Colleen Pallone was having a tough year. She lost her longtime job. Her father fell ill. She needed a distraction, and scrolling through Facebook one day, she found it: A video of water marbling.
Water marbling is a dyeing technique for textiles and paper. Artists fill a basin with water and submerge their canvas in it. As colors drip onto the surface, they take on a life of their own in the water, expanding until they cover the canvas.
Colleen began studying water marbling with an instructor. She’d always worked in offices (though she describes herself as “crafty”), but she fell in love with water marbling. In July, she launched Sunshine on Silk, a business that introduces others to the craft by marbling their own silk scarves.
Sunshine on Silk operates out of the Summit Art Space in downtown Akron. Colleen makes some of her own scarves, but her primary business is events: People can book her studio or she can bring a van full of equipment to them. Each person pays $39 to make one scarf.
The Devil Strip spoke to Colleen about her craft, her business and her future.
DS: What was your first experience with water marbling like?
CP: I was totally hooked. [My husband and I] set up a tray in the basement, and it takes two people to lay the silk — they’re 6-foot scarves, so you need a person at either end to lay the scarf. I drove my husband crazy when I came back (from lessons) and started doing it by myself. I needed practice. It’d be 9 or 10 at night and I’d be saying, ‘please let me make one more.’ I’d wake up in the middle of the night and think of color combinations and patterns I wanted to try.
That’s what our customers do, too. They say, ‘Next time I come in, I want to try that pattern, and I know the colors.’ You kind of get hooked on it. Knowing that myself, how I got hooked, I don’t know why I’m surprised that my customers are doing the same thing.
DS: Why did you choose to make Sunshine on Silk an experiential business, rather than making and selling scarves yourself?
CP: It’s such a great experience, it’s such a fun thing to do and we’ve had a really great time with people coming in and having parties in our studio. It’s been an absolute blast… It’s such an amazing art form. At one of the first parties in our studio, four different women wanted to use Ohio State colors. They used the exact same colors, they did the exact same technique, and we ended up with four completely different scarves.
Our studio is on the third floor of Summit Art Space. We have a van now, as well; we named him Van Gogh. We actually have a party tonight — a vet clinic with two locations in Canton and Uniontown came in and made scarves for their secretarial staff, and they booked us tonight. We’re going out to the vet clinic, we’re going to set up our trays, and the techs will be making scarves tonight.
DS: What have your first few months felt like?
CP: (Running a business) wasn’t something I ever thought I would do, but now that I’m doing it, it’s starting to take off . . . We’ve been really surprised with repeat customers coming back, making two or three scarves.
DS: What does the future hold for Sunshine on Silk?
We’re hoping to get more corporate events going . . . employee appreciation, sales meetings, team-building, that type of thing. We can go wherever they are, or they can come to our studio. Possibly getting into retail a little bit. We’re researching some different materials we can use on the water to make ties, purses, that type of thing. That’s down the road. But we are looking.
This story is part of The Devil Strip’s Akropreneurs series, which is made possible by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the Fund for Our Economic Future.
Rosalie Murphy is Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip.