Archive for December, 2009

Newsletter – December 2009

snowflake_300h2 A big hi to everyone reading this newsletter. I know it’s been a long while since I last sent one out and to be honest, I don’t really have a good excuse for taking so long (or a bad one, come to that). The main thing that has been taking up my time is our move from Ireland to Bristol, UK. And it’s now nearly Christmas….

Since arriving at the end of October I’ve managed to find time to paint 2 pictures, one on silk and one with acrylics so I thought I would preview them with you here.

Sunflower mandala painting in acrylic

Sunflower mandala painting in acrylic

Here’s the mandala I painted in acrylics. It’s rather like a sunflower and I used lots of copper and gold highlights but you can’t really see them properly in this photo. There’s lots of really vibrant yellow in the picture with layers of radiant sky blue making it a real ‘rain banisher’. Just the thing for all this downpour at present.

The second mandala is on silk. I haven’t found time yet to do any steaming so it is still stretched on its frame. At the time I painted it I was feeling quite stretched, too, in the aftermath of our move and so the colours are quite muted and the design very simple. I find it quite calming and meditative.

Silk mandala painting on frame

Silk mandala painting on frame

Now the attic is getting more and more decluttered and looking like an artistic workspace. I will be able to start doing small workshops in the new year. This will, of course, mean that those of you in the Dublin area will find it harder to attend any of my workshops. But it would be really great to see some of you again. Ryanair is always offering really knock-down prices for their flights, so how about a day trip over here for some creativity and then back again at night. Or spend the evening out in Bristol and fly home the next day. Have a think about it.

On the other hand this move is good news for any of you living around the Bristol area as you won’t have very far to travel. I’m looking forward to getting to know new people in this area.

The main change in my workshops will be the group size. I’m only able to do small groups of 3 or 4 now as we no longer have the big space we used to have in Malahide. But this is all good. Smaller groups mean more individual attention for each of you. I’m also planning to offer one-to-one silk painting tuition for those who don’t feel confident enough to be in a group. I’ll be posting details and prices for both of these options on the website.

—————— 000 ——————


I get asked so often which brand of silk dyes I use, so, since it’s really no big secret and not a guarantee for creating masterpieces, here is the answer. I’ve been using Dupont’s steam-fix dyes and gutta for quite a few years now and I love the effects I achieve with them. I’ve also been using some Marabu Silk products for iron fixing as it depends what I am working on. There are, however, very many brands out there and often it is down to personal choice. I thought I could dedicate some space to reviewing some so that you find it easier to make a choice. There is no right and wrong at the end of the day.

Price-wise there’s basically no big difference amongst the various brands unless you opt for some specifically organic products which are very pricey and very limited in the colours available. Yes, it is possible to mix all sorts of shades with just the primary colours, however many of those gorgeous shades will still completely elude you. I’m talking about the turquoises, the purples and fuchias, to name a few. It’s hard to keep any level of luminosity when you mix dyes together and the closest I have come to mixing a purple, is a dull muddy hue that isn’t all that attractive. Just buy a ready made purple if you ask me and then create loads of other shades from that one. I have a wide range of dyes and also mix and match within that framework, giving me literally hundreds of shades to work with.

When you are buying your dyes in the shops, they tend to come in the small 50ml size which works out much more expensive than the bigger bottles. Most companies offer their dyes in 50ml, 125ml, 250ml and 1 litre. Obviously investing in the 1 litre bottles gives you most value for your money. However, the outlay is very high and it will take you a long while to work through them. They normally have to be ordered online and cost quite a bit extra in postage and packaging. However, they still work out much more cost-effective than their 50ml counterparts. If you have any friends who like to paint on silk, then I would certainly recommend clubbing together and ordering larger bottles which you can then divide up snowflake_300h amongst you.

Dupont Steam Fix Dye:

Shades available: There are well over 100 different shades to pick from and that’s one of the reasons they are my favourite. I don’t know of any company that offers more. These are grouped under headings such as Classic and Pastels and are traditional “French” dyes.

Dupont silk dyes - 1 litre, 250ml and 125ml bottles

Dupont silk dyes - 1 litre, 250ml and 125ml bottles

Water-based dyes: they have almost no smell and are deemed very safe as far as dye manufacturing goes. The most important thing is that there are no toxic fumes from solvent.

