Category Archives: The process

Art Shows, the Internet and Travel Wear

Ah yes, the life of an artist!  Now it would be great to just sit back in my studio and let the sales roll in via my online shops, but the reality is pretty far removed from the fantasy.  I’ve been around long enough to remember when the Internet was going to be the salvation of the artist! All artists had to do was get a website, post their work and wait. And we did. Waited that is :-).

So it did not take the professional artists long to figure out this was not a shortcut for sales. Maybe a compromise? Doing both? Internet and shows? And so it was back to what works best-meeting people and talking about your work!

Art shows can be stimulating, exciting, energetic, frantic and exhausting all rolled into one or two days (or more!)

From my studios in North Carolina, my artist hubby and I have traveled by van west to California, south to Florida, north to Michigan and northeast to NY and many states in between for shows. I homeschooled the youngest of four as my children graduated and he came on the road with us to the shows. I have seen every age participating and at this rate we are going to be one of the old timers! 🙂

Art tent for outdoor shows
Indoor show set up

For years I lugged my portraits around to art shows so at fiber shows, it was with a degree of delight that I realized I could fit all my silk work into 3 lightweight bins!

What you take to sell at a show is where the “wear and tear” plays a crucial role. We’re not getting any younger and it is far easier to have a product that packs and travels well. For years I dealt with large framed portraits in oils and pastels.

Portraits are my first love and I am still creating them!  My fiber art, long dormant while I painted portraits, came back to the forefront when the economy tanked in 2009. It is good to be a versatile artist!

 

Working on a 24 x 36 bridal portrait

 

 

 

There is no getting around the fact  however that a tent is needed for outdoor shows. We have invested a lot of money over the years for heavy duty tents and it has paid off. I have smaller, lighter weight (sort of) tents for a one day show  but no matter what the ads say, every tent I have ever worked with has needed two people to set up :-).

Weather is a huge factor in the success of the show (and you) and our wear and tear. I have been to shows that were cancelled half way through due to storms or it rained the entire weekend. Ones that the temperatures rose to 100 degrees or the winds came in  blowing aways tents and setups!. I have been to indoor shows that were empty but for the vendors because of snow . And I have been to shows where I dealt with mini-tornadoes.

What we found after mini-tornado

The wear and tear is real.    It wears on your vehicles, your body and even your brain!A bad show can leave you feeling tired, disillusioned or broke.

But the fact remains that meeting your customers, sharing your story, your passion and your work with them is really what sells your work. If they can see it, touch it, understand it, then it speaks so much more loudly than a passive Internet presence.  That’s what keeps artists traveling and on the road! It’s what validates you as an artist-the feedback, the compliments.

So drop a compliment when you see an artist in his or her booth! They have worked hard to get there and have put their heart and soul into their product. Better yet, buy something! America is built from micro-businesses. Keep them going!

Busy day at a show

 

How to Understand Ecoprinting and using mordants

A Walk in the Woods-understanding Ecoprinting

Exploring Titanium Oxalate-the new kid on the block

If you enjoy the idea or art of ecoprinting, my first suggestion for a true understanding and appreciation of this art form is to take a Walk. There is simply no other way to embrace Ecoprinting without exploring the world of the plants you use, up close and personal. The outdoor world you thought you knew unveils little secrets that lead to a better understanding of the “hows and whys” of ecoprinting.  I’m not talking about being knowledgeable in  “name those plants”. I’m talking about getting up close and personal with the moods of your favorite trees and plants. It’s a world of getting to know the growth cycles from early spring to fall. The imprints that plants share with the artist vary from day to day, week to week..even the time of day! get to know your walking trail.

Carry something like your camera phone and notebook and if you select leaves, photograph them and note the date and time. Become your own eco scientist!  I can pretty much guarantee that you will not remember the details unless you record them 🙂

It is probably the artist in me that looks for visual harmony, details and patterns in even the smallest of plants. Look up, look down. There is something of note in your eco journal in both locations!

The additional benefits of your walk are numerous! Beyond the obvious exercise benefit, the subtle influence it has on your soul, your psyche and your mind offers a major calming influence in our lives. In a world of daily electronic bombardment embrace your time without it. I have several blog posts that spend time with traveling these roads. Take a look at them on my website and enjoy that journey with me!

What’s Happening and working with a mordant!

For centuries, dyers have known that natural dye colors are elusive on fabric unless the colors are “set” with a mordant. A “new kid on the block” is a mordant called Titanium Oxalate. And I’ll share my  experiments with you!
But first, let me share what is happening! Click on the highlighted links for images and details!

  • May 12– My solo  “Pop Up Shop” at Westside GIfts in Wake Forest.  Come see and shop with me from 10:00-3:00!
  • May 13–  Ecoprinting on Silk workshop at my Studio. 10:00-3:00. Understand the ecoprint experience with me!
  • May 19Pop up Shop Raleigh. Join me and other artists for this 12-5 event in Raleigh!
  • June 2Easy Dye Silk Scarves workshop at Westside Gifts in Wake Forest! 10-12. Leave with 2 scarves that YOU created in just 2 hours!

