Festival of Silk Painters Raises Hail in Santa Fe

Gill Storm Fest14_BeverlyRadkeJohnson4I’ve attended many conferences over the years – but none with the opening bang provided by Mother Nature at 2014’s Silk Painters Festival, the biennial conference of Silk Painters International aka “SPIN”. It was held at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico from July 26 – August 1. (More about the disruptive weather below).

Gill Bolhuis' "With alldueRespect silk painting winnner SPIN 2014SPIN was founded over 40 years ago to advocate for recognition of silk painting as an art form. The organization encourages promoting, collecting and displaying silk painting at the highest levels as well as artistic expression of silk in all forms. The Silkworm, a quarterly magazine, began publication in the 1990s; the festival itself began in 1997 to further encourage growth of the medium. It continues to expand as other painting techniques that employ silk and dye are added to established methods.

Over 150 members from across the US – and a few international participants – of all skill levels attended workshops in silk-related media. All participants were female, with the youngest being in her late teens and the oldest close to 90!

A vendor fair ran for the first 2 days with products ranging from silk painting frames by Susan Moyer and wonderful silk yardage from Exotic Silks to a hands-on presentation of Surface Design Association’s Swatch Collection B. 

I sat at the table with Surface Design Association’s Swatch Collection and was pleased to see almost every attendee stopping by to experience the wide range of techniques they represent; they are a great learning tool! However, in my opinion, a 1 day show would have sufficed for 150 attendees, allowing the vendors one concentrated day of potential sales.

On Sunday afternoon, SDA President Emeritus Jane Dunnewold delivered the conference keynote address, Creative Stamina – Acts of Grace. She encouraged artists to believe in themselves and to strengthen their art practices.

MCGill Abdul Raheem_SPIN 2014_Jane Dunnewold Speaking_ 3MCGill_SPIN 2014_Hailstorm aftermath IAIA Campus Santa Fe_4However, her talk was repeatedly interrupted by power losses and bombardments of thunder and lightning followed with marble-sized hailstones. Dunnewold displayed that stamina – in spite of the freakish weather going on outside – and gracefully finished her remarks. It was pretty wild to hear the sound of the bombardment on the roof of the building! Several attendees’ vehicles were damaged from hail that accumulated in 3 inch drifts on the sidewalks. In the aftermath, besides vehicle damage, many of the classrooms suffered from flooding.

The morning lecture series focused on different aspects of working with silk, from Fashion Design: Pushing your Creative Limits with Elegance & Personal Style with Kayla Kennington to Presentation and Finishing by Jan JanasSuzanne Punch  and Judith Roderick. These lectures gave members very helpful information about silk-related design and technical subjects.

A focus of SPIN conferences is the wide range of workshops that encourage attendees to learn much more about silk painting as a medium. Kudos to past SPIN President Joyce Estes, along with President Kaki Steward, who worked very hard to make this year’s programming happen. (Estes’ granddaughter, Sarah Ann Allen, worked especially hard behind the scenes to make sure everything ran properly.)

Gill_ SPIN 2014_Bigger is Better workshop_6

2-day sessions included 22 different workshops ranging in subject matter from Shibori and Bias Sewing with Carter Smith, Knitting with Silk Fabric with SDA member Brecia Kralovic-Logan to Bigger is Better with Julie Cox Hamm – where large panels of work filled 2 different studios.

I opted for Jane Dunnewold’s Play Day: Wax Crayons and Pastes and her Odd Bedfellows workshops, where I learned about paper lamination as well as how to attach metallic leaves to fabric. These techniques were very useful to me, and I am now using them in my own art practice.

Gill_Play Day with Dunnewold workshop_Dye crayon paste painting by Gill_16 x 20 in_7

I would have loved to take Face to Face with Stencils with Jan Janas and was also attracted to Kerr Grabowskis Deconstructed Screen Printing. Many of us wanted to take more than 2 classes (since there were so many offerings) but there simply was not enough time to sample them all. And, with registration starting the previous January, many classes filled up quickly – leaving many frustrated attendees.


Season’s of Silk juried exhibition featured artists from all over the world. Judges Suzanne Visor and Judith Roderick awarded prizes, included a People’s Choice award, on Wednesday night. I felt that the selections were well-chosen, but I was disappointed by the quality and presentation of many of the works in the exhibition. Sloppy finishing of exhibited works detracts from the overall quality of the show. On top of that, the show (in the campus gallery on the outskirts of town) did not seem to be well-publicized in the local community.

On Thursday night there was a reception for a special exhibition of quilts assembled by members of SPIN chapters held in a Navaho hogan-style building. The NY SPIN chapter created my favorite quilt (shown below). Unfortunately the dark paint and timbered walls of the interior did not show the brilliant colors of these silk pieces to best advantage.

Abdul Raheem_SPIN_NYC Chapter Quilt Show 11

The festival’s finale was the Changing Elements fashion show with a “Metamorphosis” theme. The Dancing Brush, a silk painting done live on stage by Addie Chernus preceded the show.


The many lovely dresses and accessories included Linda Duncan’s Butterfly Dress and Cape.


I was also attracted to the big bold design of Joyce Estes’ Hibiscus Cape and Kayla Kennington’s dresses were spectacular! The highlight of the show was a recycled $40 wedding gown turned prom dress painted in the style of Van Gogh by 18-year-old Julia Reidhead with assistance from her mother. Terry Tabor worked very hard to put on an exciting show.

The conference ended with an after-hour Soirée featuring the spouses of some of the members, who put together a band called The Silky Bottom Boys. Elvis made a guest appearance. The Designers’ Boutique and sale featured most of the items in the fashion show, with the audience invited to browse the racks and take home their purchases, made easy with the use of Square credit card devices.

MCG 18_Silky Bottom Boys

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the conference – in spite of the hailstorms, summer monsoon and flooding – that occurred throughout the event. I can’t wait to find out where 2016’s conference will be held since SPIN has outgrown its present facility (not enough classrooms with sinks). I enjoyed visiting Santa Fe and its amenities, but there is a call to move the confab to Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Stay tuned to the SPIN website for updates!

Muffy Clark Gill HeadshotMuffy Clark Gill is an award-winning Southwest Florida artist who works with the wax resist process known as batik. 22nd Floor Gallery in Florida State Capital building will feature paintings from her American Native series from February 1 – March 16,  2015.

Gill is a member of Surface Design Association (SDA) and Silk Painters International (SPIN). When not working in her studio, Gill serves as Advertising Manager for SDA.

Visit her websites at muffyclarkgill.com and funkyflamingo.com


  • Diane says

    February 9, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    It's a curious coincidence that there is a "all to move the confab to Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee" for SPIN when SDA has just booked an intensive there. I cannot wait to visit there to experience the magnetism of the facility.

  • PJ Cobbs says

    February 17, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article! Muffy hit all the good points--good and bad. Very balanced. Looking forward to this year's conference.

  • Brecia Kralovic-Logan says

    February 18, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    This was my first SPIN conference and I loved teaching at the American Institute of Indian Arts. That said- I'd also love to participate at Arrowmont in the future. I really enjoyed Jane D's presentation- she was so poised even though the lights kept going out!!

  • Irma Braun-Hampton says

    February 27, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    This article covers the highlights of the event very well. While Santa Fe is a personal favorite for my travel destinations, I am looking forward to the SPIN Festival 2016 in Tennessee.

  • Zena says

    December 28, 2018 at 7:55 am

    I would like to buy silk stretcher can you tell me whete to buy one Thank you Zena

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