My clothes evolve out of wanting to be.
For Barbara Polin, it started with a gift for a friend – a piece of lingerie she fashioned with some scraps of old lace. Then she created a few more pieces of lingerie. Then people asked to buy some, so she started making more lingerie. Then she began calling what she did a business: SoLace.
In the meantime, and while working full-time for a local printing company, Polin was dabbling with another craft: marbling. Now that – marbling fabrics, sewing them and selling the finished items – has become a full-time job.
Polin, of Penn Laird, Virginia, has hit that lovely balance between art and fashion with her beautiful clothing – “artwear.” She also makes marbled accessories, treasure boxes and bottle stoppers, handbags and wallets. All in sweeping chevrons of blues, aquas and maroons; swooshing bouquets of reds, yellows and lilacs; waving sunsets of purples, oranges and pinks. Marbling is an extraordinary, ancient way of printing. When Polin became interested in it she took a class, but that didn’t teach her everything she wanted to know. Marbling is an art. And as an art, Polin had to learn more, practice, fail, get better and finally master it.
“It was trial and error, trial and error,” she says “Sometimes it was just plain awful looking.”
Some of the variables that make a huge difference in the finished product, Polin discovered, are the ink and water temperatures and the amount of surfactant she mixes with the ink. She stuck with it. After months of experimenting, Polin settled on mediums, inks, materials and tools. Basically, she fills a four-by-eight foot tray with water and carrageenan, a binder that gels the water. Next, she squirts inks from squeeze bottles over the top of the water. The ink floats on the gel’s surface. Next, she and her helper grab each end of a long comb and sweep it lightly over the water, pulling the ink colors into a design. Then they lay a tray-sized piece of silk on the ink. For just a moment. “Once the fabric touches the ink, it’s there,” Polin says.
Then her helper, rinses the marbled fabric in cold water three times and hangs it outside on a clothesline to dry. Contemplating her next design, Polin mutters, “Let’s see, what colors do I want to do now?”
Blessed with the ability to sew, she’s been making her own clothing since age 10, and an internal sense of design, Polin fashions her marbled silk and chiffon pieces into dresses, skirts, jackets, vests, shirts and blouses that flatter women’s bodies. She also creates vest, shirts and neckwear for men from the marbled silk. Since she does not have to rely on a seamstress or manufacturer to produce her finished product, Polin has been able to “play with fabrics,” observing how they hang on different body types. She can rip seams, cut hems or change patterns until the article is just right. Her clothing designs is always evolving.
“My clothes evolve out of wanting to be,” she says.
Along with finished products, Polin also sells her marbled fabrics by the piece. “Quilters love it,” she says. She custom-marbles pieces of fabric in specified colors and designs, and also takes orders for clothing in the size and style customers want.