While in India, Erin Hilleary learned the technique of painting with French dyes on hand-woven Varanasi silk. She was inspired to begin this practice when she witnessed a woman taking her art of the wall and wrapping it around herself. Erin fell in love with the idea of making art that is flat also be three dimensional. These compositions can be hung like traditional art, but also taken down and worn for special occasions. Erin says that she wanted to “create art that includes its owner as part of its composition”. What truly inspires her when it comes to the compositions of her “wearable art” is the idea of the combination of divinity and spirituality; Erin uses her practice of yoga and meditation to add meaning and depth to her artwork.
One of her favorite pieces is one that she thought was a mistake at first. It looks as if it is a tree woman that is giving up to nature. When she first started working on this piece, seeing that Erin paints mostly freehand, the dye wasn’t cooperating and went everywhere. After putting it away and not looking at it for a year, she took it out and noticed the figure of a woman within the brown dye. Erin feels like this particular work shows how people should submit to life while feeling the most overwhelmed. This is the same feeling she has with her work from the moment she moved to the Lowcountry. The south and the beach-life aesthetic can now be seen in her painting as she lets each painting unfurl naturally from the influence of her surroundings. At her booth for the Spoleto art festival, she’ll be showing some special pieces that represent the city of Charleston with a special emphasis on the Battery. The angel trees were a true inspiration that represents Erin’s respect for the connection between the earth and the sky and the energy that moves through each person. Each of her pieces, whether simple or really elaborate, has a story that connects to the Erin, the world, and the owner who is lucky enough to acquire it.
The care for each of these exquisite pieces of art is simpler than anyone would have thought. Due to the fact that the dye is steamed set for over three hours means that the dye is actually part of the silk. This means that it can be washed, dried, and ironed just like any other silk garment. The only difference is when hanging to present as art, make sure there is something between the silk and the clip and the wall behind the silk. Also, making sure that it isn’t in direct sunlight so that the fabric won’t fade over time.
Written by: Claire Nellums