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On Display in the Library

Library Foyer

Painting on Silk by Paula Telford

The ancient tradition of painting on silk can be traced back to China and India in the second century AD. Later, the batik process of dying fabric became popular in Indonesia. This textile design involved stamping a design onto the fabric using hot wax and then submerging it into a vat of dye.

The French later developed the serti technique, which uses "gutta" resist to draw on the stretched silk. The resist lines trap each color and stop the dyes from spreading when it is painted.

The watercolor painting technique is similar to watercolor painting on paper. The white silk is stretched onto a wooden frame and the design is drawn onto it freehand. Powdered pigment dyes are mixed with water and carefully applied with Sumi brushes. The dyes flow freely to the edges of the resist. Special effects can be achieved with layering colors, or using salt and alcohol. The dyes are translucent allowing the beauty of the silk to shine through. After the painting is complete the dyes are left to cure. The silk is then washed, dried and ironed to restore it's soft texture.

Paula TelfordPaula Telford's silk paintings are inspired by photos she has taken of nature and the New England landscape where she grew up. This exhibit features select pieces from the artist including vibrantly colored tapestries, framed pieces, and scarves. Also on display are sketches and watercolor designs from photos, a step by step process of how the silk paintings are created, as well as tools from the artist and books about silk painting. Paula considers herself fortunate to have had great mentors who taught her art techniques and business skills. She has sold her art at craft shows throughout New England and has designed exclusive paintings as custom orders for her friends and associates.

Currently Paula works as a graphic designer at Salve Regina University. Out of her home studio in Portsmouth, RI, Paula creates these silk art treasures, such as scarves, tapestries, and gifts from the heart. Visit Paula's website at

This is part of the "Hidden Talents" series. For more information on the series, contact Lisa Underhill, library technical services specialist, at 401-341-2290 (email:

Currently on Display

List of displays

Serti Technique

Wakehurst - Painting on Silk