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Inspiration Board : Velvet Burnout with Kevin O'Brien Studio

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Last week on the Martha Stewart Show, guest Kevin O'Brien showed Martha one of the processes that he uses to create his amazing textiles as seen above and below. The process is called velvet burnout and so much fun to learn about and not as difficult as I thought it might be!

Some things to know about the process and materials. Kevin does his work on a silk/rayon velvet. What this means is the the pile, the lush part of velvet, is rayon and the foundation fabric is a silk. A special solution is silk screened onto the back of the fabric to create a pattern. When the solution is heated with an iron it weakens the rayon, and makes it possible to scrape away the fibers where the pattern has been silk screened. It's pretty exciting to see the pattern emerge when scraping the fibers off, like in this photo below.

 

And here are some photos of the process:

Back
1 of 7
Kevin screens the solution onto the back of a piece of velvet fabric. When dry it is then ironed, which makes the rayon pile brittle and weak.

1 Kevin screens the solution onto the back of a piece of velvet fabric. When dry it is then ironed, which makes the rayon pile brittle and weak.

The front side of the fabric vaguely shows the pattern that is about to be revealed.

2 The front side of the fabric vaguely shows the pattern that is about to be revealed.

When the fiber is scraped, the areas that were treated with the solution rub off.

3 When the fiber is scraped, the areas that were treated with the solution rub off.

It's a really fun process to watch get revealed.

4 It's a really fun process to watch get revealed.

Kevin uses a flat spoon for the scraping that he finds at restaurant supply places. I only had a normal one when I was taking photos, and it worked.

5 Kevin uses a flat spoon for the scraping that he finds at restaurant supply places. I only had a normal one when I was taking photos, and it worked.

Completely scraped on a dark background to show the pattern.

6 Completely scraped on a dark background to show the pattern.

Completely scraped on a white background. It is now ready to be dyed and hand painted.

7 Completely scraped on a white background. It is now ready to be dyed and hand painted.

 

Once the fabric is fully scraped, it's laundered and ready to dye. This is where Kevin's artist eye really shines through. He does a two step process with dying, which starts with spraying the back with dye, and then hand painting the front, allowing for the dye to hit highs and lows where the velvet pile is left. Kevin, and his talented staff in his studio, have truly mastered the technique and achieve great depth of color in his work, which makes it all look and feel so luxurious.

A newer part of Kevin's line is stuffed animals which are made from the remnants of fabric. The back pillow is an intricate floral pattern with several colors painted on the front.

A vast range of color, pattern and texture are at work in Kevin's textiles. Above are two scarves with the same patterns but two different applications of colors, both very attractive.

Hope you are as inspired by Kevin's work as I am, and think about trying it out. Start small, and makes test. Hand painting the etching solution on could also lead to some dramatic affects, and of course application of color will create various results as well. Variation and creativity are endless!

Enjoy!

 

Comments (3)

  • Absolutely fascinating. I had no idea that this was a process one could do at home. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • I love these. They look like a lot of work, but worth it.

  • Hi there! This blog post couldn't be written any better!

    Reading through this article reminds me of my previous
    roommate! He continually kept preaching about this.
    I'll forward this post to him. Pretty sure he's going to have a very good read.

    I appreciate you for sharing!

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