Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To Steam or not to Steam , Silk Dyes or Silk Paints

I got both of the resisted paintings steamed today and I took some photos along the way to illustrate just how simple the steaming process is. So many silk artists have told me that they use silk paints because they are afraid to make the leap to using professional steam set dyes because of the steaming process. It is my hope that these photos will show you just how easy it is to steam silk.

A couple of important differences between paints and dyes are that silk paints, no matter how thin, cover the silks luminous surface and make it dull. It is the same idea as putting watercolor paint over paper or oil paint on a canvas which will then cover the surface of the canvas. Silk paints also leave a "hand" or stiff feel to the silk and that affects the silks liquid drape. Steam set dyes allow the iridescent brilliance of the silk to shine through and leave absolutely no hand or stiffness to the silk. Because of the steaming process the molecules of the dye actually join with the molecules of the silk so the color becomes part of the silk fibers and does not sit on top of the silk as paints do, therefore the dyes will not cover up the beautiful shinny surface of the silk
Each silk painting (in this case with just the resist applied) is layered between 2 sheets of paper.

Once all of the layering is done the silk is rolled onto a metal bar and sealed with tape. The horizontal steamer on the Garland in the background is preheating in this photo.

Once the steamer is preheated, (you can see the steam rising in the photo above) the roll of paper and silk is placed into the steamer.
In the photo above I have removed the silk paintings from the steamer and unrolled them. Since I was only steaming to set the resist, and not to set a completed painting with many layers of dye, this steaming is shorter and was completed in under 2 hours.

The next step will be to re-stretch the silk onto the wooden stretchers and to begin applying the layers of dye.

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