Extremely irritating

It’s not really surprising, but it is very annoying and it most certainly isn’t flattering. One of my photographs of my original work has been used by a website promoting mass produced scarves.

Last week I was doing my monthly online research and tidy up, and checking my Google Analytics, when I saw this search results page and noticed one of my scarves. Naturally, I had been expecting to see my work on an image search for ‘hand painted silk scarf’, but not my photograph associated with another website, and, to add insult to injury, wrongly describing the scarf as hand dyed and not hand painted.

My photo of my work promoting another site.

Over the years I have been contacted by various people and asked if they could use a photo. I’ve always said that’s fine and mentioned in passing it would be nice if they included a credit for me. However, these people have not only purloined my photo, they are also using my painted scarf to advertise their website, all entirely without my permission and with no acknowledgement or link to my online shop. I did a quick recce of their site and it is a puzzle, oddly changing and without any details of who or where in the world it is based. Something doesn’t feel quite right about it and I won’t be clicking on any of their links again even if they do pinch another photo.

And this is my scarf as it appears on my online shop.

I have worked hard to promote my business. During the past five years, as well as designing and painting the silk, I have spent hours photographing, photoshopping and managing the presentation of my online shop. I have paid for and attended a photography course to improve my product photography and photoshoot skills. I am both angry and disappointed that my work (the silk painting and the photography) has been used in this way and my luxury scarves have been linked to a dubious, mystery website. I suppose this kind of episode is to be expected in the ‘Wild West’ world of the Internet even for a minnow venture like mine and it’s simply a case of shrugging your shoulders, forgetting about it and getting on with business as usual.

Evolution of a favourite motif

Agatha-Pink-2It started as a design worked partly from an aquilegia

and partly from a showy lily. It is an easy motif that flows across the silk.

And it has evolved and evolved into a very loose flowery shape I have used over and over again in various sizes, from the large

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-scarf-Silvia-clover-square-hgg copy
A 90 x 90 cm crepe de chine square with the motif over 50 cm across.

to the small. A pocket square 30 x 30 cm with the motif barely 5 cm across.

Pocket-Square-12-inchAnd I’ve reworked the motif with various colour combinations.

 

To filter or not to filter?

filtersAccurate colour representation, strictly speaking re-presentation, on screen-based devices is, I have now decided, impossible. But before I get bogged down in the philosophical depths of reality and the perception of reality, let’s just say that we don’t all see the same colour in the same way.

Shades of pale blues and pale greens are well-known for instigating disagreements between two people both looking at the same blue or is that green? I selected Colour One and Colour Two below from the pictured scarf and have placed them on different backgrounds – personally I’d call Colour One duck egg blue! Any takers?

Blue-GreenAnd, as any other folk who regularly take photographs will know, the ambient light certainly makes colours appear different. It is also why there are a selection of lens filters (and photoshop equivalents) to adjust for the ambient light.

But one thing I didn’t particularly notice until I was reading about how we see colour is that (and this is blindingly obviously really) the same coloured object will look different against a different background!

This brings me back to presenting my work online using photographs. Silk has a lustre and this lustre varies with the weave. A crepe de chine has a subtle sheen and a flat crepe de chine almost no sheen. Satins and charmeuse silks are so lustrous that they could be called shiny whereas silk twills and taffetas are somewhere in the middle.

Silk-surfaceIn the blurb accompanying my online shop I try to explain that silk looks different in real life not least as the slightest movement makes a lustrous scarf reflect light in an ever changing subtle way. Add this information to the variety of screens people use to shop online and people’s individual perceptions of colour I conclude that accurate re-presentation of my work is not possible.

Hetty-pink-green-box-new copyApplying these observations to the wider world of online shopping in general (and I am sure most people have already realised this) if you are considering buying anything online and a precise shade or colour match is of paramount importance then either ask for a sample, a swatch or an off-cut, or read the returns policy so if it’s not right for you it can be sent back and you will be refunded. One small point unlike big retail brands, ASOS, Hermès and Liberty and so on, most small businesses, crafters and artisans are unable to offer free returns.

two

Experimentation

detail-exptiiiSorting through my collection of fabric I found a piece of silk I painted years ago with a colour combination I no longer like. It was pale enough to be over-dyed so I thought I’d experiment and work boldly with just one colour.

First the whole piece is covered with red and allowed to dry. Then a pattern is painted in a clear resist, allowed to dry and another layer of darker red applied.

It is difficult to see in these photos, but there are hints of the underlying original still present (more visible in real life). I have found it liberating and easy to be bold when working over a design rather than adding colour to a pristine white background. However, I have discovered just how difficult it is to photograph a large area of saturated red. Thankfully the wonderful resource of online photography forums saved me many, many adjustments on my camera by indicating that post-processing after shooting in RAW solves issues of accurately capturing this rich colour.

expt-iii-steamed-and-pressed-copy

Preparing for a show

Books-no-canvases

Now looking at this opening photograph you’re perhaps asking, ‘Is this preparation for a literary function?’ ‘Has Agnes decided to write, make, craft a book about painting silk?’ Well, actually no.

Full-Square-Five-wp

Yes, you’ve guessed correctly – it’s silk painting, but not scarves.  Technically the work is being drawn and painted in a similar way, but it has a different starting point. Initially, wearing my art historian’s hat, I revisited my thoughts and interpretations on the Ranworth rood screen. I reread my notes and thoroughly looked through my 100 plus photos of the beautiful yet gently faded apostles and saints. Then I worked up some ideas.

