Wednesday, 7 July 2010

MEET: UK Handmade Writing Competition Winner - Fiona Stolze of Silk & Art

Fiona Stolze is joint winner of our recent Writing Competition, alongside Victoria Baker.  Based in Bristol, Fiona is designer and creator of Silk and Art.  Fiona creates stunning handcrafted silk products including cushions, art, silk wall hangings, scarves and greeting cards, in original and beautiful Mandala style. We caught up with Fiona to find out more about her and her work.

What inspires you?
I feel inspired by a great many things, life in all its splendour.  But I have a great love for all things Indian.....the amazing vibrant colours, the fabrics, the spices, the music.  And I love the movement and colours together and have always had a great affinity with the Impressionists. I also take huge inspiration from the inner world accessed by meditation and becoming still and play beautiful spiritual music whilst I am painting in my studio.  You can see lots of evidence of this in my mandalas. I love beautiful things and find my inspiration and enthusiasm growing as I always get inspired by other people living and expressing their passion. 

How did you get started?
I've always been a very arty, creative person but never had any formal education in the arts. I used to draw, paint and generally try out anything interesting that crossed my path. I always loved buying a book and teaching myself how to do something. My background is in teaching and then I moved on to become a foreign language secretary, a freelance translator and then after my first two children were born, I trained in alternative therapies and got involved in my spiritual practices of healing and meditation - both of which have stayed with me. 

It wasn't until 1999 that I created my first mandala, which was a far cry from the work I do now. I went on to paint one or two more, then something odd happened. We were going to sell or house and a woman that accompanied her son spotted my artwork, fell in love with it and bought one of my mandalas on the spot.  Just the piece of silk, no mount or frame. She told me that others would love to see what I did and that I should consider doing it for a living. Nearly 11 years have passed since that day and I have certainly sold a lot of artwork in the meantime. We left Germany and moved to Glastonbury where I began to sell lots of small pieces of work, including window pictures, cards, bookmarks and scarves. But all the time, I steadily continued to create mandalas, building up a collection. 

I invested in a professional steamer and the French dyes which are so beautifully translucent and give the finished piece a gorgeous sheen and softness. I visited fairs and often left without selling anything, as I was clearly in the wrong venue. There were opportunities to sell my original paintings through shops and commissions came my way too. But the big change was when I took the decision to expand my website, started blogging and really got out there. Interestingly, my written work attracts a lot of attention to my artwork.

Whose work do you admire?
The sand mandalas of the Tibetan monks. They get rigorous training in this art and create these mandalas using coloured sand. When the mandala is complete, it is taken to the nearest water and cast in, symbolic of the transience of life. They are never allowed to claim ownership of the work they create. I love the work of Monet.  His beautiful waterlilies......mostly painted when his eyesight was failing.

Describe your typical working day......
Ideally I like to waken and start the day with my gratitude exercise. I sit quietly with my hands on my heart and list all the things I am grateful for in my life. Feeling the gratitude for what I already have attracts more into my life and creates abundance. I then move into a meditation which can sometimes last up to an hour. This is the ultimate healer if followed with dedication and intent. My work.....well, I'm really lucky that I have an attic studio with lots of light. My table is in the window and I have a good view from the second floor out over the treetops with a wide expanse of sky. In our last home in Ireland, I had a huge studio with a panoramic view of the Irish sea......idyllic.

I like to set everything up to create a very relaxing and creative ambience. I choose meditation music which I play to set me into a real right-brain space, where I can totally surrender to the process. I often light a candle and burn incense too and I will clear everything away from the table so I can almost walk around my mandala.  I love to be able to approach it from every angle. I typically work in short bursts at the bigger pieces and then step back and contemplate. I love to sit and watch and wait and feel the paintings. When I'm doing other pieces such as scarves or hangings, I have the end picture in my mind's eye and I can sometimes move forward at an intense pace, excited to see the completed item.

