Archive for the ‘silk’ Category

old frog perhaps….

June 12, 2015

古池や 蛙飛こむ 水のおと
ふるいけや かわず とびこむ みずの おと
Furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto
Old pond, frog hops in, sound of the water.



In this instance: Seemingly old pond, reluctantly, frog hops in, understated splash. I think there’s more to Basho than meets the eye.

not silk

not silk

It feels like slow progress this week, but I’m sure that hasn’t been the case.  It’s probably been more about what doesn’t work as opposed to what does – as in “Oh, so that’s polyester, not silk” and “So that’s how that works…but it’s not what I’m after.” It’s still discovery.



Still playing (June is my month!), but preparations have also begun for 2 upcoming workshops at Artspace. I’ll be working with 7th – 10th graders and they will immerse themselves in the blue.

last summer's class

last summer’s class

At the J.C. Raulston Arboretum yesterday afternoon, I was rewarded with an actual view of a few butterflies. One was a bright orange monarch – unfortunately, no photos.

bees thrive at the arboretum

bees thrive at the arboretum

I haven’t seen any butterflies as yet in my yard and I’ve been a bit concerned. It was a relief to see the Monarch.  So I’m inspired to return when the mornings are not quite so hot. I’d love to see some of the same blooms in the morning light.



June 5, 2015

I’ve long needed to pull out a box of crayons and just scribble.


I’ve needed to play and yesterday was it. Although, that’s been the goal for this month especially. If I can make it last, then so much the better.


Sometimes, I’m an obsessive planner. It’s probably a hangover from teaching in earlier years. In some ways, it has been a good thing, as it taught discipline and nourished my love of research.


But, I also know the value of “throwing it all out the window” and running out to play – another way to learn.  We know that.


Yesterday, I returned to some materials and ideas that have been running around in my head for more than a year –  long overdue and pure fun.

in the making for Herbfest

April 24, 2014

There are so many different ways to express the concept of handcrafts or the handmade in Japanese. In trying to find the most appealing and easy (to the western ear) to say (and remember?) while staying in context was a bit of a challenge. I still can’t be sure that 手技・shugi, the “umbrella” name I chose for Dana’s and my small business venture at Herbfest is the appropriate one, but it does convey the meaning well enough.

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手技・しゅぎ・Shugi defines as craft or the handcrafts as the kanji 手・て・te means ‘hand’ and 技・ぎ/わざ・gi/waza refers to skill, art or technique. I thought using “日本の。。。/Japanese” in the title would only be redundant (and also long), but some might wonder. I’ve been thinking that some kind of signage might be appropriate. I’m still giving that some thought.


Dana Watson (From My Wandering Mind & Tanabata Wishes) is bringing her Temari (literally hand balls), intricately patterned, thread wrapped balls. You can ask Dana about their history and the stories involved in the making of each one.


I plan to keep my palette limited for this fest (indigo & white). I’ll bring scarves and other sundries in shibori. I’m looking forward to it and hope for a classic North Carolina spring day.


in progress

March 13, 2014




It took time to wrap each little kumo, so it’s also taking time to carefully unbind each one.

There were a lot of unknowns in the construction of this piece. It was an experiment and still is. As I’ve been loosening the threads, pulling at the shapes and photographing them different things have come to mind – topics in my reading and museum visits all play a part. What that final “product” or image will be though, is still quite unknown at this point.

nature of nature

February 20, 2014

It feels like spring for the moment after the past week’s weather drama. For a few days though, nature was in control, and things took on a quiet timelessness (if you weren’t watching the weather reports). The crisp, white of the silk organza I’ve been working with seemed also to reflect that aspect of the season. Consistent with nature though, things change.



A wreath was in mind; that shape and the concept developed before the winter holidays. I soon realized though, that this was going to involve more time, so things evolved as they do. The bound up forms are not all the same size, but they all fit into that circular form So, eventually when it’s unbound I’m wondering what will happen. I’m not an engineer.

the underside

the underside

My first thought was to leave it white after removing the sericin, but decided ultimately to move it into the blue. Progress on developing the hue value is slow, but it’s teaching me patience, as always.

slow progress

slow progress

Another aspect of the week has been some swatch dyeing – again, watching the value and hue changes in the vat. It’s also slow progress, but today we have mild temperatures, strong breezes and some sun. It should make for a good day before tomorrow’s rain.



that “blew” stuff

February 6, 2014


Needless to say, it was a delightful two sessions at the museum. In many respects we probably just scratched the surface in our discussion of Balfour-Paul’s book, as the topic is so vast. On the other hand, that hands-on encounter with the ‘stuff’ was necessary. All participants were engaged and the results of their “exercises” were lovely and fully saturated with that “blew’. There will be more to look forward to in the future.

Ikegobo - Alter to the Hand - Nigeria (NCMA collection)

Ikegobo – Alter to the Hand – Nigeria (NCMA collection)

A few days later, in a return visit to the museum, I was exploring the collection again, looking for a specific painting and came across this piece in the African exhibit. It celebrates the hand and the people who rely on that “tool” for their work – farmers, hunters, warriors and artisans. I probably don’t need to explain its intrigue.

testing color depth

testing color depth

The winter temperatures have kept me away from the vats (the garage is chilly), but temperatures spiked to the balmy 50s yesterday. I needed to create a fresh organic vat, as I’ll be doing some test samples in a few days. So an indigo/henna vat is ‘in process’ at the moment and while a daily testing may not be required, I think it’s a good idea. Yesterday I worked with another small swatch of that silk I’ve been experimenting with to test the color depth.   It went through the paces and wasn’t disappointed.  There is something about that blue.

the day begins

January 9, 2014

Jan8I’d like to begin on a positive note, in spite of the challenges that some of my nearest and dearest have already been presented with so early in this year. It’s deeply affecting, but when I see the clarity of the moon after days of thick clouds and cold, then see the sun rise the next morning, I feel promise.


