Archive for October, 2010

October Newsletter

It’s amazing how many squirrels I’ve seen slendering about the park recently. The way they move is just out of this world. I like to use the word undulating to describe their beautifully fluid motion as they go about their business, deftly side-stepping every perceivable obstacle in their path. On closer observation I can see them stowing away goodies for the long winter months, making the best use of the time available. Concentrating on the task at hand.

Have a look at this little guy over here on the right, musing on where to nibble next. Totally focussed and really sweet. He is one of Angel Ray’s creations. Some of you may well know her lovely silk scarves from Muse Silk Paintings. Well worth having a look at her absolutely delicious selection of fashion accessories.

And on the topic of squirrels, it’s a great exercise in being present, isn’t it? It’s something I have to keep reminding myself of, not to get lost in the huge number of distractions that present themselves on a daily basis.

Because it’s so easy, isn’t it? A brief moment of inattention and we’re away off on a tangent. At least I am, I don’t know about you. :-)

So that’s a good point to stop talking about undulating squirrels and to focus on the task in hand, namely to give you an update on what has been happening in my world of Silk & Art.

Skype Chats

One of the most exciting pieces of news for me was introducing regular free chats on Skype with other silk painters. I had been wanting to do it for a while with the aim of creating more of a personal ’silkies’ community, as opposed to the communications we had all been having on the various social networks.

We had our first chat on October 9th at 5pm GMT and after a good few minutes ironing out all the technical difficulties, we were able to relax into introducing ourselves and sharing ideas we had for future sessions.

These sessions are completely free of charge. All you need to do is sign up with Skype, make sure that you either have a built-in microphone (most laptops do) or get yourself one at your local computer shop, and let me know you would like to take part. I put out the call at the designated time to everyone who is on the list. You just need to go onto Skype and answer when you get the call.

It’s all quite self-explanatory and well worth the effort of getting signed up. If you think you would enjoy this, just get in touch and take part. You can simply sit in the background and listen if you don’t want to take part in the conversation. Looking forward to having you with us.

Front Room: Totterdown Arts Trail

I was asked by a lovely friend, Eva Thyghoj, if I would like to have a space in her home to participate in this year’s Front Room, the yearly Totterdown Arts Trail. Of course I was delighted and so you can see me there during that weekend. It starts on the evening of Friday 19th November with a drinks and nibbles reception and goes on until Sunday evening. You can find lots more details about all the artists taking part by following this link: . You can find me at Eva’s house at 88 Oxford Street. If you’re in Bristol, do come as there will be lots and lots to see.

Room 212 in Bristol

I am planning to team up with some lovely friends to exhibit some of my work in Room 212 in February. Helen and her partner Tim call themselves Scene Elemental and they handcraft jewellery and other artifacts from reclaimed wood, salvaged copper, & silver. They have only recently set up their new business so why not pop over and have a look at what they are doing at Spanglefish.

You can come by in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day at 212 Gloucester Road in Bristol and see what we’re all up to. We’ll take care to publicise the opening times so you can check this out on the website or by contacting us. Hope to see you there.

The Cosmic Web

What I am about to share with you isn’t directly linked to silk painting but since it’s one of my projects, I’d love to tell you all about it here.

It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to set up a centre as a home from home for people to build community in and connect with like-minded people. I’d love to have my mandalas hanging there and create a beautiful ambience for people to feel nurtured in. There will be workshops, meetings, meditations, talks and various other things on offer. At the moment I have no idea where this space will manifest but I am trusting in the process and know that when everything is ready, the right space will be there. I have added lots of sunshine to the cosmic ordering list.

I have opened a new blog to document my process and would love for you to come along and give support and suggestions. Its name is ‘The Cosmic Web’ and the story of how I found it is posted there for you to read. Here’s the link to The Cosmic Web. Enjoy.

Kindred Spirit Editorial

A few weeks ago I contacted the editor of Kindred Spirit, a national Mind, Body and Spirit magazine published in the UK and distributed in select places in North America. She loved my work and got back with a series of questions for me to write about for the magazine. Years ago I fantasized about having an editorial with them….so it has manifested in due time.

I am really thrilled about this and am looking forward with great anticipation, as I have no idea what it will really look like. And when can you read it? The next issue comes out on November 5th, so you can either try and get yourself a copy or for those who are unable to do so, I’ll see if I can publish a copy in my next newsletter so that you can all see it too.


Apples of Avalon

So what else have I been up to? I’ve been painting a sweet little window picture with an Avalon theme for a client in the US. She suggested I add some apple trees and the circle of stones mentioned in ‘The Mists of Avalon’. Here is what I came up with. I hope you like it. If you’d like to have one too, you can. I am now offering this design on Etsy and it will be made specially to order.

I’ve been dying some fabric and playing around with lots of ideas regarding clothing. I think I’ll be looking at doing layers of soya wax to see what results I get. In fact just before I put the final touches to this newsletter I created a 2m length of satin silk. I will reveal that I used rose, fuchsia and orange. But you’re going to have to wait until the next newsletter to get more details and photos of what I am planning.

