Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

How to do Silk Painting on a Shoestring Budget

How many of you sigh when you hear the words “silk painting” and think that it’s something that you’re going to have to dig deep into your pocket for? Well, in a way you could be right but actually you might be quite relieved to hear that it’s possible to create some fabulous work without having to break the bank. This article is going to talk you through how to do silk painting on a shoe string budget.

And this is what you need to do:

Buy yourself a piece of silk yardage  that you can paint on. One quite good way to do this is to buy a large blank square scarf and divide it into four so that you can make 4 smaller pictures. You might be lucky enough to have a bridal outfitter’s near you that you can visit and barter with for lovely silk off-cuts.

You’re going to need some sort of frame to stretch the silk on. Special frames for silk painting can be costly, so what I would suggest is to go to your local DIY shop and buy 4 lengths of wood which you can nail together to form a square or rectangular in the desired size.  You don’t need to invest in those 3-pronged pins at the start. Drawing pins would make a great substitute. For more info have a look at a video I made on how to stretch silk on a wooden frame.

Pin your silk all the way around the frame, making sure that your fabric is quite taut as it will tend to sag as it gets wet during painting.

As a beginner opt for the small bottles of silk paint which you can heat fix with your iron afterwards. Any watercolour brushes are perfect for applying this so have a good dig through your art materials and see what’s already there.

Now depending on what you’d like to paint, you might want to buy a small bottle of gutta which creates the lines that give structure to a silk painting. When you’ve drawn the lines you want onto the plain silk, let them dry and then you can get out the paints and silks and have a ball. If you choose to just use the paints on their own, it’s important to know that they flow freely on the silk. A great effect for this is the salt technique. Sprinkle large grain salt onto the very wet paint and just watch the wonderful effects manifest before your eyes as the pigments get drawn out.

And for those of you who love to mess and splash, how about laying out some plastic sheeting, wetting the silk and then scrunching it all up before sprinkling different paints on it. When it’s dry, just iron on the reverse to fix the paints. The great thing is that you save on a frame. It’s really important to remember to buy the paints for now as you can fix them easily with your iron.

So please don’t think you have to go spending huge amounts of money to be able to indulge in silk painting. You don’t. But remember that after the first attempt you are most likely to get hooked…..so beware.

I’d love to hear back from any of you have tried this out for the first time. Did you manage to use things that were lying around? What creative ideas did you come up with?

* This article first appeared on the UKHandmade website as a winning article in a competition they ran. The above version has been adapted.

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January 20, 2011 Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Going to the Art Fairs

Well, I did it again. I attended an art fair over the weekend and it was the first one in quite some time. In fact, it was the first one I’ve attended since we moved away from Ireland so I was dipping my toes into a new area, namely the Bristol arts and crafts market.

They always say that you should never participate in any show or fair untiil you’ve been there as a visitor first. And there’s really something in that.

This was the first time I’d been at this particular event in Bristol, a converted church with a reall goth feel to it. I don’t know about the Feng Shui of the place, but it definitely could do with a good workover.

I had booked a stall for the two days and was intending to do some silk painting demonstration during this time. The only problem was that there weren’t enough people to demonstrate anything to. In fact, there was a decided lack of visitors full stop. Those of you who have done these events will know what it is like. Over lunch time there aren’t many people coming through because everyone is having lunch. The busy time tends to be around 3 – 5pm.

This time, however, not only did no-one come during lunch time but they didn’t even turn up after lunch. In fact, they didn’t turn up at all. It seems that no-one really knew the event was on. And that’s decidedly bad for those who have paid money to have a stall.

The usual nonsense started. The stallholders all started to wander around visiting each others’ stalls and buying some little bits and pieces to cheer each other up.

For the last hour it was dead. The only reason I stayed put was that, since I was going to be there the next day, I had to leave everything in the hall overnight and that meant staying until the event finished at 6pm on the first day. It was a completely different story the next day as I knew that I could bolt whenever I wanted to. And that happened around 3.30pm. It had all become quite unbearable and I got really honest with myself, knowing that no-one was going to come in and buy lots of items in the last couple of hours.

So I slowly began to pack everything up and take leave…

It’s hard when you attend these events and are optimistic that you will get some new leads, lots of sales and connections, as well as loads of tips from the other artists. I didn’t even cover my costs and was certainly not alone there.

And the question arises – what could they have done differently. Well, that’s always a very good question. I had the feeling that the organisers were well on the way to finding out the answer to that one all through the weekend. Was it due to the fact that they left everything until the last minute? Did it have anything to do with the fact that they didn’t do any really effective advertising? Even with the best event in the world, you’re not going to have any success unless you let people know it is happening.

