Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Soy Batik Workshop with Els Van Baarle

An unexpected email last fall changed my art life. Vicki Jensen from ProChem asking if I was still interested in taking Els Van Baarle's soy batik workshop in November. What?? How could that be?  I was third in line on the waiting list- besides, it's the middle of October!!

Of course, I went. Electric fry pan, pre-washed fabric and all.  There were 11 of us which allowed each to have a decent work area and share a fry pan of hot wax.  But what would Barbara Billingsley think of using fry pans, irons,  and clothespins in this high-handed manner? If she'd known, she'd probably be doing the same thing.

Els is natural teacher, making a point of explaining further when she saw puzzled faces.  She shared some of her successes and failures and often reminded us "Have fun- no stress- yes?" Yes.  She is soft-spoken but gets her point across, giving constructive feedback without hurting feelings. That's not easy.

Els uses a layering process which begins with white/light fabric followed by layers of soy wax and fiber reactive dyes.  Simple exercises to start using 2 layers of color and moving into using tjaps, wood stamps, tjantings, paint, and silkscreens. We used paper, silk, cotton and other fibers in layers with the media.  Warning: this is addictive. The more you do, the more possibilities you see. Els stressed taking notes on each labeled piece of fiber and I did. At first. It got too fun to stop and write. Much of it is learned by doing although it is nice to know which layers of colors produced this great coppery color or that muddy green. 

I took this class because I love Els' work. (How much? I bought one of her pieces at the workshop.) I'm incorporating the techniques into my studio work and enjoying every part of the process.  Be sure to look at her website and the amazing gallery: Here's something you won't find on the website--- she loves the smell of hot wax.  

Now I'm thinking about picking up another electric fry pan.  I have to try the more traditional batik wax mixture of paraffin and beeswax. No mixing these 2 types of waxes because soy is water soluable and the mix isn't.  Two fry pans in my house and still no one's cooking. That's cool.

If you're wondering why it took until March to write about a fall class, I injured my shoulder around Halloween, had rotator cuff surgery in January. Two months of physical therapy so far- no end date yet. . .  the sling and I are one.

Els shared a favorite quotation in class:

"It is an artist's job to get lost. If you always know where you are, you have missed the point."

Isn't that a relief??

Here are a couple photos from the workshop, I will post more in the coming days as the server can't handle all this art at once: