Monday, March 28, 2016

An Altered Journal Bit Of Fun

A close-up, angled view of the new
textured surface on my 3rd journal
I've been using sketchbooks as art journals for a while now.  For me, they are a way of documenting my ideas for art and business (instead of just using them to practice art).  I first started utilizing my sketchbook as a journal a few years ago when I found a sketchbook at a thrift store - and the sketchbook had been covered in fabric with a pocket for pens etc.  LOVED that!  (didn't love the colors of the cover.. but it was unique!).

My next sketchbook-turned-journal was a cheap (and I mean CHEAP!) sketchbook with rather awful paper in it.  Horrible for artwork (anything wet would almost destroy the pages) but lOTS
of pages and perfect for note-taking!   I ended up decoupaging the cover with papers I had originally used as drop-cloths for my artwork.  I LOVED the result!!

The original journal cover
of my new (3rd) journal
Front cover with some silk
scraps decoupaged onto it
Now I'm on to my 3rd art journal.  I've been carrying it around for a month or so now... and while I've loved the color, I did NOT like the lack of anything interesting on the front! (I found this journal in a box of old craft supplies.  I've had it for YEARS. It actually has quite nice paper!)

So I spent a bit of time on Pinterest (omg I love that site!).  I found people are doing the most amazing things to their journals... but I need something functional as well as pretty.  I liked the idea of adding to the front, but it needed to be able to fold open on itself and not interfere with my ability to write or create art in it.

First, I took inspiration from my previous journal... the idea of decoupaging.  But this time, I wanted to use a few silk scraps from my rather large collection.  I laid them out until I found an arrangement that pleased me and allowed for additional decoration.   I then adhered the scraps with Mod Podge and let it dry.

Lace Doily - this is what
created the flower's texture
Part of a paper doily
Next I wanted to add a bit of texture without adding a ton of bulk.  Inspired by the front cover (and corresponding article) of Somerset Magazine and some pictures from Pinterest, I decided to make my own texture paste and then see what kind of items I had lying around.. which would add texture.

FYI - I got the recipe off of pinterest.. and there are a ton out there!  But they are all pretty much the same.. a powder of some sort (baking soda,

baby powder, plaster of paris, sand, etc), some paint, and some glue.  I
ended up using about a half-cup of baby powder, 2 and a half tablespoons of white paint, and about 2 and a half tablespoons of school glue (the white kind we all used growing up!).  My mix was actually too runny... like gooey toothpaste.  Next time I'd use less paint and glue!!  But it did work.
Front cover with baby powder
texture paste added

I used a lace doily for the top texture.  The paste was too runny to give me the nice lace-look, but it did create the series of wonderful bumps (reminded me of shark's teeth, or sunflower seeds).  I used a paper doily for the bottom section and that looked decent.  And then I cut out leaf-shapes from a piece of cardboard and used that for the leaf shapes.

While the leaves were still wet, I used a knife to cut veins into the leaves. The leaf on the far right was  a thinner application of the texture medium - and dried too quickly.  I tried cutting veins in with a knife but the knife just skipped across the surface.... that texture medium is pretty strong stuff!! Which brings up another good point - once dried, the medium is VERY hard to remove!!  So be careful applying it (and try not to be sloppy) and then if you are sloppy, try and clean it up immediately!

Once the texture medium dried, I painted on top of it using a mix of cheap acrylic paint and water.  And then used a moist paper towel to rub the paint back off from the texture which really highlighted
My finished journal 
the texture.  I kept adding and taking away until I got a look I liked.  I also added a bit of glimmer mist spray to give it a bit of shine.  The final step was to spray it with a polyurethane to help protect the cover.

I LOVED playing with the texture medium!! It's something I would definitely do again - and may work with to create a few wall-art pieces!  It has inspired me to want to go a whole new direction with my art.  But in the mean time, I have a much more interesting journal cover to look at!

**A quick follow-up!  I've been using this journal for about 3 weeks now.  A few of the higher surfaces (like the leaf edges) have been rubbed off and one tip of a leaf has chipped off.  Overall I am quite pleased with how this is holding up!  I am VERY hard on my journals (as I am with most items in my life..sigh).  So it's nice to know that this texture will hold up to my abuse.  I plan on using the texture mixture on other journals - and maybe on an upcoming (non-silk) painting!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Is Silk Fabric Organic, Sustainable, and an Eco-friendly Option?

Thousands of Silkworm Cocoons
(Photo courtesy of A of Doom) 
When I started painting on silk, I gave little thought to it's original origin.  And now that I am pretty firmly entrenched in using reclaimed silks in my art, I find that while I personally know I do my best to stay eco-friendly - I have wondered about the processes used to manufacture silks! 

I happened to run across a great post from about this exact subject.  They supply a LOT of great information.  

