Batik in Indonesia

October 11th, 2011

Here is a very interesting video about Indonesian batik from the UNESCO website.  I traveled to Jakarta and Bali in 1996 for the Dutch consulate.  I have an incredible collection of antique batiks on cotton that I bought in a market.

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CATEGORIES: Process, Videos |

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.

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.

The Waxing

December 4th, 2009

Below is the third waxing of four batiks. The silks are then dyed, waxed and dyed again.

I  just finished 7 hours of ironing out the batiks for the exhibit on December 10, next Thursday. My studio is a jumble of papers. It takes 5 minutes per square foot of ironing between newsprint to remove the wax. These vintage silks are thick and require many papers to soak up the wax. The last dye bath has the cloth almost fully covered in wax to resist the darkest layer of color. This creates depth in art, especially in aerial design. The ironing not only removes the wax but also heat sets the dye. The dye molecules bond with the cloth. After dry cleaning, I will wash the silks, sew hems, and cut poles. My photographer, Rick Rhodes, will archive them for me with color corrections in his studio.

Hope to see you at the opening or that you get a chance to drop by 214 King Street to view
the newest work.

Exhausted but happy,


The Process

December 1st, 2009

My first batik in 1974 had only 3 colors, Tree of Life, which hung in my parents home.  Since that time I have enjoyed making over 300 batiks.  Each one now may have as many as 300 colors with the combined dyebaths.  At first, close ups of Savannah’s environment, birds, and microscopic images filled my days of dyeing.  A flight over Savannah and Hilton Head Island with my dear brother and photographer, Nancy Heffernan, changed my life forever. From that day, the aerial perspective became central to my art.The meditative quality of the work, inherent in the slowness of the medium, is a gift in this fast paced world.  From the aerial photograph to the sewing of the silk, there is joy in the making of the batiks. I encourage young people to work in a field which fills them with passion.

My excursions have taken me to foreign lands and over the beloved landscapes near my home.  I have photographed the Great Wall of China and Mount Fuji from a jet.  New Mexico, Colorado, and Maine have also been a part of my adventures. When I fly with my brother, Burke, in the little Ercoupe, it is like an acrobatic dance and so much fun.  We are kids again.  With Daddy flying over the Outer Banks of NC, the trip was a dream of a lifetime. When flying with an instructor, I can easily set up the airplane for the right altitude and design.  Then I hand over the controls and photograph the landscape.

My Nikon FM2 cameras were replaced with the digital D90 last year. I also use a small Olympus 10 megapixal for travel.  All of these images of flight are stored in my brain and come to life in the studio. The silks as they receive wax and dye lead me in a flow of color, line and design.

Here are a few of the working stages of the newest Kimono Silks.  Drawing with a pencil, waxing out the white of the silk to resist the first dye bath and a second waxing and dyeing are shown below photographed by my assistant, Timothy Pakron.

Inspiration for Color

November 24th, 2009

When working on the Kimono Silks, my reference books provide inspiration for color and design.

Twenty of my local aerial photographs are printed for composition.

Just unrolling the silk is a delight. There are 7 new batiks in 7 different damask designs still in various stages of process for this exhibit. Each silk has intrinsic design which seems to relate perfectly with one of the photographs .

First I sew with a zig zag stitch to prevent fraying and throw the silks in the washing machine with a textile product called synthropol. This removes the oils and sizing, as well as prepares the silk for dyeing.

The first waxing is to save the original white or off white of the silk. I use beeswax and paraffin in a 50% combination. The beeswax makes it adhere to the cloth and the paraffin can offer a crackle in the wax which I seldom employ.

The brushes are made especially for hot wax application.

I will keep you updated with the process.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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CATEGORIES: Books, Kimono Silks |


October 28th, 2009

Creating a Batik

October 27th, 2009