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!
Let the look of my handcrafted garments tell their own story!
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 🙂
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.
Her results were stunning reminders that all that is new is old 🙂 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.
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!
The results are beautiful and indeed, sustainable, renewable and totally organic. And honestly, our ancestors had a good thing going, I think 🙂
Roses in history, in quotes, in art and poetry. Perhaps no other flower has been written, photographed, cultured and painted in all of history.
“What a lovely thing a rose is!” -Arthur Conan Doyle (The Naval Treaty)
“I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday sweet and fragrant, between its leaves.” -L.M. Montgomery (Anne of the Island)
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare
As artists, my husband and I regroup by exploring back roads, both paved and unpaved. In our many travels we began to bring not just camera and sketchpads, but shovels, buckets, water and pruning shears. And we began rescuing flowers and taking cuttings from abandoned homesteads.
Sometimes we only discovered totally overgrown homes hidden off dirt roads by noticing a burst of pink, red or white flowers through the growth. On closer inspection we would discover huge rose bushes, or old varieties of Sweet William or daffodils, continuing to grow and bloom with happy abandon, unaware that no one was on the crumbling front porches enjoying their beauty and fragrance any longer. So we began to take cuttings, dig a few bulbs or flowers in hopes of transplanting them to our mini-farm for them to be seen and enjoyed.
Before long we had our own bushes of Seven Sisters, Old Dawn (climbing) Red Blaze, wild white roses, Lady Banks, Old Glory, tiny leaved Scottish Roses…..and some nameless ones. My heirloom rose garden includes a red variety of Seven Sisters that my mother collected from her old family homestead (long abandoned) in Mississippi while researching her roots.
As a painting artist, I have painted and photographed my share of beautiful roses over the years. But no art form has excited my creativity as much as collecting and imprinting designs and colors from those roses I have rescued!
In the world of Eco or Botanical printing on fiber, more often than not it is the leaves that leave the best impression, not the actual rose. And it seems fitting as no one immortalizes the rose leaf in poetry and quotes. Even the thorn has numerous symbolic mentions…but the leaves? Yet without the leaves there would be no rose! I don’t think botanists will ever cultivate a bronze, green or copper colored rose. But in my work with the rose leaves on Silk, I regularly re-create these colors!
So much, I have learned, depends on what day, what month and what rose leaves I use…from the tiniest to the largest. The colors vary, the shapes vary…but the sentiment stays the same for the leaves as it does the beautiful petals. A wondrous surprise every time I work with my rose leaves and silk.
I like to think that the women or men who once planted and loved these roses, would be pleased to see their simple pleasures re-created as beautiful imprints on silk. And that someone cared enough to stop by their once active homes, lost to time and encroaching developments and rescued their roses and flowers to treasure as much as they once did.
When I am looking for inspiration, my artist hubby Stephen Filarsky and I travel north from our place to the John Kerr Lake dam. No matter the weather or time, it is a place to renew my creative energies. It’s easy to feel as though you are absorbing that tranquility!
And along with that easy feeling that comes with a lazy summer day, comes the realization that summer brings summer rains and occasionally a storm.
Nothing is quite as exhilarating as a powerful summer storm when viewed from a safe place :-).
Often I collect tree leaves from these drives and flatten them in a sketch pad. These areas produce sumac, red bud and a variety of abundant good printing leaves that I take back to the studio and save.
Black eye Susan plants are everywhere and a childhood favorite of mine.
So what do I do with this all this natural inspiration and plant material? Two of my many recent inspirations: Silk wraps, ecoprinted with one dipped in an indigo vat. Both 36″ x 84″.
The blue one has sold but to see more of what a summer drive in the country inspires, be sure and visit my Amazon shop!
When I discovered that Floridian Kathy Hays, an expert in all things related to contact (or eco) printing, was going to be in my NC area, I jumped on the chance to have a one-on-one workshop with her. I could not make her 3 day workshop in Florida so she put together a jam packed session! We started early at my studio stirring the vat like a witches brew!
The day was perfect for working outdoors! I had previously washed all the silk to be used as that was my main focus. But indigo works beautifully on all fabrics. The photos below will take you through the basics of our process 🙂
Perhaps the most amazing thing to observe is the Green of the initial Indigo turn to blue as it is exposed to the air-oxygen. I think that if we find it magical today, think how the ancients must have felt watching it turn from green to blue in front of their eyes!
There is no doubt we were having fun!
During and after the workshop I continued to work with my silk, enjoying that feel of working outdoors, creating something beautiful and improving my skills in yet another area of my new favorite medium! Seems my printmaking skills from college have come in handy after all!
Enjoy the collage of a few of the results! Up close and personal: see my site!
The months of April and May have been been “art show” months with several shows each month …..a great way to showcase my work in person! I was hardly able to unload the vehicle in between shows 🙂 But any way you look at it, if you go to shows you need a place to unload and a place to work! Check out the Silk Art Studio images below 🙂
So what does the studio look in May? Notice the awesome clothesline?
