Students’ faces, knees and elbows are covered with splotches of vibrant colors by the time batik and tie-dye May Term class concludes at 4 p.m. in the MacCollin Classroom Building at Morningside College.
The pungent smell of melted wax permeates their old T-shirts and baggy shorts as they tidy up their work stations. Large sheets of paper display designs of current and future batik projects, which take a considerable amount of time to completely finish.
After only a few days into the class, junior Joelle Kruger has already created the largest piece among her fellow students so far — a globe-like work featuring the four cardinal directions on a compass all dyed with striking blue colors.
She created the layout using a tjanting, a tool — almost like a pen — used to apply wax to a surface, which in this case is fabric. Kruger then dyed the piece to her liking.The wax resists the dye, revealing her intended design after it has been fully ironed out, melting away the wax. But getting off all that wax on such a large piece is no easy task, especially if one is eager to see an immediate final product.
“At first it feels like a lot of work where you don’t see many results,” said Kruger, “and then all of a sudden you start seeing them. I like the way it’s turning out. It’s been a lot different than I thought it would be, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Adjunct instructors and local artists Amy Foltz and Steve Haas help teach the batik and tie-dye course. Both are very familiar with the time-consuming process involved with batik artwork. Foltz, who is teaching the class for the third time at Morningside College, learned the technique when she attended high school.
“Students decide how big they want their piece to be before they hem the fabric and make it presentable,” said Foltz. “Then they wax it, dye it, let it dry, wax on, let it dry — they do this over and over until they’re done or happy with the piece.”
The class was introduced to the method by creating their own batiked apron, which almost every student was wearing to avoid splashes of dye getting onto their clothes.
Foltz also teaches students different dyeing processes for them to implement in their own work, as well as how to paint on the fabric to include both hot and cold colors without browning the finishing product.
The course will last for roughly three weeks. During that time, students must help prepare the classroom setup, complete at least four works of art and clean up after themselves. The class is unique as it takes place in many different areas in the MacCollin Classroom Building.
One location is reserved mostly for waxing and dyeing. A few others are used for drying out pieces, which are hung on wires with clothespins while a plastic covering catches the dribbling dyes. As a result, students are almost constantly moving from place to place.
“We’re all over this building,” said Kruger. “Everyone is sore at the end of the day.”
But it’s a worthwhile process, she added, especially when students have a chance to show off their work during an art show starting May 29 at Vangarde Arts, 420 Jackson St. Out of the 20 students enrolled in the class, Foltz estimated nearly 80 works of art could be displayed.
In the meantime, Kruger will concentrate on her works in progress and enjoy every step of the process. There’s nothing like taking out your piece after its last round of dyeing, she said, particularly after the tedious planning and waxing procedure.
“You have to do a lot of thinking in order to get all the cracks in it to make it look so cool,” said Kruger. “Really, you just have to be careless and mash it all together. It’s more magical than I thought it would be.”