I paint silk, throw pots and collage poetry books & cards in my enchanted adobe studio in Pilar, New Mexico.

At the Sacred Heart Cafe, I make art to feed the hungry heart. Open all night, a warm place to wander and browse, savor and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"It's a mitzvah to sew a chuppah!"

I'm finished! I had a long day yesterday with a particular challenge sewing the nine panels, getting them all to align, and then hemming so it was finished elegantly on the reverse. At the end of the day yesterday, my target day for completion, I realized I needed to design special holders for the bamboo poles to slip into, then be tied down. I used blue leather to create sheaths to protect the silk at each corner. Now I am confidant that the chuppah will be nicely anchored and protected by the leather holders and the silken ribbon ties.

This morning I harvested four bamboo poles from my garden, and with the help of one of the brides, we walked the poles through the eucalyptus grove and to their home. The photo above shows it hanging from the eaves of their patio. The detail photo to the right shows the corner piece and me, proud chuppah mama. I can't wait to see it up on the bamboo poles, backlit by the sunny sky above. Illuminated silk has a shimmering beauty that is breathtaking.

Marti and Kathy are both touched by the beauty of their chuppah. And I am filled with joy for them. I look forward to attending their wedding on Saturday. Pictures, of course, will follow!

Here's a detail of the effects that are caused by salt sprinkled onto the wet, dyed silk. Gorgeous, eh?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dyes on Silk! Chuppah Design, Part 6

Yesterday, I painted all day long into the wee hours. Silk dyes are intense, concentrated and permanent. My style of painting is to work fast. I have to open up all my (Jacquard Dye-na-flow) dye jars, set out brushes next to them and have lots of clean water on hand. There is very little time to deliberate once I commit to painting a large area like the background of the center panel Peace Angel. I have to dive into painting completely....no slow "getting my toes wet" first. Once a line is painted in a large field it has to be followed up immediately with another and another and another. Any time spent between brushing will result in a "dry line" (my term for the concentration of dye that accumulates at the edge of each brush stroke, drying darker than the rest of the line). Sometimes I use these lines as a design element. This time I wanted a solid but translucent field in the background so I worked fast to avoid the dry lines. I had to make sure I had enough dye mixed (cerulean, midnight blue, periwinkle and black) because I couldn't stop to remix more. At the right and left lower edges of the background I decided to leave three"glow lines" (my term for saving the white of the silk as a highlight, or glow) by not painting the white, and letting the dye spread into it naturally.

Painting the Angel's body and wings was done with diluted washes of teal, violet and cerulean. I sprinkled salt on the wet areas to create a random patterning that changes every time. Salt finds its own way.

The four side panels were also painted with the diluted washes, and the calligraphy then overpainted with Lumiere "Light Body Metalic Acrylic" fabric paint, burnt orange. Salt was sprinkled on these panels.

The four corner pieces have an indigo background using the same mix as the center background, and the knot line work is painted with the burnt orange metalic Lumiere.

Today, I will be heat setting all nine panels, done with an iron, then washing in cold water, then ironing dry...then the sewing will begin.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chuppah Design Part 5, Stretching and Gutta Lines

Time to rrrrrrip silk! I measured the dimensions for nine pieces which will be sewn together to form the completed chuppah: center panel, four side panels, four corner squares. And ripped each piece. What an amazing sound.

Then, each piece had to be stretched onto an adjustable frame, using special metal hook/pins. Silk has to be stretched and suspended above the work surface when it is being painted. I stretch the silk upside down.

The next step is to place the inked pattern on the table and flip the stetcher frame onto it so that the top surface of the silk is facing up, and the pattern below is visible. The silk is now ready for gutta application. Gutta is a latex product, used to "trap" the dyes. Left to their own inclination, silk dyes spread like watercolor on wet paper. Most silk artists use a clear gutta, but I have become quite fond of using gold metalic gutta for most of my work. I use a plastic bottle with a needle nose and a special metal tip designed to control the flow.

I believe that gutta application is the step that requires the most practice and skill. If the linework is crisp and accurate, the stage is set for a beautiful painting. Without it, the piece is weak. I have experienced more frustration over the years learning how to apply gutta. It is an unforgiving teacher! If a mistake is made, there is only a tiny window of time to correct, by washing it out immediately. Maybe one minute....after that, it is permanent. The brand I use is Jacquard water based gutta, which does not have the toxic fumes of the solvent based brands.

I spent all day on Saturday stretching and gutta-ing the nine pieces of silk. I used up all of my stretcher frames. Once the gutta is applied then a drying time is necessary. If anything touches the wet gutta, disaster! When I am doing one silk, no problem, I just flip it over and let it dry suspended over the table. This time I had to find drying spots for each one of the frames, and walk very carefully around the studio and hallway and bathroom and office!

Here is the center panel Peace Angel with its gutta lines completed. With all nine panels done, I let the gutta dry overnight. Today is painting day. Goddess willing, the colors will blend and shine!

My goal is to paint today, and let it dry overnight, then heatset and sew on Monday. The wedding is Saturday, Aug. 30.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Whoops! Chuppah Design Part 3 and 4 Redesign

I met with Marti today and she had a few changes to make to the chuppah design. It was fun sitting on her patio beside the eucalyptus grove, talking about balance and symmetry and composition. We scrapped the bottom banner, moved the trinity celtic knot to each of the four corners and rearranged the calligraphic message. Added the peace prayer back into the angel's wings, this time inside the edge. I think it is an improvement, and it feels ready finally.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chuppah Design Part 2 I have a pattern!

The drawing is now 5 feet square. I had to turn my wall sconce sideways to make room on my wall to photograph the pattern. I have added the 8" borders on all four sides, and added the saying "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience" as requested.

I made a design decision to remove the "Peace in our heart, Peace in our home, Peace in our world" wording from around the Peace Angel. It felt like it was competing with the border calligraphy. Instead, I put the peace words onto a small ribbon banner on the bottom panel centered with a celtic knot heart, pictured above. And I like it! I will letter Marti and Kathy's names and the date of their wedding deep inside the celtic knot, to be a sweet surprise.

I'm now ready to transfer this pattern to the silk. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chuppah Design Part 1, Pencil and Ink Rough

Here are my pencil and ink drawings. I had to tape together paper to create a 44" x 44" surface for the drawing. The inked drawing will become the pattern I will use to transfer the drawing to the silk. The scale is difficult to convey in these photos. This drawing covers my entire drawing table. I had to rotate it 90 degrees to work on each quadrant because I couldn't reach far enough over to the other side of the table.

Just looking at the inked drawing I now notice that I did not finish the arc of the earth that the Peace Angel is holding. I'll ink that in next, and I think I will emphasize the "point" of her wings in order to emphasize a heart shape. I'm also going to add a spiral before and after "Peace in our world" in order to balance the calligraphy.

This is the first time I have used a web photo to view my design process, and make changes based on what I see on the screen. Very different from my usual approach for larger pieces (draw it. . .walk away for awhile. . .put it up on a vertical surface. . .squint my eyes. . . make changes...put it up on the wall again....).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My First Chuppah!

I've been commissioned to create a handpainted silk "chuppah" for my Halcyon friends Marti and Kathy. A chuppah is a canopy used in Jewish wedding ceremonies that represents the home of the couple. It will be 5 feet square and suspended above them by 4 bamboo poles carried by their attendants as they say their vows outdoors at Rancho Miranda.

They have chosen my Peace Angel design as the central image. It will be surrounded by a calligraphic border which will say:
"We are not human beings having a spiritual expericnce. We ARE spiritual beings having a human experience."

I'll be posting pictures as I cut and piece the silk together, stretch it onto a frame, do the gutta line work, then paint. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Custom Wedding Silks

Today I finished a gorgeous custom wedding silk banner for Linda and Joyce. They have been partners for 35 years and will be getting married at the end of the month. Best wishes fly to them! Here is a photo of their custom silk, with a quote from Martin Luther King. Size is 44" wide x 36" tall.

PattyMara's Sacred Heart Cafe's Fan Box

Micaceous Clay Pottery from DolphinSmile Studio

Micaceous Clay Pottery from DolphinSmile Studio
click on the photo to go to my online shop for mica clay cups, bowls, Sacred Hearts and jewelry

The Value of Play in Creativity

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves."

C. G. Jung