Work by more than 100 Artisans inside new Carmel more

Surface design - hand-painted silk scarves
Sugar Creek Art Center (Thorntown, IN) Finer Things (Brownsburg, IN), Grapevine Boutique (Flora, IN) Indiana State Museum gift shop (Indianapolis, IN) Sylvia Gray Designs (Westfield, IN) by appointment
Sylvia Gray

“My love of art is without boundaries. I have worked in wood-cut prints, fiber, non-objective abstracts, encaustic painting, and figure painting but I am most interested in expressive art.”

Not being able to draw might stop many people from thinking about being an artist. For Sylvia Gray, it was the impetus to learn about rubber stamping, and that was the threshold to her development as a surface design artist.

“I always loved art and wanted to find a medium to work in where I could express myself,” she said about registering in the stamping class offered through IUPUI Continuing Education. “I always had a good color and design sense but was intimidated in art classes by my inability to draw well. I thought the stamp class would enable me to create art without having to draw.”

Serendipity had something to do with it, too. Fabric artist Stephanie Lewis Robertson had just moved to the area and taught the class. Sylvia was encouraged to take Stephanie’s silk painting class at the Indianapolis Art Center. She also took drawing classes at the Center and at Herron School of Art and Design.

She was hooked. “The medium lends itself to exploration,” said Sylvia, who was soon designing her signature scarves. “I could make silk screens and use stamps to print on silk.

“The confidence I gained from working with Stephanie and teaching surface design at the Indianapolis Art Center inspired me to pursue a career in art and follow my dream of learning to paint from master art works.”

Her works begin with an idea of color and shape. She lays out the design in paint or dye, and then steps back from it, looking for patterns and images to appear. “I let the fiber piece tell me what it wants to be and I work to create that,” she said. Each piece is handmade and one of a kind.

“I think most people will notice the color in my art and how I use it in a bold, expressive way,” she said. “The vibrancy of color that I can create with this medium is inspiring to me. I love the fact that the dye bonds with the fiber and becomes a part of it.”

Indiana colors and styles influence her work, which have a distinctly American flair, although she sometimes creates patterns using Japanese Shibori tied resist, a process of folding and tying, sometimes sewing, that is similar to origami. Sylvia has modified the process, using rubber bands and clamps to hold the folded pieces together, and then injecting dye directly onto the fabric with a syringe. The banded and clamped areas resist the dye, creating the design.