When Tracy asked me to write about my wearable art, and pick a piece that meant a lot to me, and about the new Etsy store I’m developing, my first thought was “Oh, this is so cool! What fun!” She is, after all, the lady who taught me how to read a pattern after years of draping. My name is Gayle Sampson, and I’m a fiber artist, cosmetologist, and the owner of a small business named, appropriately, Live & Let Dye.
The piece I chose to talk about is called ”Mother Nature Strikes Back”, and is about the constant tension between people and the natural world around them.
I did the piece using a variation of Serti Resist, which is an ancient form of painting silk started in the second century in Asia, and which came to Europe during the Crusades. In the 1800’s, the French took the technique to a whole new level. Serti means “to fence in”, so that the dye or fabric paint is enclosed. You can paint in layers, creating effects like those seen in watercolor paintings. The fabric is most typically suspended, but for my piece, because of the odd shapes of the different panels, I had to pin it on top of felt, so the fabric paint would not indiscriminately spread.
To create the pattern, I draped muslin on my dress form first. The cape would end up being 8+ yards of silk. Next, I cut the silk panels and pinned it down to stabilize it, and started sketching to work on dimensions and placement. After that came transferring the sketches onto the fabric panels, and unlike normal Serti, where you would apply a resist for the fence, I used fabric pens to create my artwork to create an illustrated look. The sketches came from pictures of the Saw Whet owls that Talitha Greene had taken at the Glen Helen Nature Preserve Raptor Center, and plant life I sketched while hiking at Red River Gorge in Kentucky, as well as scoping out multiple pictures of butterflies. Add in my weird imagination for plant life, and there you go!
The next step was to carefully paint, going from lightest to darkest with my color. I used a mix of Pebeo and Jaquard fabric paint on silk habotai, and Jaquard’s acid dyes on the silk organza and ribbon. If you look at the hood, Winter is underneath, with Spring’s flowers popping up three-dimensionally all over. I also scattered them on the cape to add texture.
The shoulders represent Winter with various plant and animal life. On the lower panels, I created a water-sheeting effect over glass background, while mixing real butterflies trying to survive off real and new plants humans have developed. Around the neckline, silk ribbon was pleated and tacked on, and the clasp are two dragonflies that Talitha hammered out of copper.
I used the draping on my dress form to make sure the flow in wind conditions would work well. I hope my cape brings joy to other’s. My store on Etsy will be opening later this month under https://www.etsy.com/shop/LiveLetDyeSilk.