Batik artist Cindy Wilson begins each day by seeking new inspiration in nature. After eating breakfast, she strolls around her property in the idyllic farming community of Elkton, Florida, just outside of St. Augustine. She takes time to quietly observe the daily changes nature brings to the trees, wild grasses, birds, and insects.
“From childhood I have had a strong connection to nature and wild places,” she says. “I love the irregularity and uncontrolled aspect of nature, as well as the patterns and shapes that occur naturally.”
In the Studio
After her walk, Wilson ascends the stairs of a barn on her property and steps into her studio. She plugs in her wax, checks her indigo vats, and settles in for a long day. When she gets “particularly engrossed in a batik,” she can work non-stop until 4 p.m.
She usually spends 25-30 hours a week in the studio. Her love of nature and new challenges pushes her forward as she creates each new piece.
Her most recent challenge and interest has been “creating batiks with indigo dye,” she says. “These batiks have pushed on my interpretive skills, an area that I had been feeling restless about. Rather than going out and taking photographs of bits of nature that catch my eye, and recreating that moment in batik, I wanted to push beyond that to make it more expressive. I think indigo has given me a direction to explore my interpretations more.”
Magnolia Blossoms was an early experiment with indigo. It has influenced all of the indigo batiks that have come after it. Wilson explains the process behind the piece:
“Technically I learned how to achieve subtle shade differences, but more importantly, in the middle tones of the leaves, I noticed that the first suggestion of a leaf might be enough, and as I intentionally left out details and worked my way into darker dyes, there was a drama that emerged, and almost a sense that it was nighttime…I have been pushing this idea of objects emerging out of the darkness, and also now the effect of early dawn or dusk. I like the combination of lack of detail and color.”
Exploring Nature Through Batik
“The process of batik as fine art is a bit of a rarity,” Wilson says. “Technically the level of detail and range of colors I achieve with it separate me from the traditional batik styles.”
Before becoming a full-time artist, Wilson worked in graphic design, which heavily influences her compositions and the way she uses color. She also took a number of fine art classes in college and has done a lot of pen-and-ink drawing, participating on and off in a figure drawing group over the years.
Several years before she retired, Wilson’s husband gave her a unique birthday gift: a one-day workshop from a local batik artist. What began as a fun outing with friends morphed into a passion, and by the end of the day she was in love with the process. She immediately ordered supplies, bought a book, and began experimenting.
“Over time, I became proficient in mixing dyes and somewhat controlling the wax, I became intrigued with how colors interact on the cloth with previous colors, and I shifted my process to attempting to build all my shades and colors on the cloth with primary colored dyes. There always seems to be another challenge that grabs my attention. And that is what pulls me into the studio each day.”
In February, Wilson was the featured artist at the Butterfield Garage Art Gallery in St. Augustine. She hung her indigo work for the first time, and clients received it enthusiastically—half of the pieces sold over the course of the month.
“I think there is a sensitivity to my work that viewers are drawn to,” Wilson says. “People that buy a batik will often comment that it reminds them of a place or feeling they have experienced.”
To see more batik creations from artist Cindy Wilson, visit www.cindy-wilson-batik.squarespace.com.
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