Susan has been dyeing silk for more than 25 years, and taught silk dyeing classes for 10 years at her shop Shenandoah Moon. She started experimenting with painting on metal three or four years ago. She shares some of the steps she takes to create her beautiful jewelry below:
Hand-Dyed Silk Scarves
I hand-dye the silk scarves using habouti silk “blanks”, or white silk with hand rolled hems that has been prepared for dyeing.
First I mix the powdered dye with water immediately before dyeing, because the dye solution has a short shelf life and produces the most vibrant colors
when used right away. I then put the scarves in a small tub and add soda ash solution, a mordant or chemical that permanently bonds the dye to the fibers.
Next, I carefully arrange the scarf in the dyeing tub, then use an eyedropper to add various color dyes to produce the desired effect. Some of the effects include Impressionist, rainbow, ombre, or spiral designs.
After several hours, I neutralize the dye before carefully rinsing the scarf multiple times until the water runs clear.
After wringing out the excess water, I iron the scarf while still damp to give it a subtle sheen and beauty.
Hand Painted Earrings
These beautiful hand painted earrings are made using copper or brass “blanks” in a process that takes at least two weeks to complete.
I use a blend of oil paint and a solvent, which creates several effects including honeycomb-like “cells” similar to those produced during acrylic pouring. After mixing thoroughly, paint is applied with a toothpick — some of the earrings have up to eight colors of paint in one earring.
The paint has a mind of it’s own, and it’s challenging to end up with an (almost) matched pair! The proportions of the paint and solvent have to continually be adjusted to create the right effects.
The painted blanks are left undisturbed for about a week to dry — trying to speed up the process with a hair dryer or drying in the sun results in disaster. Then I apply a topcoat of jewelry-grade resin, which takes several more days to dry and gives the finished piece more complexity and depth.
Now it’s time to choose a Czech fire polished, faceted crystal bead to compliment the finished earring before wiring it between the earring and a stainless steel ear wire.