Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cracked: the sequel

I posted the results of some rice flour paste resist experiments the other day. After those I decided to try similar work using wheat flour for the resist. Working with the wheat flour was noticeably different from the rice flour. Wheat flour paste is harder to mix. The flour has a tendency for lumps, unlike the rice flour, but I managed to get the stuff pretty smooth and about the consistency of pancake batter. It was easier to smooth onto the fabric than the rice flour, which isn't as sticky as the wheat flour, so efforts to smooth the rice flour paste often result in simply picking up sections of the paste on the smoothing tool (I tried my squeegee, the back of a spoon and my finger—same problem with all of them) and leaving uncovered segments. This was not a problem with the wheat flour paste. I made two pieces, one with nothing added after smoothing the paste on so I could just see what kind of crackle I would get. The second had a pattern of stripes made using a bamboo skewer. Here is the first after drying, painting with acrylic paint and then removing the paste.

Similar but less "chunky" than the rice paste piece that was done the same way.

Here's the one I drew in with a skewer. I used red fabric for this one.

I really preferred the boldness of the rice paste pieces over these wheat paste pieces, though these are OK and quite usable. The worst thing about the wheat paste was removing it from the fabric. The stickiness of the wheat paste (would that be the gluten?) made it spread smoothly and stick nicely to the fabric, but also made it much more difficult to remove. The wheat paste dried very hard and was firmly stuck to the fabric which made it impossible to scrape the dry bits off the fabric. It had to be soaked in water, which made it gummy and slimy and not easily dissolved. Added to the gooey character of the wheat paste was the acrylic paint I had painted onto it, which combined with the wheat paste to make a really tenaciously gluey, sticky surface. I ended up laying the piece out, wet, on a flat surface and scraping, with a credit card, the gunky paste off as well as I could and then washing it with soap.

Today I went back to the rice paste to see how it would hold a line drawn into it with a skewer. Since the wet paste does not stick to the fabric, but instead just sits on top of it, I found that when I drew into it, it tended to pull up bits of the paste along the drawn line. Here is what the dry pasted fabric looked like. I used yellow fabric this time.

You can see that the drawn lines opened as it dried. Then I painted over it with multcolors of acrylic paint.

Those cracks and lines were so deep I really had to work the paint into them After it dried the paste was easy to remove. I figured out that most will come off while it is dry, then the residue is easily washed away. Here is how it looked after it dried and the paste was removed.

Eh. Not great. There are some nice areas, but overall I am disappointed.

In this detail you can see that there were areas where the pattern was completely lost. I think this was because in my efforts to get the paint to go down into the lines and cracks I thinned it with too much water and it simply wicked into the surrounding fabric instead of just defining the crackle and drawn pattern.

Each of the pastes has strengths and weaknesses. Now I think I want to try a mixture of rice and wheat flours to see if the problems are compounded or counteracted.


  1. These are fascinating and you make me want to try all the methods!


    Here is a recipe for rice paste resist that is made doe fabric dyeing with a stencil, a Japanese method called katazome. Maybe this will help because the paste spreads quite easily. I took a class from this gentleman several years ago. He creates some awesome fabric art and clothing.

    Can't wait to see what you come up with. It's so nice to see how you work through the process to get the results you want.

  3. Very interesting and helpful. But I wonder why you are using acrylic paint instead of a paint or dye designed for use on fabric.
    I had a class with John Marshall about thirty years ago - one of the best I have ever taken. Love, Del

  4. Jean S.8:46 AM

    There are plastic bench scrapers that bakers and cooks use that would give you a much larger surface than a credit card. I'm sure you could find them at any cooking shop. They're great in the kitchen for picking up chopped veggies etc.

    I like your rice flour resist better too, but you don't know until you try something. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I love this process! THX