Last summer, my family and I took a much-anticipated trip to Spain. I had not been back to Spain in more than 15 years. As you can imagine, my memories of Madrid revolve around leather, fabric, lace and heavily embroidered shawls and are still very much intact in my mind.
Growing up in Panama, we valued anything coming from the “Mother Land” — Spain. It gave you a sort of distinction among your peers even if it was only a tourist trinket from some street market.
So Spain holds many important memories for me. Not the least of which is of my grandmother who was born in Spain.
I have many memories of my grandmother. She always tied her hair back and usually draped a colorful shawl across her shoulders. She said the shawl came from Spain. I can still close my eyes and recreate every single stitch of that shawl in my mind. The embroidered roses and the long fringes falling down all the way past her hips. She was such a lovely lady. She was born in Cadaqués, Spain and married young, to a Colombian. Together they raised five children of their own and helped fifteen other adopted children reach adulthood. Her shawl had been passed down from her mother, and in turn, she passed it down to my mother.
So while in Madrid, I was in search of something similar, driven by nostalgia mostly, but what I found was something truly unique. Lola Fonseca… Perfect name, perfect studio, vibrant, colorful and made of silk!!!! Actually, I did not find it, it was my husband who had spotted it and knowing me well told me about it and encouraged me to go in.
Silk was everywhere and in bold colors. All over the walls and tables were huge scarves that could be worn even as sarongs. This seemed to be a magical oasis of textile arts hidden away on a beautiful side street.
Silk Painting with Lola Fonseca
The art of silk painting was first recorded in China and goes back more than 2000 years. So it was refreshing to find someone dedicating their life to mastering this lovely art here in Madrid.
The center of the shop held the best part. It was where Lola did her silk painting. I had never seen silk painting before in person, I had only seen the beautiful results of this wonderful craft.
Watching her move the brush across the silk with such ease inspired me to try it out.
Making My First Silk Scarf
Lola was very friendly and eager to teach me some of her skills. She started by teaching me how to stretch the scarf on the loom.
Once the scarf was stretched she instructed me on to apply a resin so that the paint does not run out to the edge.
In other words, we are framing the work with a water/paint resistant resin to ensure that the paint is contained to where I want it to be.
After we draw the frame it is time to apply the base coat. I am thinking I want to wear this silk scarf with a little black dress so I will choose some colors to match.
Unsurprisingly, I discovered that silk painting was not as easy as Lola made it look. I quickly realized that you need to move the brush rather fast and without hesitation, so the color does not pool. You can see below that this happened to me. It really takes a lot of confidence to paint boldly and smoothly with such a delicate material.
While the base coat is drying I took the opportunity to chat with Lola. Her scarfs have been selling for over 20 years. Today her son Claudio handles most of the general production since these scarves are exported to all over the world. Of course, she continues to create her own work and sells her personal creations to interested individuals.
Back to the painting, next I painted the frame with black. I made a little mistake and had to draw something in there to disguise it. As I mentioned before this craft is not easy, but boy is it rewarding! I was just happy to be there spending the time with Lola and learning this unique technique.
I kept my design pretty simple because I wanted it to be ready for me to take home the same day. I chose a traditional pattern of flowers and branches. Like all crafts, a simple design that is well executed is always better than a complicated one executed poorly. It is important to keep this in mind when learning any new skill, as learning the basics well will set you up for success and further growth.
Lola then showed me a technique for making petals with one brush stroke, but my brush skills were out of practice and I found it a little difficult…
Painting the branches was a lot easier, it was just a matter of positioning them in a balanced way. Adding a few buds here and there gave the plant some more substance.
To finish the flowers I used some yellow-gold paint dripped onto their center. I also used the yellow to highlight the brighter petals.
When I finished, Lola told me to sign the scarf. I realized that Lola and I have much more in common than I would have thought, we both love textiles (as well as romantic movies 🙂 There is no place where I would rather be than right here in this happy studio.
If you like paint bottles, brushes, and silk, plus the perfect amount of light filtering in and the sounds of steps from the pedestrian street out front — I recommend a visit to this studio. If you would like to feel the Bohemian vibe of it in the middle of one the most exciting cities in Europe, chatting, painting and drinking coffee… why don't you come by?
You can find Lola's Studio in –> Calle Cervantes 20, Madrid.
Call ahead to book an appointment or drop by to purchase one of her exquisite designs.
tel:+34 913 69 15 43
Update: Today this lovely studio is directed by Lola's son who is just as talented as his mother.
Photo Credit: Claudio Mendez Fonseca
Until Next Time! Happy Sewing!