Sizes: 50ml, 125ml, 250ml and 1 litre.

Highly concentrated: dilutable with water or special dilutant.

Light and water resistance: very good.

Lids: screw on, which means you have to be careful when the bottle is open in case there is spillage.

Staining: they make a terrible mess of your hands and clothes if spillt, so only wear old clothing and be prepared to have stains on your fingers for a few days – or wear rubber gloves.

Fixing: you need a steamer to fix the dyes permanently into your silk. This is a very high investment if you buy a custom-made one, so only worth while doing if you paint a lot or professionally. You will find lots of help on the internet for building your own steamer with a big pot, lots of paper and tape.

Colour vibrancy: brilliant. The silk always looks gorgeous after the steaming.

Marabu SilkArt Dye:

Marabu silk dyes - 250ml and 50ml dropper bottle

Marabu silk dyes - 250ml and 50ml dropper bottle

Shades available: over 30 but a relatively restricted choice compared to Dupont. However, great as a complementary range.

Water-based dyes: they have almost no smell and are deemed very safe as far as dye manufacturing goes. The most important thing is that there are no toxic fumes from solvent.

Sizes: 50ml and 250ml

Highly concentrated: dilutable with water or special dilutant.

Light and water resistance: very good.

Lids: 50ml bottles come with a dropper lid and 250ml bottles come with a special dispenser, meaning you don’t spill the dyes so easily. Great feature.

Staining: they make a terrible mess of your hands and clothes if spillt, so only wear old clothing and be prepared to have stains on your fingers for a few days – or wear rubber gloves.

Fixing: you need a steamer to fix the dyes permanently into your silk. See the details above for Dupont fixing.

Colour vibrancy: brilliant. Every bit as good as Dupont in the final effect.

I’ll be having a look at some of the iron-fix dyes in my next newsletter. I’m aware that this is the only option for some of you with regards price and ease of fixing. These are the dyes you will be able to buy over the counter in small bottles in hobby and craft shops.

—————— 000 ——————


snowflake_300h1 One of you lovely blog readers asked me recently about steam fixing and so I have put together an article which contains some tips and things to think about when doing this. Please have a look and see if there’s anything there to help you, too. It always boils down to the same thing. Those of you who paint on silk a lot and follow it as a career will find it worthwhile investing in a professional steamer. For those of you who do it on a hobby basis, it doesn’t make sense and so you have to “make” your own steamer at home.

I’ve listed a few pros and cons of the homemade version in my article called “How to Steam Fix Silk Dyes for Best Results”. Please have a look and let me know if you have any questions we can look into.

Any dyes which are bought over the counter marked “iron fix” are very easy to fix. First of all I recommend you leave your work to dry thoroughly, ideally overnight. Very often there are instructions on the back of the bottle or on an accompanying leaflet. It’s very simple. All you need is an iron, ironing board and a clean tea towel. Remember to turn your work over and press it from the back, not on the surface with the gutta if you have used any. 3 minutes will do fine for each area sitting on the ironing board. You have to rotate the work and repeat this for larger pieces of silk.

—————— 000 ——————


In response to several of you asking me about how to have your silk artwork steamed by a professional service, I decided to surf the net and see what I came up with. Not very much unfortunately. So….

I have decided to offer a steam fixing service for silk painting as an experiment for a few months to see how the response is and to be of service to those of you who have no other options.

I will be adding a permanent post on my website and blog to this effect but here are the details for those of you interested.

  • Let your silk artwork thoroughly dry and remove it from the frame
  • Make sure you have ironed it on the back to fix any coloured gutta you may have used
  • Pop your silk into a small plastic sandwich bag and place in a bubble envelope for optimum protection
  • Send me your full name, address and email (I will recycle the envelope)
  • UK ONLY – please enclose sufficient postage to return the silk or include with PayPal payment for service
  • All other countries – prior payment by PayPal to cover all costs

I will be sending out an email with exact details within the next few days.

—————— 000 ——————


As a small gift to you I want to start publishing free mandala templates which you can download and transfer onto your silk and paint in your favourite colours. The first one ready looks like this and all you need to do is click on it and save it to your desktop for printing.

