Four years ago during the autumn of 2014 I blogged a sequence of posts relating how I was inspired by the Ranworth rood screen to create some silk scarves. Now is that time of year when I turn to looking at all those warmer, rich shades of autumn and feel the need to work with old gold and dusky damsons. Or, as Hilary Mantel so beautiful wrote “wearing theirfallen fruit silks of mulberry, gold and plum” when describing the gentlemen’s clothing at the Tudor court.
Looking at my recent photographs of another medieval rood screen this time in Suffolk, there is much to admire and inspire. Despite its age, over 500 years old, the screen at St Edmund’s, Southwold still has a wealth of medieval painted panels filled with faded colour and I have found plenty of inspiration.
Firstly, I decided to work with a delightful motif repeated on the cloak of the prophet, Isaiah. I copied the motif and worked up a whole scarf design on paper before using three templates to transfer the completed work to a square, flat crepe scarf.
This part of the process is surprisingly controlled to ensure I get balance and movement across the whole scarf. Next it is time to add the specific details, drawing lines and shapes using the gutta resist. This part is a little more loose and random as the resist flows freely and quite rapidly from the applicator pipette.
Finally, once the outlining is finished and has completely dried the softer and unfettered painting can begin. This is the first of my Edlyn Series of silk scarves inspired by the St Edmund’s rood screen.
There is something perennially charming about a jug of fading sunflowers. You can see why Vincent Van Gogh was so taken with them. Famously, he painted sunflowers many times including the seven ‘Sunflowers’ canvasses which were ‘nothing but sunflowers’.Of the original seven sunflower paintings, five are now in museums around the world, one was destroyed in a fire during World War Two and one, amazingly, is still in a private collection. These paintings have been frequently reproduced and used to decorate all kinds of merchandise. I recently spotted these Vans on the Internet.When I was younger I had a small print of this version below.
I copied these exuberant flowers onto a couple of metres of silk which I made into a top.
During the intervening 25 years, I, as well as the top have faded a wee bit, but here’s me earlier this year during the heatwave caught on camera mixing up some dyes wearing my old sunflower silk. It may have been very hot in Ipswich this summer, but nowhere the 45 degrees we had experienced in Egypt.
In the third and final part of my series about painting layers on silk I have turned my attention to the challenges of starting with darker backgrounds. This is a design that I have painted in more than one colourway. The black and pink version sold, but this royal blue and green has had very few clicks and I have decided that perhaps it’s the zingy green that’s the issue.
So adding a little black to some of the royal blue.Then overpainting the greens with a soft, pale brown to give some depth to the leaf design and knock back the green a bit.And, here below shows the contrast between before and after halfway through the second layer.Finally it’s all done and ready for steaming.It appears a little muddy in the pictures, but in real life the finished look is more subtle than the original, plain, strong greens and I think for that reason more effective.More photos of the finished scarf can be seen on my shop. January 2019 update now sold.
In a recent post I uploaded photographs of the layering process. I used green dyes for the new top layer on a square silk twill scarf. Here, is another combination of colours on the same original coloured background, but this time on a long scarf.
I have used the same approach, drawing on a new set of motifs,
then adding the colour. This time I have used the greens and bronzes,
but have changed the whole feel by adding a rich rose pink and a pale powder pink instead of the lemon yellow.
I think the finished scarf is now a more dynamic, flowing piece.
It is available from my online shop. 2019 update now sold.
It is time for changing two or three older pieces of work that haven’t sold. I am happy to say that overpainting previously painted and steamed silk can give some very pleasing results. Here a (boring) pale cream, lilac and blue combination is transformed.
Firstly with a new set of motifs applied.
Then painting in with another range of colours, this time greens and bronze.
Gradually the whole square is transformed. It is a creative process that generates some intriguing overlapping combinations of colours.
This is not what I was going to blog about today, but I need to have a little, or not so little moan. This is how my morning started. Firstly, I received an email from a company asking me if I’d like to get my shop on the ‘1st page of Google’. That is, as you probably all already know, the first page listing web links when you do a Google search. Of course, naturally the listed websites depend on what you are searching for. I would be horrified if you were searching for ‘compost caddies’ and my webpage or image of one of my scarves appeared in front of you. Usually in the mysterious world of Google algorithms and SEO (search engine optimisation) simply typing in a few keywords is enough to generate the right useful links. As with much of life you are first hit with the ‘paid for’ advert links with Google and then, what Google call, the ‘organically’ generated links.
