The Business of Silk

Q&A With a Silk Artisan


It was a beautifully brisk Sunday in early December, and I had only one thing on my agenda: go to the Sugarloaf Crafts festival at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. It’s a wonderful event at which dozens of artists and innovators from all over the East Coast gather to showcase their one-of-a-kind products. So instead of spending hours on the couch mindlessly reading Food Network articles, I decided to get some exercise (I don’t take PE anymore, okay?), and go. Cut to the part where I introduce you all to one of the coolest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Valor Dictus readers, meet Janey Harrington.

Ms. Harrington is an artist who paints and sells silk scarves. She has a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Management from Virginia Tech, and was actually a partner in a boating firm for over two decades prior to starting her silk business. I had met Ms. Harrington briefly when the Sugarloaf Crafts artists came to Chantilly back in October, but I decided to return and catch up with her for a quick interview. Here’s what she had to say.

What draws you to silk, as opposed to other fabrics? “I am drawn to silk because… it’s a fabric with a lot of history. And it’s one of the strongest fabrics in the world.” Ms. Harrington also added that silk is good at absorbing the colors she paints onto it; she also enjoys the luxuriousness of the fabric.

What’s a typical workday like for you? “I spend most of my day in my studio, and I spend anywhere from 8-10 hours painting. And then of course I have to [attend to] the business side of it as well: advertising, and applying for shows, and preparing for shows. So, it’s a multi-faceted job.”

What’s the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur? “Educating people about my product and my work, especially because it’s such a unique art form. I have to take the time to educate my clientele.”

As a writer, I sometimes have writer’s block. Are there times when you feel you have run out of ideas, and if so, how do you combat that? “I do. Sometimes I’m so exhausted that I feel like I don’t have creativity. So … I’ll go out into nature. [For example] I take my dog for a walk. That’s why a lot of my work [features] flowers and water. I get a lot of inspiration from [rivers].”

And last but not least…

What career advice can you give to us high-school students? “Believe in yourself. Constantly seek to improve and learn, and continue to learn throughout your whole life. Be inspired by other people who believe in their dreams, and believe in YOUR dreams.”

So with that, dear Rams, let us heed Ms. Harrington’s advice and face our futures with courage and passion. Who knows? Perhaps one day, you’ll be able to celebrate a career milestone by buying yourself a one-of-a-kind silk masterpiece.