with Jenny O’Leary
on 06 March 2018
Jenny O’Leary gave us an inspirational talk on the various creative ways she approaches her work with batik on tissue paper. Her creative journey started with a choice of paths to follow, ceramics or textiles. She started down the ceramics route teaching the subject for 4 years. A move of jobs meant as well as ceramics, her timetable involved teaching a small amount of “needlework”. Not wanting to have her students employed doing stitching with the end result some way off, she looked around for something which would give a quicker result and thus be more satisfying for the students. She went on a Batik course and from there introduced layered wax into her teaching. In 2005 she finished full time teaching and developed her own work using Batik.
She uses tissue paper rather than textiles for the base of her work, particularly as it gives a transparent effect when wax is applied. Her three main ingredients are wax, which when applied preserves colour, bleach which removes colour and inks which add colours back in. Applying bleach to coloured tissue removes colour but it can be exciting as you cannot predict what colour is left. Jenny likes black because it can leave a pinkish colour. Jenny sprays or brushes her bleach on. Then wax may be used to preserve some areas on the tissue or to stick down scraps of torn tissue. She may use cardboard tubes, plastic shapes etc. to dip in the wax and then make marks on the tissue. She may scratch into the wax to create forms. She may trap lace, newspaper or string in between layers of tissue to create her image. She may even work on both sides of the tissue. Acrylic inks will be applied to add colour, enhance and draw onto the image she is creating. She often crumples her tissue and then flattens it out, finding the inks can emphasise the wrinkles, giving the whole thing more texture. Finally the wax is ironed off. There were many tools and materials mentioned that she uses and there was a sense that she would carry on exploring and discover new techniques and materials to include in her work. She is inspired by the landscape and many of her lovely pieces on display were in this vein.