Mysterious, Magical, Batik

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Batik is a primitive, messy and earthy art form.

Those are three of the reasons Marilyn Salomon is fascinated with the art.

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The unfinished batik Marilyn Salomon is holding is in one of its wax stages. At right: Salomon's work "Locket Meadow."

"Archaeologists have found batik fabric dating back to the eighth century in China," Salomon said.

Batik means wax writing.

"I am a purist. I don't paint on the colors; they are dipped in a dye bath. That is the true Indonesian process," she said.

A simplified explanation of the batik process for a bowl in beige, orange and black on a white background:

1. Sketch the bowl on silk

2. Wax whatever part of the fabric you wish to remain white. Then dye the lightest color first, in this case, beige.

3. Wax to hold beige. Dye orange.

4. Wax to hold orange.

5. Dye black.

6. Iron out the wax.

"I never know exactly what I have until I iron out the wax and it all becomes clear for a minute, before I go on," she said.

She painted galloping horses with what she originally planned to be hills in the background.

"When I ironed it out, I thought no, they are galloping in clouds," she said. So she left it as it was.

"That is why I love batik. It is mysterious and magical. It is unpredictable, like life," she said.

Salomon's batiks are intricate. She uses 20 to 25 colors in one piece of art.

She must plan to dye her light and warm tones first. Sometimes she sketches first.

"A lot of times I just feel really comfortable and inspired, so I'll just start painting on the silk," she said.

Each piece is one-of-a-kind, unless she puts it into reproduction, such as a giclée print.

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Salomon uses a traditional t'janting tool to direct the hot wax onto the silk picture she is creating. "I like to have the fabric loose in my hand, I feel I have more control that way," she said.

Batik fabric is flat, two-dimensional. Yet, Salomon's fabrics appear three dimensional when photographed -- especially when her subject matter is a garment, such as Indian dance regalia.

"A lot of people can't tell, because of the three-D frames that they are looking at a batik, and not the actual object," Salomon said.

Her discovery of batik

She was working as a fourth-grade teacher and studying to become an art therapist when a trip with her husband Chuck to Israel changed her life.

Chuck's cousin was a master batik teacher.

Salomon was eager to learn the technique, but the cousin could only speak Hebrew.

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"Kissed by a Rainbow"

Fortunately, both the women's husbands spoke German.

She would give instruction for me to her husband in Hebrew, he would tell Chuck in German and Chuck would translate to me in English, Salomon said.

In the 37 years since the trip, Salomon has never grown tired of batik.

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