Healing Headbands Project had the opportunity and pleasure to interview fabric artist and jewelry designer, Louise Sharakan. We asked her about her view on art and healing and how she feels about helping those with illness feel better through her work. Thank you, Louise, for your contribution to helping those with illness.
Healing Headbands Project: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating art was something you absolutely had to do?
Louise: From the time I was a child drawing figures and dressing them in my own clothing designs, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I remember taking every art class offered and when I graduated high school I was accepted at FIT and knew I was in the right place. Then life came along and I dropped out to get married at 18. It wasn’t until years later as an adult with grown children that I found myself back in school at Parsons, taking a course in silk painting and knew once again that I was in the right place and this time, doing the right thing.
HHP: Why do silk painting and create art? How does your art relate to healing? Have you had a personal experience that has helped you or another person heal with your art?
Louise: After years of silk painting, when I was laid up after having surgery on my knee due to a skiing accident, a friend suggested I try drawing a mandala a day. That satisfied my need to create art even though being on crutches prevented me from being in my studio doing silk painting. I was able to return to my studio to continue the work with silk dyes which continued for many years of producing a line of clothing and accessories which gave me great joy.
HHP: Can you describe what the silk painting entails?
Louise: Silk painting in itself is a challenge considering the many aspects required to complete work successfully. First the silk must be stretched on stretcher strips. The design must be transferred to the silk by using a compound called gutta serti using a special applicator. When that is done and completely dry one begins to apply the dyes with sable brushes carefully and quickly as the dyes run quickly through the silk and are restrained only by the gutta serti. After the painting is completed the yards of silk must be rolled in paper and steamed for hours in a specially made steamer. Only after that, is the work complete and ready to be sewn into the kimonos, accessories and clothing I was designing.
HHP: How do you feel knowing your artwork can be healing, worn and displayed to help others feel better?
Louise: some of the most gratifying work I did were the commissions for wedding canopies for Jewish wedding ceremonies. Each one was an individual design for the couple, incorporating their names and sayings they wished to include. For this I had to learn the Hebrew alphabet and work on silk up to 8’ x 4’. My husband and I fashioned poles which held the chuppa up creating a beautiful canopy for the bride and groom.
HHP: What is the greatest challenge you face as an artist?
Louise: All the joy I found in my art work came crashing down when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The dyes, I thought. They were imported and had no content label and I sadly realized that they might very well be toxic and there was no way to obtain the contents. So after nearly twenty years of silk dying I had to give it up and search for a new way to express myself.
HHP: What inspires you to create art?
Louise: I stood in my studio and realized I had drawers jammed with color coded silk remnants. Drawing mandalas had helped me during my earlier convalescence and so I began using my previously dyed silk remnants to create my new versions of mandalas. Mandalas are a totally meditative process and so began the healing aspects of my post cancer time.
HHP: What has been your most touching or amazing moment you’ve experienced as an artist?
Louise: Stitching and appliquéing the silks led to using more decorative elements such as crystal beads and then to found rusty objects and I was on my way. All during the years of dying silks I participated in hundreds of Gallery shows which led to my final show, a complete retrospective which was held at the Reconstructive Congregation in Manhasset. I was told at the shows end that it was the most successful show they had ever mounted.
HHP: What projects are you currently working on?
Louise: Since then we sold our hundred year old house and now live in an apartment in New York. This meant giving up my studio and finding an artistic outlet which would “fit” in my new space. Thus came the tiny mandala drawings which I am thrilled to say have now been used to make Healing Headbands. So the designs have come full circle and are now sending healing thoughts to all those who wear them.
For further inquires please contact Louise Sharakan below.
Web address: www.louisesharakan.com