Workshop travels and Ecoprinting on Leather

On the road again!

On the road again 🙂

My workshops usually involve travel. My most recent was  teaching participants how to ecoprint on leather and paper and creating leather journals from our efforts :-). My car was packed and it looked like I was moving!  Air travel was impractical and the drive meant I could stop over with neglected relatives enroute.
But there’s a good reason people go to Florida during the winter 🙂 I’m back now from a 2 week jaunt down there (and Georgia) and  I made time to actually turn it into a working vacation! Anyone who is a self employed artist knows how hard that can be!

I have taught workshops for a long time. You can’t be a painting artist and not share tips and techniques with big and small workshops.

Theresa teaching a “Paint your Dog” class at Jerrysartarama workshop space

So when the opportunity came from my friend, Suzanne Connors, to teach my ecoprinting techniques on leather and watercolor paper at her Aya Fiber Studio in Stuart, FL, I said “sure!” I chose leather and paper because once the techniques were mastered, my students would have the skills to create beautiful art journals for friends or for sale.

Not all workshops have such exotic locations! In this case, Florida’s weather was a far cry from what was happening in NC.

Views from the Aya Fiber studio

The 4 day workshop kept us busy! My students learned about the leathers that worked best for my technique, the papers that worked, leather tools, end products and created some amazing journals.

Students at their tables
A full hide on the worktable

Not all workshops end with finished products. But I felt it was important that they have finished pieces to refer to when back home in their own work spaces.

 

Ecoprinting on leather
Ecoprinting on different leathers
practice books
A finished leather and watercolor paper art journal
A finished leather and watercolor paper art journal

examples of additional leather techniques
leather journal

Additional techniques added a WOW factor to the leather and everyone had gorgeous results!

 

sheets of watercolor paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workshops do not have to be held in inspiring places. I’ve been in dusty expo buildings, recreation halls and similar places. My North Carolina studios are in the country and I share them with my artist hubby, Stephen Filarsky. It offers a different ambience-just as inspiring-but in a totally different environment in the country!

Below is a busy workshop I held in an Expo building in Michigan. My participants were just as enthusiastic!

Workshop in livestock building in Michigan

Below is the art studio transformed into a workshop space for my participants (we also hold painting workshops in here of course)

Workshop in my art studio
My workshop studio

 

May roses at our studio!

April and May are the time the heirloom “rescued roses” bloom at our location!

Our alpacas

A few alpacas provide not only fiber but entertainment for little ones who often mistake them for camels lol!

As long as people wish to learn new skills and techniques and involve themselves in the beauty of art, there will always be classes and workshops :-). Embracing the unknown in the arts broadens the mind and fills that creative space in your soul that just waits for some kind of inspiration!

And as a bonus to my teaching trip to FL we took a sunset cruise recommended by the studio. I missed the manatee that swam up to the studio docks but not on the hour long cruise! I had never seen one before!

Manatee and baby

So I am off to unload my car, (which looks like I moved half of my studio!) but adding

The Golden Hour

a parting image of what is called “The Golden Hour” on the water. We were able to enjoy it from the quiet puttering of the electric boat (and also why we could silently come close to the manatees)

Until next time!-Theresa

 

 

 

Collecting Leaves and an Abandoned Puppy

So this should have gone out in Nov….and it did in my newsletter but not on my blog! SO here it is (after my Christmas one lol!) But Enjoy

Hi fellow artists!
So finally, Fall in the US has stopped procrastinating and has arrived! And for those of us who ecoprint or use leaves in our art, there is that slight panic that the leaves we took for granted for months will now disappear. Or will they?
My botanical printing goes back a ways and over the years I have tried all kinds of techniques to gather and store leaves. Quite frankly I look for the least labor intensive methods that make it easy for me to pull out leaves in January.

So let’s start with the basics-gathering your leaves. No need to make this a production! If you’re not on your own property you can find leaves anywhere-in piles by the side of the roads, unraked in yards or parks. I have never had anyone tell me NOT to collect leaves in public areas so go for it! Carry a rake, paper and plastic bags. The paper bags sit open easier and you can dump your leaves from there into your plastic bags.

