Like any artist, I start with an idea. Maybe it’s something I’ve seen months or even years ago that just pops into my consciousness. With “Lily,” I felt my fond memories of my artist/mother-in-law, how she inspired and supported me, and then I remembered how she loved Emil Nolde. I love his paintings as well, especially his watercolor sketches of landscapes, wild seas and skies. And suddenly I thought I could try to imitate this effect on velvet.
I started Lily with a sketch on a piece of paper, while looking at a book of Emil Nolde’s watercolor paintings. Here’s a video where I talk more about the process.
After I had the idea of how I wanted it all to look, I then created my dyes to color the velvet in just the way I feel. I dye my velvet with my own textile pigments. That gives the beautifully blended colors and forms, like a dreamworld, really.
With my dyes, I did several experiments on small pieces of velvet to make sure I was capturing the look and feel that I wanted. It worked. My dyed pieces of velvet reminded me of Emil Nolde, and, of course, of my dear mother-in-law Lily. They both were so rich in color and so poetic in life.
But painting a piece of 2.25 x 1.30 meter [that’s 7’4″ by 4’2″ feet] is a bit more challenging than painting my color samples. The huge canvas of velvet needs some preparation: testing the colors on a larger scale, making more of the same dyes, and finally preparing the patterns on the silk screens that I’ll use for the hand-printed images.
I decided that I wanted the grand foulard to be like a big landscape in yellow-greens and lilac-purple-turquoises. When I was painting the velvet, I suddenly knew I had to name it Lily after my mother-in-law. I remembered her paintings, and the times that we would paint together. In the end, I silk-screened a few Chinese ‘terracotta army’ faces on my velvet bedspread grand foulard to associate it with my personal travels. I wanted to give it a subtle surprise. Lily would have liked that, too. She was always full of surprises.
Processing a huge piece of velvet artwork is exciting. How will the colors actually come out? There’s always just a bit of guesswork, because my dyes do change slightly in the steamer. Yes, the steam process sets the colors in, but it’s like my dyes want to have the last say in the matter. They want to change, just a bit. But I love the surprises. There’s always some ‘extra,’ unexpected effects that give it a more hand-painted character, like new textures and blended colors.
When the fabric dried, I started thinking about the lining and a decorative strip for the finishing touch. In this case, I chose a deep-purple lining that can also be used for the front, and a similarly hand-painted purple strip.