May 10 2017 ·
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Blog, experiments in marbling, marbling, process ·
Several years ago I took a wonderful marbling workshop during which I was introduced to the Japanese marbling technique of Suminagashi. I bought the set of inks and Photo-Flow but never pursued experimenting with them until now. What I remembered was the sense of almost meditative calm of the process. Beautiful in its simplicity, these complex patterns are formed with only tap water, two paintbrushes, and some ink. I was playing with some different formations and densities; you can keep the patterns more open with fewer concentric rings or wider clear rings, or you can make them almost solid by layering many, many circles. The slightest disturbance of the water surface caused by hand movement or even your breath will send the ink patterns swirling and moving, creating new and unexpected contours. I obviously haven’t done this before – my circles are jagged and uneven, I jostled the water way too much and lacked the control needed for clean patterns but I think I ended up with some very cool pieces!
(This video is 2x normal speed – I wasn’t going this fast!)
From top left: 1. Multiple ink colors on gold silk. 2. Black ink on red silk (I especially like the way this one turned out) 3. Blue, black ink on a natural colored linen. 4. This one is interesting – multiple colors of ink on silk color blocked in shades of green and gold. I love how the different background colors change the color of the ink. (looks kind of like a map to me) 5. Multiple colors of ink on canvas. 6. Black ink on white silk (very dense – I may have overdone the circles a little bit on this one!)
Mar 01 2017 ·
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I’ve accumulated a LOT of bits and pieces of silk fabric that I’ve tried different techniques on, didn’t work out the way I expected but pretty nonetheless, and scraps I couldn’t bear to throw out, bits and pieces of thrifted silk shirts and blouses I had dyed, color discharged, and shibori’d (is that a word?). What do I do with them? I organized a bunch of remnants and odds and ends and started playing around with them. I liked what was happening so I sprayed them with a cornstarch and water solution (that’s the white chalky residue you can see on the dark purple piece) and pressed them to stiffen them up a bit to be able to cut straight edges and then pinned them to a tissue backing. (a spray starch would work, too but I didn’t have any and didn’t feel like running to the store. Always up for DIY when I can!). Thinking in terms of a jacket, I wanted that big dark purple nebula-in-outer-space-looking piece to be the focal point on the back and I built out from there.
After these silk puzzle pieces languished for basically months while I was wrapped up with a wedding and then the holidays, I got back to it. How to join the pieces? I didn’t want seams, thinking the wrong side was going to show inside the jacket. I finally decided to use a satin stitch. Several spools of black thread later, it was all put together into one big piece of fabric. Kind of lumpy and wavy in places, I had a hard time keeping the pieces lined up in nice straight lines, but I kind of like the non-precise result. Finally getting up the nerve to take a scissors to it I figured out where to cut and sew for the jacket shell. I used a scarf I had dyed that had some flaws but came out that gorgeous periwinkle color for the sleeves. The neck and front band is a piece of shibori. I’ll probably add a strip of that to the bottoms of the sleeves, too.
I’m thinking about adding embellishments of stitching, beading, embroidery, etc. to some of the panels and I’ve decided to put in a lining of black cotton blend just to stabilize it so hopefully it hangs better. It might require some quilting to anchor the silk to the lining. That will be the final step in my experimental pieced jacket. This one is trial and error, but I think it’s coming along pretty well and I’m excited to have some options for all those beautiful little bits and pieces that deserve to be shown off!!
So the next time I do this I’m going to stiffen the pieces with more starch or even gelatin so they’re easier to handle. Another option would be to position the pieces on top of a base fabric and basically quilt them in place. Lots of possibilities!!
Nov 09 2015 ·
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Blog, process ·
When Mauveine was first conceptualized I was talking about silk scarves dyed and painted with different “themes” like city names or song titles. When I discovered the marbling technique I was more interested in the different textures and effects I could get with that (still focusing on scarves). Then it became about expanding the product line; not just scarves but bags, hair accessories, flower clips, jewelry, pashmina shawls, furoshiki squares, one piece of fabric that could be worn and used in a variety of ways. Which was way too ambitious for what I could realistically accomplish given the limited time I had to devote to Mauveine.
The idea and reality of Mauveine has been not so much about planning, marketing, and sales as it has been about opening myself up to the business of art and creativity. Painting with oils and pastels were where I started. It’s been a very long time since I picked up a Rembrandt pastel or paintbrush. I attempted a pencil self-portrait sketch a while back. I felt rusty and stiff, like the Tin Man left out in the weather too long, creaking back into motion but the final result wasn’t horrible it definitely started to feel more natural towards the end.
Discovering the myriad ways a piece of silk fabric can be used has led to more experimentation in surface design with different techniques and the realization that “Mauveine” really is more about the unintentional and wonderful results that happen as I’m splashing and dabbling around. Fitting, considering the color mauveine came about entirely as a happy accident in a lab.
The convoluted course since starting the idea of Mauveine has led me to repurposing and redesigning garments. I want to find things made from quality natural fabrics – silk, linen, wool, cotton — and then deconstruct, embellish, and stitch them into something new and beautiful. This doesn’t mean moving away from marbling and dying and surface design; in fact, there will be even more opportunity to play with color and texture and patterns and bringing it all together to create artistic, but functional items. Things someone would wear and use and enjoy on a daily basis.
Jul 22 2015 ·
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Seeing these gorgeous examples of this relatively uncomplicated technique naturally made me want to try it. I used leaves and flowers from mums, cosmos, and petunias. Turns out what grows in the wilds of my backyard in suburban Denver (or at least the stuff I picked) gave up less than glorious results. They look like yellowed antique fabrics which is cool, but at the same time they look like antique fabrics that need a good washing. Sort of dingy and dirty.
The last one I did on a much lighter weight silk that’s chiffon-like (I love this stuff – 5 mm habotai).
The fabric was soaked in an alum solution which preps the silk to accept and retain the color. Over half the fabric I scattered my little leaves and flowers and such; this time including orange nasturtiums, bright pink and fuschia impatiens, some little blue and yellow wildflowers and some purple thistle-looking things I found while walking the dog. Ignore those blue blotches – I poked at the fabric in the alum solution with the end of a brush that apparently had been used to stir some dye at some point. Organization of equipment: I have none. And when you’re dealing with pristine white silk it can pretty much ruin your day. But I digress.
I folded it in half lengthwise and then in half lengthwise again. The whole thing got rolled up and bound tightly with rubber bands.
I put the bundle into my super fancy steamer setup for small items (bamboo rice steamer from Goodwill on top of an old electric vegetable steamer filled with water and set on high), covered the top with a towel and put the lid on for it to steam a good 45 minutes.
After steaming you can see how much of that color is extracting from the plant material. So far so good.
I set the bundle outside in the sun so it would dry faster because I just don’t have the patience to wait the 24 or 48 hours for it to air dry. Once it was dry to the touch I unrolled it.
The pattern is repeated because I folded it and maybe if I had more flowers and leaves overlapping each other it wouldn’t look quite so much like rows. The nasturtiums printed nicely but the rest looks like little pastel blobs.
CONCLUSION: Probably should have just let it sit and dry for the 48 hours. Did the exposure to sunlight affect it? Possibly. Do I want to try another one to find out? Not really. I’m underwhelmed by my results and although I really, really love the look of those eco printed fabrics on Pinterest I’m not inclined to research what sorts of plants yield the best prints and try to track those things down.
I saw… I tried… I have more fabric for my scrap pile. I’ll find something to do with them, for sure.
Nov 01 2014 ·
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I had the opportunity to submit a concept to a contest on Talenthouse for a shawl for Stevie Nicks. As usual, I didn’t really give myself enough time (in fairness I didn’t even hear about it until about a month into it!) but I figured why not? I think the piece I came up with was very pretty, but it was also pretty safe. I stayed well within my self-imposed parameters of what I thought I could reliably produce and in the end my concept paled in comparison with some of the other entries. Which led me to some interesting conclusions about me and my art. I don’t take many risks – there’s always the little voice in the back of my head (Dad, is that you?) admonishing me to not waste supplies which keeps me from really tapping into, for lack of a better description, that preschooler who just wants to play and declare triumphantly, “Look what I made!!” so proud of that lumpy clay alligator or glue-caked macaroni mosaic. Little kids don’t look critically at their art and they don’t expect anything but the fun and mess and wonder of creating something.
This led me to the realization that I’m limiting myself to what I think is saleable; i.e., what are OTHER people going to like? And that mindset will poke a hole in that little balloon of creative happiness pretty quickly. So… switching gears from “What can I make that someone will buy?” to “I’m going to jump in and try this and see what I get” has been a bit of a stretch for me. Naturally there has to be some thought and intention, but color and texture and fabric and dye and floating paint all lend themselves to just letting things happen, seeing something and developing that into something a bit more or taking it in another direction. There are SO MANY techniques that I’m discovering that I want to try and I’m running around in a bunch of different directions, fooling around with this and that and not really settling into finding my ‘voice,’ if you will; a signature look, style, or technique that I can call my own. I expect that will come , probably not in one big “AH HA!” experiment result but in small increments, incorporating this, rejecting that, taking something else a step or two further, until I find how to express what I want Mauveine to be.
But in the meantime, my takeaway from my competition entry is to be less tentative and more brave; to not worry so much about whether “it’s going to come out right” and just have fun and enjoy the process and the result will be exactly what it’s meant to be.
Aug 24 2014 ·
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Blog, dyeing, dyeing tools, technique, experiments in marbling, painting, process, silk ·
It all started with a silk chiffon stole that I had dyed a deep blue. I wanted some kind of surface design on it, but fabric paint stamps and brush lines weren’t showing up. I thought about stitching but talked myself out of that pretty quickly. Okay, if colors aren’t going to show up OVER the blue, how about taking away some color? Dye discharging is something I haven’t done yet, although I had bought some stuff a while back, so I figured I’d give it a try. As I’m in the habit of doing, I didn’t really pay attention to the instructions before buying and it turns out I need to mix this on the stove in an enamel pot (which I don’t have) and heat it and stir it and do all kinds of things that I wasn’t in the mood for. I did try just sprinkling some of the powder in hot water and sticking the fabric in… apparently it won’t work that way.
Next up – good old Clorox bleach pen. You would think that would leave nice white marks, wouldn’t you? Turns out the acid dye that I’ve been using is impervious to bleach. Who knew? This led me down the Dharma Trading rabbit hole where I found this. Says it works on acid dye. (Note to self: First rule of pretty much anything is Know Your Materials.) After doing some reading up I also bought some fiber reactive dyes. These require a different process but I think I’ll get a better result. I’ve been noticing with some colors they seem to “shift” and change and I’ve actually gotten what look like brownish stains on some pieces; all I can figure is I didn’t dye them correctly. I do need a big enamel or glass pot for these dyes, too so that’s something I’ll be prowling thrift stores for.
Anyway, upon further excavating layers of tutorials and YouTube videos I discover that I can actually make thickened dye that can be used for stamping, stenciling, or brushing on that doesn’t leave a stiff residue on the fabric like paint does. Needless to say this required yet another supply order. This never ends, does it? A few days later, I have my seaweed based sodium alginate thickener and urea for fixing the dye to the fibers along with a recipe to mix it all up. I love that part – it’s like science class but more fun.
After this little detour I have to get back to my dark blue chiffon stole. First I accordion folded the whole thing lengthwise and sponged the discharge paste along the edges, the theory being that I’d get white horizontal stripes. I have to let it dry completely. The dried paste is invisible at this point and it doesn’t look like I’ve done anything. But THEN I start going over it with a steam iron and like magic the areas of removed color start to appear. This is the coolest. thing. ever. I got sorta kinda horizontal stripes; they’re a little lumpy and blobby but that’s okay. The other surprise is that the fabric may not become completely white. Depending on how much steam and how much paste there might be light blue, green and even some pink and brown for some reason (see above comment about brown stains). I suppose it’s the formulation of the dye powder but I like what I see happening! Vertical lines? Sure, why not? Accordion fold the other way and brush on. These didn’t come out as well – I didn’t put enough on to really penetrate the layers of chiffon but I still think it’s looking pretty good. Last but not least I twisted little bunches randomly all over and fastened them with thread, then dunked each one in the discharge paste. Ironing those out, I thought the areas would look more like flower bursts which is what I would get with dye. Not so much, but there are still some very interesting complex patterns that show up. I don’t know what would happen if I diluted this paste with water – that’s an experiment for another time.
Okay, next for the thickened dye. I had used randomly sponged discharge paste on a 42″ square of 5 mm habotai that was a mottled pattern of blues and greens and then marbled with a kind of wave pattern in very light magenta. The marbling is really, really subtle on the blue but those pink waves showed up in the areas where the color was removed.
Hmmm…. dark background, dark marbling, windows of discharged dye to pop the marbling out; definite possibilities there. You see the problem I have with focusing on one thing at a time and seeing it through to the end? Yeah. Moving on…
Rummaging around for something to use as a stamp I found an old glass light fixture cover with a raised “cut glass” pattern on it. It’s so crazy it just might work.
I got my piece of silk soaking in white vinegar (it preps the fabric to accept the color) and mixed up some thickened dark purple dye to about the consistency of heavy cream. Crafty Tip of the Day – buy eggs that come in plastic instead of cardboard cartons. Those little puppies make the best paint mix trays ever. (The one shown here was actually the plastic packaging that Christmas ornaments come in so each little ‘well’ is bigger. Yes, I save lots and lots of weird stuff. Some of it I even actually use.)
