Tag Archives: the silk thread

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā 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

Visit me at The Village of Yesteryear!

For over half of the 150 years that the North Carolina State Fair has been¬† in existence, the “Village of Yesteryear” has been one of the most popular exhibits to visit during the 11 day stretch! In short, “The Mission:¬† “To encourage the development and perpetuation of heritage crafts by the display of our products and the demonstration of the skills required for their production. To share what we have learned and developed with all who may be interested.”

 

Booth at the Village

There are over 100 craftsmen and women displaying their goods and methods for creating what they sell and I will be there with plenty of silk and silk methods! Ecoprinted, hand painted and handmade!  I will have a display board of the various silks available as well as my usual silk cocoons. I thought about live silkworms but that seemed problematic!

Setting up the booths!

And here is artist hubby Stephen Filarsky with part of the set up going up from last year. The 11 days are long and tiring so being next to each other (He is the Sign Painter!) is great!

A State Fair is a Time honored tradition.  To say there is something for everyone is an understatement. From  4-H displays and competitions to the midway rides to farm animals, carnival games,  fair food,  you name it; there is something for everyone to enjoy at their own level. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells but be sure and come by the Village!

The Village of Yesteryear is a “working artists” village that features traditional heritage hand crafts. Demonstrations are performed using skills that, for many, have been passed down for generations. Our goal is to encourage the development and perpetuation of these skills.

The craftspeople do their best to create an exciting learning experience for the visiting public. They wear period costumes and continuously talk about and demonstrate their craft.

See you at the Fair! Oct 12-22, 2017!

Harvesting and Ecoprinting by Moon Cycles

When I was an art major in college at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, I lived in a small place on the Tar River near my family’ s farm. Driving home late one night after an evening class, I slowed at a little home to turn into our long dirt drive and noticed my neighbor in her garden.¬† She was silhouetted against a bright moon and was obviously at work picking pole beans. The next day I asked my parents why our neighbor was in her garden at 10:30 pm.¬† They said that she planted and harvested by the phases of the moon.¬† I was intrigued as no one’s garden compared to hers! She grew more in an half acre of land than anyone could and her corn grew to Iowa heights! We talked several times about her planting methods and I’ve never forgotten her or her garden.

Fast forward to the here and now and as we approach a total eclipse near our area on August 21,  I found my mind turning  back to my long ago neighbor harvesting from her garden. And I started thinking.

Ecoprinting on paper is something I have done since my college days. Ecoprinting on silk has been the past 5 years. But as I said in an article I wrote for the spring edition of “No Serial Number” magazine, my immersion into ecoprinting involved far more than the finished design! As incredible as the designs are, it is the “hard to explain” part of being one with Nature in her moments of giving me her bounty of design and color. I like to forage for the leaves. I like long hikes in back woods, hearing the birds, absorbing the colors. The artist in me has been involved with Nature since my teen years of solitary cross country skiing through birch forests in the Catskills and even earlier with years of horse ownership and trail rides. They are peaceful places for me.

Theresa Collecting plants

Collecting right now, as I practice it, has been more a case of going for a drive through the countryside or on a cool enough day (it IS summer here in the south!) to collect from my own farm.  But I started to wonder, just recently, what IF I harvested and processed by the phases of the moon?

I have collected enough to know that the day, the time and the maturity of the leaves and plants I collect influence my final result. The same rose bush today might give me different colors than from a week ago. I totally get that.

But what would happen if I thought about both harvesting and processing based on the ancient principles of the phases of the moon? I think it was the Mayans who had a comprehensive calendar for their crops.

 

 

What if I tried my idea for several months? Studies moon charts, kept notes on the results, collected my usual way from the same trees or plants and did a test study?¬† Tried to make sense of something that for our forefathers was as ingrained in them as breathing? I quote from a web page called “Planting by the Signs of the Moon”

Pliny the Elder did it, and so did Benjamin Franklin and your great grandma as well! They all planted gardens by the phases of the Moon, using a method practiced in rural communities for over two thousand years. It was so well established in the first century AD that it became part of the ‚Äúnatural history‚ÄĚ that Pliny wrote about in his series of the same name. A method proven successful over that length of time deserves more than a label of folklore. It warrants a trial in our gardens too.

So I’m going to start this Monday during the total eclipse that will be seen at 92% in our area and 100% in places like South Carolina, Great Smokey Mountains, Oregon and elsewhere.¬† The small window of opportunity for me will be around 2:00 pm (EST)

 

I am curious to see if my free range chickens will think it’s time to roost, or if the brief twilight will have an effect on my other animals (ponies, alpaca) But what I do know is that I’ll later watch the eclipse on NASA’s station (since I don’t have proper eyewear) and concentrate on the experience while I collect my pecan, rose and maple leaves to test.

In the end, it is not as much about results. I am not a scientist. It’s about the experience.¬† My collecting is natural, my results sustainable and beautiful.¬† I¬† enjoy the time it takes to create each piece as much as the time I spend communing with Nature in her environment.¬† I have loved ones that have passed that I often talk to as I gaze up at the moon or stars (funny how it’s not during the day) and somehow I find the idea of an art form I know they would have loved, being practiced during the moon tides to be kind of appealing. So for me, it would be an additional experience added to a process I already enjoy. And what’s not to like?

Eco-print Workshops!

Eco-print Workshops with The Silk Thread

I found that at shows, people are fascinated by my ecoprinting. The infinite number of  leaf prints, especially sharp, crisp ones,  is the first area of fascination. The second is realizing  that Mother Nature can actually release such beautiful colors onto silk.  For many,  it is the knowledge that the entire process is a sustainable and renewable art form.  But universally, it is the image of collecting  leaves on a beautiful day, scattering them onto silk and, in the end, creating a beautiful, unique surprise from Nature that has the most appeal!

