Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

How to Wash Out Water-Soluble Gutta

I just wanted to say a quick few words about gutta or resist. It’s a topic which comes up time and again and just needs to be gone over when it does.

The resist technique in silk painting is when you use substances to create a barrier in the fabric which hinders the flow of the dyes. When you apply dye freely to your silk, it flows in an uncontrolled way, giving you a pattern without form, so to speak. In order to give structure to your design, you can use any of the resists available to gain this effect.

Technically speaking, gutta is a rubbery type of resist which has to be removed by dry-cleaning. For those of you who don’t like fumes or paying for dry-cleaning, there is a water-soluble version available which should not be called gutta even though it does get called this. This is what we are talking about here.

It is only the clear version that you can wash out of the silk after the colours are set. After ironing or steaming setting, hold your silk under the running tap and gently squeeze the fabric until all remains of the resist have gone. Roll your silk in a towel and dab it dry. It’s as simple as that.

The other types of resist cannot be removed after application. These are the coloured and metallic versions. When they have dried, ideally over night, you iron them into the fabric using a hot iron and then proceed with either more painting or fixing. These are an integral part of the design and the lines you create with them remain in the pattern. This is the case with my gold gutta lines on the mandalas (you see, I’m calling the resist by the name gutta – it’s a bad habit). ๐Ÿ™‚

If you are using any of the solvent-based guttas, then you will have to remove them via dry-cleaning.

So, that was it. Hope this helps.

July 31, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Making Little Ring Pillows From Lovely Silks

I’ve started a new project. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and somehow never got round to it. Now I know that this is basically a silk painting blog, but bear with me when I tell you that this first prototype is actually made of ready-made silks.

fiona stolze hand made silk ring pillow

Peachy-pink silk ring pillow

I used some really lovely embroidered silk for the top and the underneath is made with a shimmering dupioni silk. For those of you who don’t like feathers, this little pillow is stuffed with 100% hypo-allergenic material which makes it really healthy and safe. It ‘s also great because it really is feather-light and this makes it easy and cheap to send through the post.

You can see I added two little hearts on the band in gold gutta and then a slim ribbon attached by a little pearl bead.

Unfortunately the photo doesn’t really do it justice. The silk is a gorgeous peachy-salmony colour which has turned into dusty-pink here.

Well, I got inspired putting this together, that I got busy today making the first pillows from handpainted silk. I found some very lovely jacquard silk I bought as an off-cut from a bridal shop and added some very pastelly blues and turquoises.ย  When these panels are steamed, I’ll be adding some matching dupioni to finish them off.

My thoughts, of course, are already on the next pillows. I think it would

Jacquard silk painted pink

be a great idea to go back to my beloved satin silk and create mini mandalas, first of all just the gold on the plain silk. I may then go on to explore with one or two colours but keep them simple so as not to compete with everything else that is going on. ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope you like these little projects. If you do, please leave a comment and let me know. I always love to receive your feedback. The first model is already proudly on offer on Etsy. You can see it here: Silk Ring Pillow on Etsy

And of course, if you’d like to see me make or try out any specific design or colour scheme, just suggest it to me. I love new challenges.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | SILK & ART PRODUCTS | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Benefits of Gallery Wrapped Silk Pictures

Return of the Sister Bride as Gallery Wrapped Silk Picture

I’m always being asked by people what’s the best way to present your artwork. Well, to be honest, there is no one answer to that. The good news is that there are many possibilities available and you just have to pick the one that best suits your needs.

I have traditionally backed, mounted and framed my paintings behind glass but more recently(in the past couple of years) I have begun to offer hand embellished silk prints gallery wrapped on chunky canvas frames. This has the added advantage of being really touchy, feely. The painting has all the characteristics of silk and at the same time is easy to hang up and look after.

Another great advantage for me is that they are easier to send through the post. The glass makes the painting much more vulnerable in your home as there is always the risk of it breaking. And the painting is so much lighter when there is no glass. But again, it totally depends on what effect you want to achieve.

