The Origins of Fabric Painting

You look at the wonderful tapestries and marvel at the designs. The painted fabrics take your breath away and leave you wondering, how on earth did they do that? Craftsmen throughout the ages have passed on their astounding skills teaching people for centuries how to paint fabric.

It is said that fabric painting has its roots in Asia and eventually made its way through Europe, India and Africa as merchants traded their wares throughout the ancient world. It was at this time fabric painting techniques were adapted by artisans in each of these countries to reflect the culture of their times.

It’s quite interesting to note that although the craft may have begun in a certain place and time, it did not remain the same but evolved into rather interesting forms. Despite the distance and language barriers, each artisan experimented, expressed and refined their painting technique, adding a unique spin while still embracing the core principles of the fabric painting craft.

Ancient civilizations introduced the painting aspect on human bodies much earlier than painting on fabrics. This practice was later adapted to be applied to fabrics. Fabrics were woven, patterns were designed prior to and sometimes after the fabric had been constructed. Another method used to create this opulent-looking fabric was by dyeing the individual yarns before weaving the fabrics. Today artisans do not limit themselves to dyeing yarns or painting yardage but have taken it a step further in painting directly on the assembled garment.

In this present-day though much has changed, there are still quite a number of elements that remain the same in the fabric painting craft. The intricacy of design, the skill of the crafts persons and the diverse range of materials and colorants used are a few of the more prominent items that remain.

Though previously considered a discipline for a select crew of skilled craftsmen, this art has become somewhat of a well embraced and eagerly sought after profession and hobby. Once there is an interest and the basic concepts and techniques are shared, most people are quite amazed at how easy it really is to learn how to paint on fabric.

Yes times have changed, no longer do people wait to be taught by the Master’s of the field, but they are willing to take a leap of faith and embrace the simple techniques that are shared by many of today’s leading textile artists and fabric painters alike. There’s no more waiting in line or having to travel great distances to glean the vital information necessary to becoming a successful fabric painter. The information is now close at hand and available in many forms including downloadable e-courses and e-books.

With all the tools and resources available the budding textile artist yearns to get active with the paint; it is at this particular point that the fabric selection, design concept and colors come into play. It is important to know what you intend to do with the painted fabric. Will it be purely aesthetic or will it have a particular function? As you have decided this you are now ready to create your masterpiece and add your cultural flair to your fabrics for the upcoming generations to admire.

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