Working for the long term

Lettering painted on mystery fabric.

One recurring issue in my Art History classes in college, is the frustration that Art Historians, restorers and viewers of later generations have with artists who use materials that change nature or even disintegrate over time. The Madonnas of early Renaissance paintings were painted wearing sky blue robes, apinted with ultramarine, that have darkened to dark lapis blue over time. The Abstract Expressionists of the 1950's used house paint or car enamel on canvas. Paintings have rotted away because the paint and backing didn't like one another.

As someone who now makes art, I understand why artists make those errors.  I'm working away on the parochet/ark curtain for the Solomon Schechter School. Right now, I'm working on a celestial archway that will contain the words " Raise up the gateways above your heads". I chose a beautiful bronze fabric with a metallic sheen for the arch. I have no idea what the fabric is. I suspect that it is a rayon with a cotton content. I spent lots of yesterday trying to figure out how to get the lettering on the arch.  ( I had also made an arch that was entirely too big) There are lots of ways to  tget the lettering onto the fabric. I was trying to figure out the method that would give me the look I wanted, muted golden letters emerging from the darker bronze archway, and not take forever to get those letters on the fabric.

If you look carefully, you can see the dark metallic stitching around the arch.
I had a problem. I really don't know how the fabric will take to dye. One of my favorite fabrics, a copper and silk mix does not take any dye at all. I actually made a sample trying out acrylic paint on the mystery metallic fabric. It took, at least for the moment. I decided to proceed. I jazzed up the metallic acrylic paint with powdered metallic bits which gives the paint more shimmer. I debated doing the laborious task of tracing the arch onto tracing paper, drafting the letters, flipping the tracing paper over attaching it to the back of the piece, stitching the outlines with a straight stitch and then going over that straight stitching with a zig zag stitch from the front., a several hour procedure. I decided instead to be brave. I dipped a square tipped brush into the jazzed up paint and just wrote out the letters working backwards from the last letter  back to the first of the phrase, shifting the spacing of the letters to fit the space.   Failure means re drafting the arch, and re doing the stitching that bordered the arch.

Luckily I succeeded. If I had failed it would have been an extra hour of work as opposed to 4 hours of working the cautious way. I have gained enough excperience to be able to work the less  cautious way.

Once the letters dry, I plan to outline the letters in gold metallic satin stitch. That way, even if the paint fails in the future, the lettering will still be visible.


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