Experiment With Potato Starch & Dyes

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday! Mine was good, the highlights being my mom and sister visiting for the week, and singing with my chorus (Concert Singers of Cary) and the NC Symphony in 3 Holiday Pops concerts.

I recently tried my hand at using potato starch as resist in silk painting. You use it like wax. It's available from Pro Chemical & Dye, and you can find instructions on how to use it here. You paint a starch solution on the silk and let it dry. As it dries if forms cracks. When you paint dye over the starch, the dye seeps into the cracks and forms a organic, lacy pattern.

This is silk with potato starch painted over the whole piece, dried, cracked and then dyed. Unlike wax, which doesn't absorb any dye, the starch does absorb the dye, so what you're seeing here is really dyed starch - the silk will only be dyed in the cracks. I've scraped off some of the starch in the lower left corner; most of that heavy color is gone and you can just make out the fine lines of the cracked pattern.

Deborah Younglao silk painting with potato starch
Here's the whole piece with the starch scraped off and the silk steamed to set the dyes. The bands of solid color are where I didn't paint on any starch at all. The potato starch is really a pretty good resist - there is good demarcation between the resisted and non-resisted areas. . But I was disappointed in how light the colors in the cracked pattern are; my lesson from this is that the dyes have to be very intense for the lacy pattern to show up. When you're painting dye on the starch, it's really impossible to know how much dye is actually getting through the cracks and onto the silk, and how much is in the starch only. Did I ever mention that silk painting can be very unpredictable?? ;\

Deborah Younglao silk painting with potato starch
Even though much of my color was lost, I absolutely love the patterns and textures formed, which you can see better in these detail shots. They are quite different from the type of patterns formed by cracking wax - more nuanced and finer. I'm going to have to incorporate this technique into a painting some time soon! A big thanks to my silk painting buddy Marcia Ferris, who showed me this technique!

Deborah Younglao silk painting with potato starch detail

Deborah Younglao silk painting with potato starch detail