Sharing the Process

This week I’ll be sharing the process behind my hand-painted silk pieces.

I begin by sketching on-site. I love to look at the space in public areas, the relationship between buildings, and small architectural details that give a building character. In this case, I had been invited to exhibit and to give an artist’s talk at the Monroe Art Guild, and I wanted to include a piece depicting the historic post office building that is now home to the Guild.

Here’s my original sketch, made in black ink on paper on square (my favorite shape!) drawing paper.


I stretch the silk piece onto wooden frames that my husband makes for me, using hooks and pins to secure the edges. Then I can easily re-sketch the image onto the silk with a blue fabric pen (the ink disappears once the material gets wet). You can see that in this picture I have already started applying the resist over those blue lines.

You can see the little bottle of resist on the right in this picture. It’s waterproof, and keeps the different colors of dyes from bleeding into each other on the silk. My dyes are shown here, too, in the larger containers, along with the cups I use to mix more complex colors and the brushes I use to apply them to the fabric.

This picture shows the piece partway finished. After I mix a color, I apply it to the test fabric (on the left) and let it dry to make sure it comes out like I expect. If not, I adjust and test again. Once I’m satisfied with it, I apply it to the silk piece that I’m creating. I repeat this process for each color on the fabric…. It takes a while, but is one of my favorite parts of the process! I love that color can change the depth in a design and the feel of a piece just by making the color light or dark, saturated or soft.

Painting finished! Now it needs to dry for 24 hours before I steam it to set the dye. That process involves a large contraption that was specifically created to allow steam even access to every inch of the fabric.  Once it comes out, I carefully handwash it, air-dry it, and gently iron it to smooth out any wrinkles and enhance the texture of the silk. Voila! Finished!

Isn’t it magical?? Now this silk piece hangs permanently at the Monroe Art Guild – right by the front door!

I have so much fun with this fascinating, challenging, and rewarding process. Forming an idea, watching my drawing take shape, creating colors, and trying to evoke an experience – all of my choices directly influence the finished work, and it’s so much fun to watch the artwork develop. The pay-off is when the silk goes through the final wash, is ironed, and I can see how beautiful it has turned out. That step never ceases to amaze me – it is like watching something new becoming alive!