Art and Iconography
MORE ART BY BETSY PORTER
Right: The Rev. Lynn Baird wearing a reversible chasuble (vestment)
hand-painted with dyes for Lynn's ordination in June 2000.
This vestment reverses to a rainbow design, predominantly red. Betsy
Porter designed and dyed this vestment, and did part of the sewing. Lynn
Baird and RoJean Madsen completed the sewing, RoJean embroidered
golden yellow flowers which hold the two layers together.
PAINTING AND DYEING ON SILK
Above and right; paintings in dye on silk scarves, 1993-97
Below and right; resist-technique on silk scarves, 1988-95
To make these paintings, I stretched the silk scarf horizontally on a
special frame. These techniques require a large studio space. For the
time-consuming resist paintings, I first drew the design with a tube of
glue-like resist, then filled in the colors. Gold or colored resist (below left)
stays in place. Clear resist washes out, leaving a white line between
Around 1993, I switched to the quicker technique of painting directly on
silk without resist. A background was painted with foam brushes. The
next day, I could paint the design with sponge eye-shadow applicators.
I really love to make things! At one time or another I've tried various art
forms, taking classes at several schools and institutions, and picking up
bits of know-how from family and friends. My work in most of these
disciplines has not advanced beyond student level. However, other
work has been good enough to sell at art fairs and gift shops. I've also
enjoyed opportunities to teach.
I've made so much jewelry, and so many kinds, that it has its own page.
Here is some of my other work, primarily in the area of fiber arts.
As part of the workshop discipline, we each assembled a slide sheet containing 20 pieces of trash in a selected
category every day, and we asked the whole school to collect bottle tops. At the end of the workshop, our group built
a bottle top labyrinth on the deck.
As long as we completed certain assigned projects, we were free to make whatever we chose. Some made large
structures in the woods.
"MIXED MEDIA" summer 2006
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine
Art work photographed by Damian Yanessa
In July 2006, I had the pleasure of spending 2 weeks at the famous
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Coastal Maine.
The instructor for my “mixed media” workshop was Bryant Holsenbeck,
whose art is recycled from commonplace cast-offs. She wraps animal
sculptures out of scrap fabric, clips realistic birds from defunct plastic
credit cards, makes baskets and books from cereal boxes.
Upper left; for our first assignment, we
were each given an item from the dump
and asked to make something from it. My
item was a square of aluminum screen,
which worked up into this chandelier.
Left; Bryant Holsenbeck at work on a
Right; our bottle top labyrinth. In the
background, our transparent slide holders
hang on a clothesline. Each tiny pocket is
filled with a choice little piece of trash.
Continuing my interest in small, meaningful, symbolic objects, I made secular “icons” addressing the particular
concerns of my classmates and instructors.
The scrap bin at the school woodworking shop provided interestingly shaped pieces of wood to serve as foundations.
The “take-it-or-leave-it” building at the Deer Isle Dump was a treasure trove of old magazines, games, and toys.
Right: Janine Fay with her larger than
life "mother goddess" - a trash collage
Far right: Georgio built a gigantic nest of
sticks surrounding a tree in the woods.
Bryant started off as a basket maker, and a
random-weave basket was among our
assignments. I enjoy basketry, and made two
Left: Rainbow Dream Basket interwoven and
fringed with yarn samples
Right; Eight O'Clock Coffee basket
interwoven with strips cut from a foil-lined
plastic coffee bag
Left: Girl Power Icon; this one is for me! The pastel metallic stickers are covered with pictures of cute girls.
Center; Double-sided Guy Power Icon. The side with the guru is for charisma and mental fortitude. The side with
the Robin action figure is for physical courage and adventurous spirit. The little figure on top, among the golf tees,
can be moved to either side.
Right; Big Strong Ideal Man Icon (for Ann) incorporates a still from an old black-and-white Victor Mature movie.
Above Left; Double-Sided Beauty Icon (for Janine) - The Victorian card and
the many sparkling rhinestones came from Janine's own collection. This
personal icon also incorporates beach glass, small abalone shells, and a photo
from an old National Geographic, as well as a game piece.