My Honda Fit is a little workhorse and can carry whatever I put it to!

With the hatch up, the back of my Honda holds bags of leaves, rakes, snips and assorted objects for carrying and scooping. I keep the tops of the bags open or lightly tied.

 

 

 

In municipal areas, the leaves are yours for the taking. I often hit areas where my “magic trees” are on a Sunday when businesses are closed.

But perhaps the best part about collecting leaves is this-back roads! Unless you have experienced the fun and excitement of discovering new plants, winding roads and abandoned farms, you can’t imagine how well that interacts on a fall day! Sunny skies, chill in the air and Nature calling to you! It helps to take photos along the way-and one main reason other than recording a grand adventure, is the remember where you were when you collected certain leaves. Ones that prove to be amazing printers are ones you will want to find year after year.

It was on such an abandoned road recent;y that we stopped at several abandoned house-to collect and to take photos of the past. Forgotten stone walls with sumac beginning to enclose them.

 

 

 

 

This abandoned homestead below bears further exploration as has an old mill-somewhere back in the woods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But down out long winding dirt road we saw what we thought was a fox or cat dart across the road and disappear into the woods.
I stopped the car and peered into the woods and realized it was a beagle. As I got out and approached her with dog biscuits in hand, her tail wagged furiously while she crouched behind bushes and peed submissively.  I picked her up and that was that. Back roads-dirt or paved- are good places for people to dump their animals and this thin little thing was just a puppy-maybe 5 months old judging from a few puppy teeth left.
My husband and I are cut out of the same piece of cloth so we just put the little girl in the car and continued with our journey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now really! Could you have left that little face behind? Someone did.  So relax, we took the puppy my husband named Tuppence to the vet that same Sunday pm, had her vaccinated, micro-chipped (we searched for a chip first), and introduced her to the other 3 dogs. Yes, she is settling in nicely!

So back to the leaves…..let’s say you have collected  bushels. After all, you don’t want to be left leafless right? 🙂 Now what. Where and how to store? Take a look at a few solutions I have tried!

2 old screen doors are a good solution depending on how many you have-the advantage is that they dry flat, air circulates on both sides and the screens prevent the leaves from blowing away! But I had way too many leaves for this to work long! Also this was not very portable. If it rained you had to start over.

So here I tried screens from the thrift store. Easier to move but still I would need too many screens.

 

 

 

 

So here I got clever and made my own baskets-I could hang them in the barn or under a shed and they would air dry. Well they did but the lightweight leaves began to compact all on their own (they did not seem that heavy!) and the bottom ones might as well have been onion skins! Now you have to understand that I use a LOT of leaves. I do not have the time nor the space to systematically stack leaves encased in newspaper on coordinated and marked shelving units!-that all sounds good and looks so nice in posted photos but the reality is very different. 🙂

 

 

So my solution now for the last few years?  Yep-keep them in their bags! I sit them on the ground under a shed and leave the tops open. I stack maples in one area, oak in another, etc and some are mixed anyway!

 

In the end-do things YOUR way. Your prints will turn out whether you toss them into bags or iron and press each one into a book!
And I’ll end this narrative with a parting image of Tuppence, the abandoned puppy. She looks like she is settling in nicely doesn’t she? No telling what you’ll find on those back roads!

 

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Enjoy the revelry and glitz!
Have a very Merry Christmas!

Who doesn’t love the Holidays? And the optimism a new year always brings?

Regardless of how you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever your Holiday,  the message is the same.  And my message is for Peace, Happiness, Good Health and Prosperity for all my followers (and non-followers!) and their families!

Enjoy moments of quiet Solitude
Remember the reason for the Season

 

Happy New Year 2019!

 

Ring in the New Year 2019!

Slow Fashion-Creating Artisanal Designs with Silk

I did not initially make the  decision to create and sew my own garments with my hand dyed or ecoprinted silk.  The creation of the fabric designs alone is labor intensive  but I enjoy the process and it is no problem to roll up my shirtsleeves and hand paint,  dye, collect leaves and botanically print them onto my fabrics. But how many scarves do you need at a show? You have to offer more than one thing and clothing was perfect!  My skills were adequate-I had sewn clothing off and on for years. But hiring sewers to do the construction work seemed to make sense while I concentrated on creating the fabric designs. What I had not considered was my deadlines. No one will ever work as hard as yourself and eventually I knew that in order to compete and have clothing ready for my shows, it was time for me to bite the bullet!

Thus was born my own clothing lines. No matter what it is called, my own Slow Fashion, Artisanal Clothing, Hand crafted….it fits with what I do now and what I create! Low impact dyes (both natural and synthetic)sustainable and organic designs and clothing created entirely by hand and by me 🙂

So what IS “the “Slow Fashion” movement?” In a nutshell:

“Slow Fashion (Clothing) is the antithesis of fast fashion. It considers the ethics and sustainability of garments, values provenance and artisan skills while focusing on timeless style, comfort and connection. It is about thoughtful, ethical, creative and sustainable ways to enjoy the garments we wear every day while minimizing our material footprint on the world”-from Textile Beat

My collection of artisanal designs in silk and leather

 

 

 

 

 

It does not get much slower than how I do it!   I choose certain days to collect my leaves and ecoprint my fabric. (Weather plays a part in this)  I choose other days to hand paint my fabric or create designs on the silk. Then I will choose  yet another day to sew. In that way I slowly but steadily work on creating my fashions for the shows I attend or for the  custom orders I receive.

So the logistics of sewing with silk are simple. It’s hard, it’s slippery and I discovered that no amount of YouTube videos was going to teach me like just doing it! I dusted off my Brother CS6000i. I should add that as a self employed artist I am rich in art and poor in cash. So this very cost effective sewing machine is under $200. For most of us, whether your machine has 16 or 600 stitches starts to become irrelevant in basic, good construction.  Re-homing my old skills meant a lot of practice and learning new things in new machines.

Brother CS6000i with attached LED lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But perhaps the best bang for my buck was the Brother 1034D serger I purchased a few years ago!  I was determined to master it (my earlier sewing skills never included a serger!) and how quickly you learn anything depends on how badly you want to learn it!  This Brother Serger was another “under $200” super investment and I have been able to double my output with some of my garments in the time it saves!  I will add that there are some great YouTube videos on using both of these machines from threading to cleaning them. The best ones I found came from Sewing Mastery. (that tip will save you getting lost for 8 hours on YouTube!)

 

Handcrafted, Hand dyed Silk Ruanas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

silk habotai and silk noil garments

Serging is no longer the “to do before hemming” part of sewing.  (ie: serge, fold up hem, sew again) A good tight, serged edge IS the hem!

But there are a few other workhorses now in my arsenal of machines. Nothing beats an older machine-all metal and sturdiness for additional, harder sewing.  For instance, the Brother CS6999i cannot handle my leather. No problem.

Singer Featherweight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bring our my 1954 Singer featherweight. These little workhorses have become expensive and the darling of the Quilting world :-). But you can find them reasonably priced if you look hard enough. With a leather needle, mine can handle basic leather trim and embellishment on my clothing.  But when I move into heavier leather and my ecoprinted hides, I pull out the super workhorse! My 1908 Singer 29-4! These were built to last! A table makes it easier to work flat but with only foot power to run it, well, it can be used anywhere! This is for my heavier leather such as my shoes and handbags.

Singer Leather 29-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found that with patience and practice, the silk I most worked with could be easily managed. From 8mm Habotai to 12mm charmeuse to the much heavier silk noil, all require some machine adjustments and tweaking.

But the end results are beautiful garments designed to showcase not just talent but determination, perseverance and pure hard work in an ethical, slow clothing movement. And nothing feels better than to have accomplished it all by yourself!

