Welcome to the section of my website for blog posts and tutorials!
Below you will see them all in chronological order as I wrote them, with the most recent at the top.
If you are interested in tutorials, here they are in order of the process:
1. Video Tutorials by Maria Wulf of the entire Batik Process
2. Batik Made Easy
3. Let’s Begin – Applying the Wax
4. Mixing Dyes
5. Dyeing’s Not So Bad
6. Too Hot for Hot Wax
7. Losing the Color
8. Out of the Shadows
9. October is a wonderful time for dyeing
10. Out of the Wax
11. Batik Infographic
12. Painting Dye on Fabric – Sunburst
And here is a link to the blog posts that are part of my writings about Amity Farm, which was our farm in Upstate New York of 70 registered Jersey cows, rotationally grazed in the warm months. The name was inspired by my good Morgan mare, Green Meads Amity. Amity was a wonderful mare who never made it to our farm, but her kind heart was expressed in her name, Amity, which means friendship. Read about the farm here.
As winter approaches, the days get shorter and grey. I find myself often staring into a sunset and being swept up in a wave of melancholy.
The angle of the sun seems to shines into my eyes and pierce my brain, I can almost taste it. I go about my chores but not with my usual zest and take few walks as hunting season is on. Being indoors has never been that good for me. The autumn would signal the end of grazing season on our farm and I would go into a winter season withdrawal.
I spend a lot of time filling orders for my batik art and gifts and am very grateful to all who appreciate it. It is a busy time visiting my shops and galleries and getting to many of the receptions.
Too busy in many ways, toward the end I find myself quite tired as so many others do.
As an artist I am lucky to appreciate the beauty that winter has to offer and the excitement of the snowstorms. After Christmas, the hustle will ease and I will then find myself in a quiet darkness that somehow nurtures my creativity. I can be in my studio alone on a winter night and ideas for new batik will fill me. Sketches will flow out through my hand with pencil onto paper or lines of wax will flow through the ancient tjanting tool onto cloth. It is a secret and valued time. The wind and cold can be heard outside the studio window while inside the warm wax comes to life. I am not tempted to go back outside as I would be in the summer. The time seems to restore and prepare for the season ahead.
By the middle of January, the days will be longer, the sunlight significantly stronger, and when the sun shines and reflects off the white snow I find myself filled with optimism and new strength.
A new year is emerging into spring as the Phoenix will rise again…
I have been collecting photos of what others have created with my batik fabric art and have been thinking over the year that it would be nice to share what can be done with it with the rest of the world. There are many folks who have sent me pictures of what they have created and I don’t have all of them here, but I’m grateful to them for sending me the work.
Of special note is the work of Jeanne Nivard of Jeanne’s Bags who does quilted purses and has done some of the finest quilted work incorporating my batik art into something that’s very useful. She has done several purses using my artwork and some of them are represented here. I’m really grateful to her for using them in her well-crafted purses.
Dara James Designs has begun to get some of my fabrics and is incorporating them into leather purses especially designed for horse lovers. I have enclosed a photo of her purse with my batik “Appaloosa in Sun Rays”. She will be doing lots more of these purses using my horse artwork.
Dan Bridge did a beautiful quilted hanging out of one of my garden batik fabrics called “Filled With Sunlight.” You can see it here. The interpretation he did was very involved and segments the energy from my view of gardens, roots and growth with his own. Very abstract and very strong. Cosmic energy.
Also of note is the beautiful quilt created by Nancy Patterson. She designed and pieced the quilt and Chantay Rhone quilted it. It has won several awards.
Another exquisite quilt was created by Christa van der Woerd who chose my Lord of the Rings fabric to make this very intriguing quilt from fabric printed from original batik that I created long ago inspired by the book Lord of the Rings well before the movie was created.
Pat Davis of My Buddy Bling on Etsy is another horse lover who has bought many of my fabrics and made useful items out of them: Aprons of different kinds; she can make purses and she makes a lot of really delightful things for horses to wear! Horse jewelry, horse halloween outfits and more. She has a really fun shop and she gave the Autumn Sundance apron to Julie Goodnight, who is a horse trainer and clinician.
