Leanne Nickon’s fiber art experiences have taken her from craft fairs to galleries and to St. John in the US Virgin Islands! She listens to her heart as she creates, and adjusts her materials, work style, and studio space as she grows. At Fiber College, Leanne will teach a class on painting one-of-a-kind silk scarves using paint and resist techniques. Her class is full, but fortunately, Leanne can also be found in the demonstration tent at 3 PM Friday; she’ll give a free demo of Painting on Silk. Here’s Leanne!
I have loved to draw since childhood, and have always dabbled in painting and various other types of art and craft. My first try at fiber art came in the early 90’s, when I started painting animals, birds, and fish on t-shirts, and selling them at the Common Ground fair and other craft fairs in Maine. I liked the idea of creating wearable art, and making each design different, but I found the process of painting with acrylic paints on cotton knit a bit frustrating.
Two things that are integral to my work are solitude (I can happily spend long hours alone in the studio working on a project), and constantly looking at the work of other artists, whether it’s ancient or contemporary, art or craft, sculpture, painting, collage, quilts, clothing, etc. Even if I don’t like something, it’s inspiring to see what other people create.
One piece of advice I always give students is to not be so intimidated by the idea of silk as an expensive and fancy fabric that you are afraid to play, experiment, and make mistakes. You will make mistakes, and part of the fun is figuring out how to incorporate them into your design.
My most useful tool is a marking pen that makes a purple line that disappears when it gets wet. It allows me to sketch a design directly on the silk, without worrying that it’s perfect. I can change it easily, and trace over it with resist when I’m satisfied with it. This saves me the trouble of doing designs on paper first and tracing them onto the silk.
One thing people might be surprised to learn about me is that once at a craft fair, I got an offer to work in a hand-painted clothing store in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. So I spent a winter doing that, painting designs on cotton clothing for tourists by day, and doing my own silk-painting in the evenings on a makeshift frame in my rustic apartment. I painted a lot of iguanas, turtles, and tropical fish that winter, and they still appear in my work from time to time.
What inspired me to start doing this particular kind of fiber art is that it combined my love of drawing and design with a surface that has such an appealing texture and shimmer, to make an end product that can be functional or decorative or both.