The materials, techniques and order I choose, are as important to the success of the painting as the colors, shapes and composition.
The silk is for me, the blank canvas. The luxury, luminosity, strength and resilience of this fiber from nature are its assets for me. They say it was discovered, In 278 BCE by a Chinese maiden princess when a cocoon dropped into her tea and began to unwind.
The French have always been masters of color. They created gutta resist (a rubber like drawing material) during their occupation of Indonesia, from the native palanquin tree. Using a combination of this along with other resists and the vibrant French dyes, my silk becomes infused with life, depth and gorgeous color. This color becomes an integral part of the fabric, unlike paint on canvas, which sits on top.
As I became more proficient with my application of dye on silk I began to reminisce about my experiences at university with Fibers Professor, Rachel Green. Silk worms eat mulberry leaves. The bark of the mulberry tree was the initial fiber used by the Chinese in 27 BCE to produce the first sheets of paper in the history of man. I emulate as closely as possible the ancient techniques employed by the early Chinese craftsmen, when hand making my paper.
CATEGORIES FOR IMAGES OF PAPER MAKING
1) Raw mulberry bark
2) Pre-soaking bark to soften fibers (24 hours)
3) Boiling bark in caustic to separate tar and rosin from fiber (9 hours)
4) Rinsing fiber until water runs clear
5) Beating bark to separate fibers
6) Beaten fiber
7) Individual mulberry fibers
8) Suspending fibers in water
9) Pulling fibers up onto screen to form a sheet
10) Transferring sheet to couching surface (absorbent flat material)
11) Couching fibers (pressing sponge onto sheet to remove water)
The finished and dried mulberry paper has a lovely cream color. Because the fibers of mulberry are the longest found, approximately ĺ inch, mulberry paper is the strongest paper known. It can be manipulated and dried to a rough, pitted texture or couched into a smooth surface suitable for drawing, writing, and painting or dying. I like to cut the silk and tear the paper into shapes and hands sew it back together.
In university history and social studies, I was intrigued by the indigenous women decorating every functional object with carvings and embellishments. These women transformed plain clothing, containers, interiors and simple tools into objects of beauty, infused with meaning and history.
These time consuming, tedious processes slow my naturally high-strung tendencies into a peaceful reflective state. I find the labor intensive motions quite soothing. Iím accomplishing something while at complete mindful rest.
I also love the look of silk juxtaposed with the paper. I love paper on silk layered again with silk and/silk organza bits. All held together with tiny stitches of dyed silk thread. My art makes me smile.
These processes add more layers of interest for the discriminating viewer. The conceptual intent, including, history of ancient techniques and materials combined with the social hierarchy, subtly manifests upon contemplation.