Modern day men and women are not the only ones who like to adorn their clothing with stunning colors and designs. In fact, for almost as long as humans have been wearing clothes they have chosen to decorate them with colorful and individualistic patterns. The beautiful art of painting on silk is a tradition which goes back for centuries, but even today there are still craftsmen and women who produce the most exquisite works of art using silk as their medium to create a whole range of clothing and accessories.
Although different sources show different time lines for the earliest production of silk in China, the art of painting on silk can be traced back to the 2nd century AD. Since then, silk as a ‘canvas’ has been used for everything from portraits, paintings and wall hangings to all manner of home décor furnishings and, of course, the exquisite hand painted scarves which are still produced today in the time-honored fashion.
Whilst the artists of yesteryear only had dyes made from plants at their disposal for creating their designs, of course nowadays artists and designers have a much wider range of special purpose coloring mediums to choose from. The paints and dyes which are used for coloring silk have developed much over the years, but it is the dyes which offer the ultimate in luxurious appeal. Whereas silk paints can be felt on the surface of the fabric, dyes become part of it, so that none of the natural softness of the material is lost.
Of course, more recent times have seen printing processes become established which have made the coloring and patterning of all types of different fabrics easy and inexpensive. Even many of the silk items which can be found in stores today are mass-produced and printed with silk paints. The very finest examples of silk goods, however, are still those which use the traditional methods and are created by genuine artists using painstaking techniques.
The production of women’s hand painted silk scarves is a long and time-consuming process which involves a number of steps. First of all the artist must create a unique design for each piece and then either create a template of the outline of the design or apply the outline directly to the tightly stretched silk fabric using wax to set boundaries for each color which is to be introduced into the material. Using a variety of painting techniques to create blocks of color, shading and other types of effect, the dyes are applied using a paintbrush to create these wearable works of art, and then the scarf is finished with a process of steaming to fix the color and remove the wax borders. Finally it is washed to remove any excess dye, with the remaining color able to withstand years of hand washing without fading.
While modern technology most certainly has much to offer in many areas of life, sometimes there is simply no way to improve on traditional methods without interfering with the quality of the finished product. Today’s hand painted silk scarves, although very much modern day accessories which are loved by elegant women around the world, are still at their most exquisite when produced using ancient techniques.
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