Her functional works of art look as beautiful as they feel
(Clockwise from above left) Textile artist Paige Hathaway Thorn is known for her hand-printed silk scarves; Thorn hand-dyes the fabric and later screen prints her designs on it; One of Thorn's baby blankets.
Paige Hathaway Thorn’s remarkable silk and velvet textile creations can be found in boutiques around the world and on the shoulders of A-list celebrities, but her most ardent fans are more comfortable in a crib than on the red carpet.
A Charleston native and 1993 graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Thorn is best known for her gorgeous hand-printed silk wraps and baby blankets, though she also creates household decor including silk and velvet throws and silk pillowcases in her James Island studio.
Thorn has been creating custom pieces for interior designers, bridal parties, new parents, and clients for years—and although she doesn’t mention it, she’s been commissioned to create custom designs for the casts of television shows such as Friends and ER, as well as for celebrities Halle Berry, Cameron Diaz, Jane Seymour, and Bo Derek.
Now that her two daughters are teenagers, Thorn has more time to invest in promoting her art as well as work on upcoming collaborations with luxury baby clothing line Pixie Lily and designer Dominique Cohen. Here, she shares how she began working with silk and her creative process.
Find Thorn‘s pieces at Bibelot Home and Erika Lynn Boutique in Mount Pleasant and The Boutique downtown.
Hooked on Textiles: What I do today really started in high school. I took a lot of art and sewing classes, and I worked at a fabric store, so I learned a lot about the different types of fabric. At SCAD, I thought I was going to do architecture but then I took a fiber arts course, which included screen printing and dyeing. I was hooked, and, much to my parents’ nervousness, transferred my major from architecture to textiles. After I graduated, I didn’t want to move to New York to become a textile designer—that’s really what you had to do back then—so I got my graduate degree in teaching and taught art.
Oh, Baby: I made my first baby blanket when my niece, who is now 18, was born. They’ve become my most frequently sold items. Parents are usually happy to receive a functional work of art as a gift, but the fun part to me is when a child becomes attached to the feel of the silk. I’ve known parents to drive three hours out of their way to retrieve blankets accidentally left on vacation. I can’t take credit for the appeal of the silky feel, but I love that I’m able to make an item that is customizable and appreciated!
Creative Process: Each piece starts as white silk or linen, and my first step is to stretch it and then hand-brush dye onto the fabric. Every color is hand-mixed and tinted. The fabric dries horizontally, and after a few days of curing, I wash it. Then I screen print my drawings on it, pinning the piece to a padded table to do that. At that point, I can sew it into whatever product it will be.
Custom Fit: A favorite among my custom work was for a bride getting married at The Woodlands in Summerville, in their Rose Garden. The bride’s mother gave me a poem handwritten by her mother—whose name was Rose—so I took the handwriting and made it into a silk-screen and had this script going all across this wrap, with beautiful little rosebuds printed all around it. For another wrap I recently did for a grandmother, a local calligrapher wrote her grandchildren’s initials in this lovely script, and I silk-screened the initials along with magnolia blooms onto the piece.
Green Thumb: I’m crazy about anything botanical. Vines, ferns, tendrils, seed pods—I just love botanical imagery. My favorite method of inspiration is to work in a completely different medium, so a side art I do is gelatin printmaking with pressed leaves and plants. Sometimes I take those pressed leaves and turn them into a silk screen to use with my other pieces.