Information on Silk Painting

Silk is a beautiful and sensuous material that has been cultivated and enjoyed for over 3,500 years. Ancient colour and resist techniques were developed in China and India to decorate the woven silk and cotton fabrics produced in these areas. Dyes are used to colour the silk, but since dye flows freely on silk, resists are used to keep the dye properly contained. Wax resists, commonly used in Batik, were developed in India as early as the 2nd century AD. Java subsequently became the centre of the Batik industry, where silk painting techniques are also used. It spread to Russia then France in the 1920’s coming to America in the 1970’s.

Most silk used for painting is cultivated, though wild silk is also available. The silk worm grazes on the mulberry leaf in countries like China and India where it grows in abundance. Cultivated silks, once processed, have the qualities and purity needed to enhance colour.

Unlike any other medium, silk comes alive with a tremendous vibrancy of colour when painted, and the irregularity of the natural silk filaments give it an amazing diamond-like scintillation. Fabric paints contain binders that cover up the natural fibres, but translucent silk dyes become an integral part of the fabric, allowing it to shimmer and shine.

The silk painting process is quite different from batik and involves a number of steps and techniques. The silk is first stretched onto a frame where the design is drawn and then painted by hand with silk dyes. When complete, the dyes must be set by steaming, and then dry-cleaned and framed.

Every piece you see here is individually painted by hand, so you will not see two identical pieces - every one is unique.

The high quality dyes used to paint these silks are very fade resistant. However, as with any painting, maximum colour preservation will be achieved by displaying silk paintings away from direct sunlight.

The Silk Painting Process

Drawing

A silk painting begins as an original drawing usually taken from nature. The silk is washed and stretched on a frame, and the drawing is then traced onto the silk. Gutta resist is used to outline and separate the various areas of colour.

Painting with Dyes

French dyes are then painted onto the silk when using the resist technique. Other techniques such as line building, linear underpainting, and ombre are also used to create value and depth of colour in each piece.

Steaming, Cleaning, and Framing

Once the finished piece is completely dry, it is removed from the frame, steamed to fix the dye, and then dry-cleaned to remove the gutta. The piece is then laundered and framed.

Hanging

To prevent fading, silk paintings should not be hung in direct sunlight.

Care of Silk

The high quality dyes used to paint these silks are very fade resistant. However, as with any painting, maximum colour preservation will be achieved by displaying silk paintings away from direct sunlight.

Dust may be removed using a soft cotton cloth or soft bristle brush. Dry cleaning is recommended if heavier cleaning is required.

Silk paintings may be stored wrapped in a soft cotton sheet to protect from dust and light.

Do not place in direct sunlight.