Last but not least is a photo sent to me by Sue Ann Crabbs who has purchased three of the large giclee prints on canvas from my original batik “Moonlight Over Spring.” She has made a triptych of these and placed them over her couch and I’m proud to say she thought enough of the image to also get pillows from the “Moonlight Over Spring” batik. The pillows show the above ground with the moon view and the below ground with the layers of earth patterns.
If you would like to get some of my batik art fabric, please visit my Etsy shop. I have several fabric sections with many sizes of fabrics to choose from, and my shop is loaded with lots of other batik art gifts as well!
Sometimes I have tried a different approach to a batik and I have started working with the black fabric and gone through many stages of bleaching out and re-dyeing color in.
This first photo shows a picture of the wax on the black fabric in the beginning of my batik, Caught in the Thunderstorm. The strange thing about looking at it here is that where the wax is looks light colored, but this is the section that is holding the black color pure as it goes into the bleach.
This next picture shows the batik after it has gone through several dyebaths to lighten it and I have accepted and protected some sections with wax to achieve this look. Every single piece of black fabric will have a slightly different response to bleaching.
This particular fabric chose to leave rusty colored stains in the fabric, and light beige. Some might bleach out to a much lighter color. Others might have a tint of purple or blue remaining. It always will be a surprise. Never try this with silk as the bleach will disintegrate the silk.
Here, in the third picture (below), I have painted dyes in to the areas that I want to change the color on. More wax has also been added to the batik to save the buff and rusty stain colors that I want to keep. It now is waiting to be protected to go into the dyebath for more colors to be added.
Below is a close-up image of the bottom of the batik with dye painted on it. It will now go into more dyebaths and I will protect sections of these colors with the tjanting and brushes with wax.
And below is the final batik, Caught in the Thunderstorm. A picture of the sky spirits, using the horse. It went in to several more dyebaths and I actually sprayed some bleach on it in sections to get a mottled effect.
And finally, the wax was ironed out of the batik to achieve these interesting color combinations. Batik requires the artist to think about the negative space, and it is even more of a challenge when starting with black fabric. One of the most challenging stages is the very first one, where you paint wax on the black fabric. It can be very difficult to see where you have painted the wax.
I like this process. It is a bit more time consuming than starting with white fabric, but it has a very unique look, and I have done several batik in this style. You can see my batik River Sunrise, Crows Alone, Horse Born of Earth Water and Sky, and Horse through a Web of Fire. Check them out in the Gallery section of the website.
Light as a feather, her hooves barely touched the ground as she stepped out of the trailer to my home in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. Amity the filly had arrived from Green Meads Farm in the Berkshire hills.
I had longed for a registered Morgan that I could ride, show and breed to have foals (baby horses) and here was Amity, a light and beautiful presence who would one day give her name to the future farm, Amity Farm. She had a dark brown liver chestnut color coat and the long legs and neck of a young horse. Justa Dream, my now older horse, looked at her with intense interest.
Amity adapted well to her new home and quieted quickly. She was as willing and gentle as my now good boy Justa Dream had been rough and rebellious. Being a young horse she began her training as having a halter put on, being led, picking up her feet to be cleaned and enjoying treats and getting brushed with a soft brush that made her coat glisten.
She learned the routine of feeding, care and handling time, pasture and at night being safe in her well cleaned and bedded stall. My uncle had a young hackney pony, Little Miss Maybe, and she provided the early young friend for Amity until she grew taller and would also be with Justa Dream. Every time a horse is handled, he or she is being trained, and it is important to have a quiet happy relationship develop. Being “broken” to ride could not be further from what should happen. Training is a process of mutual respect and understanding.
At one year, Amity was a tall lovely filly and I lunged her ( here a horse circles the human on a long line) and she learned to follow voice commands “walk”, trot” “whoa” and got lots of treats. Later she learned to be driven from behind with long lines (long reins through a light training harness where the human walks behind), this prepares the horse to learn to respond to the reins in preparation for both riding and pulling a light cart. The communication between horse and human is strengthened. It gives the human good exercise too.
Amity went to some shows with Justa Dream and I, where she showed in the “in hand” classes, Not being ridden, but handled from the ground by me, being led at a walk and trot and standing proudly. She was a joy to work with and won some ribbons.
Then I decided to try to have her pull a flat board behind her while I guided with the reins. I was alone, big mistake! Someone at her head could have given her a feeling of safety, where being behind her I could not. Hearing and feeling the strange noise and weight behind her she bolted and fortunately for me we crashed into the barn and not off somewhere else! This episode would take a lot of quiet time to re-establish the calm needed to progress further.