Theresa Collecting plants
Collecting leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So It did not take long for people to start asking if I would hold workshops in ecoprinting.   I condensed my process down to a one day workshop that  has made it easy for participants to leave with beautiful scarves created with their own hands!

 

Ecoprinting workshop

Everyone is Equal!

What I love about the Ecoprint workshops is that Everyone is Equal in experience, creativity¬† and artistic ability! ¬† With painting workshops, even for beginners,¬† there is always that subtle competitiveness and insecurity. You can hear it in the conversations “Oh, I’m not really an artist,” or “Is this good?” or “I won’t trace, that’s cheating,” and the list goes on.¬† In Ecoprinting, the participants all learn to initially work the same way with the same methods, but in the end, it is Mother Nature who holds the reins!

I’m including some images from a few recent workshops. I am fortunate in that my mini-farm contains all the plant material we need, right outside the doors of the 2 art studios!¬† Although I work at my

The Silk Studio viewed from the garden

smaller silk studio, and often outside on the deck, it is the larger “Painting” studio where I hold the Ecoprint workshops. I can fit up to 6 (my max number of students) comfortably with my spread out techniques and best of all, we are out of any wind….you can imagine the frustration of laying plants onto a silk scarf on a windy day :-).

All  my workshops run from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. There is plenty of time to relax after the bundled silk is in the pots. This is when we all eat our bagged lunches, tour the silk studio, engage with the ponies, chickens  and assorted livestock on the mini-farm. On a gorgeous day, we sit under the trees and simply soak in the atmosphere while the silk processes in the steamers.

working in the Art studio

There is no doubt that the most exciting time is when we open the bundles of silk and see the results!

opening bundles

As you browse, you’ll see the faces say it best! Enjoy the closeups. Visit my workshop page to see what dates are available and contact me with any questions!

Until next time!-Theresa

Posing with their creations!
Happy with their results!
A delighted participant

 

close up results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First batch drying on the line
First time results!
First time results!
First time results!
Laying out the plants

The “No Serial Number” magazine story

It’s always fun to find yourself in an International magazine! And especially so when that magazine is the up and coming “Green” magazine, “No Serial Number” an “an eclectic lifestyle magazine about Eco-conscious and Heritage Craft, Design and Fashion.”¬†¬†¬† The purpose of the publication aligns itself beautifully with my ecoprinted collections and it is a joy to see this publication embrace all that is sustainable, renewable and beautiful!

Cover Photo No Serial Number

 

So what about my article? Well, I had the best time writing it and pulling together my images. 6 whole pages! But for a sneak preview  you can see a bit of it here!

Page 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Botanical or ecoprinting appeals to the simpler side of people-the surround sound of being in the woods, gathering plant matter and watching it come to as an art form is my passion. But many collectors simply enjoy the finished pieces. Whether for home or office, there is something peaceful and beautiful in knowing the ecoprinted art has given us a lasting piece of Nature’s designs and colors!

It was my pleasure to have “No Serial Number” echo my thoughts and feelings by publishing my work and photos!

page 4

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 ūüôā

Wearing Nature’s Colors

There's nothing like silk!
There’s nothing like silk!

Truly-there is nothing like the look and feel of silk! Soft and luxurious or earthy and light, nothing compares to this all natural, sustainable fabric against the skin.

And nothing speaks to the soul as eloquently as wearing Mother Nature’s colors imprinted naturally onto silk fabrics. For me,¬† wearing creations that come from Nature and to experience both the natural colors the leaves give up during my process or the results of natural dye additions is the journey I enjoy most!

The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk

Let the look of my handcrafted garments tell their own story!

Custom made silk noil tunic
Custom made silk noil tunic
Handcrafted silk noil dress imprinted with leaves.
Handcrafted silk noil dress imprinted with leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handcrafted poncho dyed with cochineal
Handcrafted poncho dyed with cochineal
Handcrafted poncho of silk noil
Handcrafted poncho of silk noil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stylish fit
A stylish fit
Ecoprinted long silk scarf.
Ecoprinted long silk scarf.

 

Indigo dyed Silk dress
Indigo dyed Silk dress

All Natural dyeing with plants

Somewhere back in Time, our ancestors figured out a number of amazing things. In the course of survival, it is understandable that clothes needed to be made and the progression from animal skins to fibers is a fascinating history. But then, someone decided that colors would enhance the fibers and a whole new journey began ūüôā

I don’t think most people even think about¬† color except when looking at clothing on racks in a store. But recently I not only experimented myself but watched a friend Dede Styles, reach back into her Appalachian roots and demonstrate at the NC Mountain State Fair.

She used both iron and brass pots heated with the convenient propane heater. On one day she could not attend, a young couple took over with butternuts.

Dede Styles dying with Goldenrod9
Dede Styles dying with Goldenrod

 

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Her results were stunning reminders that all that is new is old ūüôā This is especially true when today’s thinking is “go natural” and words like “sustainable, renewable and recyclable” are bandied about as though it was a new concept.

Dede Styles dyeing wool
Dede Styles dyeing wool

My own efforts are similar yet different. I am all about dyeing silk rather than wool. A huge part of the enjoyment is collecting the plant matter to use in a dye pot. My husband happily joins me in this search. Who doesn’t want to wander down back roads and through one’s own pastures? I used my 1940’s porcelain/enamel pot on a hot plate since an iron pot is not yet in my studio!

dyeing with goldenrod
Dyeing silk with Goldenrod

 

dyeing with sumac
Dyeing silk with Sumac

The results are beautiful and indeed, sustainable, renewable and totally organic. And honestly, our ancestors had a good thing going, I think ūüôā