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Lois White of Ventura snares nature's silk with a blast of cheap hair spray.
"It gives the spider web more body," she explained.
Using a bottle of White Rain, a can of aerosol paint and a 1,500-degree kiln, White, a porcelain artist, "paints" real spider webs from her yard onto vases or plates.
Sure, she could simply use her artistic eye and a paintbrush to re-create a spider's gauzy dwelling, but she's figured out how to capture each web's one-of-a-kind pattern -- like holding on to a snowflake.
White, 71, lives in the foothills above Ventura College. She heads out most mornings toward the bottlebrush bushes in her yard, spray cans in hand, in search of a spider's web.
After making sure the spider isn't "home," White first sprays its web with paint -- whatever hue goes best with the flowers that will co-adorn the vase or plate. The hair spray goes next. She then presses a vase or plate against the stiff, sticky web to make the spider's silk adhere, and fires the object in a kiln for about three hours.
"The web burns up, but leaves the paint there, fired in permanently," White explained.
She paints roses, daisies, hydrangeas or other flora on the vase or plate, with the web visually tying the flowers together.
White grew up in Santa Barbara and moved to Ventura with her husband, Joe, when she was 18.
A former organ teacher who taught at Ventura College and around the county until she retired about 10 years ago, White began painting porcelain in 1979. She took private art lessons, and started to sell her work when a tile company asked her to paint tiles for a decorator.
She paints flowers and foliage on cups, saucers, pictures, mugs, boxes, tea sets and other items and sells her wares at 26 gift shops around the country.
For the past few years, she's found a niche as an artistic spider-web woman. A paint company has even hired her to demonstrate her web-painting technique around the country.
Before webs, White tried stamping imprints of leaves on plates, "but they just looked like blobs," she said. She began to experiment with spider webs instead, and discovered that hair spray kept the delicate threads from disintegrating.
"People love it because it's nature, and it's not ordinary," White said of her spidery art. "People say, 'I can't find this at Hallmark.' "
Local residents can find her work on sale at College Pharmacy in Ventura. White, the organist at Ventura Missionary Church, also sells her vases and plates at the church's annual bazaar, scheduled this year from Nov. 3-5.
Don't look for painted spiders perched in White's colorful webs.
"I don't really want to paint the ugly spider into it," she said.
Still, White has developed an affection for the arachnids who spin patterns for her art.
"I won't let the pest control people spray," she said.
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