Vistas Inspire Works

December 7th, 2009

Fraser Exhibit to Open Thursday at 214 King Street

By Bill Thompson
The Post and Courier
Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shimmering and versatile, silk has been used as an artistic “canvas” for centuries. Charleston artist Mary Edna Fraser, noted for her batiks, monotypes and oils inspired by aerial photography, is employing the fabric to bring her art closer to terra firma. With “Kimono Silks,” an exhibit opening Thursday at the gallery at 214 King St., Fraser explores the vistas from her own backyard — just above ground level. Referencing traditional Japanese wood block prints of the ukiyo-e (“images of the floating world”) period in Japan, Fraser achieves something of the same evanescent quality, if of a landscape of not-so-fleeting beauty.

“I think I’ve landed on something brand-new and exciting,” she says.

The new works will be on view 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 2.

An accomplished artist whose work has been exhibited globally, Fraser’s interest in fabrics is long-standing. The genesis of “Kimono Silks” derived from a recent visit to Australia. Fraser has a regular gig Down Under, teaching every other year at

TAFTA, the Australian Forum for Textile Arts, to which she will return in 2011.

“While in Australia in September and October of this year, I bought every piece of 14-inch-wide, undyed antique vintage kimono silk I could find from dealers,” says Fraser, who graduated from East Carolina University in 1974 with majors in clothing and textiles as well as in interior design. “I rummaged through stack after stack, buying everything I thought would go well with my work.”

As opposed to the lofty views of the coastline from North Carolina to Georgia that mark her aerial work, the silks, with their damask designs, provide a different perspective.

“At 14 inches wide, what it offered to me and my clients is a smaller scale. I can still have the long, linear designs I prefer, but instead of 9 to 10 feet in length, the silks are only 3 feet long, which make it more intimate and affordable.”

Though dominated by the silks, the artist notes that her show also will have a segment of oils on canvas and monotypes on canvas.

Fraser apprenticed with master batik artist Fred Andrade on Hilton Head Island in 1977 and since 1993 has been studying with Orrin Pilkey, professor emeritus of geology at Duke University. Their collaboration culminated in 2003 with publication of the book “A Celebration of the World’s Barrier Islands” (Columbia University Press).

Apart from Australia, she has lectured in Indonesia and Taiwan, among other countries, and more than 50 exhibitions have featured her batiks and monotypes, not least at the National Academy of Sciences. In 1994-95, the Fayetteville, N.C., native was the first woman to be honored with a one-person exhibition at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

“Age has its merits when you’re an artist,” says Fraser. “You know that when you lay a line down it is precisely where you want it to be and in precisely the right color. It is mind, heart and hands in concert.”

Batiks remain her passion.

“You have to be very precise with this medium because it has no erasures, and I enjoy that,” Fraser said. “The best thing about this show, for me, is that batik is such a slow and meditative medium that as the holidays come up it quiets me down.

“I hope these batiks, especially, will be peaceful windows through which people may peer on the landscapes, many of them images from the vantage point of my own dock. It’s the landscape I know the best.”

Reach Bill Thompson at or 937-5707

Last Days in Sydney

October 28th, 2009

Talks After Noon is a series, held twice a week, from Museum curators, experts and special guests.

Creating a Batik

October 27th, 2009

Sydney with Sylvia

October 27th, 2009

While staying in the lovely home of Sylvia Riley, I taught one more batik workshop in Sydney which she kindly organized. There were 9 students creating marvelous works. I am thinking about doing more workshops here in America, so email me if you want to be informed in the future.

My dyes are procion, invented in 1952 and are fiber reactive which means they bond with the cloth with alkaline chemistry and heat. Every color is a different chemical combination and the results are the most colorfast in the industry of dyeing. Each day I made a new batch of dyes progressively darker in hue. Gloves and a mask, as well as good ventilation, are a must in mixing dyes as they are carcinogenic. The dyes last only a day after chemistry is added.

Here is my demonstration batik in process with the first dye-bath blended from underneath and the second layer of dyes waxed. The image is of a photo taken of a hummock on the way to Folly Beach from my home on James Island in SC. Artistic changes bring water to the foreground, a new sky and more interesting colors. The wax is 50% beeswax and 50% paraffin. The finished silk will be in the KIMONO SILKS exhibit opening on December 10th in Charleston.

Two of my students are aboriginal leaders of their culture, Teekee and Shaun. I hope to have a chance to visit them again with my band, Lime & the Coconuts.

Toni had the most extensive brush collection and she gifted me with a tjanting tool, a copper bowl with a spout that is used to draw with the hot wax, from Indonesia.

Sylvia’s batik of  an octopus first and third dye bath. You can usually have 4 dye baths before the wax begins to disintegrate.

De Grebner in Melbourne

October 26th, 2009

My friend De made my transition from the States to Australia a comfortable landing. One of the best gifts in life are friendships that never get lost and remain solid through the years. We had fun looking for the kimono silks.

Aerial Photography – Sydney to Melbourne

October 26th, 2009

More Students’ Artwork Part 3

October 25th, 2009

Wilson’s Promontory, Australia – Video

October 24th, 2009

Wilson’s Promontory, Australia from Mary Edna Fraser on Vimeo.

More Students’ Artwork Part 2

October 24th, 2009

More Students’ Artwork

October 23rd, 2009