Just finished a diverse series of small originals depicting some of Arizona's bird species. 20 birds were rendered in watercolor, ink, colored pencil, or silk painting, some on thick and textured watercolor paper, others on specialty papers with colored or flecked backgrounds. Below are just a few: Berylline Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, and Scott's Oriole. Stay tuned for the next art challenge!
First scarves are exciting, but they can also be frustrating. Resist may drip, or even explode, accidentally onto fabric. Your hands may cramp and tire from squeezing resist out of bottles. Dye sneaks past resist barriers, infiltrating areas you intended for a different color. It's here the materials just might trick you into giving up.
But silk painting is also an engaging, rewarding process. In fact, it can even be meditative, particularly while touching dye to silk, watching the flow of color as it spreads across the fabric. And the best part? Pulling scarves out of the steamer and seeing the final, vivid product.
Here are four first scarves from participants in a 3-day workshop I recently taught at The Drawing Studio in Tucson. These works are diverse in style, from the delicate to the bold, and reveal just how rewarding all those frustrating hours can be. Congratulations team!
Silk painting is an uncommon medium and I'm often asked how I began. As an undergrad, I took an adjunct crafts class in my senior year. I wanted to take pottery, actually, but since that class was full I took the next one that sounded interesting. After less than an hour of instruction (by someone who was not a silk painter), I was left to my own devices. This turned out to be a good thing. The process of experimenting with dye and resist captivated me. I spent every spare moment in the crafts room teaching myself how to silk paint.
Eventually, I bought my own starter kit and continued tinkering around with silk painting well after graduation. What you see today is the result of hours of trial and error. To this day I'm learning new techniques.
Silk painting, an endlessly fascinating medium. Each day is a new discovery, and this is what keeps me hooked.
Two of my first scarves:
Looking for an artistic scarf to add to your wardrobe? You can buy a Raebird Creations original design or commission one. Commissioning a scarf allows you to participate in the creative process. You imagine the scarf and I'll bring it into existence!
Here are a few tips for commissioning a scarf:
1. Keep the description simple.
Too many images or requirements may result in a cluttered-looking design.
2. Think of a color scheme.
Suggest no more than three colors. Imagine these colors side by side and choose colors that fit your aesthetic. Try using colored pencils to juxtapose different colors and see what you like.
3. Limit specificity.
You may want a certain species of animal, flowers, or certain colors, but steer away from over-describing what the end product should like. There should be enough wiggle room for the artist to be creatively inspired and enjoy making the scarf. Some of the best scarves arise with just the right mixture of structure and spontaneity!
4. Choose a size and silk type.
You can browse here. Habotai is a light silk, less expensive, and great if you live in a hot climate. Silk satin has sheen and lustre. If you're commissioning your first scarf, habotai or silk satin are great options.
If you want a rectangular scarf, consider 11 in. x 60 in.
If you want a square scarf, 21.5 in. x 21.5 in. (or a similar size), works great for neck-wearing or for headbands.
5. Consider the price.
A commissioned scarf can range from $65-150, depending on silk size and design. A $65 dollar scarf, for example, would be on habotai silk, 8 in. x 54 in., simple design using the serti method (the end result can look like stained glass, very beautiful). Prices rise with some of the heavier, fancier silk types, larger sizes, and more complex designs/illustration.
Ready to order? Click here.
Above are three examples of commissioned scarves. The possibilities are endless!
Raebird Creations paints a square scarf in this 2-minute video...
Silk painting is a step by step process involving resist and dyes. Resist is a substance that stops dye flow. Like watercolor, it can involve layering!
Step 1: Draw Pattern
Step 2: Trace pattern with colored resist. This is called fencing. You can mix dyes with clear resist to make any color.
Step 3: Use dye to fill in the spaces between resist. Dye diluted with water will create lighter shades. The dye will not pass beyond the resist (its "fenced" in).
Step 4: Wrap the scarves in aluminum foil and steam (using a tamale cooker, for example) for three hours. Wash, air dry, and iron.
This scarf depicts the high-energy Painted Redstart, a small bird found in southeast Arizona. While on a hike in Madera Canyon with my husband, we found ourselves suddenly surrounded by a flock of active birds. The chipping and twittering filled the air. Among the flock of birds were several redstarts feeding recently fledged young. They landed on branches within just a few feet of us, flashing their scarlet bellies and fanning their white edged tails. This magical experience in particular inspired this scarf.
The scarf chosen for this piece is a 15"x60" stone wash crepe de chine, which is heavier and slightly textured. To prepare for painting, the scarf is first stretched out, in this case using foam board and pearl head pins. Then resist is applied. Resist can be used to define spaces where the artist wishes to keep colors separate, but it also can be used to "draw". In this case, black resist lines served to outline the shapes of the redstarts, and white/red resist used to detail fanciful leaves and branches.
Black dye is applied to the redstarts first, and then to the background.
The next step is perhaps the most important! Without it, all the dyes would bleed out when washed. Steaming is a process by which the dyes are fixed to the fabric. To steam, I use a tamale cooker with a shelf. The scarves are wrapped in an old sheet surrounded by aluminum foil. I like to call these "scarf burritos" and they hang around the house for a few days until I have enough collected for a steaming session. When the time comes, I put the scarf burritos in the tamale cooker, which is covered with a towel and lid, and allow it to steam 3-4 hours. After this, the scarves are washed, ironed, and ready to go.