Another GMIA (Great Moment in Art)

Barb, Shelley and I got together today to embark on our silk scarf painting adventure. We’ve never worked in this medium before, but Barb and I wanted to create some scarves for the Studio Tour and Shelley was along for the ride.

Stretching the scarves on the frames I had made was tedious, but went smoothly. Predictably, we all devised different methods for accomplishing the same task.

The resist was a bit more challenging. My lines were wobbly (my steady hand must have overslept), and very narrow. I was using the smallest tip on the applicator and had added dye to the resist, perhaps making it a thinner consistency than usual and perhaps contributing to tiny gaps in the lines which caused some problems later. Shelley used both gold and uncolored resist and didn’t seem to be having much trouble. She used the resist sparingly – forming clusters of asterisk shapes that looked like starburts – planning to do a lot with freeform color.

Barb had a little problem though. She was innocently applying the resist with the squeeze bottle applicator when either she squeezed a little too hard or the cap proved to be not quite snug and the blue-dyed resist basically dumped all over her scarf!!!! But she rallied and, pretending it was a design opportunity, dove right in and spread the resist gamely over the length of the scarf. Voila! A waterfall!

By that time it was getting too hot outside and we moved indoors and had lunch, waiting for the resist to dry. Finally it was time for the real fun – the dye painting!

Shelley went for it and quickly covered her scarf with beautiful shades of blue, green, and lavendar. Against those colors the white and gold resist stars shone beautifully. Then she decided to wash some of the color off and the colors softened and blended for a lovely feminine effect. We all agreed spangles would be just the right touch!

Barb also worked quickly and was soon finished! Being in an experimental frame of mind, she decided to try something she had read about on the internet – setting the colors in the microwave. She carefully followed some of the instructions and carefully wrapped the scarf in what seemed like yards of paper towels. Then she popped the scarf-paper towel package into the microwave and set it for 2 minutes. Shelley warned “Be careful! Haven’t you burned anything in the microwave???” Fateful words as at that very moment the smell of burning paper wafted through the kitchen. There was a bit of confusion about what to do as the burning smell grew stronger and stronger. Finally Barb snatched the precious bundle from the jaws of the microwave and began running water over the smoldering artwork. The “Great Moment in Art!”

Here’s the result! Don’t you think the burn holes give it that rustic, aged look? Very cool!

Undaunted, she started – and finished – another scarf, this time without using any resist. Following some other of the intructions she printed from the internet, she soaked the scarf in white vinegar, rang it nearly dry, then spread it out on paper towels and painted the dye directly. The dye didn’t spread as much as before. We didn’t know whether it was because the vinegar was inhibiting the bleed or whether the paper towels underneath were soaking up the dye – that is, bleeding vertically to the layer below rather than horizontally on the piece. Actually, if she had spread another scarf beneath the first one, she would have finished two at one time!


Meanwhile, I was plodding away, silently and diligently, in my meticulous manner. Here I am looking happy, happy, happy! (I knew I should have put on makeup this morning!) I think I looked happier than I felt because I had very little idea of what I was doing and how to proceed, but on – and on and on – I went till the tortoise finally crossed the finish line.

I will definitely do more scarves, and so will Shelley and Barb. We all had a good time, but were completely wiped out but the end of the day.

Here’s what I learned for next time. I like the resist but will use a different applicator tip for somewhat thicker lines. I will also work the background first so that I have a context for my main design elements before I color them in. I will work more carefully and do a better job of resisting hurrying along. And I will be more willing to mix colors on the palette rather than just on the scarf.

The jury’s still out on the finished piece as I have to let the dye dry, remove the resist, then set the colors. By the way, we used Jacquard Green label dyes and the colors are gorgeous!

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