She did accept the lesson in time, and pulled a light cart. The cart is a light exercise for a horse. The harness is designed so the horse is actually pushing the cart, which is easy to do, rather than pulling the weight as it appears. It is recommended to have the horse wait until two years old before carrying the weight of a rider and then to keep the workouts light and gentle as the horse gains strength and matures.
The day came when she was two years old and for the first time would have a rider on her back. Me! She had worn a saddle many times in preparation as I had leaned my weight on the saddle without mounting. This day I swung my leg over and sat upright and quiet on top of her. Her ears moved back and forth and she listened for the voice commands that we had practiced for well over a year. She quietly moved off with me on her back with no resistance at all. She stopped at the word whoa, and a light touch on the reins and got a carrot. There were a few simple turns that day with stops and starts, a good start to riding, not too long a session.
Amity proved to be a very sensitive horse; she needed a very light touch. She was so much easier to work with than Justa Dream. We developed an incredible bond that many horse owners have experienced. Amity enjoyed the trail rides we went on as well as the training sessions where she completed all her gaits, walk, trot, extended trot (at this she had incredible speed and style) canter and gallop. She later learned to back between rails on the ground and maneuver an obstacle course, (something like a dog obedience class for horses). She learned to jump but did not have the passion for it as Justa Dream had.
Amity won many ribbons, most of them blue, and I was so proud of her. It was when she was five that she suffered an injury to her splint bone (a small bone in her lower rear leg). This was not a serious bone to break, but did cause temporary lameness and she needed rest. There were no more shows but she did fully recover in time.
It was at this time that I accepted a new job in the Berkshire hills as a traveling art teacher. Amity, Justa Dream and I would be heading west to a new, beautiful and unknown life!
The yard outside our old house has been bursting with daylilies and other flowers, and I have just been swept away with the beauty of them. My favorite time to take a walk is at sunset time, and the light here comes in from the West and bathes everything in the golden light. It’s actually euphoric to me. I find that instead of being up in my studio painting wax on my fabrics, I’m outside taking pictures all the time, and I love sharing them.
In the afternoon as I’m out taking the pictures I feel a tremendous connection with nature and all that is good in the world. And I hope, when you look at these photographs, you will feel it as well. Sometimes after my walks I come into the house and I feel as if I am dreaming. I stay in this dream state for a while and I find myself being flooded with ideas for batik. Actually, more ideas than I can possibly use.
But I capture a few of these images and start working with some of them. And I thought I’d show you some of the new scarves that I have just now made available. And hope you can see where the inspiration for these scarves came from.
People ask me all the time, “How do you do batik?” I used to try to write summaries, but now I can just say go to my website!
Last Friday, Maria Wulf of Bedlam Farm came and took video of me doing batik. She wrote some beautiful blog posts about each part of the tutorial on her website, fullmoonfiberart.com, and you can read them and watch the videos by clicking the links below.
It is said you have to love farming to keep doing it and we did. It was not a job but a way of life, a ritual repeated day in day out with exciting and unexpected events both good and bad. We loved the animals and loved the land. Here is the memory of our arrival to Amity Farm that took place on Memorial Day weekend many years ago.
My Dad was here in upstate New York with Dick and me to get ready for the cows to arrive on Memorial Day weekend. The progress was slow as we carted away the junk from the house. The time left abandoned had allowed a musty smell to creep in to the house and the smell of rat poop added to the stench. We finally arrived at empty floors and attacked the cobwebs, swept and mopped the floors. We had sawdust delivered for the barn, grain for the cows and supplies for the milk room. Gibson Hardware came to get the milking system up and running, restore the water and replace some of the water bowls. The rusty old gutter chain came to life and showed promise that it would convey the manure out to the spreader parked out back.
We moved on with our moving in and then the lifeblood of the farm ( our jersey cows ) moved in as Memorial Day weekend approached. Dick stayed on the farm with my Dad as I headed back to Massachusetts to return with 15 cows. I helped the trucker load the cows and he headed north with them to the farm while I loaded up lots of our packed things and furniture, all that would fit on the Dodge truck we owned at that time. The trucker returned and we loaded more of our youngsters and then headed north. I would be back to help with milking.