One thing I advise people to watch out for is hanging your silk against a dark background. Any darkness will soak up the light and make your painting appear much darker than it really is. That is why you should hang banners against a light-coloured wall or indeed back them with a piece of white cotton or the like to reflect as much light as possible.

And that brings me to yet another advantage of the gallery wrapped silk paintings. They are

vesica pisces silk picture by fiona stolze

Vesica pisces gallery wrapped silk painting

attached to the white canvas which is just perfect for bringing out the best in your vibrant silk dyes. Don’t be tempted to skip a stage and just attach your silk to a wooden frame with nothing behind the silk. I always advise to just invest in a ready artist’s canvas and stretch the silk over that. The results speak for themselves and you’ll be glad that you did.

But now I’ve started to gallery wrap my handpainted silks, too, not just the embellished prints. Today I completed one of my small vesica pisces silk pictures and gallery wrapped it around an artist’s canvas. It’s actually rectangular, not square, for a change. I like the look it has and it’s a very interesting alternative to the usual framed version which is a bit smaller. I think I’ll be experimenting with a few more like this in the weeks to come but I must admit that I’m not a ‘natural’ with the stapler. I’ve put an electric stapler onto my shopping list as I heard from a very lovely silk painting friend that it saves a lot of hassle. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to how I get on.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. For those of you who would like to have a go at stretching your silk pictures on artist’s frames, have a look at my tutorial on this blog: How to stretch your silk painting on a canvas frame... It might make things a bit easier for you if you haven’t tried it out before. Good luck.

July 18, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dying Silk Boxer Shorts for Fun

Hand dyes silk boxer shirts by Fiona Stolze

Silk boxer shirts - back

This has to be about the messiest, fun-est thing I have done with silk in a long time. I was digging through all my supplies (and yes, I have rather a lot of things related to silk painting in my studio) and discovered that I still had 3 premade silk boxer shorts in their original packaging. Men’s XL boxer shorts.ย  Well, they weren’t much use to anyone wrapped up on my shelf, so I lifted them down, took the first pair out of the cellophane and got to work.

I’ll be honest with you. I was in the mood for some light-hearted fun and so didn’t lay down any plastic sheeting. Nor did I put on rubber gloves. I randomly picked 2 shades from my dye cupboard, selected a few brushes, filled a tub of dilutant and that was me ready to go.

First thing I did was soak the boxer shorts with dilutant. Next I folded them in half, marked a spot in the centre, which I held down with one finger and then began to rotate the silk around this, forming a loose spiral. I didn’t take care that this was neatly done. I just kept on twisting and roughly pushing the silk in place until it was all in one big piece.

Next I wanted to tie it up a bit, but I had forgotten to lay out some wool. So I scooped up my twisted silk package and began digging

Dyed silk boxer shorts by Fiona Stolze

Dyed silk boxer shorts - front

on the lowest shelf behind some plastic bags for something I could use to wrap up the silk. I found some nice terracotta yarn I had abandoned a long time back when I ‘stopped’ knitting and managed to unravel enough with one hand and cut loose a length I could use to tie up the shorts. By this time the shorts had sort of loosened up and so when I began winding the yarn around them, there was no real method left in it at all.

But that just added to the element of chaos and eventual surprise I when I finished.

Okay, I managed to secure a knot and lay the package on the table. It had a very odd, abstract shape and was just inviting me to splash it all over with bright dyes. Which I did. And it was great fun. There was dye everywhere, not to mention my hands. It was such a far cry from my usual very precise and detailed work. Rather therapeutic, I might add. ๐Ÿ™‚

Right, now all I had to do was gently squeeze the bundle to ensure the dye would spread through to all the layers hidden within. But it wasn’t going to do that and I could see lots of white areas peeping through. So I decided not to add any more dye as this would give quite a pretty look. I really love it when the white background shows through on my scarves, too. It sort of adds another dimension and brings in much more light.

One thing this squeezing did do though was to spread more dye on my hands. I was certainly doing a thorough job. Good job I didn’t have to go anywhere later on….or the next day, come to think of it.

Okay, so far, so good. I then continued with my chaos and decided not let the shorts lie so that the dye could continue to work through the silk. I just undid the wool and opened it up.

