An Interview with Silk and Willow
First we want to get to know you! Tell us who you are and what you do. My name is Shellie Pomeroy. I'm a mom, wife, and creator. My formal training is in design and photography, and I worked for many years in the publishing industry. While I loved my career, my true passion is when I can create with my hands. In the past, this took the form of baking, knitting, gardening, and creating crafts with my daughters. As my children grew and developed their own unique interests, I began to listen more to the passion that spoke to my heart. This was fine-tuned into natural dyeing.
How did you first get into the world of silks and linens? I became obsessed with the vast array of colors that can be extracted from nature. I love to work with fibers that have an infinity for natural dyes and can best highlight their innate beauty. Silk is an amazing material that has a natural prisma-like structure which absorbs and reflects plant dyes in the most amazing ways! Cotton and linen are a little more challenging with natural dyes, but the effort is well worth it! I just love the idea of family and community gathering at a table and I wanted to explore ways to bring the colors from outside into this experience.
What is the dying process like?
The process starts with thinking about what plant materials are available or growing abundantly in my outside surroundings. I then need to determine what colors I can create with what I have. Shades of yellow, green, light brown and grey can usually be created from something growing in my yard or garden. Colors like reds, plums, and blues are sustainably sourced from ground materials, like madder root or indigo. While I'm focusing on the creative side of dying, my amazingly supportive husband manages the shop, washes and preps our silks. Our dying process can take a few hours to a week to create one color. I could easily work an entire day with consecutive batches of table linens tweaking the intensity, temperature and time of the dye bath to create a consistent color that will carry over to multiple batches. After I have created a color, my husband helps me with the many steps in our washing process to ensure the colors are colorfast.
What is a normal day like for you? Having a business based out of my home tends to blend my work and daily life in a way that may seem like I'm always "working". I usually wake up around 7:00 am and scroll through Instagram while still in bed. I then have my morning coffee while returning emails. Throughout the day, and well into the evening, I am usually spooling ribbon, inspecting fabrics, styling new colors and products, photographing, and planning Silk and Willow's future colors. During this time my husband tends to customer service and administration duties. We always try to get together for lunch to discuss custom orders, product inquiries, and styling inquires. While I have one daughter in college, we take breaks throughout the week to enjoy the high school sports, plays, and dance recitals of my youngest daughter.
Tell us how you have grown your business and where you would like to see it go! Instagram and collaborating with other creatives have majorly contributed to growing our business. Having a platform for our product to be viewed, where potential customers have the ability to get ideas and inspiration for using Silk and Willow's products have assisted in expanding our client base. For our future goals, we have been working on creating a space where we could invite guests into our studio space for events or workshops. After a failed attempt at renting a space for this, we decided to work with a local builder to create our dream studio. We just completed our building, and we are in the beginning stages of moving in. We are so excited about the new possibilities!
What inspires you?
Texture and color! I'm inspired by natural elements and their changes throughout the seasons. Watching a flower bloom with its soft silky petals, then fade into muted shades and papery textures inspires me. Leaves, twigs, bark, brush, stones, nests, petals; just a few of the items I keep throughout my home and studio for daily inspiration.
What are your favorite activities outside of working?
Secondary to spending time with my family, my favorite activities are planning my garden, gardening, and studying botanical healing. There is a number of plants used in dyeing that are also considered medicinal. I love to grow and harvest plants with color and purpose. I am a strong proponent of natural healing. Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to delve in deeper into expanding my knowledge of natural healing. I love to multitask and listen to online courses while working in my studio. There is a vast world of medicinal properties and color that come from nature, so I will always be a student involved with learning and exploring.
Any advice for aspiring artists?
The advice I give myself is, "savor the time you have to create!" There are so many necessary but "non-creative" aspects of running a business. Keeping up with both sides of a business can be overwhelming at times. This was especially true for me in the beginning, when I did everything myself. After I had to start sacrificing "creating" time, I knew I had to seek out help. Growing the Silk and Willow team has been one of the biggest challenges but also one of the greatest blessings!
Photo credit to Kelle Sauer