From Soil to Silk
Fabric art inspired by the garden
April 3rd thru July 9th
My four-year-old granddaughter, Ruth Anna, and I spend a lot of time in her garden planting seeds, moving worms to new homes, examining flowers in detail, and picking vegetables and berries. The produce from Ruth Anna’s garden, as well as from the local Farmers’ Market – sunflowers, onions, violas, kale, poppies, rutabagas and more – have all become inspirations for drawing. Many of these drawings have been the starting point for my art pieces painted on silk.
Once a silk painting is done, I begin to ask myself questions. Is this work finished or not? Does it work as a single piece or does it need a companion or two? Will it be enhanced by thread painting or by hand embroidery? Does it need a bigger canvas made by piecing more fabric (traditional or my own design?) or an additional border? I often challenge myself to learn something new with each piece or series, perhaps a technique I haven’t tried. Sometimes I give myself limitations such as only using materials that I have on hand, or working within a shape or with variations on a traditional technique.
Some works are left as simple silk paintings. With others I ponder for quite some time before I decide to add fabric piecework or thread painting, hand or machine quilting. Often, I produce works in threes – creating a triptych – such as in my Flag Series. Because of the series of decisions that come into play, I may work on a piece slowly over several months.
Some of the products from Ruth Anna’s garden have been used to eco-dye fabric. The colour range achieved by eco-dying is more subtle than silk dyes, but often the results are equally exquisite. The joy of eco-dyeing, very much like silk-painting, is deliciously unpredictable. Opening up a dye bundle is quite magical. One is never sure what will appear – the ghost of a leaf or a fully formed shape, a subtle mix of tones or a brighter hue. The unexpected results of the dye bath lead me on to the next layer of creativity. Perhaps I see birds or flowers or simple patterns in the dyed material. I can paint or draw or stitch on top of these for emphasis. Again, as with silk painting, after the initial dyeing, I have to decide if the work is finished or if it needs to be redyed or embellished with stitching or quilting.
Fortunately, I’m drawn to both the bold and the subtle so am excited about working both with the silk dyes and with the plant dyes and I love to incorporate my drawings and paintings with the age-old traditions of fabric piecing and quilting. In fact, in my excitement and joy in creating art, I often find myself working on several projects in completely different styles at the same time.