And I must admit, I rather liked the outcome. I hung the boxer shorts on a coat hanger and they are still hanging like that now. I’ll be leaving them overnight and tomorrow I’ll steam them along with some other bits and pieces I have. I might even add some gold patterning. Just see what takes my fancy.


And 24 hours have now magically passed by and in the meantime I’ve steamed, washed and ironed the shorts. You can have a look at the Etsy listing here. And as for my hands, the photograph didn’tย  do them justice so I’ve not included it here. They are actually twice as intense in real life. Today’s Wednesday. Hopefully by Saturday they’ll be looking almost normal again.

I’m dying to do the other two pairs now. A project for the weekend.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | EXPERIMENTS IN SILK | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s Better – Silk Paint or Silk Dye?

The bottom line here is that there is no right or wrong answer. It’s important for you to know the difference between the two and then be able to make your own decision on which to use.

I’m sure you’ve heard that only the professionals use the silk dyes and the beginners use the paints. Well, that’s no really true. There are many so-called professionals who heat-fix their paints on silk, just as there are many starting out who prefer to use the dyes and fix them in a steaming pot.

So let’s get right down to brass tacks and see what the difference between the two is.

The first ones are the paints. These are sold in bottles and have very matt looking colours. They are made from pigments and are applied to the silk using watercolour brushes. If you need to dilute them, they can be mixed with water to give lighter shades. If you don’t want them to run, then you can apply watercolour base to your silk before painting to give you more control over the process.

To make the colours permanent, you have to fix the paints into the silk using heat, normally applying an iron on the reverse for 3 minutes. Afterwards you are able to wash the silk without the paints washing out.ย  The paints ‘stick’ to the silk, forming a layer on top. This means that the silk loses a bit of its softness and original tetxture, resulting in the fabric being a bit stiffer.

The dyes, often called professional dyes, are acid-based and are very transluscent. It’s difficult to tell from looking at the bottle what colour the dye will be when painted on the silk. These dyes can also be diluted, either with water or with a special dilutant, which helps the dyes to flow better on the silk as well as allowing you to create any shades you choose.

These dyes have to be steam fixed so that they chemically bond with the silk. When the process is complete, the silk retains its original softness and takes on an incredibly beautiful sheen. The dyes are now light and water resistent.

Always check with the retailer that you have the correct type you are looking for. Iron fix paints cannot be steam fixed. If you try to do so, the colours will smear and mess the silk. Likewise you cannot ironfix the dyes. They will just wash out of the silk afterwards.

So why choose one over the other? If you want things to be quick and simple, go for the iron fix. You don’t need any special equipment and so it’s more cost-effective if you want to have some fun. However, if you make your own steaming device (and there are plenty of tutorials on the web), then by all means treat yourself to some dyes .

As I’ve mentioned before, don’t try to paint a picture mixing paints and dyes as you will only have a mess in the end. The one thing you can do, however, is to paint with dyes, steam fix them and then later add some details with paints which you then iron fix. If you have to. ๐Ÿ™‚

The most important thing is to give it a go if you want to get started. Don’t worry about what’s better. If your local supplier only has paints, then paints it is.

Whatever you do, enjoy.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Keep Yourself Visible as an Artist

It’s a tough one, isn’t it? When it seems to be getting easier and easier to reach potential clients from all over the world, you suddenly realise that the ‘competition’ has grown and you find yourself standing at the back of the queue again and again. Almost as if you were invisible.

And is it true that people aren’t spending as much money on art as they used to?ย  Are we offering one of the commodities that has been scrapped from most people’s must-have listsย  in today’s recession? Because if it is true, then why bother even getting up in the mornings?

Well, if you want to hear my honest opinion, here it is.

I don’t buy into any of that. What I focus on becomes my reality. And so if I visualise a world of scarcity, then that is most certainly what I am going to get. Artist or not. Recession, what recession? That’s all truly a mindset.

Beware the collective unconscious. And by that I mean, don’t allow public opinion and the majority to get you down. Don’t listen and take on board stories of doom and gloom. You and I can think and act for ourselves and as artists, it’s particularly important to be able to think and see clearly.

