Archive for March, 2010

Newsletter – March 2010

A big hello from still rather cold Bristol. So, here were are mid March and there’s still frost on the car in the mornings. But it is really lovely to see all the snowdrops and crocuses popping up every where. And the birds are back out in full force, twittering their little hearts out. That reminds me of a funny little rhyme I’m sure you all know -

“The spring is sprung, the grass is ris, I wonder where the birdies is? They’re on the wing, but that’s absurd because the wing is on the bird.”

And on that note, let’s slender over to the world of silk painting…

Before I begin writing this newsletter I always take time to sit down and make a list of points that I want to include. It’s amazing what appears spontaneously and this month it has been no exception. As I begin to take notes, I get lots of inspiration for things that I can try out and my sheet of paper ends up very full with bits circled all over the place and arrows linking different parts. I doodle, underline “important” bits and pop in questions and exclamation marks. You’d think that other people were going to read it. Maybe I should save up these sheets so that they can be auctioned off for huge sums of money when I’m rich and famous. :-) You never know.

New pieces of work

Om Mani Padme Om Mandala on Silk

So what have I been painting since the last newsletter? Well, I’m working on another large mandala. It’s always a long, meditative process putting the gutta on the silk. It really does take hours and whenever I am asked how long, I never really have a sense of any exact time. Depending on the complexity of the design, one orbit further out in the proceedings can take about 2 – 3 hours to complete, unlike the smaller mandalas which can be completely guttaed in a few hours. I remember working on the outer rings of Stargate which features a five and six-pointed star nested within each other. I had to keep stopping after about a quarter of a ring at a time. When I have finished the gutta work on one of these larger works, I often have to stop for a bit and let everything settle before I can get going on the painting itself. The moment I start using the dyes, the mandala begins to really take on a Bordeaux Silk Mandala Cushion Paneldifferent energy. The colour hits the silk after hours and hours of pure white and gold and that really is a strong contrast for the eye. And very joyful, too. It still have another 2 or 3 rings to gutta before I can start painting this mandala. I’ll keep you posted on its progress. Sorry the quality of this photo is not so good. I find it hard to photograph the unpainted silk.

While all this is going on, I have also been putting some more cushions together. One has a pinkish-white mandala on a bordeaux background and there is an article on the process involved Spring Leaf Silk Cushion on my Wordpress blog in case you’d like to read more . And there’s a photo of the finished item here. I’ve also made one with a leafy pattern on a whitish-blue background. I do paint a lot of leaves, don’t I?

And then I made a couple of small pictures with flowing colours in the background and gold gutta applied on top afterwards. One is small mandala and the other is a little landscape. Here are a couple of photos of them before steaming. Unfortunately you can’t see the gutta designs too clearly but in the meantime they have been completed with mount and frame and are going to be listed in the Etsy shop where you should be able to see them more clearly. If you check out this link in a day or two you should be able to see the finished product – Etsy shop.

You’ve probably noticed that I’m listing many of my items on Etsy rather than the website. This is because there are some structural changes in the pipeline and rather than put lots of new things in, I want to get the framework in place first.

Then I revamped a scarf which very strangely got a couple of green marks on it not long after it was made. I experimented with putting some new dye on it and generally playing about with it. The final result was very pleasing even though I say it myself. You would never know that it had been bright orange. Now it has a distinct autumnal theme to it and the Jacquard fabric really comes to the fore. Again, I wrote all about what I did on the blog in this post

Pink Silk Scarf

And finally, I’ve created another scarf. It’s in fuchsia and rose again as I’m in a real pink phase. :-) I didn’t put this one on the frame but worked on it flat on a sheet of plastic with everything very wet. The effects were created by moulding and sculpting the silk while wet with the dye. It looks a little bit like tie-dye but there wasn’t a string in sight. It’s good fun messing about for a change, but the dye does get into your fingernails so you might want to put on rubber gloves while trying this out. As you can see, this one was quite a blood bath. :-) The photos of the finished, ironed scarf are still on my camera and I’ll be uploading them tomorrow. If you’d like to see them, come over to the Silk & Art page.