Above Right; Many-Sided Eyes Icon (for Bryant) - a particularly interesting
chunk of wood has eyes on all sides! I had some technical problems with the
Left; Pregnancy Icon (for Carolyn) - When you're expecting a baby, you never
quite know who that baby will be! You have to take your chances. This piece
incorporates a triangular wood game board, the silvery seal from a coffee can,
and the plastic seal peeled from a bottle top.
WEAVING AND BRAIDING
Above left; detail of two cotton twill place mats, both loom-woven on the same warp.
Above center; a poncho (quechquemitl) of Icelandic wool on a Navajo wool warp.
This piece is over 30 years old, and I continue to wear it frequently.
Above right; overshot design in a heavy single ply wool on Shetland wool base.
Below left; strip-woven belts, made on a portable inkle loom.
Below; finger weaving, a craft of American Indian origin, is actually a form of
braiding. It's very portable; you can do it right in your lap. Keeping all those loose
ends in order requires concentration! These examples are all wool. At left are flat
weaves, which can be simple diagonals or more complex designs such as the
chevron and lightning patterns. The more dimensional examples at right can assume
varying designs in a single braid, depending on which color you choose to put on top.
CERAMIC POTS - I've taken classes on several occasions, but have not moved past student level.
Ceramics is fun, even at this basic level. Making pots has given me an appreciation of good ceramic work by others.
Below left and center; assorted pinch pots. Below right; I've even made a few wheel-thrown pots.
Stained glass lampshade -
copper foil technique
HAND MARBLED FABRIC - Marbling is an ancient and fascinating art, practiced for over seven hundred
years in Japan, and possibly even earlier in China. In seventeenth century Turkey, legal documents were marbled to
prevent forgery. Later, the technique spread to Europe, where marbling was used to decorate end papers for books.
(My own father loved fine books and had several with marbled end papers. As a child, I was much intrigued by them,
and would take the books off the shelf just to admire them.)
Marbling also works well on fabric. Each piece is individually marbled and unique; the pattern can never be
duplicated exactly. This technique requires the use of a shallow tank slightly larger than the piece to be marbled.
The tank is filled with a marbling medium, typically carageenan, a transparent gel derived from Irish moss seaweed.
Paint or ink is sprinkled on the surface of the medium, where it will float (if all goes well) for several minutes. The
colors stay separate, and spread into a pattern resembling the markings in some natural marbles. The floating colors
are then combed or swirled into a flowing, intricate design, reminiscent of both antique paisley and computer-
generated fractal imagery.
The cloth to be marbled must first be prepared by soaking in a solution of alum, then drip-dried and ironed. When
the pattern on the carrageenan surface looks right, the fabric is carefully lowered onto it, rested and smoothed for a
few seconds to pick up the image. It is then lifted, rinsed in running water, and air-dried. The surface of the tank
must be cleaned before the next item can be marbled. After the paint has set up for a few days, the fabric is ironed to
heat-set the colors.
My marbling is done with acrylic
airbrush paint, usually on
polyester-cotton blend poplin. I also
marble on felt, and use a paper
cutter to slice it into bookmarks.
Left; "Spring Migration" - a few pieces come out well enough to frame.
Right; my marbled camera bag has outlasted several cameras! The
handles are an 8-strand Japanese-style braid in cotton and metallic;
also used for a pin shown on the jewelry page.
All rights reserved
If you would like to try this art form, I recommend
the book Marbling on Fabric, by Daniel and Paula
Cohen with Eden Gray, from Interweave Press.
My first work of religious art was this playful nativity set of unglazed ceramic, made during an especially discouraging
time in my life. Baby Jesus, at center, stands to greet the world! This set includes lots of angels, lots of shepherds,
and many kinds of animals. The little gifts and the harps are separate pieces. At the far right, a king/wise man rides
precariously on his camel. My sister, ceramicist Cathy Hart, let me use her studio and later fired the set for me.