Hand crafted artisanal clothing

 

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

 

Leather and watercolor paper-beginning an ecoprinting journey

The Silk Thread

Leather and Paper Ecoprinting-Understanding the basics


Hi all!
As an all around silk artist who works not just in plants but in dyes (natural and synthetic), block printing and hand painting, in this newsletter I’m back to Ecoprinting and touching on two areas I’ve been asked about-Leather and Paper!

Leather. Who doesn’t love the touch, the smell and feel of leather? It is everywhere as hand bags, garments, horse tack, books, shoes, upholstery and so many more uses!  We all know that the history and use of leather obviously goes back to the cave dwellers. At some point in those very early days, someone figured out how to use the hides from the animals that fed them. So Leather would have been used for the first of everything for survival-clothes, tents, shoes. Today, without the survival factor, leather has gone from a necessity to more of a luxury. Leather upholstery, clothing, shoes and hats are just the tip of the product mountain. Add horse tack from harnesses to saddles and even leather walls in offices and you can see it is here to stay.

 
Natural leather                                                                       Dyed leathers

When thinking about working with leather in ecoprinting, it is important to first clear your mind of any previous techniques! If you realize a few things, your journey will be easier :-). Leather is not fabric. (You need to re-think what you know!)  Leather is a big industry.-there is a LOT to learn but just like any other skill, it becomes easier!
Like the silk and wool industries, there are dozens and dozens of types of leather. Basically hides are measured and graded by different weights, different textures and go through a series of splitting, shaving, dyeing, embossing, etc to produce the characteristics of the different leathers we see in every day use. I thought I knew a lot about leathers having been in the horse world for many years. I discovered I only knew a lot about one type of leather! So to further condense, hides come from all kinds of animals but the majority of leather is from cows, sheep, pigs and goats. Each hide goes through the same type of leather grades: Top grain, Full grain, Split Leather and Bonded Leather.  I cannot emphasize enough that successful ecoprinting on leather means educating yourself and experimenting on all of these grades! I personally, so far, like to use thin cow and goat leather. In ecoprinting, leather is handled differently than silk or wool. I have ruined a few hides along the way figuring that out! A few hints: Leather stretches, previously dyed leathers will bleed and a constant heat and pressure must be maintained to get the best prints and by golly, leather is not inexpensive! I am still experimenting with various weights, types of hides and ways to create from the hides!



Examples of Ecoprinted leather

Leather is also gauged by ounces ranging from 1-10 or so per square foot. That is not the “weight”, it is the thickness of the leather. It is easier for a layman to understand that a standard sewing machine will usually not make it through a 4 oz (1/16″) piece of leather very easily! To understand the complex world of leather, a good site designed for beginners is the Tandy Leather Company.

PAPER
Like leather, most papers must be handled differently than silk or wool. Those are protein fibers. The best papers to work in ecoprinting are watercolor papers which are made from cellulose fibers with cotton being the predominant .It is naturally PH neutral which adds to longevity :-). If the paper is not marked 100% cotton, it will have wood pulp that can yellow over age.
My husband and I have years of experience in watercolor painting so we had ample paper to choose from when I experimented :-).


A collage of ecoprinted paper

For many beginners, buying a watercolor sketch pad is an economical way to go.Be careful of the fiber content however.  As in leather, you will see weights and like leather, the art supply industry is big business, and confusing! Next comes the Hot Pressed vs the Cold pressed. With a nod to “The Artist’s Network” for a nicely condensed chart! It IS related to painting but you can adjust that to ecoprint in a number of areas!  As far as the terms hot press, cold press and rough, artists learn that in regards to absorbancy, hot pressed is like comparing a baby’s cotton diaper in hot press to a cotton dishcloth in cold press. Rough, for me, is like burlap lol.

Hot Pressed watercolor paper (very compressed fibers)

  • Very little pigment penetrates beyond sitting on the surface.
  • Hot pressed is not adequate for general watercolor painting.
  • It’s suitable for fine detail, such as pen and ink.
  • This type of paper works well with gouache.
  • Wet-on-wet application with diffusion will not work.
  • Glazing will lift the underlayer.

Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper (semi- compressed fibers)

  • Some pigment penetrates deeper into the fibers.
  • A painting on this type of paper ends up with a nice velvety look.
  • Diffused wet-into-wet application can be achieved on cold pressed, but there’s a risk of losing the forms from excessive pigment bleeding. The artist working with this paper must be quite skilled at controlling the degree of fugitive paint.
  • It works well for scraping out rocks with a credit card when painting landscapes.
  • Cold pressed is not optimal for glazing because the new layer tends to disturb the first layer.

Rough Watercolor Paper (loosely compressed)

  • The pigment seeps even deeper into the fibers of rough paper.
  • The wet-into-wet application works well on this type of surface.
  • Glazing works better because the paper grips the first layer quite well.

So the next thing you will encounter is weights.Artist run into a problem with watercolor paper curling and buckling unless it is fastened down somehow. I know my artist husband routinely takes hot press watercolor paper, soaks it, then stretches the wet paper on canvas stretcher bars to paint on. It dries tight as a drum and the painting, when completed, is cut from the frame-no bucking or edge curling!

Watercolor paper sells in 22- by 30-inch sheets, which you can cut into various sizes and that makes it ideal for ecoprinting.

  • 90 lb. the flimsiest weight. Most computer paper is 20 lbs.
  • 140 lb. must be stretched to avoid buckling. I use this.
  • 300 lb. does not require stretching but is more expensive. Large pieces will still  when wet-again fine for ecoprinting.Very Absorbent

The common mordant in paper printing is alum. Leather has natural tannins and can be worked without mordants.

The key to ALL ecoprinting with leather and paper is experimentation. Nothing works if you do not try it 🙂

So what can you make with ecoprinted Leather and Paper? The easiest first projects are journals. Once you learn to handle the tools, the sky is the limit :-). Leather covered journals filled with blank or alternating with ecoprinted papers is beautiful. And of course the papers are beautiful when a small detailed or colorful print is framed and displayed as an art piece!

   
My ecoprinted leather pocketbook                                                           Shoes! Working on boots now!


leather art journals                                              Creating a watercolor paper journal

            
Watercolor paper journals

      
Leather art Journal                                                           A few of the tools for working with Leather

What’s Happening WORKSHOPS

  • August 25, 2018 ECOPRINT on SILK Workshop: This is my popular, 1 day, 10:00am-3:00pm workshop and the last one this year. A relaxed ecoprinting workshop that is perfect for everyone. Beginner to advanced. Advanced ecoprinters learn new techniques or tips that will delight them 🙂 Supplies included-You’ll leave with two 8″ x 72″ silk scarves. Complete info and online registration: http://thesilkthread.com/workshops/eco-printing-on-silk/ 

 

  • Sept 21-23, 2018- Ecoprint on Leather and Paper. For those who would like to pursue ecoprinting on leather and paper, this 3 day workshop Sept  at my North Carolina Studio will launch you into a new way to look at ecoprinting!  There will be links to the supplies you will need to purchase beforehand-the same supplies are used with both leather and the watercolor paper. You will be creating leather and watercolor art journals and will leave with 2 art journals and enough ecoprinted hide to make your own project at home http://thesilkthread.com/workshops/eco-print-on-leather/   Complete details on my website! My only Leather workshop for 2018.

  • Jan 30-Feb 2, 2019- ECOPRINTING on LEATHER and PAPER: a 4 day comprehensive workshop at AYA Fiber Studio in Stuart, Florida!  A good way to escape the winter’s chill and attend a waterfront workshop 🙂 Similar to my 3 day workshop but with the additional time to  learn and create more project techniques with leather: https://www.ayafiberstudio.com/eco-print-ii/5-da

What’s Happening-SHOWS
Fall is crazy. It is my “show” season and as a self employed artist, it is my busiest time for selling what I create all year!

