May 10 2017 · 0 comments · 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!)

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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!)


Aug 24 2014 · 1 comment · Blog, dyeing, dyeing tools, technique, experiments in marbling, painting, process, silk ·

Saturday Afternoon Experiments with Discharge Paste and Thickened Dye

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.


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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.IMG_7247

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.

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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 · 0 comments · Blog, experiments in marbling, marbling, process ·

Marbling Workshop

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!

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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…

Mar 20 2014 · 0 comments · Blog, experiments in marbling, marbling, marbling tools, technique, process, silk ·

Exploring and Experimenting Followup

Phase Three:

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 · 0 comments · Blog, experiments in marbling, marbling, marbling tools, technique, process, silk ·

Exploring and Experimenting

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…