The Art of Love with Silk Diaries

The Art
of Love

with Silk Diaries

Silk Diaries founder Kylee Barnard describes her artwork as “silk to empower women.”

Kylee began dyeing silk to soothe her own anxieties, but soon found that her art offered an empowering connection with other women, tapping into the bravery and inspiration of community. In its durability and softness, she sees silk as a representation of woman-kind's unparalleled strength and femininity.

In her Austin studio, Kylee creates heirloom pieces dyed with natural materials, preserving blooms once used to celebrate a birthday, graduation, anniversary, or wedding. For her Art of Love pieces, we asked Kylee to dye silks using bouquets that represent four different brides. Thoughtfully crafted and entirely unique, her creations transform the ephemeral beauty of flowers into something everlasting. We can't imagine a more perfect expression of love.

Kylee began dyeing silk to soothe her own anxieties, but soon found that her art offered an empowering connection with other women, tapping into the bravery and inspiration of community. In its durability and softness, she sees silk as a representation of woman-kind's unparalleled strength and femininity.

In her Austin studio, Kylee creates heirloom pieces dyed with natural materials, preserving blooms once used to celebrate a birthday, graduation, anniversary, or wedding. For her Art of Love pieces, we asked Kylee to dye silks using bouquets that represent four different brides. Thoughtfully crafted and entirely unique, her creations transform the ephemeral beauty of flowers into something everlasting. We can't imagine a more perfect expression of love.

On Work & Inspiration...

Q: How did you discover the art of silk dyeing?

A: From early childhood onward, art has been heavily embedded in how I express myself. While studying design at SCAD, I got into large-scale abstract painting; I could lose myself in color and express my emotions. But those large pieces were difficult to sell. After graduating and getting my first job, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and fear. I was searching for ways to have confidence, be brave, and make my creativity and passion more consumable. That was when I got into silk.

The first inspiration for Silk Diaries came from the silk trim of a blanket I had as a baby. Silk dyeing allowed me to combine my love of color with that familiar, soothing texture. I started with synthetic dyes but as I learned about their environmental impact, I wanted to choose more sustainable options so my business could have transparency as it grew. That's how I fell in love with natural dyeing. Touching the materials is so grounding, and each piece is one-of-a-kind, which represents the individuality in women. That's my overall mission statement—empowering women to express their individuality.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: I'm a visual learner and catalog experiences of people, colors, and details everywhere I go. I can get inspired by the colors of queso and salsa in a restaurant! My business is grounded in enabling women to be brave and experiment with vulnerability, so I'm also inspired by women and their experiences. When I started Silk Diaries, I formed a collective with five other women who were around as my business was growing. They've been a source of so much drive and inspiration.

Q: Can you walk us through the dyeing process?

A: When I teach, I encourage people to have an open mind and not worry about doing things wrong. I take the same approach to my own work; each piece is an expression of what I'm feeling. I start by gathering natural materials—anything from berries to onion skins to rose petals to eucalyptus. I lay the silk out and arrange the materials in a composition that feels right in that moment. Once I get a composition I like, I bundle the silk into a “sushi roll,” wrap it with twine, then spray it with vinegar, which works as a natural mordant to set the color to the fiber. The bundle goes into a vegetable steamer on low for a few hours, then dries for a few days before it's ready to unroll.

Q: Are there botanicals that work best for dyeing?

A: Eucalyptus is one of my favorites—it prints a gorgeous peach color! Delphinium creates a beautiful blue. White flowers do print color—a golden hue—but they're not super bright. Dried flowers give more texture than fresh, so I usually ask for bouquets to be dried before dyeing.

Q: What is your studio like?

A: I work at Broad Studios, a collaborative space shared with other women. Being able to join with women focused on the same goals helped me expedite my growth and support me when I needed it; it lowered the barrier to entry for having my own studio. It's a very special, serendipitous place. The studio includes our work areas as well as space to host workshops and invite other artists to join us.

Q: What do you listen to while you're working?

A: I find connection in music much as I find connection in art. What I listen to changes day-to-day, but I generally want something upbeat while working. I listen to a lot of indie, mixed with some house and alternative. James Blake, alt-J, Pink Floyd, Moses Sumney.

Q: Is there a project you're most proud of?

A: I recently launched a small batch of face masks. It was something I avoided for a while because it made the pandemic feel more real, but I saw people struggling with the function and fashion of existing masks. It might be a while before we don't have to wear a mask, and style is a big piece of feeling comfortable in your body! I made charmeuse masks, which are great for sensitive skin, as well as a thicker raw silk option, both with leather on the straps to alleviate pressure on the head. I got super into the design process, and they all sold out in the first few days!

Q: What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

A: In meeting other artists, I realized that many women were struggling with the same things I was. Art makes it possible to connect in new ways, share stories, and feel less alone. I hope that when people wear my work, they feel the love, consideration, and bravery that goes into it—all the good things they should feel.

On The Art of Love...

Q: Can you tell us about the making of your artwork for BHLDN?

A: This project made me think more deeply about how I could create patterns in my art and involve flowers I hadn't worked with before. I started with four bouquet concepts from BHLDN and sourced the flowers as closely as possible from a variety of places. I found some unique pink delphinium, picked red roses from the median in my neighborhood, and worked with a company called Gypsy Floral for recycled flowers. It was a cool experience to mix familiar materials with foraged florals. I also loved that each piece was embedded with symbolism. (Learn more about the meanings of each bouquet below!)

Q: What was your favorite bouquet or flower to work with?

A: I love pink, so the romantic bouquet! Anemone is one of my favorite flowers and the bouquet was so colorful. I also really liked the classic bouquet, filled with light-colored roses and blue delphinium, for its sense of tradition.

Q: How did the concept of love inspire your work?

A: The dyeing process is quite long and can be unpredictable when you're working with nature. It takes time to lay out the composition, tend the fabric during steaming…I dyed some pieces twice to get more color in certain areas. I think the time, love, and care that go into the natural dyeing process tie perfectly into love. Love is working on something every day, having patience, and being accepting of the outcome.

Q: What does love mean to you?

A: I've been building Silk Diaries to be brave, stand up, and use my voice. Right now, I'm at a point of learning how to love myself, accepting where I am, and continuing to grow. It's important to be kind and tend to our relationships—and we need to do that for ourselves first.

The Love Silks

Take a closer look at Kylee's Art of Love creations.

Kylee's silks started with bouquets representing four bridal aesthetics—classic, modern, romantic, and bohemian. Inspired by the language of flowers, a Victorian tradition that ascribed symbolic significance to blooms, each silk holds a secret meaning inscribed by the bouquet.

Classic: A traditional bouquet symbolizing joy, abundance, and lasting unity. Bridal white with a touch of something blue.

Romantic: Symbols of patience and hidden love tell the tale of a secret admirer finally revealing their feelings—how romantic!

Modern: A fresh interpretation of classical still life colors and forms, looking ahead to future happiness.

Bohemian: A daring design for a confident, adventurous bride who believes in the magic of love.

Want to see more from Silk Diaries? Follow Kylee on Instagram!

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