Introducing Artist Teresa Shippy
By Deborah Lyn Stanley
Teresa is a fiber artist and painter; she loves to incorporate painting and extensive thread-work in her pieces. Painting her own original fabric designs provides an additional element of creativity to her work. Teresa’s artwork is always full of heart, color and a touch of whimsy. She loves anything vintage and is absolutely passionate about her current traveling exhibit: a very cool vintage car series entitled “Cool Classic Rides”.
Teresa collects anything vintage: dolls, furnishings, and tin tiles that were used in the artistic ceiling construction of the late 1800s. About 10 years ago, she found a use for her ever-expanding collection of tiles by transferring the design embossed in the tile to fabric. Teresa started by laying or wrapping plain cotton muslin tightly over the rusty tin tiles then painting the fabric to reflect the design of the tile. Not only did she create a cool piece of fabric, but it was also “one of a kind”. After experimenting with countless tin tiles along with wrought iron, clay pots, and garden stepping stones, all with protruding designs, she found she loved the process and the creative freedom associated with it. Summer months are ideal for this technique because the paint needs a reasonable amount of drying time—not to mention that it’s great to paint one awesome piece after another in the strong sunlight of summer days.
Let Teresa show you how to create “one of a kind” fabrics for your artwork!
Gather the following supplies:
Use white or off white natural fiber fabrics. Natural fabrics include: cottons, silks, and linen and can be found in vintage/thrift stores or purchased in a fabric shop. Bolts of natural fabrics can be found at great prices from a local wholesaler. These natural fabrics tend to absorb the dyes best and pick up the very cool indentations of the form that is under your fabric. It is preferable NOT to prewash fabrics because texture can be lost by washing. The exceptions are any vintage fabrics, which should be washed in advance to ensure they’re clean and to test them for quality.
Tin tiles, wrought iron pieces, metals, anything that has an unusual embossed surface will make an excellent template. Tiles or unique metal forms of art can be found at salvage yards, thrift stores, or local garage sales; new tiles can be purchased at your local hardware store.
These pieces are the templates used to transfer an image to the cotton, linen, or silk fabrics. Don’t just think of tins; keep your mind open to any cool, reasonably flat form that has an unusual surface that could create a textured design on fabric. You will be surprised what may get tossed out as trash that could be used as a template. Even vintage dress forms create a completely different and unique design.
Acrylic paints and painting supplies:
There are many water-based paints available through local craft stores. Setacolor paint by Pebeo is a wonderful product and can be found online from Dharma Trading. Acrylic inks and pigment dyes can also be used and are available at art supply stores. Jars with a wide mouth opening are needed for mixing the paint. These are reused from project to project. You will also need a variety of paint brushes and a small paint roller. 1 to 4 inch wide brushes are used for most of Teresa’s pieces. Synthetic brushes are okay, but stay away from the really inexpensive ones because they tend to shed bristles.
Your work area needs to be exposed to the sun where fabric and tiles can be laid out on a table or plywood to be painted and dried. A clothesline nearby is good for hanging the fabric for final drying and setting the design.
Let’s get started!
Set out your template, preferably on a wooden table or plywood; make sure your table or board size accommodates the size of your template and fabric. Wet the fabric, wring out the excess water, and lay your fabric over your template as taut as possible. Smooth the fabric so you can see the indentations of the tile, leaving approximately 2 inches of fabric all the way around the perimeter of the template. Press a dry paint roller over your wet fabric until all air bubbles are removed. Keep your fabric wet pulled tightly over your template. Secure your fabric with thumb tacks or small nails, so that wind does not distort its position.
Now the painting fun begins. It’s best to start out with three colors, such as light, medium and dark blue. Depending on the size of the tin template you’re using and your comfort level with the brush, choose a 1 to 4 inch brush to apply the paint. Larger brushes are great for a larger tin and for applying paint evenly across the entire piece. Mix up the lightest color of blue with approximately 1 tablespoon of blue paint to one cup of water, and apply this to the fabric. This first application of color will dry slightly lighter than the color you see because of the wet fabric. Double or triple your paint to water portions and be sure to have enough paint to cover your fabric for the medium and dark shades. You can premix 3 or 4 jars and cover the jars with foil until you are ready to use them. After the first layer is dry, apply your premixed medium shade then apply the darkest shade, but allow each layer to dry before applying the next layer. You may choose to use a smaller brush at this stage because narrower brushes will accentuate the details of your tin tile better than wider brushes. Note that because your fabric dries between applications, you will get a slightly more intense color when you apply paint to a dry surface. Drier fabric absorbs more paint than wet fabric, so keep this in mind while mixing your colors.
The last color application is done using a Dry Brush Technique. After you are satisfied with the first two or three color layers on your fabric and the fabric is completely dry, a final color can be applied with a clean, dry, sponge or brush. Step back and take a good look at your design to determine what your contrasting color should be. This color will accent your work by picking up and drawing attention to all the indentations of your beautiful tin tile. Dry brushing is done by loading a wide dry brush or sponge with paint and thoroughly blotting out the excess onto a towel. Test the application by starting at a corner of the piece, then work through your entire piece to obtain the desired results. If you are using a template that’s got some deep indentations, you will want to use a little more pressure to really get in the grooves of the template and reveal every detail within the tin showing onto the fabric.
The creativity of the process is a result of the colors you chose and how they are applied to different templates. This process can be expanded as you get more comfortable with your color choices and you experiment with variations to create unusual designs. The key factor in this process is to end with a contrasting color.
The final step in the process is to heat set your fabrics after the painting is complete and the fabric is dry. Heat setting can be accomplished with an iron or by hanging the fabric in sunlight. It’s best to iron the finished fabric several times and also leave it hanging in the hot sun on a clothesline to cure. Your iron will collect paint residue from this process, so even though it can be cleaned it’s best to use an old iron.
The fabric can be washed after heat setting with a mild detergent using a gentle cycle. Many times Teresa chooses not to wash the fabric because the washing can break down the textured feel of the fabric.
Creating your own fabric colors with unique designs provides unlimited opportunities for your fabric creations. “I love to use my tin tile fabric design as a backdrop for many of my portrait pieces. For example, I used this technique for Women of Substance.” This portrait was painted directly on a tin tile designed fabric piece of soft blue tones.
There are many ways to enjoy your original art, but it’s most important to have fun, enjoy the process and make it your own.
Connect with Teresa and see more of her art at: http://blog.teresashippy.com/