The cows of course were very confused being moved and here in a new barn after a long ride. We had an old stantion barn and quickly found out that the stantions were not small enough to hold the jersey cows. Most farms had Holstein cows as this one had, a much larger breed. The jerseys would go to the stalls with a small amount of grain as the reward and would get more when settled, but could pull out and head off when they finished their grain, some walking off with the machines still on, the milk pails tipping over. The old saying don’t cry over spilled milk was a hard thing to do. My Dad found himself passing out small dots of grain to keep the cows in place until they were finished giving their milk. The Stantions were adjusted over the the next several days. The old bolts were hard to move having been rusted in place for many years.
The next day the same routine took place, I headed back to Massachusetts and Dick worked on the fences and harvesting machines. My Dad made repairs all day to the house and barn. Again I helped load the fifteen cows and packed furniture and household belongings in the truck and headed back to the farm. This went on for five days. Some days there were two loads of animals heading to our farm as we had calves and heifers of many ages to find their place on our farm. Fortunately it was pasture season and the animals were happy outside eating spring grass. We soon found out that the fences had many weak and rusted spots and struggled to repair them as quickly as possible. I became the fence person while Dick began to deal with the crops. It was hard work but I enjoyed working on the fences. I would get help when a larger post needed to be replaced, but strung new wire and used small plastic posts to fill in. I loved being outside and the cows seemed happy to have me near. I came to be grateful for the time spent out on nature with the cows. The fences were moved daily to provide fresh grass and it made an enthusiastic herd to see what field they would be going to today. I loved to watch as they tore into the fresh grass and enjoyed the sounds of grazing.
I could now prepare meals in our own kitchen and we would all sit down very tired to the end of day meals, almost falling asleep at the table. It always seemed that we had barely accomplished a thing there was so much that needed doing. As the weeks went by I learned to look at what had been accomplished rather than what had not, something I still have to remind myself to do.
The dye buckets are finally outdoors and sit on the ground waiting to merge with the wax. The mixing of dyes is time consuming and my least favorite part of the batik process but I feel a release of my creative spirit now that the buckets of dye are ready. It is warmish and the spring spirit is strong with leaves bursting to full leaf on the trees and sweet blossoms all around. The smells of spring are everywhere and the birds rejoice on this day.
My first batik to be completed this year I have titled “Awaken”. I started it last summer and feel so happy that it was finished in time to be part of the LARAC members show at Lapham Gallery, which opens with a reception tomorrow, Friday, May 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. and runs through June 24. (More info here.)
People ask where my inspiration comes from. I have to answer, mother nature, the best artist. As my evening starts to close with the golden light at day’s end I see sun rays falling over the yard and into my dye buckets there by the old tree.
With one big push the calf finally gushed into the world and lay still behind her mom. Being nervous I pushed forward to be sure the nostrils were clear to breath, but before I reached the small jersey heifer (female calf) she shook her head and took the first breaths of life. Birth is a miracle and the value of life starts with breath. We then take breath for granted as our life moves on.
Jaka had a friend visiting and she and her friend had watched the birthing process with concern. “People don’t have this much trouble do they Coasters?” Jaka asked. (Coasters, my pet name). The sturdy jersey cow had taken a half hour to have her baby but Jaka was concerned. We always tried to be nearby to be sure the calf was presented properly for birth and if all was in alignment the best thing was to let the mother have her space to have her calf undisturbed.
Jaka and her friend as well as myself were delighted. A calf was something we looked forward to and we valued these little girls tremendously. I loved studying the jersey cow genetics and spent lots of time planning the breedings. This cow was an old favorite and the sire was selected to match up the productive traits as well as the type of confirmation for longevity and strength.
The Mom set to work licking and talking to her baby encouraging her to come to life and it wasn’t long before she stood shimmering in the sunlight of the day. We let them be alone
Sundance Trilogy, this batik is finally completed, out of the dye and hanging to dry, free in the wind.
Nothing dyed here, except the batik. Here is a large pail filled with a deep red dye, which was the final dye bath for Sundance Trilogy.
Sundance Trilogy going into the dye set solution and being stirred. Here comes Sundance out of the solution, and finally after being rinsed, emerging from the pail and ready to fly free on the clothesline to dry.
Here is a peek of Sundance Trilogy with the wax still on it, waiting to be ironed out.