Sheila Marbain At Maurel Studios

By Samia A. Halaby

During 1994 and early 1995 Master Printer Sheila Marbain collaborated with several artists at her silkscreen workshop, Maurel Studios, first with painter Samia Halaby and later with Susan Fateh, Jennifer Olsen, and Edgar Soberon. They developed a new technique which they called silk monoprinting. They chose this name because the prints have a coloration and a textural beauty typical of silk itself but not of silkscreening as most people know it.

The approach is very direct and simple. Marbain prepares a screen with a large open area using high grade silk.

The artists use a wide variety of materials directly on the screen. The work can be spontaneous or meticulous. It might be a free moving oil stick drawing with strokes of oil paint which is typical of Samia Halaby or it might be a tonal drawing made of layers of hatching and scribbling with crayons and soft pencils which is Typical of Edgar Soberon. Handled like drawing, it has the look of drawing on fine stretched silk which is what it actually is at that point.

The magic is completed when a clear or tinted wax medium is used to transform the drawing-on-silk into the print-on-paper. The secret of the wax medium is nothing less than the experience and skill of Master Printer Sheila Marbain.

The technique of using pigments in a wax medium is called encaustic. Actually then what Marbain and her artists are doing is encaustic silkscreen mono-printing. Wax is the most permanent of media and its translucent luminousity is surprising in silkscreening - yet there is no ther way of achieving these particular prints.

The process of drawing and printing leaves an image on the screen at which point it is possible to draw again on the wet screen. This might be a subtle shift or a dramatic change. The product is an edition of successive variations. There are many creative avenues suggested by this silk monoprinting method. Sometimes the paths suggested by the medium and pursued by the collaborators can be surpring. Joy in such creative surprises is what brought Marbain and her artists to this experiment, and it is what animates the work they produce together.

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