When I last posted about my Edlyn series I had just begun painting the first Edlyn scarf.
With continual reference to my photograph of the Isaiah panel of the rood screen, I began selecting my colour combinations and mixing up the dyes. Then I started painting.
As the colour was added the whole piece began to take shape.
At this stage I felt the painting looked too flat and clean, so with a wide stiff brush I added sweeps of thick, brown resist to give a hint of ageing. Edlyn gold is now finished and awaiting steaming.
Even though some of the High Street shops and supermarkets have had a sprinkling of their Christmas stock on the shelves for a wee while it’s not feeling wintry quite yet. And, as I put back the hour on our clocks this coming weekend for the end of British Summertime, I will remark as usual that it is only a couple of months to Christmas.
The thought always comes as a surprise to me. All of a sudden it’s family arrangements, stir-up Sunday and last posting dates.
I am not sure why I am surprised as Christmas does come round ever year on the 25th December! And, as soon as Halloween is behind us it is the main event on the calendar. This year I will be at Blackthorpe Barn again just outside Bury St Edmund’s, Suffolk, for their British Crafts 2018 weekends.
I shall be there Week Three, the 24th and 25th November. Here is the full List of makers who will be attending and selling their work in the handsome sixteenth-century barn during the course of the six weekends.
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.
Recently, I have been reading about the traditional Japanese skill of Shibori. You’ve probably seen examples around as it has become very popular.
Shibori is a dyeing method that involves folding and binding plain, undyed cloth and then submerging the knotted cloth in a dye bath (traditionally indigo) to produce a patterned textile. It is a kind of tie dyeing and has been practiced in Asia and Africa for centuries. The process has been fine-tuned into a classic textile skill in Japan. Indeed the word Shibori comes from the verb root ‘shiboru’ which means to wring, squeeze or press.
I thought I’d have a go using a plain white, long, crepe de chine scarf. As it was a long scarf I first folded it four times to create a small square which I then pleated and bound into a sausage. I didn’t use a dye bath, but soaked parts of the sausage with two colours, magenta and a chestnut brown. The dyes were then fixed by a short burst in the microwave instead of the usual two hours in my big steamer.
Above is the result after the first microwave fix. I thought there was too much undyed white. It appears I didn’t soak the silk sausage with enough dye. There are some interesting patches of blending, but the whole scarf looks too much like basic tie dye. However, I did think it would make a good background for some overpainting with pale colours. Once I had finished painting the scarf I removed it from the frame, loosely folded it up and microwaved it again.
I found microwaving silk not for the faint-hearted as despite always including a small dish of water, the silk gets very hot indeed and there is a real risk of scorching and even catching on fire! It was a relief to plunge the hot silk into the cold water for a quick rinse.
After the usual washing and pressing here is the finished result.
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!)
Last week I posted about my discovery of a beautiful example of Tudor woodwork, the Parham fire surround. I found the detailed carving inspirational and have developed a motif from one of the pheasants lurking in the carved vegetation.
Here is more of the process shown in a few photos as the design is first outlined and then painted with dye, pink, old gold and moss green, on a handkerchief-sized piece of silk.
I was not convinced about the old gold so it was dropped when I expanded and transferred the design to a larger, 90 x 90 cm square silk twill scarf.
As I recently mentioned June is the month of roses and I do love a classic pink rose – I think that’s why I have been working with pink all this month.
And, the pieces are now ready to be rolled in paper and steamed for a couple of hours to fix the dyes.
Always on the lookout for captivating visual imagery with which to work, a trip to an exhibition often yields a good collection of useful photographs. Mind you it is surprising how often I go thinking I know what I need to photograph and find something else entirely different awash with fascinating and inspirational details just waiting to be worked up into designs for my scarves.
This was certainly the case when I saw the Parham Fire Surround. It is an impressive piece of Tudor woodwork intricately carved with monkeys, birds, foliage and fruit.
This beautiful yet functional example of early sixteenth-century carpentry was on display as part of the Thomas Wolsey Exhibition held at Christchurch Mansion earlier this year. The fire surround came from a superior house in Parham near Woodbridge in Suffolk and would have been installed in one of the principal rooms. The elegant detailed carving indicates the status, wealth and taste of the homeowner.
It also features the specific detail of pomegranates, a visual reference to Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. The exotic quality of the pomegranate motif signifying Katherine’s Spanish origin as well as being a symbol of fertility. By the time of the Tudor period the pomegranate, with its many seeds, already had a long history associated with fecundity. It is poignant that this particular symbol should be associated with a queen whose paucity of viable offspring became her downfall when she failed to provide a male heir for Henry and the English throne.
However, the detail that especially caught my attention was the berry eating pheasants. Pheasants were most likely brought to England by the Romans, but it isn’t until the eleventh century that there is mention of pheasants in the historical record. They were a bird for the nobleman’s table and as the Normans spread their power and influence across England so pheasants became part of the English countryside.
By the fourteenth and fifteenth century they were a common sight and are mentioned as part of ecclesiastical celebration feasts too. At the time the Parham pheasants were carved the records indicate that Henry VIII appeared to have kept a French priest as a “fesaunt breeder”.
Nowadays driving round the lanes of Suffolk it is not a rarity to have to take action to avoid a cock pheasant confidently strolling across the road.
Enough of Suffolk lanes and wildlife and back to the silk which I trialled on a small square of silk, before translating the whole design to a 90 x 90 cm silk twill . . . to be continued in Part II.
The beauty and fun of chiffon is that it is translucent . . . . .
and that means the colours of a chiffon scarf will vary depending on the colours beneath it.
I have to admit when I began this little investigation I presumed that the colours of this particular pink and green scarf would look strongest with the lime green behind but, to my surprise, I think that the navy blue linen really makes these colours sing the most!
Here are all three different linen shirts with my hand painted long silk scarf, Valeria Pink Green, grouped together for a fairer comparison.
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.