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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.”
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!
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!
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
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 🙂
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!