"The life of a designer is a life of fight: fight against the ugliness."

~ Massimo Vignelli


A New Silk Scarf: The Octopus

May 16th, 2012

Octopus scarf

I’m fascinated by octopi; their bulbous heads, the patterns formed by their suction cups, the way their many limbs can fill up a visual space with fluid, sprawling, powerful movements. Some things just make great visual subjects for art, and octopi are among them. In my first project working with gutta on silk I made an octopus the protagonist and set him in a watery home surrounded by coral reefs and silvery schools of fish. Here are a few photos of the process.

Silk stretched in frame

A silk scarf is stretched over a wooden frame and brushed with water to get rid of any folds or creases in the silk.

Octopus sketch

The design is sketched on paper before being traced onto dry silk with a light pencil. The silk is then put back onto the frame and the lines are drawn over with gutta, a water resistant solution which blocks paint from spreading past the outlines.

Coral texture applied with salt

Salt is applied onto wet paint to provide the coral reefs with a mottled appearance. The salt draws moisture towards it, and different sizes of salt grains can be used to create different effects.

Coral texture

The salt is brushed off when the paint has dried, leaving a more saturated colour wherever a grain of salt was placed.

Fish step 1

To provide the fish with a silvery shaded effect, black paint watered down to a light grey is applied to select areas of the fish.

Fish step 2

The desired colours are added when the grey shading has dried.

Painted scarf

The completed scarf. All that remains is to steam the silk to set the colours and remove the gutta.

Octopus scarf

After steaming, the fabric posesses the soft sheen characteristic of many silk scarves and the colours have increased in vibrancy.

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5 Responses

  1. Absolutely fantastic and a real insight into this technique. I wouldn’t have thought salt could play such an important role in producing the finish!

  2. Tim says:

    You are an incredibly talented woman. You continue to amaze me with your talent. You get an A+++ for this!

  3. Matt Baird says:

    Wow !!!!What an awesome talent you have !!

  4. Adam says:


  5. sabrina says:

    For sale?

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