Introduction: Wax on Silk

About: Hello my name is Jennifer Douglas and I have been a textile artist for the last 25 years since graduating from West Surrey College of Art and Design. I specialise in making and teaching silkpainting and batik …

Time to have some creative fun with wax!

In this project I'm going to show how wax can be applied to silk fabric using traditional methods and more contemporary techniques to achieve lively, spontaneous marks, applied in an abstract arty way.This is the sort of project you can just explore the marks you make, no right or wrong, just go with the flow, put some of your favourite music on and enjoy some therapy!

Step 1: Equipment Needed

Wax - paraffin, beeswax, in a block, candle or in beaded form will do nicely

Tjantings if you have some or

Old DIY brushes


Sponge- the cheap variety!

Potato mashers or any kitchen tools with potential for printing with hot wax.

Silk pins


Wax heater


Rubber gloves

Tray / Large jam jar

Silk Paints- I used Pebeo Setasilk Iron fix Paints

Step 2: Working With Wax AndTjantings

These tools are traditional Indonesian tools used to create fine detailed lines and tiny dots on cotton or silk fabrics. They consist of a bamboo handle with a copper bowl and spout, which enables you to draw a line of hot wax with some practise. It's fast and free and can achieve amazing "dancing" movements.

I'm trying it out on paper first to get the feel of this one, they all have their own funny temperaments.

Step 3: Applying Iron Fix Pebeo Setasilk Paints - Turquoise,Gitane Blue and Iris Violet

After the first marks are made on the white silk it's time to introduce some colour.

I'm using dilute versions of Turquoise, Gitane Blue and Iris Violet of the Pebeo Setasilk Range as I like these colours together.

Gradually the plan will be to darken the shades, capturing each layer of wax as we go.

The fabric needs to be dried carefully with a hairdryer on a low setting, to avoid melting the wax.

Step 4: the 3 Spout Tjanting and Wax

This tjanting came from a UK craft supplier, and has 3 spouts. It gives 3 splendid lines of wax in one go!

It works better when slightly cooler as the lines can fuse together when too hot.

Step 5: Using the Wavy Potato Masher!

This is one of my favourite tools in my kit as it can form a meandering line of wax, which gives a good sense of movement.

I'm mixing some diluted " Meadow Green" on the silk to cover the wax marks made.

The wax is protecting the colours underneath, enabling me to capture further colours with more wax as we go along.

Step 6: Using Water Dropper With Wax + DIY Brushes and Wax

Water is effective with these dyes, you can drop it on the fabric with a plastic dropper to create light circle patterns.

This works best when the fabric has dried a little before you drop the water.

Brushes are also great for applying the wax, try different widths, to get bolder effects. They can produce lovely trailing patterns when the brush has less wax, great for painting wild seas!

Step 7: Sponge and Wax!

This sponge is a cheap one as I'm about to dip it into wax, but I bought it because it looked like it could deliver some interesting print marks. Try not to print with too much wax as this just gives a solid mass of wax and you are looking for the texture of the sponge, so go lightly.

I'm starting to use more concentrate dyes in between waxing to reveal these patterns.

Use some tissue to wipe off dye that appears to sit on the waxed areas.

Step 8: Egg Whisk and Wax!

This tool can give a "springy" effect like a mass of bed springs!

I'm turning over the frame when printing with these tools to get a good firm surface to apply the wax.

Step 9: Sgraffito Techniques With Wax

Take a pin and carefully scratch lines into the wax to give extra detail.

Apply a concentrate dye, Gitane Blue + Ebony, into these areas using a brush.

Step 10: Bleach on Silk!!

You might want to stop at this point and just iron your fabric to release the wax, but I fancied using some BLEACH!!

This is a process I picked up from being a member of the Batik Guild UK. It involves submerging the work in thin neat bleach ,either in a jam jar or tray. Leave for 20 minutes after which you will visibly see silk disintegrating

Carefully remove wearing rubber gloves and arrange the work on a piece of card.

The areas of wax remain and the unwaxed areas dissolve!!

Step 11: Ironing Out the Wax

Carefully iron out the wax using kitchen paper or newspaper, taking care with the fragile edges.

Spray mount the final work on a card and sandwich with perspex or frame behind glass for a unique piece of art, or simply consider the process strangely therapeutic!

Have fun with this or you may like to visit to see further projects.


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