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Old Silk Road

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

I'm sitting here remembering the first time I touched silk as a child. It was my Mum's scarf from France - soft, transparent white with delicate pink roses. I remember the warm evening light in her bed room as I reached onto the bed and touched its specialness. This makes me smile to then remember the first "proper handbag" I ever bought which also came with a silk scarf. Fittingly this was in France with my Mum, from a little boutique inside a very old, stone building. I felt so special, womanly and so very grown up.

The day I left to move to America, Mum handed me that very silk scarf from my childhood as a gift and memento of home; Rarely a week goes by where I don't have those pink roses tied in my hair while painting. And how could I ever forget Mum making my wedding dress last year all from silk and lace. That dress was the only hug I could get from my family in a challenging year for everyone, but wow it was a special one.

I think it's fair to say that silk is a treasured fabric in my life and one that holds a lot of sentiment. But had you told me a few years ago that my art would move into textiles, I would have been a little skeptical. Yet as I write this here today, I see a creative transition as natural and heart-felt as they come. So what bridged the gap?

For the longest time I have been inspired by textiles in the artwork that I create. Any look at Charlotte Marie Fine Art will quickly reveal each fabric muse. Throughout my creative process, textiles play quite a significant role in not just inspiring a piece to life, but in helping me convey a message through its symbology. But once I started exploring abstract work, I would quite often hear "this would look beautiful as a scarf!"

A couple of months ago I wrote a post called "How it changed her", in which I talked about a new collection inspired by the one I'd just finished - you might recall some artwork where the subjects have headscarves on. Anyone who had seen the back end of my studio at that stage, would have also seen me painting numerous portraits of women wearing headscarves. I had became obsessed with painting these silky treats on my subjects and I spent hours researching their history and use. One day, while trying to get a detail in my painting from a scarf, it suddenly dawned on me. I was working with the wrong medium and finish. It wasn't that paint was the wrong medium - but canvas or rather 'a painting'.

"I didn't want a subject on canvas, I wanted to be the subject and to share the beautiful feelings that headscarves have to offer with everyone. And that was when it became so very important to give myself the opportunity to explore this silk medium."

That was how it all begin. Before I knew it, I was sitting with a list of questions about how to create silk scarves. Although the traditionalist in me would have loved to learn screen printing (and I still haven't ruled it out), in considering the hows of making these silks, I didn't want to lose the layers and intricacies that make the abstract artwork so appealing. This lead me down the path of digital printing on silk and after many days of research and trial runs, I ended up finding a boutique fabric supplier in Canada who offered the quality of material and printing I was looking for.

I have to say here that hitting "print" for your art on silk, is one of the most nerve-racking "prints" of your life, but the day my first sample arrived I was filled with a lot of relief and joy. Once the right fabric and quality was in place the outcome was just stunning - I think I actually cried.

At the risk of sounding ignorant, it was at this point that I also came across a textile finishing technique called "hand rolling". Although you can sew silk (which I had originally intended on doing for the scarf edges), it is one of the textiles where a stronger and more durable finish (not to mention more delicate and beautiful) is achieved by a "hand rolled edge". So my journey continued down the path of learning all about hand rolling, including how to do it myself. Yes, I have now passed many, many, many hours sitting at my table hand rolling silk edges until I finally could see the quality I was looking to achieve for a product that I wanted to feel special, sensual and beautiful. Because isn't this the essence of silk?

With all that said and done, here we now have the Bohemian Botanicals silk collection - the first of many textiles from Isbell & Co to come. As my hands touch the silk around my head, with its warm colours and gentle weave, I know I'm adding another silk memory to my collection - how special.

xx Charlotte Marie.

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