FS-5-in-progress

After painting a couple of muted and faded pieces I decided to stick with the time-worn old gold tradition but add in some rich crimsons and deep blues. I think these colours would have been familiar to a medieval cloth merchant, however, including so much zingy turquoise might be too 21st century for a 15th-century sensibility.

FS-6-finished

Oh yes and the show – it’s a Parallax Art Fair, in Chelsea Town Hall, London, in February 2016.

 

Responding to the hues of a long autumn

Inspired-by-autumn-brownsIt’s been an odd few weeks. The weather here in East Anglia as with the rest of the UK has been incredibly mild for December. There’s talk it will be the warmest December for over 70 years! Needless to say the garden has a few plants still blooming and some bursting forth completely at the wrong time of year – an early summer hardy geranium is coming into flower.

I’m currently working on a couple of long silk twill scarves and belatedly noticed that I had chosen a palette that was a reflection of the colours outside my studio/office window.

I hadn’t actively looked for inspiration from the garden. I simply felt I wanted to work with rich browns and muddy greens and soft muted pinks.

Unusually it’s been rain, rain, rain

In-the-rain-Agapanthus-NorfolkRegular readers will know that as I’ve mentioned before I live in the driest region of the UK. Summer in East Anglia is renowned for open, sunny skies above a patchwork of golden fields of wheat and barley blanketing the gently undulating landscape.

Contemplation

Not this July, it’s been leaden skies and rain, rain, rain. Last Saturday in the Norwich area more rain fell in a 24 hour period than would normally fall during the whole month of July. Low lying areas are flooding, the fields are sodden and all the delicate flowers in my garden have been bashed to death.

I shouldn’t moan too much as earlier in the month there were a couple of bright days ideal for some scarf photography.

And, early yesterday morning before the showers swept up the country from the south west, I managed to photograph those resilient summer flowers that can withstand a summer downpour.

Summer-flower-garden

Going to the Prom – an English version

Prom-commission-topEarlier this year I was asked to paint some silk that was to be made up into a Prom dress. Now commissions are great, but I’m always slightly nervous about creating the look and feel that a client is expecting. Good communication is essential.

From the outset I endeavour to get a firm handle on what specific colours are required. The kind of tonal range, bright or muted, in a calm or busy design with small or large motifs, are all considered. And, to this end, and being the 21st century, the young client sent me a digital mood board.

lilac orange mood board
A 21st century mood board!

Before I started on the five metres of chiffon I painted a few sample pieces and finally a chiffon scarf as examples of my interpretations for the brief. And, this scarf design and colours, Valeria lilac, was chosen, but with the note – ‘I like it all except the green, please.’

When I’m painting several metres of silk I try to keep the motif sizes consistent but for this piece I still wanted them loose enough to give the impression of the design flowing across the surface.

There is no true repeat, but the finished five metres still has coherence.

Phew - five metres finished and now for the steamer.
Phew – five metres finished and now for the steamer.

Once the silk chiffon has been steamed the colours are fixed and now their actual slightly brighter colours can be seen. This is the point where the dress lining colour is chosen. I think the unique beauty of chiffon, is the way the colours change subtly as they float over different backgrounds.

The richness of the plum in the chiffon was brought out by the darkest burgundy silk lining. I dyed the white habotai lining using an acid dye in a hot dye bath with a vinegar mordant. The lining was rinsed, dried and along with the finished chiffon parcelled up and sent off to the dressmaker. My part done!

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-prom-commission

 

Strange, but perhaps not

Now-for-steamingA couple of years ago I painted some silk for a skirt. Then last week I saw this Saloni skirt featured in a magazine article and I thought that reminds me of a piece of silk I once painted.

I can’t remember what triggered my design idea. Thinking about it now I’m guessing there must have been some harlequin-like styling floating in the ether. After all these classic design patterns never totally disappear and they do come round every few years reinvented in a slightly different form.

And, the finished skirt.

Yellow-patterned-skirt

The 18th century, the 1960s and Anna Wintour

Ophelia-gold-finished-straightPainted silk may be a framed work of textile art hanging on a wall, or a floaty scarf draped across your shoulders, but it might also be an elaborately constructed 18th-century gown such as this beautiful example below. This stunning museum piece has been carefully restored providing quite a challenge for the conservators at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

The silk of this sack back gown was woven and painted in China and then shipped to England where it was made into the dress. The silk was painted with paint which sat on the surface of the weave. A process that allowed for free form decoration, but not the colour fastness associated with dyeing as the surface paint could wear away.

Painting with dyes that soaked into the cloth dyeing the silk fibres became possible following the 19th-century Industrial Revolution and the discovery of dyes that could be fixed with steam and not just using dye baths thus allowing for the fixing of dyed patterns printed or painted. Below left, the 1960s George Halley dress has been hand painted with silk dyes, and the painterly silk of Anna Wintour’s dress is dyed even though it looks like painted brushstrokes. I thought it was interesting to see American Vogue’s Editor, Anna Wintour, wearing such a striking and glamorous dress that has a couture appearance yet a definite ‘arty’ feel.

I have just finished a commission for painted silk that will be made into a Prom dress. Of course, no photographs allowed until after the event so here are some shots of work in progress and the finished scarves painted with dyes!

Blue Mildred goes pink

Pots-of-dyeJust thought I’d share my recent re-working of a design littered with medieval rood screen motifs. This time  the new colour combination is – pink!

Pink-again

I had originally painted a pale turquoise, mushroom and sage version (below left) and after a few sketches decided that a mostly pink with a few old gold highlights would make an attractive combination.

Mildred-Blue-ModelSketching-Pink-version


This scarf has now been steamed and is listed in my shop – Mildred Pink.



Adding-goldFirst-fill-nearly-finishedAdding-distressing-effect