Thursday, March 19, 2020

"Ye Are The Stars" process

I recently purchased a stencil called Alhambra (from Marieke on Etsy) and used it to create "Ye Are the Stars" on an eco-dyed Opus tile.

Here is the paper as it came out of the dye-bath. I intended to retain more of these colors, but that's not what developed.
I didn't want simply a pattern with designs, so I searched to see if there was a 'star moth' or 'star butterfly' I could incorporate. Lo and behold! There's a Pink Star Moth, native to the southeastern coast of North America! I found pictures and did one in colored pencil.
Fairly far into the drawing I decided there were just too many patterns going on; I liked them, but they weren't contributing to the look I wanted. Here are two details:
I didn't like the Ragz on the left or the five different corner sections on the right.
I had to change them. With high quality art paper (like the Tiepolo of Zentangle and Opus tiles), if I'm very careful I can peel off a top layer of the paper and begin almost fresh. I got out my scalpel, tweezers, and bone folder and got back to drawing.
(See further down for "How to peel paper".)

I re-tangled all those sections, opting for Tidings all over, and am much happier with the corners now. There is gold ink in each of the nine 8-pointed stars.

Here is the finished artwork.

First, I lightly cut around the edge of the section I want to remove - more like scoring than cutting. I absolutely don't cut all the way through! Then, I loosen a corner or two with the knife point...
... and use tweezers to peel off the top layer. It never goes neatly! I always have to pick off more edges and peel more. But eventually I get it all off, leaving a rather fuzzy section of paper.
Then I use the bone folder to really smooth it down. A thumbnail works well, too.

"Ye are the stars" comes from this quotation from the Baha'i sacred writings:
"O friends! Be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been endowed, neither be neglectful of your high destiny. Suffer not your labors to be wasted through the vain imaginations which certain hearts have devised. Ye are the stars of the heaven of understanding, the breeze that stirreth at the break of day, the soft-flowing waters upon which must depend the very life of all men, the letters inscribed upon His sacred scroll."


  1. I have visited the Alhambra in the south of Spain and I understand very well why this fantastic stencil is called Alhambra. I have seen different finished ones, popping up on Instagram but yours is simple fantastic done. I love the background you have created and how you finished this stunning work!

  2. This is absolutely stunning

  3. This is stunning! And the write-up is very interesting and helpful. I tried the Alhambra string on a much smaller tile last year and it was a disaster. I think I'll try again on a large tile like you did. Your colors and motifs are so nicely integrated and absolutely beautiful.

    - Jodi C, CZT 24

    1. Thanks Jodi. My first foray with the Alhambra stencil did not have a happy ending. I found I had to visualize where the pattern should go and place the stencil accordingly. Good luck!

  4. Wow. It's beautiful!
    I do have a question: Why did you dye the tile? I'm not sure I see where the dye fits in. Thanks.

    1. Hi Cathy! I've done a lot of eco-dyeing these past few years. I like how it gives me some random shapes and spaces to prompt image ideas. This piece is unusual in that I overlaid the very regular Islamic tile pattern over the dyed paper. That way, of course, most of the dyed shapes become hidden, but they do - nonetheless - influence how I filled the spaces. Sometimes you just can't predict how it will all end!

  5. Such an amazing piece, Margaret!! I've been seeing a few Alhambra classes as well as tile photos lately, but, in my opinion, yours is absolutely the most artistically done. :)