10 August 2008

Soon to be published in Ashland Magazine

The incredible lightness of Joy


Lance K. Pugh

I was circling the Plaza some time ago in Ashland’s version of circle the wagons when my eye caught a vibrant peacock pattern of gold, emerald and black, backlit by the sun. The female wearing this silken number slipped into a shop while I kept searching for a parking spot. I wanted to ask the dark-haired woman draped in the striking diaphanous scarf about the long material she had wrapped around her, but in a flash of light, she was gone.

I kept the silken peacock lady in mind, but did not see her again until 2006, while attending the opening reception for Raku master Randy Warren. She appeared, draped in yet another striking scarf, as his collaborative partner for the exhibit. It was then that I learn she was Joy Light (her real surname, a designer and artist of hand-painted silk, who, though based in Ashland, sells across the country.

Joy moved to the Applegate area from California in 1989. Two years later, Joy decided to move to Ashland to pursue her creative work full time with her then ten-year-old son. Ashland had all the amenities she was looking for: a vital town with good schools, an emphasis on the performing arts, a vibrant artistic community and plenty of engaging people who were supportive of the arts.

On one of her first excursions downtown, Joy met Elise (McManus) Peters, who had recently opened Heart & Hands at 255 E. Main Street. Shortly after this meeting, Heart & Hands began carrying Joy’s work. In Peter’s words, “We have loved representing Joy’s hand painted silks since our inception in 1991. It’s been great watching Joy’s work evlove. Her artistic sensibility, creativity and gift with color has made her wearable art a highly treasured and valuable purchase. I have witnessed people return over and over again to add to their collection.”

Through Joy’s dedication over the years, her silks are now displayed nationwide in museum stores and women’s clothing boutiques. These notably include Denver and Phoenix art museums, Spirit of the Earth and The Santa Fe Opera House in New Mexico, The Real Mother Goose and Changes in Portland, Human Arts in Ojai, and La Jolla Fiberarts. As her national sales increase, we surely will be hearing more about her business. Joy is keeping her eyes open for a sales rep to bring her line to the East Coast.

A quick visit to Joy’s website, www.joysilk.com, will instantly fill the eye with visually seducing colors hand-painted on raw white Chinese silk. She does her magic on them here in Ashland and then ships each distinctive piece to numerous accounts

Joy’s studio will be a part of Southern Oregon Open Studios, Labor Day weekend sponsored by Ashland Artisan Gallery & Art Center. It is at this gallery where her scarves can be purchased and she also volunteers her time to support other Southern Oregon artists.

I have observed how a ruana or scarf instantly updates the “basic black dress,” creating a new fashion statement. Eyes turn and sparkle as one of Joy’s vibrant scarves adds dimension and color while capturing fluttering eyelashes like so many migrating monarch butterflies. Her painted silks are a truly powerful accessory to spice up a night on the town

“I have focused on accessories because they are always in fashion, no matter what the climate - environmental or financial - accessories are affordable and never go out of style.

“I have been producing these for 17 years and have sold nearly every piece I’ve made. My clientele consists mainly of women, but a few men who wear my accessories are interested in something personal and handcrafted. A tall European wears his ruana with his Armani suit. I work with a local tailor to produce custom silk jacket linings for men who appreciate having a unique wardrobe.”

When visiting her studio I immediately noticed her colorful line of iridescent stylistically captured peacock feathers hand-painted with rich classic hues on a variety of silk fabrics from charmeuse, jacquard, chiffon and crepe de chine. Each scarf is individually crafted by Joy, making a special, intimate gift or a self-treat for which you are overdue.

Her Ombre Collectionis her best selling line. It employs a “wet on wet” watercolor technique, resulting in the spellbinding colors that produce eye-catching fluid patterns. The popular Ruana, sort of a cape with open sides, is constructed lightweight, sheer and flowing chiffon edged and trimmed with a touch of satin, giving the finished piece enough weight to form the perfect drape.

During the most recent First Friday Artwalk I squinted into the sun as I strained to focus on a blend of dramatic color that refracted from two blocks away. I had an educated hunch on the nature of the emanation and approached the source with a keen eye.

I was right, it was Joy Light.