Free Mandala Template 01

Free Mandala Template 01

Now the next part involves you sending something back to me. I would love for you to copy it onto your silk and paint any way you feel inspired to. When you have completed it, please send it on to me and I can publish it here for everyone else to see. Even better. I’m giving away two small gift vouchers which can be used towards any of my silk products and the best submitted paintings will receive these.

Don’t worry about having to rush and with Christmas being so busy. You have until January 15th to send in your picture.

Here’s what you do: trace through the mandala template onto your silk and paint it in your very own unique way. Next, take a photo of your artwork and send it to me, together with your full name and hometown (address optional). I will then publish all those sent to me, together with your details for everyone else to see. TWO winners will be picked and he or she will receive a gift voucher to the value of £5 to be redeemed against a pack of mandala cards, or £10 to be redeemed against a cushion or stretched picture.

P.S.: If you really get stuck with silk dyes, why not just go ahead and colour the mandala in with colour pens or paints.

I look forward to seeing your artwork. Good luck!

—————— 000 ——————

Q & A’s

Can I remove the gutta again if I make a mistake?

For water-based guttas the answer to this is “No”. I have had occasions when working with very wet silk that I have changed my mind about where I have placed my coloured gutta. Using a wet brush I was able to massage it out with some water before it dried. The downside is that this can make a mess of your silk and further smear the gutta, making it worse than before. If you are using clear gutta, you do have the option of taking the silk off the frame and washing it in lukewarm water. You have to then wait until the silk dries before you can continue. However those of you who work with solvent based guttas are out of luck. These can only be effectively removed through dry cleaning. My advice is always to pretend you meant to apply the gutta that way and make a feature out of it. You can then draw your lines the way you originally intended in your next picture if you want. At the end of the day there are no mistakes.

Do I have to fix the gutta and dyes?

As a professional artist I have always fixed both my gutta and dyes. No negotiating on that whatsoever. However, I do know of people who don’t do this. You can’t get away with it if you are making any item of clothing but if your work is going to be placed under glass in a frame, then I suppose it is debatable as to whether or not you need to fix your work. There are reasons why not to but I will discuss this topic in greater detail in an article.

There are some tubes of gutta-like metallic substances which are particularly gluppy and you must not apply heat to or indeed any pressure. If you have used these to highlight your work, then you will have beautiful effects but any drop of water touching your work will render it useless and cause bleeding, washing your precious work out of the silk. So keep them well away from water and any hands that may want to touch them.

Please ask me if you’d like any more information on this.


snowflake_300h3Well, that brings me to the end of this newsletter and what is left to say but – Merry Christmas to all of you and thank you for all the support you have given me during the past year. Have a wonderful, well-earned break and I look forward to hearing from you all in the weeks and months to come.

Take care and I hope you find time to indulge in some silk painting over the holidays. Let me know how you get on. holly-n-berries-bows

Love and blessings


5 Responses to “Newsletter – December 2009”

  1. Edie says:

    Hello Fiona,

    You’ve created such beautiful paintings since you’ve been gone. And I might (key word might) be inspired to download your free mandala and get creative. It would definatly be with pens instead of paints, but at least it would be something….

    Paddy and I were out and about yesterday and went by your old place in Malahide. It’s still sitting empty. Not much of a market right now for houses I guess.

    Much love to you and hope you are doing well!!

    Tell Michael hello from Paddy and myself….Love, Edie

  2. Michael says:

    well done, nice content, and beautifully presented.

  3. Fiona says:

    Hi Edie and Michael

    Thanks for your feedback. I’m looking forward to being able to publish lots of mandala artwork from all of you readers in whatever form. Silk dyes are great and so are crayons, pencils, watercolours… It’ll be a great gallery.

    Love and blessings


  4. Ann-Marie says:

    Hi Fiona

    Great to see your paintings up on the web. You are wonderful to get down to it with all the move. They as always look beautiful.
    hi to everyone
    it is verycold and frosty here in Dublin as i write

    happy christmas

  5. Fiona says:

    Hi Ann Marie

    Thanks for your comments and lovely to hear from you. Last night we had a very heavy snow fall which left a thick carpet of white over everything. It’s very wintery here. Perfectly timed for the Winter Solstice and very “Christmassy”.

    Love and blessings

Leave a Reply