Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Buddhist.  Stitched words:  Seeking Enlightenment…repeated.  Xylene photo transfer on tea stained muslin.  Hand beaded and stitched.  25” x 19 unframed; 31” x 25” framed.  Click on image to enlarge.

This is Jan Hodgman, (http://www.zenjan.com/) a wonderful fiber artist from Washington State.  Her website includes the perfect introduction:

Hi! I'm Jan Hodgman. My "official" qualifications include ordination as a Soto Zen priest, an undergraduate degree in Psychology, a Master's in East Asian Studies, with studies in Zen Buddhism to augment my eight monastic years in Japan, certification as a Focusing Trainer by Reva Bernstein, and a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, serving as a hospital chaplain. More importantly, though, I really love being a part of a person's journey toward self-awareness and a full life.

Jan and I worked via emails to achieve this portrait. The small image is her ordination day. I knew I wanted to use it...but didn't know how to best tie the two images together. I thought about enclosing the small picture in a heart shaped form. I wrote to Jan. Wisely, Jan suggested an Ensō circle. As soon as I understood the significance and saw the circle, I knew this was the solution. The Ens
ō circle is one of the most common symbols in Japanese calligraphy. It is associated with enlightenment, elegance, strength, the universe, and the "void". Sometimes it is a full circle; sometimes there is a slight opening. It is a sacred in Zen Buddhism. But, it is generally created in ink....something painted, fluid, wet.

I mixed Golden acrylics micaceous iron oxide with clear tar gel. A ceramic bowl was placed upside down on a sheet of silicone-coated paper (baking parchment would do!). I poured the solution down and round the sides of the bowl...allowing it to ooze onto the paper...and then pulled the bowl away. This left a circle of paint. It dried. The next day I peeled the "skin" away from the paper.  Because of the mica in the paint, it reflects light...retaining a "wet" look. I made two, using the more successful one. 

Now...to attach the "skin" of acrylic paint! I traced the "skin" onto heavy watercolor paper and cut it INSIDE THE LINES....smaller than the edge of the "skin". This resulting sliver of paper was stitched onto the portrait.  The last thing I did was to carefully apply heavy gel medium to the watercolor paper sliver and position the "skin" on it. The heavy gel medium adhered the acrylic to the watercolor paper when it dried. Ta-da! An Ensō circle....looking like a brush stroke of wet paint on top of the fabric! After all is said and done, I, too, feel at least a little ENLIGHTENED!

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