Just now I did a Google search to check if my shop was on the first page (I don’t pay for adverts). The search terms were ‘Hand painted silk UK’, results below.
There aren’t many of us in the UK painting and selling one-off silk scarves and my shop is usually on the first if not second page along with other similar silk artists/painters. However, first thing this morning my search also threw up a link to the ‘Paul Smith’ international fashion business. It was the use of the words ‘hand painted’ I think that triggered the link.
You can call me a nitpicking pedant for this comment, but here goes. The original design for this mass produced scarf was ‘hand-painted’, but this scarf is a printed version of that hand painted work. It is most certainly NOT a one-off hand painted scarf.
Then there was this ‘Painted Garden’ silk scarf.
I think calling this ‘Painted Garden’ is probably more acceptable especially as it is then described as a print silk square scarf. I guess what is happening is in these days with much textile design work being produced digitally that printing a design from an original hand-drawn or hand-painted artwork is now considered unusual enough to be a selling point.
However, I can’t help but feel that the marketing people are implying unique, one-off and hand painted in an attempt to make mass produced products somehow more wholesome and authentic and therefore deserve their ticket price of £110. You can tell this has annoyed me rather a lot. Genuine hand painted silk scarves take hours of work and every single scarf is unique. Sorry, rant over, but here is a photo of the real thing, an unrepeatable, hand-painted silk scarf. (Most certainly not licensed for digital printing either!)
It has been awkward finding appealing interior spaces and decent natural lighting for a scarf photoshoot this past winter and the following grey, grey spring, but, eventually, I have some new photographs for my online shop.
It always takes longer than I think to start achieving interesting shots and then there is that moment when you capture somebody’s ‘selfie business’,
and, of course, there’s always capturing the odd rather strange scary expression – at least one if not more of those!
But if you were wondering what the ‘Back from Narnia’ title was about, well, it was wardrobes. In particular, it is about a partially dismantled Edwardian wardrobe (still, as I write, in pieces) that provided an obvious gateway between 21st century Ipswich and Narnia.
As we approach Mother’s Day (here in the UK) I have been lucky once again to be selected by UK Handmade to have a couple of my scarves featured in their Spring Showcase.
As you may already know I take all my own product and publicity photos. I have been photographing my own work for four years now, but try as I might I still can’t get my head round photographing in advance, in preparation for the next season. I always marvel at the wintery Christmas television adverts that were most likely shot in high summer.
The best I can manage is to create the feel of a season. For spring this year I initially had a go at working with yellow, but in the end I have chosen pink for the main colour. I’m going all out with spring pink. In fact I have even rearranged my shop homepage to start with all the pink and mostly pink scarves. Who doesn’t love a little double pink cherry blossom?
Last autumn I felt like renewing how I approach my work. Nothing major, but some adjusting here and there, some tweaking and a few small changes in how I create my silk pieces. I have been developing using some of the more regimented medieval motifs into less restrained pieces, combining the stylised forms with looser more naturalistic ones.
Then when introducing the colours I started by wetting the silk with water first and then adding the dyes in a painting style more similar to working with watercolours.
The results – after steaming to fix the dyes – were okay. I was happy with the outcome using this type of medium weight flat crepe and this scarf is now listed on my shop.
Like many people I can remember being bought a scratchy woollen school scarf as a child. Worn once and never again. No winter scarves for me as I discovered that all wool next to my skin brought me out in a fine rash. Unfortunately the message didn’t reach my grandmother. One Christmas she gave me a beautiful, hand-knitted, wool tam o’ shanter from the Isle of Arran. I dutifully wore it for a photo and then popped it out of sight.
A few years later and another Christmas she bought me an oatmeal, cable knit pullover this time made from synthetic fibres. It was my favourite sweater and I wore it until the cuffs came up to my elbows as I gradually grew out of it.
Another Christmas and another generation and my daughter received a woolly looking top, but by then knitted woollens had been superseded by fleeces.
And finally regarding wearing woollen scarves. Sometime in my twenties I acquired my first silk scarf and soon realised looping it a couple of times round my neck and trapping air made a silk scarf as warm as any synthetic winter scarf.