Pongee Silk – the ideal fabric for Batik

from Eva Basile - 7 February 2014

A nice smooth fabric, with a compact yet fluid weave, silky: this is what you need for Batik. When using pongee silk, colors are brighter, more beautiful; the small copper tool used to distribute the wax on the surface of the silk glides perfectly, no errors or dribbles.

Batik: pongee silk processing technique

The lines are precise and even small details come out well. Batik is amazing with its colorful prints, as clear on the front as on the back!

When attending art school I was fascinated with textiles more than anything; felt was a mystery, we didn’t know what it was and serigraphic printing was arduous. Block printing and stenciling – which, to tell the truth, we used to call mask printing – didn’t give stunning results.

That’s why, if I had any free time at school, which happened a lot, I used my time to make Batik: the school that I attended wasn’t the cage that frightens so many kids; for me, it was like going to a party.
So I would go to the library and read l’Etude De La Plante by Verneuil.

Silk book

At school, we had a copy of that amazing book, hand printed in 1908 with gorgeous illustrations, a sort of Bible of Art Nouveau, with dozens and dozens of studies of leaves, fruit, and flowers, all analyzed and interpreted into elegant, linear decorative motifs. Humble, everyday plants like the periwinkle or the cyclamen became borders and modulated or placed patterns.

So filled with what I learned from this book, I would sit and compose my designs for foulards and decorative panels, which, thanks to Batik, I was even able to make. The great thing is that they didn’t seem like school projects but real prints!

The fabric? We used whatever we could find in the big wooden closet in our laboratory.  It was pongee silk, as far as I know, but I didn’t know how to give it a name. For us, it was the silk.  Now I know that it was pongee, having recognized its swishy silkiness.

If you liked this article maybe you would also enjoy A perfect mordanting.

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