Whether the items that we buy are mass-produced or handmade, few of us give much consideration to the way in which they are produced. Watching the process of creating a hand painted scarf, however, gives a real appreciation of the amount of time, effort and creativity which goes into every single piece – because these gorgeous accessories are genuine and wearable works of art.
The work of the artist must, of course, begin with the design. Inspiration might come from any number of sources, such as from the natural world of flowers or animals, or pieces of abstract art. Wherever they may be, designers are constantly searching for shapes and color combinations to work into the unique pieces that they create.
Once the design idea has taken shape in the artist’s mind, he or she will typically sketch it first to get a feel for what the finished product will look like. From here, the design will then be transferred by hand on to the appropriate sized piece of silk, which is first stretched across a wooden frame to provide a flat, wrinkle-free surface. Silk tacks are used to secure the fabric to the frame, and the artist must take great care to adjust the tension so that the silk remains taut. In some cases the silk will be hemmed before the actual design is created on the fabric, and in others this will be done as the final part of the process.
Using either cold wax or other products which act as a barrier for the dyes used to color the fabric, the artist draws the outline of the design. It is not just the very outer border of the pattern which needs to be created, however, but the outline of each block of color, however large or small. In some cases, rather than draw the design free-hand directly on to the fabric, the artist will first draw a template on paper using a black marker and place this underneath the silk to use this as a guide when applying the wax.
When the outline of the design has been created, the wax is then left to dry before the process can continue. Next comes the application of the dyes which are applied using a paintbrush. Working within each of the borders created by the wax, the artist paints on the colors required to build up the design. As the dye touches the fabric, it flows towards the edges of the wax outline and stops. Each individual part of the design is created in exactly the same way and then the background is also colored.
After being allowed to dry once again, the entire piece of silk is then carefully removed from the wooden frame and wrapped in cotton before being placed in a special steaming machine for several hours. This process not only removes the wax outlines from the fabric, but it also sets the dyes. The scarf is then washed to remove any excess dye, with the remaining color being both strong and colorfast.
So, next time you are weighing up whether to go for the factory-produced silk scarf or the handmade one, just consider how much loving care and attention to detail, and how much talent has gone into creating the unique handmade pieces. You will never want to buy mass-produced again.
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