Susan Sloss: Silk artist with variety of techniques

Arts profile

Posted: Thursday, May 04, 2000

Vibrant and subtle: Susan Sloss dyes and paints silk. Most of her work is done on scarves and smaller swatches she wraps around stones, but two years ago she dyed a 30-yard batch of sheer silk chiffon for costumes for a Juneau Dance Unlimited production.

``The thing I love about working with silk is the vibrancy of colors, the way they mix on silk, and seeing how that comes out,'' she said. ``Also how subtle the colors can become; even the pastels and soft colors look fabulous on silk.''

Textured textiles: She's also attracted to the different textures of silk. Chiffon is the sheerest. At the other extreme is crepe de chine, a heavy silk with a textured surface, (like crepe paper), and charmeuse, which is shiny on one side and has a flat finish on the other.

Australian-Alaskan: Sloss, 46, grew up in Sidney, Australia. In 1979 she was traveling in Bora Bora, French Polynesia, and met American Jeff Sloss.

``He'd been here the whole summer the year before and had fallen in love with Juneau and Southeast. We traveled together for several months in New Zealand and Australia, and I came to the states when he returned. Here we are, 20 years, a house and two kids later,'' she said.

With a background in computers, she worked for the state as a programmer and analyst. She was also a partner in Norcom Computers up until her second daughter was born six years ago.

``I took a year off and never went back,'' she said

Salt, silk painting and wood-grain patterns: She uses a variety of techniques to dye fabric. In one, salt is sprinkled on the dyed silk while it's still wet, creating speckled light and dark patterns. Another is batik, a traditional Indonesian wax-resist method. She also uses stencils and metallic fabric paint to create patterns, and draws and paints directly on the silk with sponge brushes or watercolor brushes.

``You can get very fine, like watercolor work. It's just on silk instead of paper,'' she said.

Another method she's experimenting with on cotton is called Shibori, an ancient Japanese style of dying.

``The wood-grain pattern you see on traditional kimonos is Shibori,'' she said.

She's studied batik, printmaking and Photoshop at the University of Alaska Southeast, and recently she's been exploring digital imaging. Her most recent show included a line of cards she created by digitally photographing dyed fabric.

Her work was available in several local shops last summer, and she's participated in studio art sales and the annual Alaska-Juneau Public Market.

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