What is Silk Painting?


Sissi Siska

Natasha Foucault

Natasha Foucault, My Window with Glass

Hellenne Vermillion
Sissi Siska, Golden Heliconia   Hellenne Vermillion, Silk Jar

Silk Art has always been associated with royalty and its exclusivity due to the labor intense nature it requires. From the actual farming of silkworms, the production of thread, cloth, brocade, dyes, fashion and fine art. Legend has it, that circa 2,640 BC, the Chinese Empress Leizui, discovered silk when a cocoon dropped into her tea cup. She began to unravel the 900 meters of silk fiber and dreamed of weaving it into cloth. For thousands of years, silk remained available only to Chinese royalty and those honored by the court. In fact having illegal possession of any silk product, including silk moth eggs, was punishable by death. Even today, silk art remains a somewhat exclusive and an elegant art form.

You say, “This is all well and good. And thank goodness we don’t have to wade through all 4,660 years of silk history to arrive at today’s silk art ”. My point is to illustrate that while we have become enchanted with this art form more recently, we did not “invent” it. Silk art discovered each of us in unique ways.

It is that personal enchantment that has hooked us all. Some of us started in a beginning class or with a “recipe” type instruction. I bought a starter kit purchased from the children’s section of the Smithsonian catalog. I figured the children’s version was a good place to start. Some of us found a demo class at an art fair. Others were dragged to a class by a friend who insisted that it would be fun.

My guess is that when our brush touched the silk, we were dazzled by the magic of the silk’s translucence. We were fascinated by the dye’s flow, and the brilliance of the combination. In that moment,we became devoted to silk art. Rumor has it, that are those who experience these same moments and quickly decide silk art is not for them. I personally know very few.

Since our magic moment, we’ve all strived to find our artist’s voice thus many different silk artistic styles have emerged.

Within this group we have developed techniques, a deep knowledge base regarding: equipment, supply sources, texts, workshops, gatherings etc.

The unique factor that defines this group is that all of us are willing to share our successes as well as our failures. SPIN members live by these words: “The more you share, the richer you become”.


Here are some of our silk art voices:

  • Photo-realistic: Suzanne Punch, Barbara Pease, Karen Sistek, Susan Moyer.
  • Abstract: Suzanne Visor, Lee Zimmerman, Jan Janas, Natasha Focault, Nadja Lancelot, David Higgins
  • Art Nouveau, Serge Nepomnin,
  • Fashion: David Higgins, Natasha Focault, Kayla , Audrey Durnam, Nadja Lancelot
  • Quilting: Judith Roderick, Karen Malin, Ursula Wamister
  • Knitting: Ursula Wamister
  • Shibori: Doshi, Suzanne Knight
  • Weaving: Brecia Krovalic-Logan
  • Three-dimensional: Hellenne Vermillion, Phillippa Lack, Kaki Steward    
  • Rezomé:Kiranada Sterling-Benjamin, Bunny Bowen
  • Batik: Mary-Edna Fraser
  • Eco-dyeing: Suzanne Connors