A New Spin – on a Former Life as a Silk Painting Artist
Repeating is not all bad. Or perhaps I should say…ReViving is Great!
I wanted to make this post a bit more personal than some of my others, and here’s the story:
Back in the early-80’s there was a style direction called “wearable art.” Well, maybe it was not a really Big fashion phenomenon, but there were a lot of bold designs out there, dramatic patterns, detail, and more. And there was an inkling of the ‘handicraft’ style of how things were made. That was a good thing. And of course, as you know, it’s pretty big right now!
At that time, I became interested in hand painting on silk with dyes. It started with taking a class in batik, which I really enjoyed. That led to adapting a bedroom in our house into an art studio, and with all my kids around (four and soon-to-be-5), I was pretty busy. Nonetheless I figured out a way to take some classes, get the fabric materials (yardage of specially prepared-for-print silks in all types) and the dye materials. Starting with fiber-reactive dyes for the most part, then learning about gutta resist and French dyes, I was immersed. I even had a steamer unit made for me by a sheet metal company….it was pretty low-tech: a metal tube about 5 feet high, about 14″ diameter, and I set it up in a canner (!) on the kitchen stove! Steaming was how the dyes were set into the fabrics.
Of course, each fabric painting (“surface design”) artist develops his or her own special techniques on favorite textiles and other materials from the lightest silks to heavy canvas, and more. Even with the various dye techniques, I never was interested in “immersion-dyeing” but preferred to do all color application by hand painting, even on the large pieces of yardage and on larger areas of the surface than just within outlined, resisted design elements.
As it turned out, for the most part I did a lot of silk scarves and some yardage for other designers in addition to my own use. In the items of clothing that I designed, did the hand painted silks and also the pattern drafting, sewing, and selling. (kids in attendance!)
Over the years I became fascinated with many types of resist dyeing, from batik using wax to ‘arashi shibori‘ (also known as pole-wrapping shibori, arashi (Japanese for “storm”) shibori is a japanese dye technique that results in diagonal stripes that are reminiscent of storm driven rain); plangi (a type of tie-dyeing; and even using the traditional Japanese shinshi (the flexible bamboo fabric stretcher rods ranging from 1/8″ diameter about 12″ long up to 1/4″ diameter about 48″ long, with tiny pins at either end). While most of the materials I used over the years are now in the hands of others, I still have my favorite stencils I’d cut for the work I did on silk and on paper with Katazome (Japanese rice paste resist dyeing).
Along with doing my own explorations in this medium and studying the traditional methods, I developed a class for selected high school art students in the greater Boston area on the subject of traditional surface design of various cultures. Teaching workshops about the history and purpose of surface design along with the techniques used in traditional cultures was fun, and it was exciting to see the high school art students explore these traditional materials and methods on their own workshop projects. These workshops were funded by a grant I was awarded through the Massachusetts Council on the Arts.
Now, a completely new method and a few current examples…
“Liquid Blues” and “Dancing Blues” – square and oblong pillows
Without going into too much more detail about getting from There to Here and Now, I really enjoy remembering these things and wanted to share the story with you. So, to the present, here we are with so many different physical and digital media at our disposal and, even with years of work in the field of architectural color and fine finishes, I’ve kind of come full circle to something that was so engaging many years ago.
What am I talking about? A new collection of ‘wearable art.’
Take a look at some of the exciting ways one design can be made in various items!
One of the aspects of this new work that I enjoy most is that it’s more quick and not messy! That might sound strange to you but, while I completely appreciate the original traditional processes and am grateful to have had years of personal experience working with them, there is something to be said for being able to see one’s inspirations evolve without steaming, removing wax and other resists, and storing yards of fabrics! I love working with digital media in addition to my own physical art work, and combining the two into totally new, unique looks and designs.
Everything is custom made
The images you see here and on the collections page I’ve linked to are all made to order. But if you see something you want made in a different item…a scarf design made as a pillow, for example, please contact me personally using the form below, and I will see about doing that for you.
Especially with the Holidays right around the corner, I wanted to introduce you to these new collections and the story behind them. Even though each piece is custom made, it does take a while so in ordering we just want to consider that and if it’s a gift, let the recipient know they are in for a great surprise.
It’s so tempting to just go on and on adding more images, but I hope you will check the collection out yourself. I will post more, going forward.
Who makes them?
The collections are made through VIDA, a socially conscious company. You can purchase my designs and read the company’s story here.