SILK PAINTING DESIGNS ‘Hopi Bird Dance’. Three dresses with similar silk painted design in 3 colourways.


When I coordinate found fabrics to recycle together into a new look garment, I enjoy imagining a new decorative design with them; to contrast with the many plain cottons and linens I use. Hand painting designs on silk is the obvious solution, taking inspiration from the existing colours and any print coordinated with the plains. I was busting to get back to silk painting which I’d developed as a technique in my first Devon workshop back in 1995!

When designing, one has to start from somewhere; taking a few elements and putting them together. I began again, exactly where I had left off, with the inspirations I’d had for the last paint on paper furnishing design I’d done. I’ve always been intrigued by Native American design and recently found images of abstract bird designs of the Hopi Indians applied to pottery. They reached a height of decorative abstraction, distorting their bird designs to fit over any curved pottery surface; a brilliant applied design.


I have kept these ‘curved’ surface designs almost exactly as the originals, but applied them to a two dimensional surface of Habotai silk. It was an obvious decision to put feathers around the Hopi birds but I needed another element. I decided on a selection of Native American quotations intended to stand out in cream.  However, I wrote them with a water based gutta resist, and they were mostly blurred or lost during the steam fixing process; so I embroidered over them. By happy accident this gives another texture, although time consuming. A spirit based gutta may work better next time.


For the FIRST HOPI BIRD DESIGN I kept to the natural colours from the pottery inspirations; beige, orange, terracotta and brown, adding a stronger pink. I teamed the final piece with brown cottons and viscose from recycled skirts to make an unusual but charming pinafore dress showing off the silk design in the bib top and apron.


After dark all cats are leopards” ~ Zumi


The SECOND HOPI BIRD DESIGN uses only stylized birds; in red/beige/black; one piece with black dyed background, one piece left base white, both to coordinate with a red linen skirt and black viscose print used in the long red dress design.  Vogue pattern used: V1234 by Sandra Betzina.


 The THIRD HOPI BIRD DESIGN on grey background, is in white, light jade green and orange.  It coordinates with several grey cotton and line skirts used to make the pinafore dress with a front silk panel.  I experimented with texture printing: using dried corn cob leaves (which have fine narrow ridges).  A printing pad is made by glueing them as flat as possible onto a cereal packet cardboard, then varnishing (acrylic water based) 3 layers recommended.  Their fibre formation, of quite pronounced ridges, left natural looking printed lines, and although I used an epaississant thickener with gutta, the end result after steaming was mostly a blur, but still provides an interesting background texture, one which i hadn’t planned, but actually like very much.  Again the words were lost after steaming, so I embroidered them.  (Advice here is maybe not to use old gutta, like 20 years old!


Walk lightly in the spring: mother Earth is pregnant” ~ Kiowa

Plants are our brothers and sisters; they talk to us and if we listen we can hear them” ~ Apache

I’m looking forward to further developing designs inspired by world wide ethnic art including birds, abstraction, and other symbols of indigenous native cultures.  I will be writing also about these as I develop.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s