I love this time of year. The trees and pastures are coming alive again as the nights have warmed. And with that new growth come the many shades of green seen only for a short period before settling into their summer look. They were preceded by that southern staple, the dogwood tree, which grows wild, looking like popcorn in the foliage free woods. Red buds, weigelia, confederate jasmine ….all follow, coloring the landscape and promising an end to winter!
Our mini farm is home to an assortment of roses. Not the landscape teas of the cultivated garden, but the hardy farmhouse roses, the heirlooms, that we have rescued from abandoned homesteads in our region. Soon, usually around Mother’s Day, they will virtually all erupt into one spectacular, aromatic display before their blooms fade by the end of May. Until then, they are supplying me with an abundance of rose leaves in every size and shape!
A few unexpected freezes had us out in frigid weather collecting the tiny oaks leaves and catkins blown down by a freak storm (Nature is known for surprises) My artist hubby, Stephen Filarsky has gotten into the whole “eco-thing” as he calls it. We have always hiked and traveled the back roads with cameras and sketchbooks. We know every abandoned house within 100 miles of here. So it is meaningful to return and collect leaves from long forgotten flowers and shrubs and bring them back to life in a new and beautiful way!
My studio deck overlooks my small pasture and for another week or so, it is awash with yellow wildflowers. The deck is where I do most of my laying out of the plants, bundling, and where my steam pot sits. I only move inside when it is too cold or too windy (a real challenge!) to work outside. I also use my bargain picnic table if I need even more room!
The last few times I have spent in ecodyeing, I have also pulled out some watercolor paper-we have SO much paper in our other art studio-and added a bundle to the dye pot.
Nothing elaborate but oh my, what amazing, and different results! So before I head outside to feed animals and then to the studio to photograph yesterday’s results, I’ll share one result of using the same japanese maple leaves on both silk and watercolor paper, and another of just the watercolor paper. The surprises are what makes this an invigorating art form!
Late winter and I’m ready for spring. Leaves on the trees, flowers…that kind of spring! Some of my silk art I can create inside, in the warmth of my small studio (my cabin) But others I have to create outside. 30 degrees is cold when your hands are submerged in water and winter gloves are not an option.
But March art shows are coming and today I’m moving my work space out to the tables on the deck as the temperatures should finally be kind :-). I alternate between my hand painted silk and my eco-printed silk. A recent trip to gather freshwater driftwood from a lake shore inspired me to create a few wall hangings.
And you have to love the random patterns of eco-prints from Mother Nature. Raw silk, gathered leaves and gathered driftwood-all re-purposed into new, beautiful artwork.
These two images are shown hanging on my tobacco stick fence in front of my large art studio. This studio is kept separate from the silk as it is where my artist hubby, Stephen Filarsky and I paint in oils, pastels and acrylics.
Paint and silk do not work well within the same space 🙂
My driftwood is also being re-purposed for additional use in my silk work. Images coming soon.
These wall hangings and my newest painted silk creations can be seen in two shows this month:
The Spring Carousel Gift Market in Raleigh, NC March 18-20. The following weekend is the Spring Premier Gaited horse show in the same general location-the Hunt Horse Complex March 23-26. Good place for my horse scarves 🙂
My last “batch” before leaving for a trip to Oregon earlier this month. Grinding, then boiling cochineal bugs and laying out plants on silk….all part of the long process!
And the results? Oh my, what fun! 🙂
Almost 3 weeks in the Pacific northwest and I could not leave without expanding my collection of leaf matter. Check out the monster Big Leaf maple. The weather promises to break, the snow is melting and the sun will make it possible for me to create more of Mother Nature’s Art 🙂
Way back in college, I took a weaving class and managed to squeak by with a “D”. No joke. I loved the weaving part, but the big old floor looms required threading heddles and to a poor college student who had no transportation, the eventual yarn I purchased for the warp was too stretchy. And although I made a beautiful (to me) wall hanging for my final project, it was not of the technical skill my instructor was looking for 🙂
Enter the peg loom and weaving sticks!
So I am all about simple, easy and yet with great results! After more than 25 years as a self employed portrait artist I am way past that “suffer for my art” nonsense 🙂 So you can imagine my delight when, with no instructor looming over me (haha, a pun) I managed to make my first peg loom weaving. I am hooked. I used yarn of course but looking forward to using my silk and silk sari ribbons for something unusual!
But then, what else did I try? Weaving sticks! SO simple, so much fun and I could play “old lady” in front of the fire with my sticks in my hand, balls of yarn in the basket and Louie (my dad’s old cockapoo we inherited) on the arm of the easy chair and just eave away! I can just about finish a scarf during one Columbo rerun. Definitely through a Miss Marple 🙂
Never one for halfway measures, I added Bella to my menagerie of 2 ponies, 18 chickens and 5 dogs. Shearing will be in April when a nearby alpaca farm brings in the shearers…I better learn how to use that drop spindle if I want her fiber lol!