I’ve been making quite a few new listings in the Etsy shop, some of which are on the right hand side of this page. They include a pink sarong and fuchsia chiffon scarf. However there are too many to mention, so please just take a look at the shop page.

New RedBubble Options

RedBubble Postcard of YinYang in Pink Mandala

You can now buy all of my art images on the RedBubble site as postcards. There are 2 greeting cards formats now as well and if you order 4 of one size, you can get a discount of 20%, which is great news. Larger numbers will earn you higher discounts. You can also buy laminated prints, mounted prints, canvas prints, framed prints and posters.

I have been asked several times about the difference between the cards on RedBubble and the ones I sell through Silk & Art. Basically, the ones on RedBubble are not mine. I lend my images to them and they sell the cards. I, as the artist, receive a small commission but you are actually buying the products from RedBubble, not me. The advantage is that you can buy a card of any image I have uploaded to RB and they are all in rectangular format. They can be found by clicking on any of my art images.

In comparison I offer a selection of 12 lithographic mandala greeting cards which

Silk & Art Mandala Greeting Cards

I send out from my home when ordered. They are square and can be bought in a set of 12 or individually. They have a silk finish and are blank inside so that you can use them for any occasion. These were designed by me and have my details on the back. I only offer 12 because of technicalities such as having to buy 1000 each of 14 designs to justify having lithographic prints made. You can see this selection of 12 cards here on Etsy. They can all be bought individually too.

Silk Painting on Glass with an Electric Gutta Pen

I got the idea to include this information when I was writing on the Silk Painting Gallery Network which I regularly contribute to. One of the lovely ladies there mentioned that she had painted something on glass and that immediately triggered thoughts of an amazing artist called Ute Patel-Missfeldt, a German artist who specialised for a while in painting outstanding flower pictures . She pioneered painting silk pictures on glass and developed a gadget for this purpose which drew even gutta lines without blooping. As most of you will know, I lived for 18 years in Germany and at the time I became interested in silk painting, Ute was receiving a great deal of attention for the work she was doing. Well, to cut a long story short, I ended up investing in one of the electric pens that she advocated and tried it out. There’s a plastic tube running from the pen to the little stand you rest it in when not using it and this part was proving tricky for me to manoeuver around. I had to keep holding it away and changing positions so that it didn’t interfere with me applying gutta to my silk. The idea of the Patel-Missfeldt method was to tape a piece of silk to the clean glass and then apply the gutta lines using the electric gutta liner.

I want to apologise for not having the time to take some photos of this gutta pen in action. It would have made it a bit easier for you to follow what I am describing here.

So what on earth were the advantages of doing it this way? The minute you switch on the device, the buzzing starts but the gutta doesn’t flow while the pen is upright in the stand. The minute you pick it up and turn it around to use with the nib downwards, the flow begins. This means that you need to keep wide awake and only turn it over when you are ready to apply the lines. Also, you need to keep moving for a nice even flow. And then you need to keep awake even more and turn it back upside down the minute you don’t want to have any more gutta because it just keeps coming and coming. But the overall effect is very even and clean. It was very well suited to painting on glass with great detail.

I’ll be writing more about this topic on Wordpress but for now, why not go and have a look at Ute Patel-Missfeldt’s lovely artwork on her website. In addition to her gorgeous flowers, she now paints really quirk fat women and other humourous images. Click on Arbeiten and then scroll down to find the florals. Then also have a look at Mode und Kostueme, and Raumdesign. And don’t miss her Porzellandesign. Quite exquisite.

