Usually wine stains and wax on linen spells disaster, but in the hands of Amelia Harnas those same materials are used to create unique works of art. A look at her website clearly reveals a creative woman who, aside from being “born with a blue and white sticker on her forehead proclaiming: Future Artist” cannot be labeled. Her diversified resume reinforces the impression that she follows her curiosity and isn’t afraid to experiment.
I discovered her through her wine stain portraits and having played with batik myself, back in the mists of time, quickly became fascinated by her process. Needless to say I was thrilled when she graciously agreed to answer some of my questions.
How did you begin doing these portraits? What was your inspiration?
I noticed quite a difference between the 2011 and the 2012 works. Did you reach a crossroads in your process? Is this something that evolved or did you just want to try something different?
As much as I do tend to want to hone my craft, no matter what it is, to achieve the best I am able to achieve, I also really enjoy tinkering. “What if” are my favorite 2 words. As I work on something, it is nearly impossible for me to keep myself from thinking about how to improve or alter a process. What if I added embroidery? What if this turns into a performance piece? How can I layer this with medical illustration? Translation? Poetry? I am fascinated with a number of fields, so there is no end to my pleasure when I figure out new ways to combine them.
Did you have a background in batik and pysanky or was learning the techniques part of your journey?
I have no background in batik or pysanky whatsoever. I simply borrowed some of their techniques, theory, & tools. I have more formal training in graphic design and oil painting. I was fortunate enough to be a studio assistant and to paint with Thomas S. Buechner, whose knowledge of old master technique and art history was nothing short of formidable.
Is there a particular type of fabric that responds better to this process? A particular thread count?
Cotton & linen work best. I tried silk, but it’s a little too delicate. Also, interestingly enough, brand new super clean fabric isn’t as exciting as worn or used fabric (like sheets), because it lacks micro-particles that are pushed around by the wine stain to form that beautiful border on the bleeds. It just goes to show, imperfection is more beautiful…
Is there a question you wonder why you’ve never been asked? If so would you please state and answer it?
In this video from Arts Café, published in 2013, Amelia Fais Harnas talks about the process of creating her art with wine.