My online shop has been up and running for over six years now and about three times a year I place an order for plain silk blanks. I use three different suppliers depending on what type of silk I require. All three companies offer plain scarves with hand rolled hems ready for dyeing. The two European suppliers, one in Belgium and the other in Spain, list my favourite silk twill including the classical 90 x 90 cm squares. The third company I use is based in the United States and they sell excellent quality flat crepe pieces.
Earlier this year I ordered 12 neckerchief sized squares and for only the second time in my years of painting silk I noticed one of the scarves had a fault in the weave.
Now you’ve probably guessed I do own one or two scarves that I have painted myself – actually most of mine are over 30 years old and date from the time when I was a fashion/textile student. Amongst my own collection the only red I have is a full 90 x 90 that was originally a peachy pink. It had been a gift to my mother and was returned to me on her death. She was of the generation that often wore their scarves pinned with a brooch and when I came to overpaint the peach with red (peach is not a colour for me) I noticed several of the pin pricks had become small holes. It was good to experiment extravagantly and boldly with red dyes, but I still didn’t have a wearable red scarf.
As you can now see, a faulty blank has given me the opportunity to get the red dye out again and go for it big time. The design is looser and has more swirls than my usual style with plenty of red and a dash of very bright fuchsia. Naturally, this neckerchief with a fault isn’t for sale (mmm, fortunately, it seems it’s fine for me though!).
But, as you may have already gathered, I do like this combination. And indeed, so much so I have painted another similar version on pristine silk. It, too, is the neckerchief size. A size I think works well when you feel like some bright colour, but not too much. An accent.
And, here’s the finished piece now available on my shop.
I never paint the same scarf twice. The combination of my loose, freehand gutta work and then the random way the dyes flow into each other make it an impossibility. However, I do roughly repeat a design in different colours. I usually paint four or five different colourways of the same design to produce a mini collection.
My recent visit to see the Hawstead Panels at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, inspired me to create a design for a neckerchief. The first one in this series based on the pines and wildflowers painted by Lady Hawstead, was a combination of blues and mouse brown.
Having established this basic design and feeling comfortable with the patterned components, I then moved on to a new colour combination.
This neckerchief design is a mixture of techniques with thick, coloured gutta for the pine tree tops, single colours painted into delineated spaces and some resist layering.
I like resist layering, but you have to wait for the gutta to dry. This can be speeded up by using a hairdryer. Resist layering is where you add the clear gutta resist to a pale area in a pattern let it dry, then added a slightly darker dye, then add more clear gutta patterning let it dry and finally another layer of even darker dye. You are left with a more painterly effect and even a hint of brush marks or should I say daubs.
When all the dyes have been added and all the gutta has dried, the neckerchief is rolled in protective paper and steamed for two hours.
The finished neckerchief is photographed and added to my shop.
My painted scarf, Venus Falls Blue, has undergone the layering treatment. And, again the finished scarf is most definitely an improvement in my opinion.
I have kept and uploaded before and after pictures. These show how adding even pale dyes in large overlapping sections across the whole work can significantly change the look. In this case I used pale pink and pale blue.
Obviously, the second layer has knocked the original yellows back considerably.
Even though it is spring at the moment and there are yellow daffodils, yellow tulips, yellow forsythia, yellow mahonia, yellow primroses and even some yellow dandelions already out, I am not actually feeling it for ‘yellow’.
As you can see below, the yellow is slowly disappearing.
And, finally after steaming again, it’s finished and in the shop.
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.
It’s just under two weeks’ to Valentine’s Day. Naturally, there’s plenty of red merchandise filling the shops, but I’ve noticed there’s more choice than ever and if red Valentine’s cards, red flowers, red boxes of chocolates, and so on, are perhaps too traditional, you can now find similar in pink.
Currently, I do have several predominantly pink silk scarves listed on my online shop. However, perhaps a combination mixing it up – pink with accents of deep red is less obvious and slightly more memorable??
Mind you choosing a scarf that is not overtly considered the traditional Valentine’s ‘colours’, say, grey (altogether more muted with the merest hint of pink), could be just the ticket!
Last October three metres of crepe de chine arrived to be painted for a blouse. Three metres will take me about two weeks to complete, but before I begin such a project I take the opportunity to make some samples and often a scarf to establish that I’ve interpreted the brief as expected.
Here are a few photographs as the work progressed.
The finished scarf after steaming showing the colours just that little bit brighter.
And, half way through the three metres of crepe de chine – last autumn.
Fast-forward to February 2016 and the silk has been made up. I’m always thrilled to see my work transformed into garments.
Last week a mid-market catalogue arrived in the post with this cover page. Now the expression ‘Wearable Art’ is extremely flexible and let’s be honest a bit naff. Not for one minute am I saying that some art isn’t so beautiful you want more of it, for yourself, to remind you of seeing it. Most major art galleries and museums now have ‘the shop’ where you can buy all kinds of items emblazoned with reproductions of traditional, formal art. I have to admit to being so enamoured of Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ that I made myself a sunflowers silk top, but I never thought I was wearing his art. Art inspired, yes, but not art.
And, that is what I think about the rest of my wearable work, often art inspired, but perhaps not actually art. In the past, I have created art by painting silk where content has been an expression of a concept and knowing that the piece will be mounted and viewed flat on a wall has both broadened and constrained my approach. And, now we return, as so often, to the divide between art and craft where the flexible boundaries are bent by original intent.
As this year’s spring/summer fashion hits the stores, apparently one of the major trends in both fashion and interiors is ‘painterly florals’. I suppose this will be clothes made from floral textiles where the printed fabric designs were originally painted flowers with visible brushstrokes. I’m guessing it doesn’t mean cloth directly painted with flowers! Shame – as that would be such a boon to us silk painters who often actually paint flowers, sometimes called art, sometimes wearable, but always one-off images.