Installation of Kimono Silks

June 3rd, 2011

Here a few shots of the elegant new Kimono Silks up at 214 King Street (The Real Estate Studio) through June 21st. Thank you to all who came out to the opening. We had a great crowd of folks actively observing and talking about the art. You can attend the show Monday-Saturday 9-5 and Sunday 12-5.

Waxing and dyeing the full moon with Dana’s Howling

February 1st, 2011

Dana Downs’ The Howling Moon is a favorite at the Fraser studio–always an album that beacons a repeat.  Mary Edna completes the final waxing and dyeing of her moonscape reflected on water while listening to Dana’s unreleased southern folk opera.  We can’t help but sing along as Dana’s sweet somber tone fills us with the kind of joy only found on a stormy day.

A final waxing to make the flowers float

January 27th, 2011

To achieve the feeling of floating on water, Mary Edna needs to capture the ripples created in the movement of water.  Horizontal lines across the work will save streaks of the lighter gray and a darker background will be added during the final dye bath.

Mary Edna carefully holds her natural fiber brush at a precise angle to achieve a desired width and quality of line.  Many of her brushes are so old that she has had to cut the bristles to create a point on them again.

Working steadily with the brush, Mary Edna moves quickly with the hot wax, but slowly enough to control the medium.  She often braces her body, putting all of her focus on a single movement of the brush.

The hot wax must be placed close to the batik in progress, but far enough away to avoid splatters and drips.

Seen from the bottom, the waxed colors are luminous, appearing closer to how they will look on the finished work when the wax is removed.

Mary Edna finishes dyeing this work with a final bath of dark, moonlit water.  The center of the pink flowers are differentiated with a lemon yellow.

The fine detail of this work and its variation of color within a selected palette will be clear once the wax is removed.

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.

Waxing floral details

January 24th, 2011

After Mary Edna’s floral batik has dried, she is ready to apply the third layer of wax.  The dried silk shows color as it will appear in the finished piece.  By waxing them in, those hues will be saved.  Darker tones that will be added during the final dyebath will dramatically change the art when complete, giving it depth and detail not yet visible.

Waxing a single, small batik can take all day to finish or even longer, depending on the intricacies of the design.

Not only are the pinks waxed over, but fine details of the chrysanthemums and leaves will be saved too.

A single drop of wax causes a dramatic change in the appearance of the work, although it does not change the color that will appear once the wax is removed.  Because the wax makes color appear darker, Mary Edna holds the memory of the dried colors in her mind as she works.

After waxing in all the pink flowers, Mary Edna flips the batik and works from the backside to make sure all the wax has fully penetrated the fabric.

A little wax is added to a flower from the backside of the art so that no dye can access the fuchsia design.

Mary Edna creates a moonlit edge out of the negative space formed by a flower stem.  Gray tones will be added to mute the yellow-green background in the next step of the process.

Batiks in progress

January 20th, 2011

Mary Edna is in a period of prolific art production.  Currently she is working on three batiks in her studio for the upcoming Kimono Silks exhibition at 214 King Street in Charleston from May 12 to June 21, 2011, coinciding with Spoleto.

Collected on Mary Edna’s last trip to Australia, this vintage damask silk has a flower motif woven into the fabric. Chrysanthemums, leaves, and stems float over the design.

This is Mary Edna’s first work capturing the realism of flowers on kimono silk.  The full moon enters the work as if reflected in a pool of water.  Chinese sumi brushes ordered from Dharma Trading Company are made from bamboo and natural fibers designed to hold up against the hot wax.  These brushes, along with the fine lines created by the tjanting tool, allow for a variety of markings.

Mary Edna’s studio doubles as a gallery space when it’s not filled up with giant batiks on silk.

Fuchsia flowers on a pale green background will dry much less vibrant for a subtlety of color and antique quality that Mary Edna anticipates.  She pins her work to wooden saw horses so that the silk can be turned easily, keeping the wax from cracking, and making dye and wax application exact.

Using a few shades of green, Mary Edna creates gradients of color to gives leaves depth and turn. Blending the pinks with greys, the background will eventually appear much more like moonlight with only a little green saved for stems and leaves.

Thick wax creates a yellowing effect in the bold flower designs. When removed, the white details will really sing. Until the work is complete, Mary Edna can only imagine the elegance of the finished art.

KIMONO SILKS Exhibition Closes January 24, 2010

January 20th, 2010

The Kimono Silks show ends this week.  Sunday the 24th is the last day. I appreciate every person that stopped in across from Saks at 214 King Street to view my latest work.

We are so lucky to have the Charleston community of creative talent and those who attend the events that enrich our lives.

Now my twitters and blog posts will cease, as I work on commissions for patrons, upcoming museum exhibits shown below, and batiks for my book on global warming with Orrin Pilkey will take precedent.

I presently have thousands of aerial photographs that inspire me, 75 batiks on silk, 100 monotypes on paper, and numerous giclée prints available in the studio.

Call for an appointment at 843 762 2594 or email me at if you want to visit. My studio will be a gallery all of Spoleto Festival USA May- June.

Terraqueous SilksFlorence Museum of Art, Florence, SC, March  9 – May 23, 2010
Seascape Festival 2010, Gloucester, MA, July 24-25 organized
by David Coffin for the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center
The Art of Global Awareness, McKissick Museum of Art, USC, Columbia, August  – December 2010
Our Expanding Oceans, Circle Gallery, College of Environment and Design,
University of Georgia, January 2011

Our Expanding Oceans, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC, March 2011 – January 2012, November Art Walk in the Nature Gallery.

Small oil paintings on view at Kimono Silks!

January 11th, 2010

My assistant, Timothy Pakron, sets up my easel and brushes and helps me clean up my messes.
He is an oil painter and has been helping me learn how to use this classic medium.

Monotypes are also done with oil but they are painted on plexiglass and then printed on paper.
It is refreshing to work on a new surface such as canvas and to capture the changing tide and light.
I have enjoyed working on these intimate paintings en plain air in my own backyard.

Eventually, I will work on museum scale aerial landscapes with oil on canvas.

My Exhibition is on display at 214 King Street.

Photos of Opening Night

December 24th, 2009

Wishing everyone a happy holiday,


KIMONO SILKS Event Highlights

December 15th, 2009

Do take the time to go by the exhibit across from Saks if you are in Charleston. The opening was so much fun and 400 pieces of sushi were dispensed by Rachael and Anna Kate dressed as Geishas.

The brick walls are a lovely setting for art. I will post some photos of the event soon.

Traci Mangus, who runs the events for Dunes Properties Real Estate Studio. was a delightful hostess.

I hope you all have the most wonderful holidays. I will have 21 family members coming to visit for Christmas ages 3 to 89. My daughters, Sarah LaBanna and Rebecca, are home now so I am a happy Mama.