Sponged the dye all over the globe. I still ended up with purple hands in spite of the gloves. I don’t know how it happens but every time I work with dye I have technicolor hands and fingernails for days.
Now for the moment of truth. I carefully draped the still-damp silk over the glass and gently patted it down. Success! The pattern showed up perfectly! This could easily have gone the other way and I would’ve wound up with a gigantic purple blob which would have been another post titled Finding Ways to Fix Well-Intentioned But Badly Executed Experiments.
Carefully lifted the fabric off and ta-da! It’s perfect awesomeness.
I forged ahead and printed a bunch of these medallions all over the piece. I discovered that on dry silk the pattern tended to be less distinct. I tried sponging some more vinegar on the areas I wanted to stamp but I think I got it too wet because then some of the prints blurred and spread. On a smaller piece of fabric that I could get done before it dried I might get more consistent results. But I think the overall pattern came out really pretty. You can’t see the pink marbling waves in these pictures, unfortunately, but they’re there, trust me. Now I just need to steam it to permanently fix the dye.
I have several other already dyed and/or marbled silks that are screaming out for more attention and now I have a couple more weapons in my creative arsenal to play with. What’s next for these pieces? Who knows? I have absolutely NO CLUE yet what the end results will be. (And that’s the fun of it!)
Jun 20 2014 ·
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Blog, experiments in marbling, marbling, process ·
A few weeks ago I attended a 3-day workshop sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Weavers Guild and taught by Caryl Hancock. Caryl is a wonderful instructor and the other ladies taking the workshop were all so supportive of each other and fun to work with, it was a real pleasure! This was the first class I’ve taken in many years – I’ve been self taught in my chosen media for the most part except for a couple of adult education pastel classes 30 years ago. A big regret in my life was not getting more art instruction; there’s so much I don’t know… I can dabble and read books and watch Youtube videos only so much before I need someone who has attained a level of proficiency, who has a familiarity with their tools and their art to show me and guide me in ways that I just can’t pick up any other way. And it’s not just the expertise of an instructor, it’s being surrounded by others who are as excited about learning something new as I am that’s so energizing and rejuvenating; new ideas and new approaches that had never occurred to me and opening up doors leading in different directions towards unforeseen results.
It was an incredibly productive three days. I learned a lot. A LOT. I got to immerse myself in the creative process which for me is a way to step outside myself… or maybe go deeper inside myself… I’m not sure how it works but it takes me to a place that’s been healing and sustaining for me since I was very small.
Here are the marbled cotton swatches I did; lots of different techniques as you can see. I learned that I tend toward using the same palette over and over so it was great stretching those boundaries. Color theory isn’t my strong suit so I tend to stick with what I know works but in the workshop where there was nothing to lose, nothing to “ruin” I felt free to play around with colors I otherwise probably never would have used together and I was pleasantly surprised!
I got to try my hand at suminigashi – a Japanese technique that’s deceptively simple but produces delicate, intricate patterns. This is something I could sit and do for HOURS! I’ve ordered a kit and can’t wait to get started on experimenting with it.
My marbling has been on hold with the craft show and I’ve got a side project in the works but as soon as I’m able to I’ve got lots of ideas floating around just waiting to be tried!
I’ll be looking out for more classes and workshops available about surface design, color theory and maybe just back to basics drawing! It’s been too long…
Jun 09 2014 ·
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Bags, Blog, Hand Dyed Scarves, silk ·
I did my first outdoor show last weekend. A one-day event, I figured it would be perfect because it’s difficult for me to commit to two full days at this point. My booth has definitely evolved. At my first craft show I was tucked into a 6′ x 6′ corner; a card table and a chair with a scarf hanging contraption made with a paper parasol (which in theory was brilliant but lacked in execution). I got myself a 6′ table which opened up new display possibilities. Scarf hanger 2.0 was two lattice panels hinged together and stood at an angle with the scarves pulled through the openings. It worked okay, but really didn’t show the scarves to best advantage, as you can imagine, with them all scrunched into those little holes.
Version 3.0 was a gadget assembled by George which consisted of a pole with a wire hoop fixed to one end, the other end slipped into a hole in a weighted cardboard box covered with white paper. Yes, I know. Classy. As you can imagine I spent more time picking the thing up after it would tip over whenever someone did more than brush the scarves with their fingertips. At this point I was basically fitting everything I had on one table. I used this same basic setup for the last show I did except I had a couple of dress forms out front. (I know, I know… I should have pictures of all of these but I don’t.)
