Another dye bath

January 25th, 2011

Mary Edna’s studio is built specifically for batik production.  Protective gloves, mask, and a well-ventilated dye room are essential, because when the dyes are still in powder form, they create tiny airborne particles that are carcinogenic.  Mary Edna uses state-of-the-art, fiber-reactive Proceon dyes, which react chemically with the silk to become part of the cloth.  The dyes come in powder form and must be mixed with exact proportions of water, urea, calgon, baking soda, and washing soda.  Any mistake in the chemistry will cause the dyes to bleed, ruining the batik.

Testing on paper towels or scraps of fabric, Mary Edna diligently works out a satisfactory color harmony, often comparing her dyes to colors in nature.  A grid of test colors serves as a record of each layer of dyes used in the batik.

Mary Edna applies the liquid dyes with a brush or sponge.  Details require careful control of a fine tip.

The wet dye appears very dark, almost black, but when it dries, the color will be a bright blue-green.  Another dye bath will be required to achieve the contast seen here.

In general, Mary Edna works from lightest to darkest hues when dyeing a batik.  Here, she applies another layer of green to sections of a leaf.

Large areas require broad strokes worked into the fabric to keep the transitions smooth. Mary Edna works quickly to fill up any area that is continuous with the section she dyes.  If the dye is allowed to dry along an edge that isn’t waxed, strange lines or a mottled background may likely occur.  Mary Edna expertly avoids this effect.

There are still hours of work ahead in order to bring this dye bath to a close.