Materials as Inspiration
I completed a big quilt, one of the projects my mom asked me to make before she passed away. It took a long time to create, and was very emotionally laden. It drew a lot out of me and left me drained. After I finished it, I felt like I needed an uplift, which, for me, often means immersing myself in lots of colors and textures.
A couple of years ago, when I made my Ukraine-war-inspired Disillusions piece, I needed strips of a white sari silk ribbon. When I shopped for ribbons online, I came across gorgeous skeins in lustrous colors. I ended up impulse-purchasing three in some of my favorite hues.
I didn’t quite know what to do with them then. Eventually, I incorporated pieces from one into my Spring Colors series, and later into my hand-crafted paint brushes. But after that they lay around taking space.
When the urge to surround myself in colors and textures hit, I thought of these ribbons right away. Brightly colored, beautiful, made out of silks with various textures, and upcycled to boot (!!), they were exactly what my hands yearned for.
I knew what kind of texture I wanted to play with. Years ago I made cord-centered tassel necklaces that were perfect for my current needs.
And a while back, in a Making Zen retreat, I took a workshop with Ruth Woods and tried my hand at making coiled baskets held together by blanket stitches.
I decided to combine techniques from both projects to make chunky, soul-lifting artwork. A flat basket, if you would. I pulled my silk ribbons out of their drawer and started working.
The Flow Series
I started with the purple skein.
From the very beginning I knew that I wanted to mount the resulting piece onto a stretched canvas. I decided on a 16″ x 20″ canvas, because I really liked that size from my State of Human series. It’s the perfect size for wall art for the home: not too big and not too small.
I cut pointy oval shapes (vesica piscis) out of beautiful textured home décor fabrics from my stash. The color pallet for those was entirely derived from the silk ribbon itself, except that I also decided to add one patch of complementary mustard, for contrast. I sat down for the laborious work of adding the silk ribbons, couching them down with colorful, matching embroidery floss. Colorful threads, like colorful fabrics, make my heart sing!
I wanted the process to be spontaneous and improvisational, so I didn’t plan in advance where the lines would go. The piece unfolded by itself as I went along. Slowly, a mouth-watering texture appeared.
It was a very slow process that took many, many hours, and was somewhat addictive, too. I didn’t know what the final piece will look like, but I was really curious to find out. The meditative, repetitive stitching put me into a creative flow. I was completely immersed in the process. As a result, I worked for hours a day without taking breaks. The piece took about a week and a half to finish.
The resulting artwork was a bit disappointing, until my husband helped me wrap it around the canvas. Then it really came together, turning into a a chunky, substantial object with a strong presence that I absolutely LOVED. My heart swelled. The artwork was textural, nuanced, and the colors were incredible! I couldn’t stop looking at it!
Right away, I moved on to the next piece.
The next skein was bubble-gum pink, a color I don’t really like and don’t usually use. When I bought it online, I thought it’ll be darker, and was quite disappointed with the shade of pink that arrived in the mail. But I already had it, so I decided I might as well use it.
For this piece I chose to try rectangles for the accent shapes. I wasn’t sure how the ribbon lines would flow around rectangles, though, so I did a quick sketch on some scrap paper to see if it might work. It looked like it would, so I started.
As it came along, it took a woven look, almost like a rug.
With time, I came to actually like the different shades of pink. The embroidery floss in matching colors helped.
This piece, too, kept me very engaged. I worked for days on end. Alas, after several weeks of pushing a needle thought fabric, ribbon and batting, and pulling thread tight, my hands started hurting. First a little, then some more. And still I kept going. Blisters appeared, some calluses, too.
Luckily for me, by the time I finished Pink Flow it was time to leave for a family vacation. This gave my hands the long rest they desperately needed.
When we returned home, I was eager to resume my work. I learned my lesson, however, and understood that I needed to USE THIMBLES and give my hands a break. So this time around I took more coffee breaks, which resulted in more bathroom breaks. I took a day or two off here and there, to do other things or just relax with a book.
For the magenta and purple ribbon I decided to try and see what triangles will do. I loved how it came along.
The final piece turned out quite cheerful.
About half way through Magenta Flow, I realized I that I used all my silk skeins, but that I wasn’t quite ready to stop. Looking at my budding series, I was still curious. Curious to see what other shapes would look like, what feelings other colors would evoke, and what other directions the lines could go. My hands itched to stitch and stitch. I was a woman obsessed…
On a whim, I decided to buy more sari silk. I went online and bought four (!) additional skeins. Limiting myself to four was difficult, as there were so many gorgeous colors available!
The first new skein to arrive was lavender colored. To my delight, I discovered some surprising colors hidden inside. Mixed in with the purples were red and even turquoise. Luckily, I had all the necessary matching embroidery floss.
For this piece, I decided to see what squares would look like. The result was somewhat similar to the rectangles.
The dioxazine skein was the second to arrive. It was just as beautiful in person as it was online, and I couldn’t wait to get started.
I dug through my stash to find matching fabrics for the background shapes. It wasn’t easy, as not every purple worked. Eventually I collected enough.
To my great surprise, it turned out that despite the vast quantities of embroidery floss in my stash, I didn’t have threads in colors to match this skein! Off to Michael’s I went.
For Dioxazine Flow I wanted to see what will happen if the lines flowed from top to bottom. I expected this to be quite simple, but in practice the construction of this piece turned out to be a lot more complicated than I ever imagined. I had to simultaneously work on many different lines with many different needles (not to mention lots and lots of pins, which made it somewhat dangerous!). It all worked out in the end, though.
While I was working on Dioxazine Flow, the last two skeins I ordered arrived together. One was a beautiful fuchsia and the other a warm ochre. By then I had decided to limit the series to six pieces, however, and so I had to choose. It wasn’t an easy choice. In the end, I decided to go with the mustard ribbon. Since I put an ochre shape into each pieces, it felt right to have one piece in the series in that color, too.
The ochre ribbon, to my great delight, hid purples and magentas, which made it a perfect match for my series, as well as some unexpected greens and turquoises.
For this piece I decided to try diamond shapes. I let the lines flow around the diamonds.
Here is the result:
The Flow series consists of six pieces in different shades of purple, magenta and ochre. It is a study of geometric shapes and lines, and is a celebration of colors and textures. I called this series “Flow” because of the lines flowing trough it, and because working on it put me into a creative flow.
***When I posted work-in-progress pictures of these pieces on social media, many people wanted to learn how to make them. I’ve never written a tutorial about how to create my fine art, but I decided to make an exception in this case. You can find the tutorial here***