Friday, May 13, 2011

Beatnik Batik

Charlotte Quinn has never been a city type girl. Quinn, who grew up in Kill Devils Hill in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, spent her childhood living the laid back beach lifestyle roaming the beaches, sand dunes, and woods with her two sisters. Her parents were both artists – her dad a ceramics major who became an art professor, and her mom a sculptor and print maker. The apple didn’t fall far from that tree. Quinn, who earned her art degree from East Carolina University School of Art in 1991, came back to the Outer Banks (where she now lives with her husband, Jim and daughter and son) to make a life of her own and to carve a niche in a unique art form – batik.
Batik is an art medium and methodology for creating design, usually on cloth, by applying wax to portions of the material and then dyeing it, then removing the wax. This can be done to make vibrant colors and incredible designs. Batiks origins can be traced back to Asia, India and Africa. Some say the word is of Malay roots and translates "to write" or "to dot.”
I was impressed when I first saw Quinn’s whimsical batiks on silk. (Hard to believe  that one of Quinn’s art professors told her she would never do much).
I’ve also been inspired by Quinn’s lifestyle on the Outer Banks – one that is simple, beautiful, soulful and artful.  When she is not creating her art, the body boarder is often at the beach with her family.
Below are some musings from Quinn about her art and lifestyle.

Describe your artwork and the process of making a batik.
CQ: My medium of choice is batik on silk. Batiks are a wax resist dyeing technique in fabric.  So basically wherever the wax is, the dyes won't go.  Many batik or silk painting artists are very precise in their drawings/ painting techniques with the resists and dyes.  I am very gestural when using my Indonesian Tjanting  tool ( the tool that holds the hot wax that I use for my drawing onto the silk).  I incorporate the drips of wax in an impressionistic way as well.  I do sketches, what is on the fabric is all drawn freehand.  When mixing my dyes I'm like a mad scientist –  this would horrify my old art professors.  Exact measurements? What is that?  It is time consuming as well as hard on your back.  I work flat with the stretched silk resting on two sawhorses.  I draw with wax onto the fabric. Then I brush my dyes on, and then wait for the dyes to dry and start the process all over until I get to a point where I think the piece is ready to be washed.  Depending on what I pull out of the washer depends on whether or not the batik is to the point I consider finished.  If I don't like it, I start the process all over.  I once had a fairly well known surf artist tell me, after watching me do a demo, 'It would be a lot easier if you worked in watercolors.'
It would be, but I simply love working in this medium.  As for my subject matter of choice, I love doing surf art.  I enjoy my flowers and other subject matter as well, but I get lost in my waves and surfers.  I plan on doing some batiks featuring musicians, skateboarding, stand-up paddle boarding, of course my note cards and  some more watercolor paintings. I'm also thinking of doing some wood block printed T-shirts.

How did you choose batik as your medium of choice?
CQ: Ever since I was a kid I've either drawn or painted, and I took an art class or two in high school, but  I was never into art. Originally when I was accepted  into East Carolina University School of Art in 1987, I was going to study environmental design.  Well that didn't last long. I fell in love with my fabric design and my printmaking survey classes. I couldn't decide between the two so I majored in both.  In fabric design I studied everything from silk screening, to  weaving, to, of course, batik.  I had learned how to sew in high school and loved working with fabrics.  So playing with fabric and designing my own was very appealing.  I loved to draw, and print making seemed like a logical way to mass produce my drawings.   Jim and April Vaughn, owners of Whalebone Surf Shop, liked some of my body boarding drawings from one of my classes, bought the designs and had them made into T-shirts for their surf shops. They were my first real art clients in 1988.  Once I graduated in 1991, and had to buy my own art equipment for silk screening and printmaking, I quickly found out that batiking in my apartment was a cheaper route to go.  I figured at some point I would get around to being able to afford the equipment that I wanted for my  future studio. In the mean time, I grew to love the batiking process even more.  I figured out a shorter more economical way to removed the  excess dyes and wax from the silk, as well as a better way to secure my silk in the framing process.  I was taught to use a staple gun, thumb tacks are much easier to remove if you have to remove the batik from the stretcher for any reason. I also do not frame my work.  I loose so much of the batik when stretching it around the stretchers, it seems  sad to cover up more by framing it as well.  I created my first large wave batik in ‘92 to enter into a local art show (Frank Stick Show).  It won honorable mention. I didn't produce any more surf art until 2004, and even then I stuck to batiking waves because I feared that a surfer might be hard to draw with hot wax. I also knew what other surf artists were doing and mine looked nothing like their work. In 2005, I entered a batik of a guy surfing called "Lay Forward" and won the local beach book(phone book) competition in which the winner's artwork graces the copies of 55,000 phone books. This made me feel like I was taking a step in the right direction. 

What inspires you as a person and artist?
CQ: My family, in too many ways to list. I don't know what I would do without them.  I married Jim Quinn, a surfer  from Avalon, New Jersey.  I have a son, Chris, from a previous relationship.  He's a body boarder like me and his father. Jim and I have a daughter, Savannah, who is  learning how to surf. 
As for my other  inspirations, that changes daily...  I might be inspired by lyrics of one of my favorite bands(because I always have music blasting in my studio), something from a surf flick, flowers blooming in my yard, or a great day spent out in the ocean with my family.

What do you love about the East Coast, especially the coastline? 
CQ:I simply can't imagine living anywhere else.  I love the fact I can find a spot to paddle out where my family and I might be the only ones out.  Even when there's a crowd at some of the better breaks, it's still not really crowded –  not like the breaks everybody visits around the rest of the country.  We used to live
literally right down the street from Avalon Pier (a local spot), so you can just hop on a bike or walk if you want to check the surf, etc. Now I'm a mile south of the pier and in that mile stretch there are at least four or five nice sandbars to surf at.  The travel time is between five and 15 minutes max.  If you want to get "out of town" and go surf, you have Pea Island, S Curves( Turns) and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse all within an hour drive. I also love the local wildlife, watching the seasons change (yeah even the cold gray
winters where the wind howls at 25 mph for months) and the clean beaches.

Below are some samples of Charlotte Quinn’s amazing batik on silk pieces. For more info on her work email her at

 Below is one of Quinn's watercolors:

Charlotte Quinn and her beautiful beach family.


  1. Yes, Charlotte is amazing! What a great talent! It's another great way to showcase the ocean.

  2. due to "technical" difficulties Blogger deleted this post so I re posted. Enjoy!