back-lighting - how does it work?
The Batik process leaves the cloth impregnated with wax, even when most of it has been ironed out. This makes the work translucent like stained glass. Back-lighting brings the Batik paintings to life, showing the richness and vibrancy of the colours to make a stunning centrepiece, or to brighten a dark alcove.
The system of back-lighting is something I have developed over several years. In the early days I had to make deep boxes to house strip lighting but the invention of LED strip has transformed the process. Now I can light the painting exactly how I want it, highlighting some key areas and leaving others dark. The great thing about LED lighting is that, being 12v, it is very cheap to run and doesn’t get hot, so the lights can be left on continuously. Best of all, it fits neatly within the thickness of most frames without the need for a box.
First I choose a frame moulding deep enough to house the LED light strip within the thickness of the frame. The scary bit is drilling a hole through the frame to take the 12v socket, exactly the right size and in exactly the right place. I only get one go!
The original Batik is backed with white cloth to help diffuse the lights and then is stretched into its frame (similar to the framing of textile embroideries) between the front glass and a sheet of perspex.
I cover the back board with reflective film and stick the self-adhesive LED strip exactly where I need it, so I can light the parts of the picture I want to highlight and leave other parts unlit. Even when doing the back-lighting, I am still designing and creating the finished ‘look’ of the piece. With the socket a tight push fit into the drilled hole in the frame, I solder wires from the LED strip to the socket.
The LED lights are powered by a 12v 2amp transformer. The power lead is just over 1m long and can be supplied with a 2m extension lead if needed.
When I am happy with the position of the lights, I fix the back board on with velcro (wonderful stuff!) making it all easily accessible for any repairs – then plug in the 12v transformer – and the Batik painting comes to life.