David Ludwig could be called a master
of artistic alchemy. With a paintbrush
for a wand, he can invoke the very
essence of art, poetry, music, and
dance, stir in vibrant liquid colors and
conjure up pure silk magic.
by Sharon Rockey
David's silk art appears in the most unexpected places adorning and complementing other forms of art, such as
exquisitely painted silk veils swirled around seductive Middle Eastern dancers or draped as huge luminous backdrop
scenes for ballet performances of The Nutcracker.
While an ethereal quality blossoms in David's work, its roots are in solid ground. Before creating Silk Spirit in 1995, a
company which presents new concepts in silk art, David spent 35 years as a residential architect. He is also an
accomplished photographer and graphic designer, works in pastels and watercolor and has a passion for dancing.
David's interest in dance stems from his own
dancing experience beginning at age sixteen, as
well as from supporting his four dancing
daughters, the last of whom was a student of the
Berkeley Ballet Theater. It was there that the
seeds of Silk Spirit were sown. The Julia
Morgan Theater, home to the ballet school,
presents the unique technical limitation of
having no "fly space", the space above the stage
from which a backdrop can "fly" into the middle
of a scene. David worked with the directors to
find an artistic solution to this problem.
He created light weight backdrops by painting scenes onto 45 inch panels of silk which were stitched together and
held in long black velvet bags suspended above the stage. Some of the backdrops, like the one used in Act 1 of The
Woodland Prince, are fixed, while the snow covered forest scene in the middle of The Nutcracker's Scene 1, gently
floats down. All the sets are simply folded up and stored in small boxes after the season finale.
Because silk dying was a new medium for David, there were surprises in store. The snow scene backdrop with its
simple black on white color scheme, was damaged by floodwaters. Black dye ran and bled into patterns in lively
shades of greens and blues, but all was not lost. The silk was cut into 36 inch square scarves, the edges were hemmed
and David applied a thin gold line border with the words "Berkeley Ballet Theater, The Nutcracker, The Land of
Snow" The scarves were sold as a fund-raiser and a second snow piece was created with the proceeds. At this year's
performance, to the delight of ballet patrons, T-shirts are available displaying his image of the new snow scene and
the words, "Celebrating a Season of Fresh New Snow."
When David created the backdrop with for
Act II of The Nutcracker, the piece won a
national contest in 1995 and will appear in a
book called "Fresh Ideas in Silk Painting" soon
to be released by North Light Books.
While his skills in silk painting were
developing, David became interested in learning
and performing Middle Eastern dance. Dance
veils are an integral part of the performance,
but the veils were nothing more than pieces of
printed yardage. The scale and specialized
ceremonial use of dance veils inspired him to
create delicately detailed hand painted silk
veils. After researching Arabian art, he found
that floral or geometric borders were standard
motifs and often included Arabic lettering.
With this design in mind, David created beautiful veils with patterned borders laid out with gold gutta resist and
accented with contrasting procion dye colors. Many include bits of poetry and meaningful quotations painted in a
His collection of silk art includes dance veils, silk shawls and capes as well as large scale theatrical sets, wall hangings
In addition to his time spent successfully operating Silk Spirit, David is also a Senior Designer at the Marin
County architectural firm of Jared Polsky and Associates. He currently lives in San Rafael, California where he shares
love and life with his creative partner, Phyllis Woodward, an artist, published poet and owner of a companion
business, "Say it with Silk", which provides a growing list of clients with her own beautiful silk creations.
You can meet David by reserving space in his one-day silk-painting workshops held at his studio. With no experience
necessary and all materials supplied, you'll come away with your own hand painted silk shawl or veil. And, as if that
were not enough, where else will you get a chance to watch a geniune alchemist at work?
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