Varnishing My Tie Dye Panel

This was a first for me. You will remember seeing a red and pink tie dye panel that I made in the January Newsletter. Well, I was wondering what to do with it and since there had been a discussion on the go on the Silk Painting Gallery Network about using matt medium (varnish) to finish silk work, I decided to have a go. A

Silk tie dye panel varnished on canvas

very lovely silk painting artist called Karen Sistek developed her method of varnishing her beautiful floral silks and it was roughly following this that I set about putting my silk on canvas. To put it in a nutshell, you prepare a canvas by coating it with diluted varnish and then when it is dry, lay out your silk on the surface and begin to coat it with more diluted varnish, taking care to work out all the bubbles and wrinkles that pop up all over the place. Karen has it down to a fine art and if you’d like to have a link to where she got some inspiration as well as get a tutorial on making a home steamer, have a look here.

Well, I persevered with the brush and varnish and got my silk flattened and then allowed it to dry. The next day I applied another coat, this time, undiluted. The finished surface is now light and dirt resistant which can’t be bad. All you need to do is get out the duster every now and then. I”m now thinking about what I can attach to the left and right of the panel to make nice clean edges. I may even attach a complete frame around it. Next time I’ll be using a smaller canvas and then wrapping the silk around it, in the same way I mount my mandalas on canvases. So watch this space for further developments.

Those Tricky Rolled Edges on Scarves

This is one that comes up again and again. So I’m going to mention it again. These scarves you can buy online with the prerolled edges are fabulous, aren’t they? You just stretch them onto a frame and then get on with being creative. However, there is one drawback. And that’s the fact that the rolled edges are so much thicker than the rest of the scarf. This means that extra dye is likely to get trapped in these layers and could start to leak out again during the drying process. And that leads to messy blotchy areas which can be rather unsightly. There are one or two things you can do quickly and easily to remedy this.

Firstly, hold back with the dye on the edges. It’s better to leave them a bit drier than the rest to avoid them overwetting and turning blotchy. Another thing you can do is have some kitchen roll to hand and use this to gently blot out the excess dye. One I watch out for in particular is chiffon as this fabric is so thin yet the rolled edges are thick. When you have finished painting, just go round the frame and gently squeeze the edge with the paper.

There are more measures you can take but I will discuss these further on the blog.

The New Facebook Silk & Art Page

At the end of last month I succumbed to gentle persuasion and started a Silk & Art page on Facebook. The idea is for those who are interested to keep up to date with what is happening and it provides a lovely space for interaction of all kinds. I am able to include new creations, stories, experiments, links to other sites and more. A very big thank you to every one of you who has come and joined. It’s lovely to see so many well-known faces as well as many completely new ones. So if you haven’t yet had the time to come over, please just follow this link and join us.

Forums for Silk Painters

I just wanted to remind you all that if you are a budding silk painting artist yourself, why not come and have a look at the Silk Painting Gallery Network which was started up by artist Francine Dufour Jones. It’s a space where you can connect with lots of other really talented and inspirational people. It ’s a space that welcomes artists of all abilities. Upload images of your artwork, ask questions, join in discussions and get tips on silk painting resources. And how do you join the group? Click on this link and sign up. Hope to see you there soon.

And don’t forget that you can become a member of RedBubble and upload your artwork for a huge audience to enjoy. As mentioned in the last newsletter, I recently started up a new silk painting group which Francine hosts with me. We are very much a fledgling group but are growing by the day and now have a lovely collection of artworks on our page. Have a look at what we are doing by following this link.

Another resource which may interest you is the Yahoo Silk Painting Group. You have to actually apply to be accepted into the group (not by credentials, but simply to ensure that no spammers are trying to enter the group) and get notification by email when you have been accepted. This is a space where you can ask questions and have discussions on anything to do with silk painting. I believe they offer discounts with chosen companies for silk painting supplies. And here’s the link.

Q & A:

Why does so much dye come out when I rinse my silk after the fixing process and is this anything to worry about?