Fast forward to last weekend. We’ve come a long way. The scarves are hanging from shower curtain rings clipped to chains running from front to back. I went that route basically because a wind gust could pick up the scarves and send them flying off like so many kites if they were just draped over a line and I didn’t want a bunch of clothespins or clips sticking up. The only problem with this was, again, not being able to really see the pattern and size of each scarf. The tops looked really good and the brown kimono was an eye-catching piece out front. I went with black on the table and back curtain because it made the colors pop. There was a presentation board on the back wall with photos illustrating the marbling process so I didn’t have to explain that I didn’t just buy silk fabric and sew it into scarves, etc. I feel good about what we did here but we have lots of ideas for going forward.
I sold a few items, handed out a number of business cards, and overall got great feedback and reactions from people. I’ve come to the conclusion that these craft shows are never going to be money makers for me, but that’s actually okay because if I approach them more as a marketing tool than for on the spot sales I can get a lot of mileage out of a day or two of putting my stuff out in front of people. We’ve been kicking around ideas about just displaying samples and providing a catalog with all my items; custom orders; putting out only small items – hair accessories, bandanas, flower clips, little purses, neckties – to sell and only displaying the high end pieces like the kimonos with signage for the Etsy shop where those items are available.
I’m always jazzed and energized after one of these shows; I feel like I’m really headed in the right direction.
Mar 20 2014 ·
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Blog, experiments in marbling, marbling, marbling tools, technique, process, silk ·
Another dip with wine red loosely swirled to try to tone down the magenta from dip two. Meh. Not crazy about this one. Set it aside and maybe I’ll get a flash of inspiration about what to do with it.
I really like this one. Third dip with light green and light blue. Definitely gave it kind of a “fern” feel I think.
The jury is still out on this one. It’s not what I was going for, but it’s growing on me. Added the dark purple in an attempt to fuse it together. Looking at it now, I probably shouldn’t have used that bright yellow.
Aaannnddd… my favorite. Definitely going to do this technique again with other colors. I did a final dip with more dark indigo blue swirled and pushed into loose flower bloom shapes. Really pretty!
I did try some silver on top of the purple lacy one but it didn’t show up at all so I’m leaving that one alone. I might embellish it with some handpainted filigree kind of linework. Or not. I’m not sure yet.
I’ll be using these DecoArt paints a lot more! I like what’s happening.
Mar 12 2014 ·
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Blog, experiments in marbling, marbling, marbling tools, technique, process, silk ·
I’m playing around with some new paints, DecoArt So-Soft fabric paint that doesn’t require heat setting (one less step!) and doesn’t leave a residue on the fabric so the sheen and softness that makes silk… well, silky… isn’t compromised. They come in a rainbow of gorgeous colors and they’re working pretty well except that they stop floating after two or three colors are laid down on the size. I want to see what happens when I over marble two or even three times to get more depth and richer colors.
Phase One: Plain white 8 mm and 5 mm habotai. Left: Orange, scarlet and yellow pushed into veins and lines by topping with soft peach stones, then pulled into loose scallops. Center: Two shades of red with black loose freehand swirl (red looks pink). Right: Sienna and brown raked diagonally.
Below: Three shades of purple/lilac combed into peacock pattern. (hard to see here but my peacock pattern always comes out kind of wobbly and distorted. Not sure what I’m doing wrong, but even wobbly distorted peacock pattern still looks pretty.)
Phase Two: The sienna and brown overmarbled with chocolate brown, more sienna, and purple raked diagonally in the opposite direction. I feel like this is starting to take on kind of a botanical look. I’m thinking of adding a moss green and/or turquoise blue combed into leaf-fern shapes.
Red and black overmarbled magenta and scarlet along with more wine red. Not sure about this one. Where do I go from here? Would another layer be too much?
Orange and scarlet scallops overmarbled with blue, purple, and a darker melon color. The orange became more cinnamon brown which is nice. The melon is feeling a little obnoxious. I want to fuse the whole thing together, but how?
Purple peacock overmarbled with the same color combo combed into a peacock pattern again. Very pretty, like lilac lace. Giving some thought to a finishing layer of subtle silver swirls.
I didn’t take a Phase One picture of this one but it started out dyed a pale aqua color, then marbled with 3 shades of blue freehand swirled. Overmarbled with large stones of 2 deeper blues loosely swirled that look like large indigo flowers. You can see the places where the pattern was broken at top center and lower left corner where the fabric creased as I lay it down but I’m not too upset about it. It adds some interest and dimension and I think I’ll hit it with one more layer to camouflage those flaws a little bit. I’m really liking this one.
Phase Three to come…