Tuesday, 2 June 2015


This post concerns my process of preparing silk fabric for stitching, colouring it with silk paints and  the words, in the form of a poem, that came to me as a direct result of this working process.

To explain, I paint my fabrics with silk paints in my studio at home using a wet-on-wet technique and I almost always start off the drying process with a bit of blow drying. This method gives a little boost to the drying and it also affects how the colours and marks come out on the fabric. Marks occur differently according to how the fabric is handled, whether it is transferred without prior drying to the drying table (set on fine plastic sheeting, sometimes raised on sheets of crumpled kitchen roll) and whether it has been pinned and stretched before painting or simply laid down on the glass surface of my work table. Different marks also occur if salt has been scattered over the fabric while the paint is wet. If I want the particular marks salt gives, I use my own mix of fine and coarse grained salts but sometimes I feel these results give a more design-like surface rather than a painterly one, so I use this technique sparingly. I work quickly, setting out my colours for the session before I begin and changing rapidly throughout so that I get a lovely fusion of shades over the fabric, at the moment usually organza, chiffon or fine silk.

One of my recent painting sessions had as its purpose to create burnt or smouldering colours on the fabric and I was delighted to find a beautiful effect using a couple of colours I had used before along with a few new ones selected online. The following image shows me in my studio at home at my table on the day I discovered the lovely colours.

I have painted the ponge silk and am blow-drying it. The fabric had been laid directly onto the glass surface of my work table, rather than being stretched, and I do not wet the fabric before painting but it becomes wet during the painting process.

(A little note of interest  -  I am wearing my favourite art-shirt, one that Arthur wore when he was on VSO in the Solomon Islands in 1970/71  -  some things have a great longevity as well as sentimental attachment!)

It was during this drying process that I felt very excited by how the silk, in these burnt colours, looked as I passed the dryer across it  -  it seemed to have the effect of smouldering flame and, partly through the colour and material and partly because of the sound made by the flapping, shimmering fabric, I also thought of prayer flags blowing in the wind.

Below is a short video of blow-drying the rippling silk.

Another material that I frequently paint is mulberry bark. This can be bought in stretched fragments when it has the appearance of fine lace or in bundles that need to be soaked before being gently pulled to tease out the fibres. I find it very difficult to achieve the really fine lacy effect by pulling the fibres myself but both kinds of bark have their uses. The fibres also take up the silk paint very well.

The bark painted in a wash of colours.

The bark as it comes in its raw state.

The above two images show just how fine the fibres can be.

The bark fibres teased out to varying degrees and painted.

Now follows a poem I wrote inspired by this process.


Can words flow like smoke? Brown

to red to orange, hues in differing

shades glow, smouldering, on the

rip  -pl-  ing silk, speak aftermath of

fire, flame and explosion’s staining,

sharp shards of mangled metal wrought

in taut black threads. Stitch connects

colour to colour and form to

form but joined only by the new

chaos     of     bro  -    ken    constructs.

Explosions crackle in my brain, 

acrid, choking invasion of

gelignite into lungs,

nausea and exhaustion,

rising smoke,



                  ll –


 smashed bricks and glass,

torn   branches of trees, people

bleeding,   crying    out,

    sta -  gg -  er -  ing,

          wan -  der  -


con -  fu - sion   of rescue   -

scenes  seared   forever

into the DNA of memory. 

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