I'd highly recommend reading their post "Raw & Organic Silk: Facts behind the Fibers" if you're at all interested or concerned about buying silk fabric or goods. I'm going to be sharing their post with my students.  

They also have a lot of other informative articles - overall I'd say they were a great resource!

OH, and my conclusion to the question I posed (is silk fabric organic, sustainable, and eco-friendly?), is a big MAYBE.  Yes, much of it is... but not all.  And probably less-so when gotten from large manufacturing facilities.   However, when gotten from thrift stores - that's about the best eco-friendly source I know!   

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Gather & Prep Processes For Reclaiming Silks Part 3 of 3 Cutting Time!

Part 3 of 3 Cutting Time 

Taking apart silk items for use in art projects

So in my previous 2 posts .... I've found some used silks, I decided that they will work for my purposes, I bought them, brought them home, cleaned them, and put them into storage. Now I want to use them!   

7) First (of course), I decide which silk(s) I want to use.  And then you have to decide how you want to use them... or perhaps you should decide how you want to use them first AND THEN decide which silks to use!  Either way, you need to pick out the silk(s) you want to use!

8) Your options for how to use the silks are probably limited only by your imagination... but here's part of my decision process:
        Shirt was dyed using    

  • You could of course, simply paint or dye the item as it currently exists! I have done that to a few things so I have some fun silk clothes to wear - in colors that work with my personal wardrobe!  

               Pile of cut-up silk                   
  • Or perhaps you don't have a plan, you just want to have some silk on hand - ready to paint. This is often my choice - because I like having silk ready to paint upon whenever the mood strikes me!

  • Or perhaps you know how you want to use the silk.  For the purposes of this example,  I am going to say that I am planning on creating a mid-sized painting of 11" long by 14" wide when completed and mounted.                                                                                     When painting on recycled silks, I like to make sure I have at least an inch surrounding the painting size.  So for this painting, I will need a piece of silk at least 12" long by 15" wide.    (In reality, I prefer several inches of spare-silk all around because sometimes I mount my paintings by wrapping them around a gallery-wrap canvas).  So now it's time to take a look at the silk items I might want to use.  15 inches is a pretty long, so it is important to make sure the silk item I am choosing to use, will be able to accommodate that size! (I prefer to paint on silk with no seams involved so for the purposes of this example, I will be looking for a piece of silk that is 12"x15" with no seams in that piece.    

From the front pictures of the silk shirt I am using for this demo, you can see that the length is long enough (over 15 inches) but the width is not.  There is not only pleating (which is hard to open without tearing the silk!), but there is also a button-front opening so the front section of silk (while interesting) is not appropriate for a 12"x15" piece.   BUT turn the shirt over and it's one nice, big (unmarked and no-seams) section of silk!  PERFECT size-wise!!  (in reality, I probably won't paint on this shirt since it's already intensely- colored a bright, magenta-pink.  But I may end up using it to make some new bowls or sculptures from!!  That pleating is just begging to be used in some way!!!).

9) When I do decide I want to use a silk item, I then take that item apart - cutting carefully around the seams.  -TIP-  Normally it is a better practice to tear silk rather than to cut silk because most silk tears beautifully-nice and straight along the weft or warp.  I used to tear the silks along the seams because silk does tear so beautifully - but I learned the hard way, that tearing silks along the seams can lead to major silk damage!   Many items manufactured from silk have NOT been sewn along the weft or warp. This means that if you try tearing along a seam, the silk will tear and follow the seam for a while, but then randomly start tearing along the weft or warp ...most likely in the opposite direction from where you were hoping it would go.  In other words, you may end up with 2 small pieces of silk instead of 1 lovely, larger-sized one! (yes, this has happened to - more times than I care to admit!!).  Now I am much more careful about looking closely at the warp and weft before deciding to tear or to cut.  Cutting guarantees you will be harvest the biggest-possible pieces of silk from the used items you have obtained!                                                                                                                                                                                                                         This is oddly, one of my favorite parts of utilizing used silk items!! I really enjoy the process of taking apart silks for use.  The first time I did it, I used a long-sleeve shirt and was amazed at how much usable silk I was able to gather!  Let's take a look at the pink silk shirt.  The front is a crap-shoot... those pleats will mean HOURS of seam-ripping if I decide I want to use that silk flat.  BUT if I use the pleats as-is.. then the processing becomes a lot easier. 

Picture 6
FYI, I usually leave the seams on one of the sections of silk.  I do this because I of the way I stretch my silk for painting - I use pins and hems are nice and strong... which means that the silk will pull without tearing or having large pin-holes where the pins are.  But if you plan on painting the silk - be aware that hems and seams are multiple layers of fabric and tend to absorb a LOT of paint...which means that when the rest of the silk has dried, they may still be wet - which can lead to bleed-back (and that is typically considered unattractive!). 