  • August 17-19, 2018 Michigan Fiber Fest –   I will also be teaching an “Easy Dye Silk Scarves” Workshop on Sunday! Even actually begins Aug 15 but vendors arrive for 3 days. More on my Facebook Event page  https://www.facebook.com/events/425737664565032/
  • Sept 15-16, 2018-Centerfest Art Festival-   A long established juried art show in Durham, NC. A big outdoor weekend event with hundreds of artists! Details on my Facebook event page  https://www.facebook.com/events/1275645812566815/
  • Sep 29-30, 2018 Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fest   Berryville, VA. An outdoor festival at the Clark Co fairgrounds. I will be teaching 2 “Easy Dye Silk Scarves” classes each morning. Hubby will my my booth 🙂 Additional details on my Facebook Event page https://www.facebook.com/events/861651124018676/
  • October 11-21, 2018- Village of Yesteryear at North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh NC The annual NC State Fair-a family event and both hubby and I are craftspeople in the Village of Yesteryear. Read all about it on my Facebook event page https://www.facebook.com/events/264008367710014/
  • October 26-28, 2018  -Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair  Fletcher, NC . A big fun fiber event with over a 100 vendors and workshops! Yes I’ll be doing my “Easy Dye” silk scarves workshop Sunday morning. More info on my Facebook event page! https://www.facebook.com/events/270170070417585/

That’s enough for now-hopefully I will get up my Fall newsletter and the Nov Dec updates 🙂


Be sure and follow me on Facebook I am most up to date there! https://www.facebook.com/thesilkthreadart
Want to join my Facebook Group? It is not so much a techniques group on ecoprinting as much as it is an inspirational group! It is what inspires us to create, not compete 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/groups/personaljourneysintoecoprinting
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.

Learn something new today!
Until next time!
Theresa

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!

The Roots of Ecoprinting

How deep do the roots go into the personal Psyche of those people captivated by “Ecoprinting?”  What nourishes their interest and fascination? On what level do they embrace it?

The Roots of Ecoprinting

There is nothing quite like Nature’s artistry in her plant Kingdom.  Our own personal journey in Nature determines how deeply our roots are connected to our appreciation of such beauty. There are so many ways to embrace this love of Nature.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

Who has not enjoyed spectacular scenic views while driving camping or hiking? Part of what motivates the artist in me are views that take in the distance.

 

Sunflower Field
Monet’s 1875 Woman with a Parasol in the Garden at Argenteuil

The play of light and shadow on acres of sunflowers captivated me off a dirt road in Virginia.

Gardens and vistas, both cultivated and wild have been celebrated and admired by people from all walks of life.  Artists, poets, writers, outdoor enthusiasts and musicians have taken inspiration from Nature.

With cultivated gardens, I think initially for many it is the colors that capture their attention. And colors aren’t limited to planted gardens! I know in my long hikes through forests, it’s the wildflowers -some bright and showy and some very tiny peeking up in early spring walks.

For some it may be the significance of a particular plant discovery. My sister’s annual joy when discovering the purple crocuses  pushing their way through the snow is one such vivid memory for me. Even for those of us embracing the  winters in upstate New York,  crocuses signaled that Spring was truly coming!

Crocus flowers blooming through the melting snow.
Maple trees

 

And with that knowledge came the certainty that soon it would be time to tap the sugar maple trees , carrying the frozen cans into the house for my mother to add to the sugaring pot on the stove before we caught the school bus.

 

 

 

In Ecoprinting, I have found delight in imprinting not just plant designs, but memories. The results are tactile, visually beautiful and a delight! Not all maple trees are the same. The ones of my childhood are not as common in the North Carolina Piedmont area. Even the ones on my own mini farm are not what I look for in my art. But I have located a few special sugar maples that take me back to my roots. And I delight in what they share with me!

 

 

ecoprinted maple leaves on Silk
ecoprinted maple leaves on Silk

In an en earlier blog I wrote about roses….and shared images of abandoned homesteads, heirloom roses and the resulting beautiful images from fallen rose leaves. More memories  captured through the art of ecoprinting.  But perhaps this final image says it best! And if you want to connect in my NEW Facebook group “Personal Journeys in Ecoprinting” where you can share your inspiration, happy thoughts and  positive energy, join us!     https://www.facebook.com/groups/532432183800670

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