thought of that years ago. I've never been mistaken for a genius, ya'll. 
When I batik, I use a double broiler and a wax combo of paraffin wax (found at the grocery store in the area where they keep the canning supplies) and bee's wax (check your craft store). I forget why it's important to use a combo of both waxes but if you solely use one or the other it doesn't end well. I think it's because the paraffin is pretty flaky stuff that can crack off the fabric and defeat the purpose. So combining it with the bee's wax (which is expense and a pinch difficult to remove when used alone) helps. However, I could totally be making 100% of this up, so batikin' pros, I'm counting on ya'll to correct me in the comments.
In the kitchen, next to the double broiler, I laid down some cardboard, my Haring drawing and placed my fabric on top. From there I set about tracing my designs in wax. To apply the wax, I use an old bristle paint brush. I have one of those tjanting tools for applying the wax but I can't seem to work the thing. Any suggestions? I played around with it for a bit and just switched back to my paint brush. I figured if I didn't know how to pronounce the name of the tool, I had no right using it.
When you are batiking, you've gotta make sure that the wax doesn't just simply sit on top of the fabric but soaks all the way through. If it doesn't, it won't resist the dye.
Once I finished batiking about three yards of muslin (I know, it took foreverness!), I set about dying it. I'm a little bummed I didn't use a more concentrated dye so the color of the fabric is more charcoal gray than black. To remove the wax, I ran it under some super hot water in my sink which was a big, fat, hairy mistake. That simply spread the wax all over the fabric and coated the inside of my sink. I also tried just throwing it in the dryer on the hottest temp which seemed to only soften the wax momentarily. Finally I just ironed the wax out between sheets of newsprint paper. Which is what I shoulda done in the first place. But my laziness was flaring up so I attempted those other non-functional options first.
Oh! By the way, the way, the dye I use is Procion which can be purchased through Dharma. It's the very best dye ever and the folks at Dharma will answer your questions if you've got any. They also have killer dying directions on their website that tell you everything except to check for holes in your gloves before using them. Cuz if you don't, you might end up with a fuschia middle finger. That might be good info to include, Dharma. Just sayin.


The other piece of fabric I batiked and dyed was inspired by Haring's rather tribal looking doodles and designs. I love how vibrant this piece turned out...but I'm not sure I like how it looks with the gray batik. These two might not end up in the same ensemble...but whatever happens, I'll keep you posted. 

So now I'm on a batikin' kick. I've got several other things in my little head that I want to batik-ify. And, after seeing Phyl's post on an alternative batik method for kids, I really want to introduce this art to my students. Have ya'll tried batik with children? Did you use a traditional method or something more safe like Phyl? I'd love to hear your thoughts, ya'll!

Until then, have a great week!

12 comments:

  1. First of all I love your blog! Secondly, I've only ever done Batik for myself, never with students. I am wondering, could you use a wax resist similar to something used on the bottom of ceramic pieces?

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    1. Wow...that's a thought! Great idea, I'll have to look into that, thank you!

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  2. I've done Batik with students using Elmer's Gel Glue on fabric, and watered-down acrylic. It worked pretty well. scrubbing the glue off was only the slightest bit tedious, but soaking them in water helped a ton, and the kids didn't seem to mind the task at all! I don't know why it has to be the Gel Glue, but thats what I've read (Not the most economical!).

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    1. I've always heard Gel Glue instead of white glue too, must be something in the stuff? I'm glad to hear the kids didn't mind...that's always been what kept me from giving it a go! Thank you!

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    2. The reasons for the gel glue, I believe, are that it doesn't spread out the way the white glue does, and thst it is water soluble, though when we tried using it (when we ran out of toothpaste) we had one heck of a time removing it. The toothpaste mix comes off MUCH easier!

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  3. I've used Elmers Washable Clear School Glue instead of the blue gel glue and it worked great. To avoid pencil lines I get the kids to draw their design on paper and go over it in a dark coloured marker. I then lay the fabric on top and tape it in place. I have the kids trace their design onto the fabric using washable markers. They then use a paint brush with the glue. It can be a lot of tracing for some kids so I usually break it up. The marker washes out completely so your students could just draw on the fabric with the markers if they can remember not to go over any 'mistakes' with glue. I also put wax paper underneath since it peels off if the glue seeps through the fabric. Hope that helps :)

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  4. I haven't done authentic batik for years, but still have all my 'stuff', and it's amazing to me that decades after I first started doing batik, that Procion dyes are still the best stuff! Very cool.

    I used to do a modified 'real' batik with my 8th grade students, many years ago. The modification was adding pieces of crayon to the melted wax to add color. With this crayon batik process, you can get a lot of colors while only using one (usually dark) dye bath. We usually used Dylon dyes, because it was a little more convenient for the classroom. We used electric frying pans with boiling water in them. In this was floated a muffin tin with melted paraffin and added crayon color. You are right that beeswax gives a smoother consistency, but we just stuck to paraffin because 1) it is inexpensive, and 2) you get a much better crackle, which the kids loved. We also had some of those plug-in wax melting units, but they held just a small amount if each color. We went through mountains of newspaper ironing out all the wax!!

    The downsides of doing an actual melted-wax batik in the classroom: 1) safety! Let your custodial staff know what you intend to do and find out if it breaks fire codes. 2) fumes! We tried to work near windows, but weather doesn't always cooperate. The fumes would settle on the floor and after a while my classroom would become like a skating rink. Everyone 'skated' around the room! 3) mountains of waxy newspapers strewn everywhere! 4) sharing our two irons. 5) the time element involved with the dye process and rinsing out the dyes.

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  5. By the way, I forgot to mention in my other comments (I am REALLY looking like a stalker, now that I'm leaving my third comment, I know, but I just love batik, so..) anyhow what I forgot to mention is that while I'm not a big Keith Haring fan, I love your fuchsia batik and can't wait to see what you are going to make out of it!

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    1. Thanks! I didn't make much of the fuschia -- my intent was for that to be the bodice and the gray fabric to be the skirt. But together, I don't think they work. So! Might have to come up with something a little different...we'll see!

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  6. Cool fabrics Cassie! I have a HUGE love for batiked fabrics! You got the explanation about the wax right... paraffin is stiff and will give the crackle in your batik, the more paraffin the more crackle, beeswax is softer and flexible, it balances out the stiffness of the paraffin. The more beeswax the smoother, more exact, even, you can make your lines but the crackle is a main trait of batik so you want to have some (crackle) . I remember making batiked designs on t-shirts when I was a teen many moons ago in the late 70's ( lol, I'm old! ) I always hated having to get the wax off! :)

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    1. I know, the wax removal is the worst part! Thank you for clarifying my paraffin/beeswax thoughts. I had a feeling I was kinda right ;)

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  7. Love your batiked fabric-I think they look good together. I know you'll make something awesome out of both your designs. Haven't done true batik with my students, but every few years we do a paper/wax resist version- We color with crayon, crumple the paper, flatten, then do a shoe polish "dye" to fill in the cracks created by the crumpling. Once the shoe polish is dry, the whole piece is lightly buffed with a soft cloth. We've done abstracts, words or letters, concentric shapes, etc. Doing it small scale (for book marks) makes it a quick one class project. I have examples and directions over on my blog: makeitawonderfullife.blogspot.com (Check under the label Kid's Art.)

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Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)