Legend has it that the Chinese Empress Hsi-Ling-Shi, (who is still honoured as the Yuanfei, the patron of silk), was in her palace garden one day and happened to notice the ‘fruits’ of the mulberry tree moving. On closer inspection, she observed that they were not fruits, but silkworms spinning fine threads which had a unique sheen.
l to r: silkworm larvae munching Mulberry leaves, adult silkworm with eggs, silkworm cocoon
I first discovered the art of silk painting whilst browsing through the art & craft section in a book store when I lived in Scotland. I was flicking through a book on the technique and was very inspired by the artform which I had never heard of. I purchased the book and was keen to try it out for myself. After purchasing a wooden frame, silk, silk dyes, a pressure cooker (for steaming) brushes & gutta I began experimenting from the book, made lots & lots of mistakes but eventually got the hang of it.
Brief outline of technique:
- The pre-washed silk is attached to a wooden frame with pins to make it taught.
- Outline of design is drawn onto the silk using gutta (a rubbery solution which resists the dyes) in an applicator with a fine nozzle.
- Design is then hand-painted (watercolour technique) & when dyes are applied, they will stop inside the gutta lines.
- Silk is then either iron or steam fixed, ready to be made into a garment or framed as an artwork.
GALLERY OF SOME OF MY HAND PAINTED SILK ARTWORKS