Friday, February 6, 2015

The Toothpaste Batik Shirt

So if you've read this blog for a while, you've probably seen a post or two or three about the fabulous (and easy and terrific-smelling) technique I call 'toothpaste batik'.  After using the process with students, I discovered I enjoyed the technique so much, I've been using it myself.
I had this white shirt (above) that I bought a few years back, on a sale rack.  I loved the idea of a nice white top, and I liked its shape, but I barely ever wore it.   It was just SO white.  The cuffs got dirty the minute I used a pencil for anything, and I was always leaning against something painty or dirty.  I couldn't keep it clean, so it was not practical at all.  And if I put it on with a pair of black pants, I felt like I looked like a waiter or or  hostess or something, with the black slacks and crisp white blouse with a pin-tuck bib area.  So it hung in my closet almost completely unworn.  Until a couple of weeks ago, when I had an inspiration.  Here's a pic of me in the shirt, maybe 4 years ago. 

I washed it out to remove any fabric softener, and then stuffed the insides with cardboard.  I mixed up a batch of toothpaste resist, which is basically a 50/50 mix of a white toothpaste and an aloe vera lotion, in a squeeze bottle.  Actually, I presume any creamy lotion would work just fine with the toothpaste.  I do not measure for accuracy; hey, when you are using silly materials like toothpaste and hand cream to make art, somehow it doesn't seem to matter exactly what the proportions are!
 Then, I used the resist and drew a bunch of spirals, paisleys, leaves, wavy lines, and all sorts of doodle lines on the front and sleeves of the shirt.  You can see what it looks like with the resist on it, above.  The resist has to dry overnight before painting.  It will feel a little sticky/rubbery when dry. 
 I searched for fabric paints that would be soft, and I found Dye-na-Flow (above) at Jo-Ann Fabrics with a 50% off coupon.  They sold them in a set of basic colors, which are mixable, but I think I'd like to find them sold individually and in bigger bottles.  I ran out of yellow and white and needed to buy another whole set just to have enough yellow to finish the project!  (Good thing I had another coupon!)
These paints are really terrific - they are very fluid, totally mixable, and water-soluble, and vivid.  Above is what my shirt looked like in progress.  It was challenging getting into the gathers and pleats, and all the details of the sleeves. 

When I finished the front, and then the sleeves, I was tired of the whole project, and wanted to use my work table for other things.  So I decided not to do toothpaste on the back, but instead to just jam it full with color.  Here's the finished back.
By the way, when the paints are wet, you can add salt for really cool effects, just like you can with watercolors. I used salt here and there all over the shirt.  Below is a detail of salt effect.
When the back was complete, I let the whole project sit for another day to set.  
Then, I heat-set it with an iron and rinsed out the toothpaste resist.  I finished it with a gentle washing.  And here's what it looks like now.  (You can compare to see how much it faded):
And here's a couple more views of the finished shirt:
 
 If you will be in NOLA for the NAEA convention, perhaps you'll see me wearing it there!
By the way, if you want to see what my students have done with the toothpaste batik process, there are several posts on the blog for you to see.  Either use the labels at the bottom of the blog and click on 'toothpaste batik' or use the search bar on the right, and type in 'toothpaste batik'.  There's lots to find both ways.  And if you are reading the blog on a phone and can't figure out how to do this search, you'll need to click where it says 'view in browser' (on an iPhone it will say 'view in Safari').  Then you will see the complete blog, not just the posts!  If I've confused you, and you have no idea what I'm talking about, come to the elementary blogging carousel on Friday at the NAEA convention, and I'll be explaining it to you then!

A couple more quick points - this is the same process you  may have seen elsewhere using Elmer's blue (washable) glue.  I have tried using the glue as a resist, and found it very difficult to wash out.  I definitely prefer the toothpaste mix.  You may test and discover that some hair gels will also perform similarly as a resist, but they don't flow as nicely out of a squeeze bottle.  The magic of the toothpaste/lotion mix is the ease.  I love authentic batik, but really, this is so much simpler and safer than dealing with melting hot wax, fumes, and then having to iron all the wax out when complete.  For now, I'm a toothpaste batik addict, and I'm thinking about maybe finding a silky scarf for my next project.

