From Cocoon to Fabric

Silk Organza Scarf
Silk Organza Scarf by Liz Macklin

Patience! Unraveling cocoons takes time! On September 26th, I spent the day exploring the world of silkworms. The teacher, fiber artist Renate Maile Moskowitz, arrived with a car full of cocoons, fabrics, dyes, silk hankies and even a box of hungry caterpillars.  She was as friendly and vivacious as her supplies were intriguing. We spent the day degumming, finger spinning, stretching, dyeing and embossing silk.

Renate Maile Moskowitz teaches “The Secrets of Silk” at the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia.

Found Objects

sweetgum pods and leaves
Sweetgum | watercolor | 6" by 10"

Sometimes as I walk in my neighborhood, objects catch my eye. They can be anything: maple leaves, sweetgum pods, buds fallen from magnolias. I bring them home and arrange them as subjects for paintings.

When I first enrolled in art school, I studied with the sculptor and fountain designer George Tsutakawa. He spoke quietly and encouraged even beginning students like me. He invited our class to visit his home in Seattle. I remember it as a tall house built in a regal era. His wife served refreshments, and he led us on a tour starting with an original painting by artist Mark Tobey. We stopped to admire a room full of handmade musical instruments, including a koto, and I believe his wife played for us.

The living room opened to an outdoor space. There I saw large ceramic bowls filled with many small smooth stones. Simple elements, collected and arranged, became something beautiful. It was a traditional idea but one I had not consciously considered until that afternoon.

We were lucky to have visited on a clear day, because later he walked to the backyard and showed us how he tested his fountains. From what looked to me like a garden hose, water squirted up into the air and collected in round cupped bronze shapes. Each overflowed with a bubbling cascade that caught the sunlight.

Professor Tsutakawa came to mind again many years later, when I saw his fountain as I walked in the Garth of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  An interview with Tsutakawa is transcribed in the Smithsonian’s archives of American Art.