Picture 6 shows the front-left side (with the pleats) cut off, the collar removed, the sleeve removed and opened, and the cuff removed.  

Picture 7 - Reclaiming complete!

Picture 7 shows the shirt-disectomy has been completed.  I now have a nice selection of silk pieces which are ready for me to use! 

From this shirt, I was able to get 1 large piece of silk (the back piece), 2 medium pieces of silk (the sleeves), 2 medium pieces of silk with pleats (the 2 front pieces), the collar, the yoke, and 2 cuffs.   Not a bad haul!!

So which parts will I use and which parts will I throw out??  

TRICK QUESTION!  I use everything!!  Cuffs, collars, yokes, button-tracts, all are used for testing dyes for painting.... and then often turned into bookmarks, greeting cards, or if too small...handed off to an artist who uses them with her felting.  The back, front, and sleeves are all used to make small, medium, or larger art pieces.  I will admit that this does limit the size of artwork I am creating, but I have plans for how to make larger art pieces... and will probably be posting on that later! 

And what will I be doing with these bright-pink silk pieces??  Well perhaps a bit of dyeing, or a bit of painting.  And then most definitely, a large bit of resin-ing (probably not a word!).. resin application?  

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Gather and Prep Processes For Reclaiming Silks Part 2 of 3 - Cleaning And Storing

My processes for gathering and prepping reclaiming silks for use in silk paintings and other art projects (part 2 of 3)

A pile of lovely silks (shirts, dresses, and PJ's)

In my previous post, I talked about buying used silks...                          so now that I have them, what do I do with them?

4) When I've picked out a group of silk items (like the shirts and dress in the previous post) and I know the silks will work with my preferred art methods.  My next step (other than purchasing the silk!) is to take the silks home and wash them .  I ALWAYS wash my silks. ALWAYS!!!   I can almost hear you shouting - WAIT DID SHE SAY SHE WASHES ALL OF HER USED SILKS?...  WHAT ABOUT "DRY-CLEAN ONLY"??  FYI - There are a few (VERY FEW) silks that don't respond well to washing because of how they were woven... but in general all silks love to be washed...and in nice hot water!  The hot water restores luster and suppleness, and in raw-types of silks - it helps to remove the left-over bits of sericin from the original cocoon (which will cause problems for dye adhesion). 

So why would the manufacturers put "dry-clean only" on their items? Because they probably dyed their items WITHOUT setting the dyes properly (it's cheaper that way don't ya know!).  So when you wash those items, they will bleed..sometimes horribly!  I rarely buy darker-colored items so for me, bleeding is a non-issue.  Also, it can be possible for silk items to shrink slightly or warp - which could be a major problem IF you were going to wear the silk item.  But for my purposes of silk-related artwork, warping and shrinking don't matter (in fact, I'd prefer it happen BEFORE I attempt to paint on it!). 

So back to why I wash silk items...  First - you don't know what kind of sweat, dirt, or yuck is on the used silk (ewww!).  And even more importantly, you don't know how the used-silk item was treated (chemically) when it was made into the item you've purchased.  Most items crafted from silk come pre-treated with stain-preventative chemicals.  What does that mean to an artist?  Well it means that when you attempt to paint on it with silk paints or silk dyes, it is very likely that the silk will repel the dyes or paints, AND it may even prevent the dyes from soaking into (and bonding to) the silk!!  NOT good for a silk painter!!  So to help remove SOME of the chemical treatments from the silk, I wash them.  I usually wash them with baby shampoo.  
Baby shampoo??? YUP, I said baby shampoo.  Why??  Because baby shampoo is for fine, soft hair.  And what is hair?... a natural fiber similar to silk!  Baby shampoo is a wonderful

agent for cleaning silk!  It was recommended to me, that I wash used silks in synthrapol (which is a VERY strong detergent and one which is not recommended to get on your skin!), but I didn't care to use dangerous chemicals. ... so i only use it if i have a piece of silk which persists on repelling
dyes even after repeated washings in baby shampoo. 

Now for my word of caution - PLEASE NOTE - There are silks that I have washed multiple times in synthrapol that STILL are water and dye repellent.  I have even tried the suggested "wash the silk in water and hot vinegar" (supposedly the acids in the vinegar will help remove the chemical stain treatments).. but that has not really worked!  Once in a while, I will still have pieces of silk that have random spots where dyes won't adhere... this is one of the main reasons silk painters don't like working with used silks!! 

5) Once my silk items are clean, I usually end up storing them ..which means I wrap them in acid-free paper and put them in a plastic storage bin until I decide to use them. *It is important that you keep your silks safe from the environment!! They are very susceptible to acids, and insects LOVE them!!!!  So I recommend acid free paper and an air-tight storage container.