25 comments:

  1. How fun! I think I'm going to have to try this. Love your blog... I'm a high school art teacher in up state NY and I think my students are going to love this. Thanks so much for sharing, ~ karen

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    1. Karen if you do something like this with kids, it would have to be a MUCH smaller scale. This took a LOT of time to paint - many hours. With students I'd try scarves, or tank tops maybe, but not something with all the fabric this had. Plus, like I said, I used a significant amount of the dye/paint. And storage can be a problem since you can't stack these and the resist remains tacky throughout.

      By the way, I'm in NY also, in the lower Adirondacks, but am familiar with your part of the state since my son went to UR. Next year the NYSATA conference will be in Rochester - perhaps I'll see you there.

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  2. Beautiful and very colorful blouse ;-)
    Pozdrawiam ;)

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  3. Love this idea...and your shirt! I have lots of Dye-na-flow left over from a silk painting project a few years ago. That was funded with a grant, but I've never used up the paint because I couldn't afford more silk. My art club kids could bring shirts to paint with this technique. If you haven't done it already, check out Dharma Trading Company for the paints. Prices are reasonable and there is more selection that at the local stores.

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    1. Charmaine, as I said above, shirts like mine, with sleeves and gathers, are extremely time and space consuming. I recommend your art club kids stick with t-shirts, tank tops, or scarves. I believe the Dye-na-Flow can be used on all sorts of fabric, natural and synthetic.

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  4. Awesome idea!! It looks like a perfect project for my daughter and her friends. I love doing art on the patio (in the summer) with the kids, I will pin it to save it for later!!! Thanks for the inspiration!
    Denise

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    1. Thanks, Denise. But again, I can't emphasize enough the significant amount of time this took. It was not 'once-and-done'. I painted on it for several hours at a time, on several days. Keep it simple for kids or you'll all get frustrated.

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  5. This is the PERFCT shirt to wear when you are presenting at conventions!!!

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  6. I love this and can't wait to try it!

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    1. So many new toothpaste-batik converts! I hope you enjoy it too!

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  7. Looking forward to seeing you and your shirt in NOLA, Phyl!!!

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    1. You bet! I'll be wearing it - Thursday - or Friday - or Saturday...

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  8. Oh, Phyl...that is gorgeous!!! I love white tops too, but my career tended to ruin them quickly.

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  9. This is so awesome! I just did a test toothpaste batik on a bandana and I'm so pumped to do a batik lesson with my studio art students!

    A question about heat setting: I didn't heat set before rinsing out the resist and the dye colors are still quite vibrant. I plan on heat setting the dye before washing the piece with detergent. When you do heat set with the resist in, do you end up melting it a bit?

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    1. Samantha, good question. The heat setting did not blur or affect the toothpaste resist at all. I just used an old cloth under so I didn't ruin my ironing board cover! My colors did fade a wee bit, but that's a problem with the strange fabric of this shirt, I think.

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    2. By the way, I did the heat setting because it said to on the bottles of dye!

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  10. I too, cannot wear a plain white shirt. It's too much pressure! (lol) Anyways, I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. I've done lots of versions of batik with students, but never a minty one. Glue, flour and water, actual batik wax, crayons and now toothpaste. Why not? You gotta love it.

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  11. Will 100% cotton work or would a 50/50 blend work better?

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  12. This is freaking awesome!! I love it!!

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  13. Is there a way to keep the colors bright?

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    1. Karen, the dye colors are very bright, but her fabric on this shirt has an odd finish on it, which I think prevented the colors from staying as bright as when I first painted. But I think otherwise they'd stay bright!

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