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Sisters Mary Van Haaren of Chesterfield and Cindy Van Haaren of Warren had always dabbled in different forms of art – from welding metal sculptures to making quilts. Then in July of 2012, they added yet another creative outlet to their list of hobbies after taking an evening class in Berkley, where they learned the basics of applying vibrant dyes onto white pieces of silk.

Silk painting quickly became a passion for the Van Haaren sisters, so much so that in 2014 they traveled all the way to the south of France for a weeklong class at LaCascade in Durfort. (Wow – talk about dedication and loving one’s craft!)

And just how did they happen to find the class? “I was looking up training for silk painting on the Internet and came across the class, and it caught our eye,” recalls Mary. And just to be on the safe side, they made their reservations a year in advance.

They plan to share their well-developed skills with others someday by offering their own workshops, but until then, the two have turned their silk-painting pastime into a wearable art business called Something Silk. They offer hand-painted silk scarves with Detroit themes, featuring famous buildings around town, like Compuware World Headquarters, the First National Building, Thomas M. Cooley High School, J. L. Hudson’s, the Fisher Building, and WWJ Studio. A scarf featuring Belle Isle is being considered.

Cindy says, “It started out as a hobby, but you can only give away so many scarves to friends and family.”

The sisters’ unique collection of scarves, available in three sizes, showcase not only buildings throughout the city, but major attractions, including the Spirit of Detroit and the Detroit River Walk, an idea born out of being guests at a recent wine-tasting event held at the Rattlesnake Club, located along the popular downtown riverfront.

In terms of designs on the scarves, Mary says she and Cindy kind of go in their own direction. She says Cindy’s style is “less detailed with more colors and a batik affect,” while hers have “more detailed affects and specific designs of the buildings.”

They purchase their silk from a supplier in California, either by the yard or as individual scarves that come pre-hemmed. “We use a 36-inch square scarf, and the others are 70 by 14 inches and 11 by 60 inches, which lends itself to the Detroit Riverwalk. A lot of big buildings lend themselves better to the larger square scarves,” explains Mary.

Nearly all of their colorful scarves are individually hand-painted, making each a one-of-a-kind, while only two designs – each featuring a scene of downtown buildings – have been digitally reproduced for a production count of 25. Overall, prices range from $36-$75, with the average cost around $48.

Their lustrous hand-washable scarves are offered for sale Online at Somethingsilk.net. In the past, they’ve been sold at the Anton Art Center in Mt. Clemens during last year’s holiday market, and Iron Ivy in Eastpointe. “We’re just getting started (selling). Right now, we have over 100 scarves that we’ve made over the past year. Now, it’s time to start selling them,” says Mary. “We’ll have some in the Detroit Artist Market (4719 Woodward), starting Nov. 1.”

(Guess who finally has a Facebook page. That’s right –yours truly! Please check it out at facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade where you’ll find more craft-related information and giveaways.)

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com.

Contact Something Silk at somethingsilk.net or (586) 725-1960. Email to somethingsilk@outlook.com.

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