6)  Because I do tend to hoard silks, I have started sorting my silks based on how I use them.  I have a bin for beige silks that I know I can easily use to paint on.  I have a bin for silks that are beige (and light-colored) that I know the silks will present major challenges either for painting or for mounting (or both). I have a bin for strongly-colored silks.  And I have a storage unit for special silks.  I also have several small bins and bags of pieces which I keep at the ready.  They include: a bag of scraps that will be used to soak up left-over dyes, a bag of small pieces used for demo's or for practicing on, a small bin of silk pieces that are big enough to use for larger art pieces, and a bin of tiny scraps that I will be passing onto artist friends whom will use the pieces in their felt-work.  In other words, I have a LOT of bins!  

My next post will be on my last steps for prepping silks for use in my artwork. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

My Gather & Prep Processes For Reclaiming Silks (Part 1 of 3)

My processes for gathering and prepping reclaiming silks for use 
in silk paintings and other art projects (part 1 of 3)

I've had several people ask me what steps I take, when I find a silk item that I want to use for my art. Since you've asked, I thought I'd tell you (I'm always happy to share!).
Silk chiffon overlay
Silk Dupioni

First of all, I usually find my silks at thrift stores and garage sales.  I have found a few on Ebay (that I was willing to pay for) and I've even had a couple of artist friends provide me with some new silk remnants (which is lovely because then I don't have to worry about prepping the silk for use).

(These are pictures of just a few silks which I've found at various thrift stores)   

1) The VERY first thing I do while in the store, is decide IF I can even use the silks I find.  It's important to know how you want to use silk!  Are you painting on it, sewing with it, twisting it, decoupaging it, (the list of options - of things that can be done with silk, is probably quite long!).  For example, the various types of silks respond in different ways to the various techniques I use when painting on silk.  Charmeuse is always lovely and (I think) gives one of the richest-looking paintings possible.  But it can be difficult to use resists with because it is so thick. If you do a lot of resist-work, it may not be the silk for you. On the other hand, chiffon is super-thin.  It tears or pulls if you apply too much pressure with your paintbrush - so it may not be the best if you really like to scrub paint/dye into your silk.  And additionally, I have learned that some silks are not much fun to work with when it comes to mounting the silk after it's been painted.  Originally, I would buy every silk I found.  Now I'm quite a bit more choosy.  
Silk Broadcloth
Silk Crepe

2) Once I have decided IF I am able to use the silk I've found, then I decide HOW I might use it.  I will admit to just buying silk because it's a type I know I will use (like I will ALWAYS buy lovely cream charmeuse).  But sometimes I find a piece that is oddly colored, or has pleats, or perhaps it has a ton of seams (which means either very small pieces of silk for painting, or incorporating the seams into the painting some how).   I usually gravitate towards the lightest-colored silk I can find because painting on silk always looks best when done on white (or as close to white as I can find).  Knowing how you want to use silk will help you decide if the used-silk item you've found, will work for your project.  

3) Then I take a look at the cost of the silk item.  Is it affordable or on sale? Or is it super-expensive simply because it's a name brand?   While I do love to recycle and use reclaimed items in my art as well as other projects, I also know what the basic prices are for brand new silk - and I personally will not pay more for a silk item, than I can get brand new silk.  Keeping those prices in mind helps me control my expenses!  Trust me, it is smart to do your research!! 

Which brings up one other point - KNOW YOUR SILKS!  It is easy (especially when first starting out) to accidentally buy man-made items and trust me, they do NOT dye or paint the way silk does!!  I will have more information about how to tell if silk is real in another post!

Anyways, having gone through steps 1-3, I purchase my silks and happily take them home to hoard for future usage!  

Did I say that I hoard silks? - yup!  Although it is a bit dangerous for my pocketbook to do so!!   I say this because I find that I usually have more silks in storage than I remember buying..and that's a good chunk of money wrapped up (literally) in something I'm not using right now.  But I have noticed a trend that has me inclined to hoard good silks whenever I find them.  The trend can be good or bad depends upon your point of view.  

As I mentioned above, I tend to buy my silks at thrift stores.  I USED to find them EVERYWHERE.. for cheap!  The trend that has me hoarding silks is - I'm not seeing as much used-silk available these days...and prices are really rising. I am going to attribute that to the general public starting to participate more in recycling and up-cycling - and to other like-minded individuals realizing that thrift stores are great sources of natural materials (which they are!).  But this trend of disappearing-quality-goods, also means that stores are becoming savvy and starting to hold back the better goods for sale online or for companies they've contracted with.  Everyone recycling is making me change my own recycling and business practices.  Is that bad? Not if the recycling is having a positive impact on our world.  Is it bad for my art? well... maybe.... I am certainly becoming more resourceful and creative about how and where I obtain my silks.  

My next post will deal with prepping reclaimed silks for use with art - silk painting in particular.