Isabella Whitworth

probably more than natural and synthetic dyes, wax, resists, and history


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In the second post…

It’s time to open the blogdoor and let the first visitors into the studio. Actually, I haven’t been in the studio much today because the red pen is out, which means it’s proofreading time for Journal issue number 245. On Saturday there is a Journal committee meeting in London – always a long and packed day with a trip from rural Devon to buzzing central London and back again. But it’s mentally stimulating, it’s fun and I enjoy seeing friends from far-flung places and eating too many biscuits. We always fight the clock but our chairman wields her claymore and we normally finish the agenda on time.

In the studio I have wax-resist / steam-fixed dye work on the frame in a new series called Between Worlds. I am working on a silk crêpe de Chine and the finished scarf will be 134 cm x 20 cm, or 8″ x 54″ in English. The image on the right above is a scarf that was selected for the National Exhibition of the Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers last July; on the left, the detail shows a new scarf in early stages of making. I have been using different-shaped wax brushes to create the marks. The design is worked freehand except for a light pencil mark, just visible, which I need to follow in order to define the shapes of the dark pools (or are they shadows?)  beneath the trees.


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Starting afresh

I first designed and managed my own website over ten years ago.  I set it up with certain aims in view at a time when silk painting was often poorly regarded. There was an abundance of salt-flinging at wet dyes on cheap silk, poorly-drawn scarves using clumsy water-based resists that bled dye, and derivative design. The medium developed a bad name and it wasn’t always wise to introduce yourself to a gallery as a silk painter. At that time I hoped to illustrate some of the medium’s potential on my website.

Since then, my working priorities have developed, as have teaching venues and the technology to write and publish online. These days I still work with wax-resist on silk but I also produce natural-dyed silk and wool scarves and grow some of my own dyestuff. With colleagues and friends I have been researching methods of using natural dyes with wax resist, which has proved a very complex problem.

 

For four years I have been researching historical dyes in a more academic form, which can involve intense and concentrated writing; I also assist with the editing of  the Journal of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. The old site is no longer relevant to my wider aims. The final straw for my website camel was that the Dreamweaver program I used is no longer compatible with my computer system. It’s now incredibly tedious to update and I find all sorts of excuses not to get around to it.

During a seven week trip to Australia in autumn 2012, we set up and maintained a blog (from some very unlikely upload locations) and I realised that the format of a blog plus a few static pages would probably work well for a new site.

I’ve launched this new site in the last hours of 2012 – in the spirit of optimism we are expected to adopt at this time of year – before the Talisker properly takes hold.