Black gutta:

Woohoo, I managed to get hold of some sodium alginate recently after quite a search for something local that was also reasonably priced. I was actually wanting to make my own black gutta or resist, after trying to find one that didn’t break or crack and that had a nice feel to it on the silk. I also didn’t want to use the solvent-based resists available. Someone on the Ning Silk Painting Gallery kindly recommended Kemtex (UK) to me, so I followed up the lead and wasn’t disappointed. They were able to send me 100g to try out and the owner spent a few minutes telling me how to use it which I’m very grateful for.

I’ll be posting some results of my new-found black gutta very soon. What prompted me to try this out was the fact that so many of my silk painting colleagues were reporting that they were having difficulties with black gutta or resist, saying that it tended to bleed either during the painting process or later during steaming. So I decided to investigate. Luckily lovely Teena Hughes from Australia shared her recipe for it in one of her YouTube videos. She has been using her home-made version for a long time now and it seems to work a treat. Here it is if you’d like to try it out for yourself: Teena Hughes on Making Gutta.

Silk Painting Workshops

For those of you who have inquired about workshops here’s a date  that I’d like to offer for the end of the year.

Microwave fun – create your own fashion accessory.

Take home a beautiful silk scarf tailor-made to match your favourite outfit. We will be learning some fun folding techniques and fixing the dyes instantaneously in the microwave.

Cost:Saturday, 6th November from 10am – 1pm. £29 all inclusive (silk scarf, dyes)


Create your own Mandala

This workshop is for both beginners and more advanced painters. I will guide you through the process of creating your personal mandala which you can later back and frame to hand up in your own home.

Saturday, 13th November from 10am – approx. 4pm

Cost: £50 all inclusive

I will be freeing up my lounge for this event so can take one or two more artistic participants.

If you’ve decided you’d like to sign up for either/both of these events, what do you do next?

Simply email me at letting me know your wishes and I will contact you to get you registered.

Looking forward to meeting you.

Q & A

What’s the best stretcher system to use to get started in silk painting?

I was recently asked this on my blog and am very pleased that this question has come up as I will now be putting together a detailed post in reply to this.

I always advise beginners not to spend large sums of money in getting started. You can get carried away spending lots of money and then finding out that you don’t really have the time and patience for it or even that you don’t like it (not at all likely!). So just get hold of some large square prerolled scarves which you can tear up into four and attach one of these to a simple wooden frame that you can make very easily yourself. And here’s how:

Buy four lengths of wood from the DIY shop in the desired length and nail them together firmly. Here’s a photo of some of mine that are very basic indeed. You may find that they wobble a little bit, but don’t worry. You will be working with the frame flat on the table and so it will be a sturdy enough structure to work with. Now you can buy the special 3-pronged pins to attach the silk to the wood with but normal drawing pins will do the job at the start, too.

When you start to paint and you find that you have lots of liquid on the silk, it may sag a bit and become uneven. You can easily remedy this by undoing the pin closest to the sagging and pulling it out further before pressing into the wood again.

There are many different ways of stretching your silk and I am planning on pulling them all together for review as soon as I can. But the good news is that every single system can be duplicated at home for very little money. That means that you have the choice of spending a money on something ready made or trying out your own home-made version and saving money. I’ll keep you posted.

Is it important to wash my silk before I paint it or use dyes?

Yes, absolutely. You have no way of knowing if the silk has been degummed before you bought it. Washing the ‘gum’ out can make the difference between having a great finish to your silk artwork or finding that your fabric has a very washed out look. Something else to watch out for is when you are using prehemmed silk scarves or sarongs. Often the thread used to sew them is waxed and so it doesn’t absorb the dye very well. Very often it stays almost white after dying. So by giving the scarf a wash prior to painting you can ensure the stitches absorb at least some of the dye.

Remember to have a look at my other sites at: – you can order t-shirts with my mandalas on them there as well as prints of various types of most of my artwork – in German and still in development stage but nice to look at)

And of course the Silk & Art Facebook page where you can chat to me and leave comments:

Another very useful resource is: – a very friendly forum for beginners and advanced silk painters to share ideas, ask questions and show around your own artwork. You can join the Skype chats group and get involved in what we’re doing there.

As always, I love to hear back from you all. Please feel free to add any comments below or ask anything you’d like to relating to what I’ve shared with you this month.

Blessings to you all

Fiona :-) x

2 Responses to “October Newsletter”

  1. Angel Ray says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post Fiona – and especially interested in the black gutta – always a problem for me. Sounds like you have some very exciting events lined up and wishing you all the very best for successful shows! I might want to sit in and join the skype sessions.. however I’m too shy to be on video. The squirrels are great and I’m so flattered my little sketch is a part of your lovely post :) They are such fascinating (and sneaky) creatures, aren’t they?

    Much Love,

    • Fiona says:

      Hi Angel,

      Great to hear you enjoyed reading this and yes, your squirrel looks really sweet. Thanks so much for letting me use him! :-) )

      I enjoy reading all your posts too and seeing your latest silk scarf creations. Keep up the good work.

      We’d love to have you in on the Skype sessions. Listening in is always a good option to get started. I’ll keep you posted on how things go with the black gutta. Of course, any colour can be substituted which is great.

      Take care. Lots of love to you

      Fiona x

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