From my experience there are certain things that can give you some clues as to how things are likely to run. First of all the pitch fee is a great give-away. If you get the stall for next to nothing, then you can be sure that there is some correlation here with with the likelihood of a high number of visitors. Low fee, low attendance. If the word has got around that the event is a great success and you are likely to get good sales, you can bet that the organisers will be cashing in on this with the fees they charge. However, a few pounds more is well worth it if you have the prospect of doing very well on the day.

Go onto the forums and ask around. Your fellow artists and craftsmen will be more than willing to share feedback with you as to how they did. The events that do well tend to be booked out well in advance and you might be lucky enough to get on the waiting list.

Another thing to watch out for is whether or not there are other arty events running at the same time. In this case there was indeed another event which was going head to head with the one I was at. It was even charging an entry fee and the art work was in general much more expensive. But it was well-established and won the day easily.

In fact that is something the organisers need to pay attention to if they want to have any success at all and draw crowds in to their event.

I know it’s not easy and it was probably quite a daunting task getting this whole thing off the ground. But the unverse has a way of making a very clear statement when we have rested on our laurels and taken certain things for granted. There was certainly no mercy being shown. However, this wasn’t bad in many ways. I just keep coming back to Edison who discovered 1,000 ways of how not to make a lightbulb.

I wonder how many ways the organisers found of how not to run a successful art event….??

May 22, 2010 Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Which Silk Quality Can I Use?

I often get asked by people which is the most suitable silk quality to use for silk painting. What I am sharing with you here is based on my personal experience over the years.

Generally light-weight silks are used for all silk painting and crafts. You would look for a medium-weight or heavy-weight if you wanted to make some quality, long-wearing clothing, such as a bride’s dress or a suit. I will be looking at silk weights in another post.

To answer the question in this post, the most important thing to know would be what you are intending to make. My personal favourite for wall hangings and other pieces which are meant to hang free and “float” is definitely pongee. It has that lovely wafting effect and is almost see-through depending on which quality you use. When you buy printed silk scarves, they are often extremely thin and this doesn’t allow for the same colour intensity as thicker ones. When I paint silk scarves, I don’t use anything under 8mm (momme – see upcoming post) and actually prefer to go for a 12mm for extra quality and still be able to use gutta.

satin silk background

Mandala Cushion on Silk: satin silk background

The mandalas that I mount and frame are all painted on satin silk, the Queen of Silks. It rightly deserves that name as it has an illustrious sheen, literally outshining all other silks I have worked with. When I have steamed a silk mandala, I don’t rinse the silk out until the bleeding stops, as with other items which are to be worn. This is because it is to be framed behind glass and so there will be no liquid, steam, etc coming into contact with it, nor will it be in contact with skin or other light-coloured fabrics. The disadvantage to washing out satin silk is that it slightly loses the beautiful sheen and most importantly, if there are any tiny creases, I cannot remove them with the iron. They simply “iron in”. So, for me, this is definitely not a quality to wash, only dry clean. Other types of silk can be washed by hand with care at your own discretion, although most manufacturers’ instructions (including mine) are for dry-cleaning only.

My personal favourite for clothing is crepe satin. This is a combination of satin silk on the top with a crepe backing. You can tell the difference when you have satin silk and crepe satin side by side. On the reverse, the satin silk is smooth and matt. The crepe satin, on the other hand, has a twisted weave. The advantage is that this quality is easier to drape and has a more elastic feel, not nearly so rigid as satin silk. My cushions are made with crepe-backed satin which makes them slightly softer.

An alternative to crepe satin is crepe-de-chine. This has the twisted weave on both front and reverse and doesn’t have the sheen of the satin. However, it is an ideal choice if you want to make gorgeous scarves, blouses, shawls, etc. It feels lovely against your skin.

Now, one or two words of caution. If you are intending to paint on these qualities, I would recommend you watch out for the thickness of the silk you want to work with. I have painted on different qualities over the years. My speciality is using gutta, the resist technique, which I will talk about in another post. After a bit of experimentation I came to the conclusion that the thicker qualities don’t allow the gutta to fully penetrate them, leaving gaps, so that you end up with a messy piece of work due to bleeding of colours. I wouldn’t recommend that you work with anything thicker than 12.5 for this reason.

I would also recommend that you wash any pongee or crepe-de-chine before you paint it and sew a garment, and this will avoid any disappointment due to shrinking. Silk has a tendency to shrink and that is one reason why people often find that their artwork turns a bit wavy after fixing due to the fact that the gutta lines don’t “fit” the shrunken silk any more.

You can pick up lovely offcuts of silk in bridalwear workshops. I would recommend only painting on them using washes of colour rather than attempt any resist and then cutting and sewing them into the desired article. Please refer to my upcoming post on silk weights for further details.

If this post has been of use to you, please let me know. If there is anything further to this you’d like to know, just ask below. If there is no comments box, click on the title of this post and one should appear. I look forward to hearing from you.

October 3, 2008 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments