Silk Painting

About silk painting

Each piece is a one of a kind painting. It starts with plain white silk, which I stretch onto a frame. I use a water-based resist to draw the lines. This is not totally water-proof, so I can’t get too much moisture on it, but it creates a border and keeps the colors contained. Then I apply non-toxic silk dyes using a sumi (Asian calligraphy) brush. The colors saturate the silk and expand till they hit the resist lines that I drew. Sometimes I use extra details like blending multiple colors of dye and tossing salt crystals over the wet colors to create a raindrop texture.

I do all of this freehand and I like to paint instinctively, making them up as I go along. For me it’s a more organic, freeing, meditative experience painting that way.

After all the painting is done and dry, I set the colors. This is done by rolling the silk with layers of plain newsprint in between, and putting it in a steamer on the stovetop, made for the purpose. It holds the bundle in a chamber with steam for an hour or two. Different silk dyes are set in different ways, but I prefer steaming because it creates a rich, bold color and doesn’t require the use of any chemicals. After that’s done I soak it for a bit to remove extra dye and resist, rinse and iron it, and it’s all done. This way the silks are all colorfast, hand-washable and easy to care for.

For the pieces with extra adornments, I hand-sew the chains or beads, using a sturdy upholstery thread with knots at each connection point, so they are good and solid.

Here’s a time lapse video of me painting an altar cloth: