Want to know how it’s done? Want to see where your hard earned dollars went? While this isn’t a how-to, it should reveal all the full process from start to finish of me creating a batik friggin’ Darth Vader shirt. Oh, hey, pictures. Sweet. Show don’t tell.
First, all the shirts need to be prewashed in a special detergent that will get rid of any remnant chemicals used in manufacturing that might inhibit the fabric accepting the dye later on. Basically you take all the pretty, fresh, unwrinkled shirts and make a ugly, fresher, wrinkly mess of them. Then you iron them. Yep. All of them.
They need to be ironed, if you have any intention of actually centering your work on the chest. After I iron them, I use a washable marker and a paper template to mark the size of the chest-centric area the design will occupy. I will spend a half hour trying to get the exact center. I still often fail, because even a quarter of an inch off is just not right.
I also set up my venting system, cause concentrated wax fumes are just…not so good for you. This is a bathroom fan and a piece of plywood. Then I tape the gaps for a healthy seal and plug in the wax.
The wax as we see it here is not quite hot enough, so I have a moment to place the shirt on the canvas stretcher frame I use, with a simplified design sandwiched between the shirt and a piece of glass, which are then placed on a homemade light box.
The old trick I learned who knows where is to place the work upside down from you, so that while working on it, you don’t get distracted by your recognition of the image.
This was the first wax, so I used the tjantings to ‘paint’ the melted wax on the parts of the design that were intended to be white, this includes the lights of the Bespin background and the highlights on Mr. Vader himself. After you turn the light off, you can see the wax a bit more then when the light is on. I also run my hand over the design area often during the process. When the wax has penetrated the shirt, it sits very flat in the shirt. If the wax is too cool to get in and around the fibers, it will bead on top of the shirt. If you look closely at the picture you can see a few beads. If it beads you really can’t do too much about it. The pressure to get it right the first time, everytime, is pretty intense; the wax does not forgive.
After I’m done waxing the white areas of the design, I take it off the frame and when held up to a window. Without the paper design behind it, I can get a really good idea of what it will look like when dyed. If the wax is in the shirt, it glows a bit.
This was the largest batik run I’ve ever done, and so it took some time at each stage to get all shirts through. I put the wax on all the shirts at first, but then the dye baths happened in batches, which broke up the remainder of the process into chunks.
In the upcoming Part II I hope to show you the dye bath fun times.