Sunday, August 12, 2012

Silk Marbling with Laura Sims

Back in July I took a workshop with Laura Sims at my good friend Linda Veilleux's studio. Linda's studio is in her lovely Vermont home and she offers some workshops as retreats; with rooms and food for a small extra charge that is REALLY worth it. It is so much fun and more relaxing to be able to stay where you are, work longer if desired, and just hang out with new friends. I have been thinking about offering classes here with a room for overnight too, but I could not do what Linda does with pampering her guests with food and treats (plus I really don't like planing meals). I also don't have such a nice studio space or this gorgeous view...

I have wanted to learn marbling for a very long time. I remember going to a program at one of my children's elementary schools where the kids were able to do some marbling on paper. I really wanted to try it too. Years later I learned more about it in my favorite class at Smith, The Art and History of the Book. I even bought some supplies for marbling when I started dyeing my own silks for felting. But what finally got me to do it was seeing Laura's work, which goes beyond the traditional patterns and lends it self to nuno felting. At a guild meeting Linda showed us this coat that she had made with silk that Laura had created.

When I was at the Felter's Fling last year, I had also seen this beautiful jacket by Elynn Bernstein which was made with some of Laura's silk .

I did not take many photos at the workshop; I really just wanted to relax and not be distracted by trying to remember to take pictures to share. Laura shared so much information with us, not just about how to marble silk. She has so many handy tips of how to make tools on the cheap that she could teach a class just in that. This is the kind of frugal thinking that I grew up with and I felt an instant kinship with Laura. Here she shows a straining funnel for the paint and a silk 'handle' that are made easily with items from around the house.

And here is one of her clever drying racks.

Here is a photo showing a dedicated student taking advantage of being able to work after class hours and how elaborate the set up was. Laura really has a lot of work before and after a class like this.

Here are some of my samples of the techniques Laura taught us. She showed us so many that I did not even get around to trying some of them! I hope I can remember enough to try them when I have time.

Along with learning more traditional marbling we learned to do "scapes. This is something I really want to explore more. I did get one of ocean waves that I love.

 We were getting some wonderful textures that Laura thought might be attributed to the water we were using.
One of the exercises was to lay down colored strips of fabric to see how differently the same paint looks on different colored backgrounds.

Here you can see by the way the fabric overlapped just what the color was before the marbling.

With the help of my friend Jean Gauger I made a scarf that I was proud of. It is was made using a Spanish wave pattern where the paint is pushed down the length of the tray as the fabric is moved back and forth. Jean and I had to try to get our movements to match as she held one end and we slowly laid the fabric down in the tray.

And here is a scarf by a master...

Here are some of my samples made into small bags. Making these was a good way to find out what patterns and color combinations work in nuno felt.


  1. WOW. Very nice. Thank you for sharing the photos and information.

  2. Oh my gosh! How absolutely lovely!!

  3. Very inspirational! It's a technique I've been wanting to try and you've inspired me to give it a go!

  4. Just beautiful! I love how the marbled silk works in nunofelt. Thanks for the informative and inspiring post!

  5. I bought shaving cream to try marbling but am to nervous to even try it...looks like a great class as the results are amazing .

  6. Laura's marbling technique is amazing! I've been marbling on silk for almost 2 years now (Laura's book is my go-to guide)and I'm just beginning to think I kind of know what I'm doing (LOL) Anyway, even the mistakes are beautiful and it's a fun and fascinating art form.

  7. Thanks all for the wonderful comments.

    I found that for nuno felt it is best to have more contrast between the colors and larger patterns. That is what attracted me to Laura's work especially.
    I did not get Laura's book as I felt guilty about the $ I was spending by taking the class but it is on my list of wants.
    I have been very busy since the class and have not been able to play with the technique more but I sure plan to when life slows down a bit....aka...when the garden is done :)

    Krex, I have not heard about using shaving cream for this. I will have to look into that.

  8. hey Diane. Isn't Laura Fabulous. Just wanted to let you know the silk in my felted jacket was marbled by me. I have not had the privilege of taking one of Laura's classes.
    A friend of mine with a shop called Yarns to Dye For in Flat Rock N.C. had a huge tank in her studio that could accommodate yardage. I hope she fills it again so I can do more silk cloth.

  9. Oh I am sorry Elynn, I misunderstood. I thought someone said that she had done that silk. I guess they were just saying that you had used marbled silk too. Nice job on the marbling as well as the jacket. I loved it so. I hope you ARE able to take advantage of that tank!