So…the day begins. Over the last few days, I’ve been viewing Michel Garcia’s Natural Dye Workshop and am intrigued. I’ve “played” with some of his ideas previously, but seeing him work and hearing his explanations was invaluable, inspiring and exciting (and now I want to work in the garden!).

Explorations in silk, especially that Gunma silk are ongoing, slow. The time I’ve been able to give to the one large piece I’ve started is piecemeal. I get to it when I can, but here’s a peek:

There’s a long way to go.  I’m inching along.

The horse is another image I’m considering, it’s the Year of the Horse, after all. It’s still very much in progress. I have some thoughts about it – something playful  to start off the year.


Preps are also ongoing for the February event at the Art Museum (NCMA).
I’m rereading Balfour-Paul’s Indigo, so full of history, facts about the plant, the dye, documented with beautiful illustrations. Revisiting it has been a pleasure.

Indigo_237_296_c1 There will be a hands-on dye experience or engagement after the book discussion and I am looking forward to giving that presenation.  Further details are on the Events page.

So, there’s much to grow on in the year, explorations and workshops are “afoot” and there will be more to come as they reveal themselves. The very best to my readers in this New Year.

Musubu/むすぶ – to tie or wrap up

December 19, 2013

It feels like a good many things are being tied or wrapped up – not just gifts.  The year is winding down, nature seems mostly at rest (unless you’re in the south), things are being quickly drawn to a conclusion.  That also means, if there are plans for the year ahead, they are quickly being finalized.  At least, that seems to be the case for some things, and with me, to a degree.

Plans for workshops are being finalized, which means promise in the new year – something to look forward to.  The only thing “on paper” that I can mention at the moment is the “demo” or very mini-workshop offered as part of the NCMA book club discussion of Jenny Balfour-Paul’s book, Indigo.  It will give the participants a chance to not only experience the color but the dye – to see how it works, which (I hope) will explain the love for and mystique surrounding.  My “vats” will also participate.



In the kitchen:  Long ago, luck and good health were often at the top of things desired when looking into a new year.   They still are, and I’ve just recently learned that around or on the Winter Solstice, it’s recommended that one eat pumpkin, squash or a vegetable in that family (actually they may be a fruit…). It’s known as 冬至カボチャ/どうじかぼちゃ/douji kabocha or winter solstice squash. I made up an early pot of soup recently and savored the aroma and taste of herbs, apples and butternut squash.


In the Studio: Explorations with this gummed silk are moving slowly and deliberately.  This particular sample is in itajime and instead of dyeing it, it was put through a degumming process.  So, the exposed (“frosty”) areas drew up tightly creating a different texture and dynamic.

As I said earlier, the material is precious, so I’m taking my time with it.   I have so many more questions about this silk and its implications.

There’s no need to rush things and we’re in a “particular” season now!

considering the season

December 13, 2013

When did the season begin? Was it last week at the Carrack, going to an exhibit where a friend had a piece on display? Those handmade books were (quite the eclectic collection) inspiring.


Or, maybe it was at the  Joel Lane (oldest house in Raleigh). Maybe. I certainly enjoyed the simplicity of the greenery, sipping a cup of wassail and the sounds of a dulcimer.


Or maybe it was gathering with some very favorite people for a potluck luncheon and “gift exchange,” which is more of a “clean out the ‘junk’ from your studio and share” it!   We have a lot of fun with this – not to mention the food. I baked some bread.


A commission/ special order is complete. It’s wrapped and soon to leave the studio. It’s also a gift.

Now, I’m considering the Gunma silk that made its way to my studio earlier this year (summer? Fall?). It has been waiting and I’ve been thinking. Things of this quality and beauty feel quite precious. Explorations are finally afoot. We’ll see what comes.


June reds

June 20, 2013

June reds 3

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

I had decided earlier that June would be the month I experimented with Cochineal. It seems that if I plan like this, it’s likely that I’ll follow through.

It isn’t always the case though, as I do have pieces I’ve planned or are still in process from months or years before. It’s just that I’ve learned that sometimes, if there’s a thing I want to explore and a certain season or likely conditions make it more possible, then, it simply has to be done (or something like that). At any rate, I marked June as the time for Cochineal – at least the time for beginning that exploration – however long that takes.

The approach brought to mind working with acid dyes and there probably is some correlation. While I have worked with other dyes, I’ve gotten used to the immediacy of indigo, so it was a different way to work.

The process went more quickly than  anticipated.  I had planned not to do any dyeing until probably Friday, but from the information gathered, it seemed that everything was in place and that I could go from the mordant to the actual dyeing earlier than planned.  So I took the risk and moved on.

The image here, shows a few silk pieces simmering in the pot.  It seemed that the dye color went deeper the longer they soaked.

It required patience on my part, as I so looked forward to the results and they were fairly unknown except for the hue. After seeing the results, I understand the ancients’ love affair (see Amy Butler Greenfield’s A Perfect Red) with that dye color.

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