Batik is the first surface design technique I ever learned and is still one of my favorites. I love the way colors blend right on the fabric during the dyeing process, the discipline of planning the move from light to dark, and being surprised with unexpected beauty.
My first batik was a giant tree made on a sheet and hung on a bamboo rod in my apartment. I like to work on cotton as a “warm up” to a batik session because inexpensive material helps me feel free to experiment.
The nicest piece I’ve made so far is Silken River, a 3′ by 20′ length of silk featuring fish drawn with hot wax in traditional yoruba designs. It was first shown at the University of Tampa in 2006 as part of an installation accompanying a one-woman show by Susan Taylor Lennon. And most recently at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center in the Surfacing Show in 2008 as part of Convergence.
The tools I use aren’t fancy – my “paintbrush” is a piece of foam rubber cushion carved to look like a carrot, and the wax is heated in an electric skillet bought at a thrift store. I also use wooden stamps and metal cookie cutters for stamps. The process is simple, hot wax creates a resist on those parts of the cloth it covers, so I start by painting or stamping anything I want to keep white, then dip in the first color (usually yellow), then paint those spots I want to keep yellow, dip in a deeper color, and so on until I’m finished.