My Love Affair with Art

Art and I began our love affair when I was twenty-one. Up until then, I didn't really know Art. We hadn't seen each other since coloring books in grade school. I met Art again on the beach. Over sea shells and driftwood, Art and I got reacquainted.

I quickly discovered that I had no one in my life to tell me what to do with Art; I needed to make all my own decisions regarding our relationship. This was both liberating and scary. What if I made a mistake or no one liked my Art? I had no one to turn to for my answers except myself.

In the late '70's and early '80's, I flirted with Art. We didn't have a commitment to each other back then. I'd dabble with colored markers or make a mobile or two. Art was a fun past-time, but I didn't take Art too seriously... until I got sick one time with an undiagnosed allergy; then I played with Art in bed for months.

One day, an architect named David Ludwig asked me if I'd like to help paint a giant set on silk for a ballet production. After painting the set, I began creating my own silk works. I painted with a wild abandon, and allowed my hands and arms to move however they wanted to across the outstretched silk.

I've been passionate about silk ever since. It gives me great joy to share my enthusiasm for this spectacular medium with the public and to sell my wearable works and silk art prints!



Galleries, Shows, Open Studios, Stores and Private Commissions include:

  • Gallery One, Petaluma, CA
  • Galleria Tonantzyn, San Juan Bautista, CA
  • San Benito County Open Arts Studio, CA
  • Celtic Arts Festival, Aromas, CA
  • Bunjin Enterprise Art Shows, Seaside, CA
  • Gavilan College Expressive Arts Festival, Gilroy, CA
  • The Good Feet Store, Seaside, CA
  • Tempe Arts Festival, Tempe, AZ
  • Sally Fretwell, commission, VA
  • Wilma Brumit, commission, Aromas, CA
  • Member of the Aromas Hills Artisans (AHA)


The Overall Process of Painting on Silk

Silk is placed in the steamer

(Even the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion didn't go through so many steps when they were getting prepared to meet the Wizard).

Because this is an overall process, first I put on my overalls. Actually I haven't worn a pair of overalls since the '70's in college. But back then, I used to live in them.

One time I was going out with my parents and my mother pleaded with me not to wear the overalls. I refused to change. Finally she dared me. She said if I would take them off, she would wear them. This, I had to see. So I took them off and she put them on.

Now, I was the one who was embarrassed. She looked like Mrs. Hicks straight from the Sticks. I pleaded with her, "Mom, please take them off, you look really ridiculous." Emphatically she said, "No."

Finally, I said I would honor her wishes and wear something else, if she would just get out of them. Eventually she did.

She got her way -- Mom's always been very clever like that. I waited til I got back to campus before I put them on again.

Anyway, back to the silk... The steps of working with silk include:

1) An initial bath of the white silk in a special detergent that removes any gums on the silk that the dyes won't penetrate. Rub-a-dub-dub. Soaking silk in the tub.

2) Ironing the silk while it's still wet. Imagine ironing Saran Wrap.

3) Stretching the silk on a frame. The surface needs to be really tight-but I wouldn't recommend using it as a trampoline.

4) Applying resist. Unlike paints, which tend to sit on canvas wherever they're plopped, dyes will keep expanding and flowing into each other. They don't know how to stop on their own. Someone needs to teach them how to set healthy boundaries.

That's where Mr. Resist comes in. A resist creates an impenetrable barrier that stops those darned dyes from merging. The resist can also define an image by forming a white line on the finished piece.

Once the resist hits the silk, there's no turning back. There's no way to remove a resist line, so I pray that the earthquakes in California begin after this part of the process, because I can't erase a jagged resist line.

5) Applying dye. This is the really fun part. This is where the dance begins. This is the smorgasbord of life. This is the maker of rainbows playing with all the colors in the universe. This is the mad scientist at work. This is the zen art woman dancing her creative flow. This is the low-calorie, yet tasty dessert all rolled into one. You might get the idea that I like this part.

6) Wrapping the silk carefully in a giant roll of newspaper and steaming it in a six-foot steamer for two hours.

This reminds one of some devout religious practice since you are on the floor-rather, I am on the floor-on my hands and knees, but mostly on my knees, rolling up all the silk pieces one at a time on what appears to be a never-ending roll of newsprint. (See photo below).

The end result looks like a five-foot long garlic bread. It's capped with aluminum foil at each end and inserted into the leg of an old black dance leotard which makes a perfect silk condom.

Then it's inserted into a six-foot tall stovepipe steamer (see photo above) where it's left dangling for about two hours to soak up steam, unclog closed pores, and set the pretty colors.

7) A final chemical bath and ironing. In every relationship, whether it be in life or art, one must at some point learn to let go. This final chemical bath helps the silk let go of excess dye.

But unlike relationships that you let go of a thousand times but then find yourself back in and going through the same old thing over and over again...oh, excuse me, I digress.

The neat part of this process is that the excess that bleeds off won't latch on to another part of the silk. If the red bleeds off into the water, it doesn't come back and make the yellow parts orange. It doesn't come back. It's learned how to let go.

Let this be a lesson. There are other steps and processes involved depending on the type of dye or resist that is used, but these are the basics. Learn to let go.

Rolling a student's work for steaming

Silk Scarves and Prints


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