Basically there is nothing to worry about when lots of dye comes out during the rinsing process provided you have properly fixed the dyes into the silk. By properly I mean using the iron for 3 minutes on each area for iron-fix paints and allowing 3 hours in the steam bath for the French dyes. If you have done this you can rest assured that the dye will remain in the silk. However, there is often a great deal of excess dye which washes out and it’s not often clear why this is happening. Your piece of silk can only hold a certain amount of dye, say “20 droplets”. You apply 40 droplets in your fervour but the silk has no way of holding onto this so it releases it all again on washing. That’s all.

But…there are also cases where you find lots of dye coming out and your silk has become really pale afterwards. In this case the fixing hasn’t worked properly and you need to read through the manufacturer’s instructions again and start troubleshooting.

Do I need to use special steam fix gutta when using steam fix dyes?

I use steam fix dyes with normal metallic gold gutta. I used some that was supposed to be specifically for steaming but didn’t notice any difference, to be honest. Many people are worried about the gutta dissolving or smearing during steaming but I have never found this to be the case. I would recommend that you iron the gutta from the reverse before putting your silk in the steamer, just to be safe. However, I hardly do that myself, only on the large mandalas. I have read about many silk artists complaining about gutta smearing during steaming and again, I don’t have that with the Marabu Silk gold gutta. So why not go and try that brand out if you haven’t done so already.

Free Mandala Template

Ahhhh, the mandala templates. Well, this month no-one submitted any painted mandalas for the gallery on my blog. I still hear from you by email how you like the idea and that you’ll may be get round to doing it, but no-one has. Still, I will

Free Mandala Template 004

continue to publish these free mandala templates each month and hopefully some of you will take the bold step of sending in your artwork for inclusion here. Rome wasn’t built in a day. :-)

For those of you who are reading this newsletter for the first time, I am inviting you all to paint this mandala either on silk or simply by other means and to send it in to me by the middle of April. I will publish them and give a 20% reduction on a picture, cushion or set of cards. And yes, I forgot to include this paragraph last month so we’ll put it all down to that. :-)

And that’s it again for another month. I always really appreciate the feedback you give so do let me know your thoughts by leaving a message in the box below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Enjoy wherever you are.

Love and blessings from Bristol.

Fiona :-) x

8 Responses to “Newsletter – March 2010”

  1. Nicolette Rosanowski says:

    I don’t paint and I don’t think I ever will. But I really enjoy reading your news letter.

    • Fiona says:

      Aw, that’s really nice to hear, Nicolette. Glad this is of interest to non-painters. Thanks a lot for your comments. :-) x

  2. deborah says:

    Great newsletter Fiona. Thanks for sharing the gutta pen technique, which I had been wondering about. I don’t think it’s for me though -I’m much too scatterbrained to keep track of what postition it’s in! Plus I prefer my resist lines to be a bit uneven – I find it loks more organic – but that’s just me! I also mount my paintings on canvas with diluted medium – it definitely takes some practice to get to the point when you’re not tearing your hair out in frustration at the bubbles, but don’t worry, you’ll soon be doing it with your eyes closed!

    • Fiona says:

      Hi Deborah. Thanks for your lovely feedback. Yes, I’m like you. I prefer to apply my gutta the old-fashioned way in a little bottle with a nib. I will get round to taking some photos and writing an article about the pen. It’s an interesting alternative. And interesting to hear that you, too, varnish your finished paintings. I do mostly framed behind glass but the varnishing is a fascinating alternative and it’s nice to give customers different options. Thanks and take care. :-) x

  3. Designer Textiles says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen such an informative newsletter before. You actually have made a few things so much clearer for me. Thanks!

  4. Fiona says:

    Many thanks to those of you who have replied privately to me by email with comments about the newsletter. I really appreciate all your feedback. Please keep it coming. :-) x

  5. christian says:

    Just wanted to say what a great blog you’ve got here!
    I’ve been reading your stuff for quite a long time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


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