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Jennifer & Mickie

Updated: Mar 20, 2022

In the first photo above is the original scarf I designed and hand-painted for a dear friend as a birthday gift in March 2018. When I decided to recreate the design for sales, of course I gave it her name, Jennifer. The original Jennifer was accomplished by first drawing the black outlines of the floral elements using gutta on the white silk. After brushing on the background color I wanted, the scarf was steamed to permanently set the dye and black outline. This entire process took about three days, primarily because I wait to steam set dyes for a day after they're applied, and another day after the piece comes out of the steamer before rinsing. This wait period before and after ensures I get the maximum integrity of my colors.

The second phase involved coating the entire scarf with antifusant, a medium that, once dry, makes the surface of the silk more like paper so that the dyes do not freely spread. This allowed me to brush the color onto the floral elements exactly where I wanted without regard to the black line. Specifically, I was attempting to create an "out of register" look, maintaining some of the white and purposefully coloring outside the lines. The entire reason I steamed the black outlines and background before this step is because I found that the antifusant caused my black lines to bleed some of their color as I was brushing the antifusant across the scarf. The first time I tried to create this design was a disaster!

My husband picked out the last one I created in 2018 to be his Christmas gift to his mom, Mickie, one of the biggest fans of my work. I created a couple more Jennifers around this time last year, but with different background colors than the original sunshine yellow, like you see in the third photo above. When my mother-in-law unexpectedly passed away just a few weeks later, I lost interest in continuing with the design.

This week I finally decided to try making a new version, this time using the new techniques I'd picked up in my experimenting in 2019. I suppose if I'm being completely transparent with you, it's because I felt an acute need to bring some beauty into the hurt of my missing Mickie. With no resists, I went straight to the white silk with dye and brush, being careful to control how much dye I allowed in my brush and paying close attention to the grain line of the silk. After delicately painting on all the floral elements, I brushed hot soy wax over the colored areas using a 1" cheap chip brush. My goal was not only to protect the floral elements from bleeding so that I could add a background color, but to also save some of the original white of the silk in the design and create some brush stroke effects. Once the wax was applied how I wanted, I mixed up some dye and added the cheery yellow background.

I might have been finished at that point, except the scarf was lacking something. It needed more depth and didn't quite get all of what I wanted fully expressed. I see beauty in age, sorrow and joys sculpting us as we walk along through life. This scarf needed some scars. I decided to cover the entire scarf in hot wax, then took it outside in the freezing cold night air in order to better harden it.* After some gentle scrunching, especially in the non-floral areas, I brought it back inside to apply the red-brown sienna you see along the edges and scattered into the background yellow. It turned out just as I'd hoped, and I know Mickie approves. In fact, knowing her, I bet if she were still walking this earth she might even try to trade me for it. Love you, Mickie!


*PRO TIP: Unlike traditional batik waxes, soy wax isn't strong enough to stand up to typical batik processes like adding a crackle effect. You can cheat if you're careful, though. Figure out how to get your waxed piece really cold, like tossing it in the freezer or taking it outside in the winter, and within minutes it'll harden up enough to yield some good cracks. It's a mess, though, so work outside as much possible. You'll have a dusting of wax flakes all over the place! Rather than dipping the piece into the dye as you would with a more traditional batik approach, brush it on over the top of the wax. Don't leave the excess dye sitting on the surface for too long else it will start to break down the wax. I sop mine up with paper towel, then go back over the area with a damp paper towel to make sure I'm not leaving behind dye in the brush strokes of the wax. It's all a bit messy, but worth it if you're after this type of background effect and don't care to fuss with traditional batik hot waxes.

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Merrill Phoenix
Merrill Phoenix

Hi I'm new to your blog and have found it very interesting. Your tips and "musings" are a great inspiration and I can't wait to try out this crackle effect to add depth. Thank you for sharing your processes, it includes valuable information and is generous of you.

Carrie Wright
Carrie Wright

So sorry that it is June 24 and I'm just now seeing your comment, Merrill! Not sure what happened with my notifications system! Thanks for your feedback. It's been quite a long time since I posted anything. Always have the best of intentions, but just get busy doing all the other things I do. I'm happy to help other makers in any way I can! Being self-taught, along the way I've met some very helpful people, but also some rather stingy people! I'm glad something I've written has helped you!

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