September: Wendy Ann Stanger

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Wendy with one of her lampshades. This one features all four seasons

Wendy Ann Stanger has a distinctive signature style, which is a technique of silk fibre fusion with dried pressed flowers embedded in the work.

She has developed this process over the last 15 years since graduating in 1999 but now that her children are growing up she is getting time to develop her “brand”.

Driven by natural forms and materials, often heavily textured, Wendy lays out fibres and inclusions before bonding with cellulose paste and allowing to dry. The moisture has a way of encouraging the natural dyes of flowers to bleed into surrounding areas. As well as plant and animal material Wendy also adds vintage lace and yarns, sometimes feathers and even shells. After drying she freehand machine embroiders into the paper’s surface, using hand stitch and beads to further embellish.

She says: “Silk fusion is a versatile technique that allows you to incorporate natural and organic forms. Delicately encasing dried and pressed flowers into the layers creates beautiful tactile surfaces which can be embellished or transformed.”

Working from her home studio near Morpeth she is able to produce commissions to order and is often asked to use flowers and items from a special occasion such as a wedding to create an everlasting keepsake. She has even created images of much-loved pets using some of their own hair. But it’s not all about hangings. Wendy also makes lampshades, purses and brooches and no doubt some will feature at the Living North Christmas Fair in December, in which she is taking part for the first time.

After her degree Wendy did a teacher training course and loves working in schools. She still feels she is “relatively unknown” but does exhibit across the north-east and has sold work to private buyers in both the USA and Australia.

Find out more about Wendy on her website. You can also follow her work via her Facebook page @Artist Wendy Ann Stanger, where she posts lots of lovely inspirational photos.

STEP BY STEP

  • demo1

    Wendy lays down a first layer of silk fibres, combining noil and mulberry

    Lay a plastic sheet on your table with a piece of net on top big enough for the piece of work you want to create

  • Lay on your first layer of silk, which can be any combination. Wendy often starts with white and likes a mixture of mulberry silk and silk noil, the last of which adds texture. This doesn’t have to be organised like you would if making felt. “There are no rules,” says Wendy. And it doesn’t have to be white, it can be coloured
  • Next lay on other fibres and inclusions like bits of lace, interesting yarns and so on
  • Then add dried flowers. In her demonstration Wendy used quite a good sprinkling of small bits with a couple of whole blooms
  • Finally top with a very fine layer of more silk. This would need to be white because you want to see through it to the arrangement beneath
  • Put another piece of net on top and you are ready to put on your cellulose paste. Not too thin or thick but put on and work in either with your hands or the side of a piece of plastic like a credit card. Turn over the work and do the same on the other side. The paste needs to penetrate through the layers. It needs to look transparent when you hold it up to the light
  • Take off excess paste, again front and back and using a credit card or similar. Dab dry with a kitchen towel
  • Lay face down and take off the bottom net first then the top
  • Leave to dry overnight, which can allow colours to bleed, or you can force dry, which may have some advantage in preserving colours

WAYS TO DRY FLOWERS

  • Air dry (hang upside down)
  • Press in a traditional flower press
  • Microwave dry using a special plastic press. There are various sizes on Amazon as well as books on the subject. (There is a YouTube video showing how to do it with just paper, kitchen towel and a ceramic tile – Ed)
  • Oven dry
  • Use silica beads (just Google to see tutorials)

TIPS

  • Any wallpaper paste can be used, even the ready mixed variety. It is fine if it has the anti-fungal ingredient. You can also use watered-down PVA glue. The more paste you use the stiffer the finished product will be
  • If you incorporate sheep fleece make sure you top with silk again otherwise it will be quite fluffy
  • As well as dried flowers, trap shells, feathers, leaves, sea glass, or other findings. If they are heavy you will need more fibres to support them. Rusty things can bleed their colour very nicely!
  • You can draw out a design on tracing paper and place under your netting for guidance. Remove the paper before applying paste
  • As well as silk fibres (mulberry, noil, tussah etc) try merino, bamboo, cotton, alpaca, angora and soya. Angelina adds a sparkly touch
  • How thick you make your work depends on how you want to use it. Thin for lampshades so the light can shine through, thicker for evening purses
  • For durability and protection you can paint your work with a layer of matte acrylic wax
  • If you need to cut pieces you can use scissors but just tear for a more natural edge
  • To mould a piece of work rewet with wallpaper paste then pop over your chosen shape (a bowl for example) but cover with cling film to avoid sticking. This can be used to make a lampshade but don’t use the clingfilm! Just smooth over the shape and it will stick to the frame.
  • If there is a part of your work you’re not happy with after drying just add any new bits, cover with netting again and repaste. Says Wendy: “This technique is very versatile and forgiving.”
  • If a part of your work loses its original colour too much you can paint over carefully. Wendy uses Koh-I-Noor paints
  • Some of the outlets selling fibres are www.wildfibres.co.uk, www.georgeweil.com, www.worldofwool.co.uk and www.adelaidewalker.co.uk
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