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Silk: Luxury and Craftsmanship

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Silk has been an integral part of human culture for a staggering 5,000 years. Today, it's becoming increasingly scarce and expensive. The discovery of silk fibres is enshrined in legends and superstitions, some sorrowful, others having a happier ending. The most renowned is the tale of Empress Lei-Tzu, who inadvertently discovered silk when a cocoon fell into her cup of tea, unraveling into delicate fibres.

painted image of natural silk
C Lubicaart

This surprising discovery was witnessed by Emperor Huang Di, who swiftly envisioned these fibres being used in clothing manufacture. This marked the birth of luxury silk clothing! Nowadays, synthetic fibres are often combined with real silk, appearing under names like organza or brocade on clothing labels. While they may look similar, they cannot replicate the original production process that has remained unchanged for thousands of years. The production of this fabric gold is incredibly laborious and time-consuming. A small caterpillar, the size of an ant, matures and pupates in just 26 days. One cocoon yields about 4 kilometers of fibre, but only around 1,000 meters are of a quality suitable for luxury clothing. Astonishingly, a single blouse requires about 600 cocoons, and a scarf about 200. A significant portion of the production process is still handcrafted.

Silk has found its place in the wardrobes of many style icons. Queen Elizabeth II's impressive designer scarf collection can be seen here. Other celebrities who have popularized silk scarves can be found here.

My process:

Before using the silk, I wash and iron it, then stretch it until it is completely smooth on a frame. This prepares the silk for painting. Sometimes, I design the pattern digitally, other times I draw directly onto the silk by hand.

The painting methods vary. Sometimes, I use a contour, or I paint abstractly without one, or I use wax or salt, or a combination of these techniques. If I use a contour, I have to wait until it's completely dry. The contour must be applied carefully to create closed areas that I later fill with paint.

To ensure the colors blend well, I moisten larger areas with a broad brush and water. The surfaces dry quickly, requiring me to adjust my painting speed. This also applies to larger areas like the pattern's background. Once the entire silk surface is painted, I allow the colors to dry.

Next, I fix the colors with steam for about three hours. I then wash the silk in a water bath at up to 30 °C, using a silk-specific detergent, without fabric softener. I rinse until the water remains clear, signifying that all excess color has been removed.

After allowing the silk to dry, the final step is hand rolling the silk.

I strive to use the best materials and procedures for my work, improving with every new painting. The energy I put into my work is transferred into each piece, and I hope it resonates with the wearer, who will enjoy the feeling of the scarf and its positive energy.

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