I intersperse my painting work with lots of work at the computer as I now have a Silk and Art Facebook page, my busy Wordpress blog, an Etsy and a Folksy shop, a page on Redbubble, participation on different online forums (particularly the Ning Silk Painting Gallery Network) and of course, my website which we are now in the process of streamlining and making easier to work with. Now, that may sound like a lot, and it is but you don't have to get me out of bed in the morning to make me do it and that's the key. Do the things you love doing and watch your self esteem grow.

Tell me more about the unique style of mandala......
Mandala is from the ancient Sanskrit language and means "mystical circle". These designs are in evidence all over the planet and examples of them can be found in many religions, including Buddhism, Christianity (rose windows) and Hinduism to name a few. With the exception of the Tibetan mandalas which have to follow a specific pattern and number system, a mandala generally has a central point (bindu), a series of concentric circles with patterns which can be geometric with specific significance, or more abstract, and an outer periphery. 

The image represents our life path, the journey we take through the experiences we create, starting at the central point and moving outward until we reach the outer edge. We are then able to return to the centre and start all over again on a new level, using the insights we gained the first time round. Mandalas have been scientifically proven to calm the mind and are often used by therapists. Creating a personal mandala can open doors to great depths and wisdom. Each one has its own story and inspiration and I never "think" them out beforehand, as they like to do that themselves. I mark the centre of my piece of silk and then use a fabric maker taped to a pair of compasses to randomly draw a few concentric circles. Then, off I go, drawing the mandala pattern, ring by ring with gold gutta.

The artwork you produce is so bright and vibrant, what influences your designs?
I often have a sensation of life bursting out when I create the mandalas. You will see many leaf and plant motifs, blossoms, sunshine, roots going deep into the earth, vines reaching up to the sky, tendrils growing out of things. I think it is the inbuilt desire to expand and grow and become all that I can be. I just love strong colour.....strong purples, vibrant fuchsia, burning orange and, of course, I also incorporate spiritual symbols in my work. There are yingyangs, Celtic knots, OM's, astrology and labyrinths.

Do you have any new products on the horizon?
Yes, I always have many things on the go at once but I would love to create beautiful one-off pieces of clothing with mandala art on some of them. I am working on accessories too, including little bespoke clutch bags made with hand painted fabric.

I offer panels of silk with my mandalas on them. A company prints these for me on the same fabric I paint my originals on. I stretch them and apply the gold gutta pattern so that they are very close to the originals. I recently received photographs from a woman in Georgia who asked me to provide her with 24 of these panels for a specially created ceiling for her bedroom.  The final piece is amazing. I would love my work to be incorporated into many more wonderful projects like this and am looking into ways to promote the idea.

One big project I come back to again and again is creating a DVD with my artwork animated to music and
of course, the writing. I am planning to have my own book out in print in the next few years and hopefully smaller e-books on offer within the next few months. I am currently working on small tutorials. 

Where do you see Silk and Art in the next 12 months?
Definitely much more out in the public, with more recognition. I want to continue working with video both to publicise my products but also offer tutorials and self help books to those who live further afield.  I would love to establish my brand but also get my name known more too so I can do more things parallel to Silk and Art.

When work is done, how do you relax?
That makes me smile.  ou'll often find me relaxing by sitting at the computer until late at night, putting the last minute finishes to my blog. Other times I will get completely lost in a book. How do I really, really relax? Well, I just love to have a really hot bath and just soak for ages right up to my chin and just chill.....well simmer. Meditation is something else which induces deep feelings of relaxation for me, a great way to start the day or wind the day up. Another thing I love with a passion is going for very long walks. There are lovely woodland walks which I can do easily from here along the River Frome. It's great for clearing my head and allowing myself to find the solutions I seek. I adored going for beach walks when we lived in Ireland, walking as far out as the tide would allow, stepping onto virgin sand. Feeling the tide lapping against my feet and the breeze in my face.  Water has something magical about it.  One day I'll have my healing centre beside the water.......

To see Fiona's range of products and get your own piece of Mandala art visit:-
Silk and Art
Silk and Art Blog
Silk and Art Etsy Shop

We will have an interview with Victoria Baker of Little Wren Pottery later today! Watch this space.

1 comment:

Angel Ray said...

amazing feature - congrats Fiona! Wishing you all the best and continued success in your Silk & Art Adventures!