Tag Archive: paraffin wax

Batik painting using soy wax of Old San Juan

Calle de La Cruz

A few years ago, an article appeared in the Fall 2007 edition of The Surface Design Journal about artist Betsy Benjamin and her use of Soy wax in creating batik images. I read the story and put it aside, thinking that I would like to try it sometime.  The opportunity arouse this last fall when I received some soy wax in an order from Dharma Trading Company, my dye supplier. I wanted to experiment with this wax, as I was seeking greener alternatives to mixing my beeswax with paraffin wax.   I tried using the wax in several different projects, the first was with the “Seated in Silence” painting.  I liked the results and kept on going.  In this situation, the soy wax was mixed with the beeswax, so that I would have a wax that was not too runny, and would harden faster.  I tried it again with another painting of a downtown street in Old San Juan:”Calle de La Cruse”.The sky and other ares of solid color did not flex well, and tended to break and create more crackle than I was used to, but I liked the final results anyway.


When I look at the photograph of these people, I try to visualize what color was their clothing?  What colors were their faces?  This is where I start having fun.  I go back to my collection of photographs I have shot of vintage Seminole Clothing, taken from Museum and gallery exhibitions, as well as hand- colored photographs from old postcards to come up with my ideas of what might have been.  I then start drawing lines on the fabric of hot wax, usually a beeswax/paraffin wax combination.  The beeswax allows the resist to remain on the fabric, while the paraffin makes the wax resist a little more flexible, and causes some of the crackle that most people use to tell if the image is a Batik.  Many times I will try to crack the wax on purpose, because I like the broken, random-like effect of the dye permeating the broken lines of wax.  I paint the wax on  with a natural bamboo or bristle brush, as a synthetic brush will melt from the heat of the wax, which is heated in a small saucepan on a portable burner.  An alternate set of tools that I use are either antique or modern instruments called  Tjantings.  These tools come with a wooden or bamboo handle, with the end finished off with either a brass or copper bowl.   There is  a dripping spout from one end, which allows the hot wax to flow.  The spouts of these tools come in many different widths-some Tjantings even come with two spouts.  I use them for fine line work, as they can allow for a nice consistent line, provided that the wax is at the right temperature. Too hot, and the wax flows all over the place, too cool, and the wax won’t flow out of the spout.    The tool can also drip, and leave random spots on the fabric-which I call those “happy accidents”. Keeping a rag underneath the spout t prevents too many drips, but you never know what might happen.