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Exploring Titanium Oxalate
It’s a big word huh? Well for those who may not know,  the word mordant is derived from Latin and means “to bite.” It is what “fixes” dye colors to whatever fabric you are using and its uses have been recorded back to ancient Chinese and Egyptian times! The two most popular mordants in ecoprinting have been alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) and iron. Titanium Oxalate has become the new star among dyers, yet it too has been around while. Doing some basic research, I found repetitive descriptions such as “These double salts may be applied to textiles and other substances without injury to the texture or material.” and “Titanium salts are now employed in both Europe and America as mordant and dye in the manufacture of leather goods, having proved of especial value for use on chrome tanned leathers” and “Titanium salts are currently extensively developed in replacement of chromium salts for environmentally friendly titanium-tanning techniques used as an alternative mordant for use with natural dyes.” That’s a lot of information (and only the start of it!)

To further confuse things, natural dye and ecoprint Facebook groups are full of conflicting information. Through my own experiments, what I know for sure is that when combined with the tannin in leaves when ecoprinting, titanium oxalate will produce a distinct range of oranges!


So in this photo, on the left is silk with an indigo and iron water blanket applied. On the right is a titanium oxalate and indigo blanket applied. The silk on the right is actually a bit greener than shown in this image. As an artist, it makes sense for yellow and blue to mix and create green., thus the abundance of green in the silk on right.

In the image below, I simply alternated dipping maple leaves and maple seed pods into an iron or Titanium Oxalate solution. Can you see the difference?


For me,  this “new kid on the block” is better in small doses. I love the control of dipping leaves where I can stagger the bold oranges in any manner that I like! That is what I did on the two examples below. For me, less is truly more 🙂

Be sure and follow me on Facebook I am most up to date there!

You can also find more information (and shop!) of course on my website and my blog for images and articles on what I am creating and how I do it!

Until next time!
Theresa

Hand painting silk techniques

As a long time painting artist, I know of hundreds of ways to create art on canvas and paper. I think nothing of switching from pastels to oils to alcohol inks without too much thought. Without realizing it over the course of years, I had  developed an expertise in many mediums simply by using them over and over 🙂

Portrait Painting Demo with pastels

So as I began to expand my silk painting it did not take me long to realize that there were as many methods to add color to silk as there was to  canvas!  I remember my early confusion at reading about dyes and paints in the big catalogues and trying to make sense out of conflicting information!

hand painting at a show

And of course I wanted to skip the learning curve and get right into the silk art! Think about it: All those methods such as steaming, not steaming, heat setting, instant set, dye paints, dyes, fabrics, types of silk……the list of what to know seemed dauntless at first!

In college I studied printmaking, so carving my own blocks to print on silk was not a problem.  I mean there is a huge industry in the arts devoted to stamping but I wanted mine to be unique!

 

My horse blocks

Carving 5 or 6 blocks of just horses has given me so many options for variety and I know that no one else has those images!

And then of course there was the method I use most often, drawing with resist!  I love the water based resists. I am not into suffering for my art 🙂 and melting wax, using the equivalent of oils in resists just wasn’t for me.

Stamping on silk

So making stretcher bars (from canvas stretchers!) has been a solution to drawing out my designs then adding the dyes. There is something zen-like in hand painting anything and watching silk dyes flow up to the resist lines is very much like painting in watercolors…except the resist acts as a “dam” to control the flow of dye.

Applying the resist
Hand painted Poppies
Hand painted (and Ecoprinted) silk wraps

And then there are the dyes that required steaming and I found rice steamers at the Goodwill that worked! I went from scarves to clothes and love to work my large pieces into garments!

So in my hand painted silk, I love to experiment. I love the colors, the designs and often incorpoarte both into my ecoprinted! There is nothing more beautiful than silk drying on the clothesline!

Hand painted silk drying on the line!

Holiday Open House at our STUDIOS!

2 Artists Studios!
Our chickens sometimes claim the studio front porch!
Silk work by Theresa

Saturday Dec 16 from 11-3! Come see the art studios of 2 long time working artists and see the variety of, dare we say, amazing art! A perfect place to pick up those last minute hand crafted gifts 🙂

Meet our ponies, Helen and Shadow, feed a peppermint to Bella, our alpaca…yep-the chickens will visit you as well as our dogs!

Enjoy some light refreshments in the large studio (our painting one) and do some shopping!

Kids are fine, leave your pets at home though please..rain or shine.

Located at 2109 Old Mill Farm RD., Franklinton, NC 27525. Email Theresa@thesilkthread.com with questions.

 

Plenty of portraits to see by Theresa
Steve’s watercolor table

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hand lettering on Glass
Working at the easel

 

Hand painting Silk

People love color! And hand painting and dying fabric offers numerous ways to bring color to fiber. My heart is very much with my eco-printed silk art. However my many years of painting cannot help but be enthusiastic about my first love of hand painting.

