Last summer, I did a whole week of “Artist Study Camp” at my home here in Connecticut. It was geared a little bit more towards older kids, although I ended up with kids ages 5-10. They were complete sponges and took it all in, working so hard and using their new skills to create some stunning works of art. We tried glue batik for the first time and, well… you can see for yourself how amazing they turned out!
I’m one of those people who gets excited about pretty much anything made by small children. I think a 4-year old has the most innate sense of color and design. I wish I could paint like a 4-year old! But often when kids start to get older, they lose some of that freedom of expression. So it helps to inspire them with other artists.
I chose Anna Blatman because I saw her paintings and immediately fell in love with the color and shapes she creates in her work. Her paintings lend themselves so well to batik. To remind you, “batik” is an Indonesian term and technique whereby you use wax to create patterns that resist the dye when the fabric is painted or emerged in dye. We used glue instead of wax but I was actually so pleasantly surprised at how well it worked!
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Supplies needed for Glue Batik with Kids:
~ White cotton fabric (I used an old cotton sheet, make sure you wash any fabric before you start)
~ Elmer’s blue gel glue (you can use regular white glue if you have it, it’s just a little harder to see on the white fabric)
~ Paper and pencil (optional as a drawing warm-up)
~ We used liquid acrylic paints but you could also use fabric paints
~ Brush, glass of water, and paper towel to dab the brush
~ Wire hanger for hanging (optional to spray paint them, I painted them gold)
How to make Glue Batik with kids:
1. Before the students arrived, I printed out some Anna Blatman paintings and taped them to the wall next to their work area. We looked at her paintings before they started working and talked about the lines, shapes, color, and composition.
2. I gave each student a large piece of paper and a pencil to sketch and plan their batik. They needed to have a solid direction before drawing with the glue, because there is no erasing or changing your mind in batik. They could choose to do a floral field or a landscape. I also gave them the option of creating something that was their own interpretation of Blatman’s work. Some of the kids changed their minds as they started drawing, so I’m glad we sketched first.
3. Next I gave them each a white piece of cloth (I pre-cut these to the width of the hanger). With their sketches beside them, they began to squeeze the glue and create lines and patterns. The little ones got a little tired squeezing but nobody gave up! It was definitely a work-out for those hand muscles, but it was also really fun to draw with glue.
4. We let their glue drawing dry overnight.
5. The next day I set out the liquid acrylic paints (some came straight from the jar and some I mixed) and let the kids paint however they wanted. I told them to paint inside the lines, but it’s also ok if the paint goes over the line.
6. When the paint was dry, it was time to wash out the glue! I thought I had taken photos of this process buy I can’t seem to find the photos so maybe I didn’t. Sorry!
But here is how it went…
Washing the Glue Batik pieces:
7. I placed the painted batiks in a tub of warm/hot water (you can also use a big sink or tub). I let them soak for an hour, maybe two. Then I gently scrubbed the glue and excess paint off with a soft scrub brush. There will be paint and glue bits coming off so if you are using a tub, know that you will want to clean the bits out before opening the drain.
8. Once they were clean, I threw them in a dryer with an old towel. Or you can just hang them to dry. When dry, I ran an iron over them to set the color one more time and to smooth out wrinkles.
9. Lastly, I fold the top of the batik over the wire hanger and added some hot glue to seal it closed.
Even today, a year later, I’m still so impressed by the focus, patience, and artistic ability of my art campers. They really blew me away with these batiks. Are they not stunning?
You can also sew your batiks into pillows! (I would make the design horizontal if you are going to do this.)
Have fun and share any other tips you have if you’ve done this before.
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