The challenging and compelling aspect of dyeing silk is that the dye tends to take on a life of its own. The colors spread and mix and layer, and that’s where the beauty comes in.
“It changes colors and evolves. It’s really fun to work with,” says Naples artist Leigh Herndon. “It’s very spontaneous. You’re in control—up to a point.”
She practices batik and rozome (types of wax resist dyeing) as well as shibori, a sort of “sophisticated tie-dyeing,” as she explains it. Her silk paintings have been shown nationally, including an exhibit in the Smithsonian. Six of her pieces were featured on the TV series “Criminal Minds” during an episode set in Naples. But she’s also found success in clothing, creating kimonos, scarves, sarongs and more with a similar hand-dyeing process.
Originally from Montana, Herndon and her husband moved to Naples around 2003. She had an art degree from the University of Montana and a master’s in fine art from the University of Southern Illinois. But it was a woman she met while working in a gallery in New Hampshire who introduced her to the Japanese style of silk art. It was only natural that something wearable became the canvas.
Her wearable art sells on her website (leighdesignsnaples.com) and locally at art fairs and places including Hand & Harvest in Mercato and Inspirations gallery in Naples. It’s proven to be successful, especially among tourists looking to take home something unique from their vacation. One of Herndon’s scarves, for example, features a reddish pattern of an alligator. “If anything,” she says with a laugh, “it’s light enough to fit in a suitcase.”
Wearable—and foldable—art. Not a bad combination.