Of all the products Dharma carries, resists and guttas are the most technically difficult to use successfully. One of our most successful silk painting customers calls them the Achille's Heel of Silk Painting!
When you choose to try the Serti technique of silk painting, you must be aware that applying gutta or resist lines successfully takes practice and experimentation with different products to learn which one will work best for you. This is an art form and one should not expect to have perfect results without practice. In addition, as one changes fabrics, dyes, paints, or attempts new techniques, changes in the way the resist behaves may also occur. Painting on the dyes or paints and fixing them either by steaming or heat setting are the simplest parts of the process. The real difficulty lies in the successful application of the gutta/resist. Your success depends on your skill and particular circumstances in addition to the characteristics of the type of resist you choose:
- Your choice of silk (weight and weave will dictate how easily the resist can penetrate the fiber)
- Weather conditions where you paint (dryness or humidity); sometimes the gutta will seem to never dry, staying tacky. The only solution we have found to this is dusting your final piece with a little cornstarch, talc or baby powder at the end.
- Dexterity of application (steady hands)
- Even pressure on the applicator bottle, plus no bubbles in the resist will ensure an even flow and good line width. If the line width is too thin or has gaps in it, that will allow the dye or paint to break through. To avoid bubbles, never shake resist if it has separated. Always stir. Popsicle sticks or wood skewers are great for this.
- Water-based resists don't always "hold" the line as well as true rubber/solvent-based Guttas, but don't involve the fumes and dry cleaning or shipping hassles because of flammability. Some of the newer ones are now quite good, like Resistad and Jacquard's newer Removable Waterbased Resist.
- For wearables on which you want to use a colored resist that stays in the fabric, solvent based Guttas have less feel than acrylic based water soluble resists, but cannot be dry cleaned, and gold and silver eventually flake off a lot of the metallic looking stuff.
- Is the resist too thick? It can be thinned...very carefully! Add a drop at a time of Gutta Solvent for rubber-based Guttas (or water if using water-based resists) to get it to the proper consistency. Don't thin the whole bottle, but just what you are going to use. If you over thin it, you can then add more Gutta, or resist. Resistad is a concentrate, and you MUST add liquid before using.
- Is the resist too thin? This causes the lines to bleed out and separate, even when you are using the smallest of tips. Especially with solvent based guttas, it could have gone bad, especially if it is old or not been stored in a cool dark place. The only thing that might work is letting it evaporate just a little - in a well ventilated place of course. If that doesn't work, you have to throw it out and get a new batch. The average shelf life of true solvent based guttas is only about 6 months, less with gold, silver and black. Refrigeration and darkness can extend it. France stopped making their famous Guttas because you never knew how old they were when they reached the U.S. or other countries. Jacquard products are now the only company that makes real Gutta available to the U.S. market.
Steam setting, using a fixative, or heat-setting will have different effects on washability and texture. There are some issues you might encounter when using these methods:
- Guttas and water based resists may become sticky after steaming. You will need to dry clean clear guttas to remove, or wash out clear water based resists. Colored resists are not supposed to be removed, and the only solution suggested for this so far is a very light dusting with corn starch, talc or baby powder.
- Real Gutta was normally always removed with dry cleaning solvent. The old nasty kind that is now illegal. Now, not all dry cleaners will take pieces to remove Gutta. We suggest checking with your local dry cleaners first, as removing Gutta yourself with solvents is much too hazardous, and then how do you dispose of it all safely? Ideally, find a dry cleaner who will do it by the load or by the lb. - suggest that they could put your pieces in by themselves at the end of the day before they clean the filters and that you don't need the pieces finished and pressed as you have to wash them again anyway, and it will be cheaper and they might be more amenable to doing it. Make sure you have fixed and removed any excess dye beforehand or they will never help you again! Also, we are not sure yet if the new more environmentally friendly cleaning fluids that dry cleaners have switched to these days are as effective. If anyone has figured this out, could you please call us!?
- Metallic or black Guttas cannot be dry cleaned as they will flake off and they are best used on wall hangings that will not be handled, folded, or twisted. If used on wearables, make sure the washing instructions are for hand washing, and NO DRY CLEANING.
- Water based resists may be difficult to wash out after steaming, especially if you have hard water. (try to rub them off while washing but they may not come out completely)
- Due to the risk of it melting all over your iron, using rubber/solvent-based Guttas with heat-set paints like Dynaflow and Setasilk is NOT recommended - use a water based resist with those products.
You'll need to learn what these products can and cannot do and design your artwork and choose your materials accordingly. This basically means that Guttas and water based Resists are products you have to practice with to understand their inherent difficulties, to accommodate yourself to their limitations and ultimately to choose, or not, to deal with them. They are what they are.
Which brings us to this, if you are having trouble with your Gutta or resist, it does not necessarily mean that it is old or defective. All the of the resist products we sell have been in use by artists for years and are considered the best choice by those who continue to buy that particular brand. We suggest that you buy Guttas and Resists in small experimental quantities until you find the one that works for your particular technique. Take classes, buy books, talk to other silk painters. All art forms have a learning curve!
The bottom line is we can’t accept returns for Guttas or Resists because "it did not work". Nor can we accept responsibility for your choice of materials. While we try to be as helpful as possible (we are much happier when you are happy), we can’t teach master level silk painting over the telephone nor can we guarantee success in your particular circumstance. We have some great books and DVDs that will really help you with choices and techniques and there are artists out there who do teach classes, especially some of the authors of our books. You can usually find these classes on line but they are expensive and usually involve travel.