Mother of Pearl is to me one of the most beautiful materials on the planet. I grew up on the coast of South Africa and as a child I spent a lot of time wandering along the edges of the surf picking up shells. Also known as ‘nacre’, mother of pearl came to me in the form of the abalone, or, as we called them in South Africa, the ‘perlemoen’ or ‘venus ear’ shells. Imagine my surprise when a piece of silk I was working on with madder and local plant material produced the iridescent colours of mother of pearl.
I first dyed this piece of flat crepe silk in a light madder dyebath. Then I bundled it with maple and smokebush leaves and steeped it for an hour in a stronger more vibrant madder dye bath together with another piece of the silk which I later used for the back of this two sided scarf.
I was at first startled by the red fiery markings on the delicate background of pinks and greeny golds. I decided to fold and clamp the fabric and placed it in a post mordant of iron. That’s when the magic happened. The most amazing colours developed out of this process.
The ecoprinted maple and smoke bush leaves were not in themselves remarkable. They were’nt even as clear as I would have liked. Perhaps they were ovewhelmed by the strong colour of the madder. But how they mixed with the madder and iron astonished me. The range of blues, pinks, green, golds, greys and silver are so amazing. How the light plays over these colours on the silk makes it look iridescent and alive.
I actually did this piece last fall but have’nt until now been able to figure out how to capture the qualities of the colours. I recently noticed how true the colours of my silk scarves look under my white market tent and the way that the sun diffused under it. So I have been setting up under my white tent against a canvas backdrop and photographing silk seems to have improved for me. It still does’nt quite capture the way the light interacts with the colours but I think it’s as close as I’m going to get.
This is quite a large scarf, more of a shawl really. It measures 22″ wide by 60″ in length.
I’ve been meaning to share with you some of the scarves I made before Christmas but I. Have been having computer issues and avoided doing this on my ipad. I’m still waiting on the computer so here I am trying to configure this post on a little ‘gadget’. These scarves shown here are a collection of silk ones I constructed myself as well as some simpler silk and silk/ wool blends which I purchased pre-hemmed. Most of the plant dyes used are local here in the Kootenays and include goldenrod, St Johns Wort, black walnut, onion skins and contact/ dye prints of coreopsis flowers, cottinus coggygria leaves, acer( maple) leaves, St. John’s wort, cosmos flowers, oak leaves, rhododendron leaves, strawberry leaves, some windfall lichen. I used a few exotic dyes on some pieces, including madder and logwood. Techniques used are vat dye baths, contact/ Eco dye printing, screen printing, ‘itajime’, clamped block resist , a shiborI technique. I used a variety of beautiful silks, crepes, habotai, raw silk, charmeuse.
Vat dyes are dyes which discharge colour from previously dyed cloth and replace it with a background of new colour. Shibori stitched, bound, twisted or clamped resist techniques can be used to create beautiful vibrant patterns with this dye method. A phenomenon called the ‘halo effect’ adds another dimension of detail around the resisted areas.
I mixed olive, yellow and a bit of black to create this forest green vat dye colour. On the right of this image is a three metre length of purple dyed cotton cloth I have been working on for months using a stitched shibori pattern called mokume, a traditional Japanese woodgrain pattern(notice the light ‘halo’ around the patterns) I wrote about it here with images of stitched pattern in process. I used this same straight stitch pattern in a single line to make patterns on selvedged edges which I then use as edging for skirts or cuffs. Peeking through are bold raspberry coloured shapes which were created with a technique called itajime, and uses clamped blocks to leave patterns on the fabric.
After dyeing and a light rinsing the fabric must be exposed to oxygen in the air for about 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly in soapy water. Clamps, stitching and binding can be removed at this stage but longer pieces will wait until later. I usually snip a few threads on the big shibori pieces to check on the pattern.
“Bee in Tulip” – original textile art wall hanging
I have a long history with insects in my art. It was many years ago in South Africa when I was doing a three year college art program that I first became fascinated with insects. Just across from the art school was the local museum. Many times when I became frustrated with whatever I was working on in the art studio, I would walk across the street and spend time alone in the quiet halls of the museum. I could be found making drawings or just contemplating in one of two places: the beehive with it’s busy little bees buzzing and working in their hive, or the dragonfly display cases. I loved to sketch the dragonflies even though many of them looked like they had crash landed and were rather mangled. I made a whole series of dragonfly etchings (intaglio and drypoint), whimsical drawings of dragonflies with helicopter wings. Some of these in fact became my first designs on textiles when I started with block prints years ago. I have since then created many textile screenprinting designs of butterflies, bees, dragonflies, beetles, moths and grasshoppers.
This newest design of a bee in a tulip is inspired by the bees in our garden. We keep our own beehives for honey and pollination of our large flower, fruit and vegetable garden. These sweet natured and hard working little creatures are my constant companions in the summer garden. I am fascinated by their strong curiosity – they love to investigate every nook and cranny they encounter. They play ‘hide and seek’ with me in the flowers, rocks and straw in my garden.
This organic cotton fluted skirt has been dyed and screenprinted by hand. The “Bee in Tulip” design has been printed in light blue round shapes created by using a shibori technique called itajime. Itajime uses clamped blocks to resist the dye leaving a pattern when the clamps are released.
This dusty pink and light ochre hand dyed linen cuff has a screenprinted design of sweet little bees on a cosmos flower in silver textile paint. There is a pretty shibori trim running down each side. The pink I have used here is almost identical to the actual colour of the cosmos flower.