When I began to work with fiber art-silk predominantly-it did not take me long to realize that there are as many ways to put color on silk as there are to put paint on canvas!

Hand painted Silk

Block printing, screen printing, hand painted, hand embellished, detailed, abstract….all play a part at some point in what I create with silk.

Drawing and Painting

My tools are simple. Wood stretcher bars, eye screws, elastic and clips.  For a hand painted design, I’ll first stretch a silk piece such as a scarf onto the frame. I’ll use a resist which to free hand draw my design onto the silk. The resist acts as a dam of sorts-containing the liquid dye within its boundaries so an artist can create a particular image.  The end result can be anything from super realistic to whimsical to abstract.

Applying the dye
Cherry Blossoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painting on Silk

People are intrigued with artist  demonstrations and  rightfully so. Nothing is more fascinating to watch than a painting of any kind, come to life as they watch.

Watching a work being created is an experience that cannot be duplicated simply by looking at a finished piece with no knowledge of how it came to be. I have noticed that people do understand painting. A canvas, paints, etc are in the experience of most people. But painting on silk is not. There is a huge difference between the cheap scarves created in masses with digitally imprinted designs vs an artist’s  one of a kind handpainted scarf!

 

Peacocks on Silk
Red Poppies
Hand painted horses on silk

To add to the zen like feeling of slowly hand painting on silk and watching the dyes spread out onto the silk as if pulled by an unseen hand, is the ability to take it outdoors. I work with my ecoprinting outside all the time, spilling out onto my silk studio deck. And when those moments click into place, an artist truly has it all.

The Silk Thread Studio from garden
Working Summer Day at Silk studio

Re-loving a vintage White sewing machine

Winter 2016 finally decided that January 2017 was a great time to begin, so for a week the weather forecasters gave dire predictions of a “southern” nor’easter. Sort of tantamount to a snow apocalypse. But the actuality was a lot of sleet and about 5-6″ of snow on our little mini-farm. However, the bitter cold for a North Carolina day (high of 22) changes things a bit and keeps everyone home and pretty much off the frozen roads!

View off studio steps
View off studio steps

This snowed in period has turned out to be a good time to give my thrift store find some TLC. I only invested $45.00 in this vintage White series 77 sewing machine. And frankly, it seemed like a bargain for the machine with all its attachments, instruction booklet and its all original beautiful cabinet! On a Facebook group, Eco-Dyeing Creating Learning that I am an administrator to, a member, Rudolph Ramseyer shared his research into vintage finds and noted that “An interesting bit of information is that White owned their own forests and sawmills, which supplied timber to their cabinetmaking workshops.”

Partial view of machine and cabinet
Partial view of machine and cabinet
A look at instruction book
A look at instruction book

 

It took 2 men to get this into the back of my little Honda Fit at the Thrift store. The back seats of the Fit fold back and up allowing room for upright items that normally could not go into a compact vehicle. Of course at home, it was my husband and I who unloaded it to my office/sewing room. That weight factor alone tells you a bit about the history of sewing machines in general as none were designed to be portable. My current Brother CSi6000 probably weighs…2 pounds? And in spite of all the fancy stitches built into the plastic Chinese made machine (most of which I do not use), it is sobering to realize that a machine that could go both forward and then, with the flick of a lever, go backwards without missing a stitch, was a huge deal 60 years ago!

View of attachments
View of attachments

The box of attachments is priceless in that they are all there. An immense buttonholer must have been a godsend. And there are attachments (some I have no clue about) and instructions for hemming, stitching lace, a combination tucker, edgestitcher and top braider, embroidery, quilting, a 5 stitch ruffler, one for gathering, one for single stitch pleating, shirring, piping and a host of other techniques, some of which I have never used!

Close up of White Series 77 sewing machine
Close up of White Series 77 sewing machine

The sewing thread sits on the middle spool holder. The one towards the wheel is for use with the automatic bobbin winder. Stitch length adjustments on the right and tension adjustments on the left. It is a pulley system, not a belt system and, of fascination to me, run with a knee operated lever (seen lower right top photo). It is also interesting that these were called “rotary electric sewing machines” and were driven by the rubber wheel contacting the motor directly in back.

So now cleaned and oiled, I have played with sewing on it. There is something oddly comforting in sitting down to a machine that was once the pride and joy

sewing
The sewer

of a household. Was it a  gift from a caring husband ? Or purchased on a new “lay-a-way” plan?  Did the woman marvel at the amazing things she could now do? Was she able to add buttonholes or  create beautiful ruffles she had never before been successful at sewing?

Sometimes it is the little things we take for granted that can give the most enjoyment. This frigid, snowy day for instance, makes me grateful for simple pleasures: indoor heating, hot coffee, power still on, outside animals fed and comfy and, quite frankly, the Internet. I feel no guilt today indulging my inquisitive passion of researching little things such as a vintage sewing machine. And today, it’s a good place to be 🙂