There are a number of methods for decorating textiles, of course, including tie-dye and batik. Love the latter but, hot wax in my classroom? No way!
I came up with two alternatives that are far more safe and smoke-free. One of these options is way more economical than cold wax, and the other can be cheaper, as well. These resist techniques adapt to many different grade levels. They are clear tar gel and washable clear blue gel glue.
Begin by showing the class some examples you’ve made beforehand—both in-progress and finished. Discuss the way you preserved the white or the near-white of the original fabric. Explain that you painted or applied a resist material wherever you wanted the design to be light. You can talk about traditional batik methods and the cultures that have used them throughout history, too.
Each student needs a piece of cloth. Muslin works well if it’s free of wrinkles. (Some teachers provide large cardboard squares and ask the kids to tape or pin the material to the heavy cardboard, but my classes did a fine job with loose, wrinkle-free fabric.) Cover the work area with newspapers.
If students are using clear blue glue, they can squeeze it directly from the glue bottle. If using clear tar gel, dilute it first and pour into small, individual containers. Add just enough water so it can be brushed on easily. Since it’s a very viscous material, it can even be dribbled from a spoon!
When the resist designs are finished, carefully set them aside to dry overnight. Don’t pour acrylic mediums—even diluted ones—down the drain. Save in a lidded jar to use another day. Wash brushes well with soap and water after using acrylic mediums.
For the next step, I like diluted liquid acrylics or liquid fabric dyes best, but any water-based paint will suffice. Brushing paint onto the dry cloth may create streaks, so you might suggest wetting it first for easier blending.
Paint shirts or aprons are recommended, as well as desk coverings. Remind students to choose colors that are dark enough to contrast with their designs, which will be light.
If your students employed the tar-gel method, their pieces are finished when they’ve been painted and allowed to dry. Those done with clear blue glue and acrylics (not tempera or watercolors), however, can be made to stand out even better after the paint is dry.
Rinse in lukewarm water while rubbing the design with your hands to remove the washable glue. The design will be very distinctive against the permanent acrylic paint.
Up with the resistance—without melted wax!
Middle-school students will …
• design a composition and create a work of art with negative lines and shapes.
• understand the use and meaning of the term “resist.”
• gain experience in painting on fabric.
NATIONAL ART STANDARDS
• Creating: Conceiving and developing artistic ideas and work.
• Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
• Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.
• Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal –meaning and external context.
• Pre-washed cotton or cotton/poly fabric (rectangle about 8″ x 10″ or larger)
• Thinned tar gel in small containers, or washable clear blue glue
• Watercolors, diluted tempera paint or thinned acrylic paint
• Paintbrushes, water containers
• Paint shirts or aprons to protect clothing
• Protective covering for desks
A&A Contributing Editor, Paula Guhin, taught high-school art in Aberdeen, S.D. She is now busy with her art, photography and writing. Visit her blog: mixedmediamanic.blogspot.com.
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