As a race we go about our daily lives placing high value on some things and lower value on other things so that we can structure our lives and give them meaning. This helps us to set and achieve goals. Just imagine if we tried to focus on everything at once and valued everything equally. Chaos would ensue.

It was only a few months back that I read about the spending habits of the 18 – 23 year olds (I’m not sure of the exact numbers). I was quite amused to read that they will continue to spend and live their lives regardless of what the economy is doing. They will continue to completely live according to their highest values no matter what the banks and politicians are doing. Wow. So anyone who is in business catering for these youngsters will never know a bad day. Recession? Who cares!

Now, you might just think I’ve gone rambling on and lost the thread here, but bear with me. What relevance does this have for us as artists? Well, exactly the same thing applies. All those lovers of art,ย  people who highly value original paintings, sculptures, creative objects of any description will continue to give artwork priority when it comes to deciding what to spend their money on.

But the truth of the matter is, that they have a much larger choice of what to buy than in earlier times. Due to the flood of artwork available on the internet. So how do we ensure that our artwork appears in front of potential customers’ eyes? By wooing Google.

Did you know that Google loves to get to know you well and reward you with better ratings? Did you know that Google loves it when you make videos of your beautiful artwork and upload them to YouTube? Did you know that Google loves it when you make podcasts about your work, post interesting articles about your art on the authority sites, keep a blog packed with great content and which you regularly update? Whenever you do any of these things, you get a chance to pack them full of relevant search terms, keywords, which will increase your chances of being found in the searches.

Every time you do these things, Google nods its head and says: Yes, this guys great. He’s doing his job well. We’ll give him an extra pat on the back and bump him up in the ratings.

So please don’t be despondent. The current times are a great challenge to discover your hidden talents. Learn how to market yourself as an artist without having to dig deep into your pocket and above all, have fun on the way. Don’t worry about hugely polished performances and writing quality. Just let it all come from the heart and know that your customers are out there waiting for you.

July 12, 2010 Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chakra Mandalas as Greeting Cards

While I lived in Glastonbury a few years back, I created a series of 7 chakra mandala paintings which I never really got round to ‘launching’ย  in any way. Those of you who are artists will know exactly what I am talking about. You have this urge to keep creating new art, yet don’t always have an outlet for it. So it tends to accumulate and pretty soon you run out of wall space. I don’t know about you, but my house is well-adorned with framed mandalas of every hue. Upstairs, downstairs, through the hallway….

So, back to the chakra mandalas…I had them photographed and began to post images of them but never took any steps to try and market them in any way. Until recently that is. I posted them on RedBubble and then on my Silk & Art Facebook page. And it was then that I decided to do a small run of them as greeting cards to see what sort of reception they got. The good news is that they are being received very gracefully. ๐Ÿ™‚

So I shall continue to sell them in sets of 7 for the time being as laser prints in small runs at a time. It is only when the sales reach a certain number that I take the plunge and get lithographic printing done for a large run of a minimum of 1,000 per design.

But things are fine like this for the time being. I wanted to share with you that I now have a listing for the set of 7 chakra mandala

Fiona Stolze Set of Chakra Mandala Cards

Set of Chakra Mandala Greeting Cards

greeting cards on my Etsyshop. If you’d like to have some, pop over and have a look:ย

And I can hear some of you wondering what on earth chakras are….Well, chakras are energy centres in our bodies, like wheels of spinning energy. There are 7 main ones, linked to different areas of our body and associated with different colours, organs and key issues. So contemplating these images can help to restore any imbalances and energise us in those areas where our energy has become sluggish and blocked.

In a nutshell these are the correspondences: red is the base of the spine linked with issues of stability and security; orange is the sacral chakra linked to relationships and sexuality; the solar plexus is yellow and associated with will power; green is the heart energy connected with unconditional love and acceptance; sky blue is for the throat and expression of personal truth; indigo is the third eye connected with deep insights and understanding; and amethyst or purple is connected with the crown, a sense of oneness with all that is.

