In a nutshell, silk painting is where you take a piece of silk and paint a design onto it. The Estes Park craft cabin had tons of designs they had created that you could choose from, or if you were really ambitious you could draw your own. Being not-so-artistically-inclined in the drawing realm, we opted for an abstract design they had on display (abstract so that, as Nathan said, if we messed up nobody could tell).
Once we chose a design, we got our piece of silk (11"x60" I believe) stretched onto a wooden frame, and we began tracing the design with this liquid wax substance called resist.
Drawing the pattern with the resist.
It was a two person job. Well, it could have been one person but it went much faster with two...
Here it is about a third of the way into it. Nathan's side is on the bottom of the picture, and I'm working on the other end.
There are a few different techniques you can use during the painting process, but it's pretty straightforward for the most part. You can either put the fabric dye onto dry silk for a deeper, richer color (but it's harder to get it even), or get the silk wet first and then paint it for a more even paint job but not as deep colors. We mostly did wet painting, because that also allowed you to do cool techniques like making gradients where the colors shaded from one to another.
We kind of went crazy with gradients. But they were really awesome. You can see my sister's in the background too; it looked absolutely amazing when it was finished!
Once it dried, the silk painting guys washed out the resist for us, and it was ready to display!
The lighting is not doing the colors justice at all. Oh well. They're much more vibrant in person.
I also want to add that 3 of my nieces and sister also made silk paintings of their own, and they all turned out lovely. I wish I had pictures of the final products for each of them to show you how talented they all are.
So final verdict: I'm glad Nathan convinced me to do this with him rather than make some jewelry, which I do at home anyway. Hooray for trying new things!