One way that you can use these cards is to contemplate a particular chakra and colour to enhance that quality in your life. For example, if you are feeling insecure, red (the base chakra) can energise that area and dissolve the imbalances you are experiencing.

Always go with your gut feeling to find out what colours will benefit you. And allow their energy to harmonise your life.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | SILK & ART PRODUCTS | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In-Depth Interview with Me (Fiona Stolze) in the UkHandmade Blog

Hurrah! I’m rich and famous now. Isn’t it great when other magazines and blogs run features on you? Well, you can imagine how thrilled I am that UKHandmade are doing an in-depth interview with me in their blog. If you read the earlier posts I made, you’ll

Fiona Stolze hand painted silk scarves

Medley of handpainted silk scarves

know that it follows on from a competition they ran which I was joint winner of. We were asked to submit an article of no more than 500 words on a topic relating to arts and crafts. Obviously I wrote about silk painting and how easy it is to start it without digging deeply into your pocket.

My article will be appearing in the Autumn edition of their online magazine but in the meantime they are doing a feature on me. How fabulous is that!!

So, here’s a link over to the post.

In-depth interview with silk painting artist Fiona Stolze.

I must admit, I’m really thrilled with the way it looks. Makes me feel like a real celebrity. Another one to add to the CV. ๐Ÿ™‚

July 7, 2010 Posted by | AWARDS AND ACCOLADES | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Made in Bristol” in Colston Hall

If you’re still undecided as to what you can do this weekend, why not come on over to Colston Hall if you live in the Bristol area? “Made in Bristol”, the 2-day arts, crafts and food event is being run on Saturday and Sunday from 10am – 4pm.ย  I’ll be there with my silks on the Saturday only, so remember to come and say hello. The organisers had great success with the last two events which were held at Christmas and Easter so they are hoping for a fabulous weekend again with great weather and lots of keen visitors.

Have a look at the page on the official Colston Hall site for more info.

Hope to see you then. ๐Ÿ™‚

July 2, 2010 Posted by | EXHIBITIONS | , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ve Won a Competition Run by UKHandmade

Last month I was surfing the net, looking at various forums related to arts and crafts in the UK. And just by chance I came across UKHandmade. So I had a quick look, liked what I saw and signed up. It was quick and easy to put together my profile and get started. Then I began to dig a bit deeper and find out what was going on behind the scenes. It was then that I discovered a competition…which had just about run out. That was what really got me interested.

They were asking for articles relating to arts and crafts containing no more than 500 words. It was Thursday and a quick look at my calendar showed me that Friday midnight was the deadline. So…..on Friday evening I had time to sit down and think. But I didn’t think for long as the clock was ticking away and there were a few things to be done.

Fiona Stolze: silk dyes and brushesWhat on earth could I write that would be of interest? There were so few people on the site who even did silk painting…I wonder why? And suddenly it came to me. Very often the idea that this could be a very expensive hobby is enough to deter newcomers. Well, this was the perfect opportunity to prove otherwise. And so the concept was born: how to paint on silk on a shoestring budget. I was off the starter’s block in an instant and a short while later I sat back and realised I was finished.

It was great to just get my head out of the way and allow free flow. That’s always the key for me. The less I think about what I am putting down in word, the easier it all just manifests in front of me. Okay…so, a quick spell check, one read-through to make sure it all makes sense, and off it goes.

You can imagine how delighted I was a couple of weeks later to get an email saying I had been chosen as joint winner of the competition but I was to keep it under my hat until it had been publicly announced! Wow, that really made my day. I was going to have the article published in the Autumn issue of the ezine as well as have an ad for my website. And….there would be an indepth interview with me in UKHandmade’s blog. Yay!

I was very good and did manage to keep this a secret (well, not 100%). But today the announcement has been made and I’m allowed to shout it from the rooftops.

“I’ve won a competition run by UKHandmade!!” And here’s the link to the announcement.

In a week’s time you can read the interview and I’ll be publishing a link to it from this page.

Oh, and while you’re over there you might consider joining the online community at UKHandmade. They’re a lovely, multi-talented bunch and have lots to offer.

July 1, 2010 Posted by | AWARDS AND ACCOLADES | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments