On Using Silk to Soothe: Kylee Barnard of Silk Diaries

this spring, our theme is: synergy.

It’s time to invest in relationships, projects and people that will help us grow. It’s time to create a little synergy.

synergy (n.): the benefit that results when two or more agents work together to achieve something either one couldn't have achieved on its own.

It's the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In life, at work and in our communities, synergy is that space where the magic happens—where things fall into place, values align and our ideas find a home.

So, what does professional and personal synergy look like? How do we reject cultures of comparison and approach collaboration? How do we protect our own energy as we navigate opportunities, success and failures? This Spring, our programs will serve as a moment to hear from and amplify women and nonbinary leaders in our community who create synergy through their work.

As we prepare for craftHER Market Spring ‘19, we’re interviewing some of this market’s featured makers to learn more about their businesses and the ways in which they create synergy through their work. Read on for a peek into their process.

Photo by Valerie Thompson

Photo by Valerie Thompson

about today’s featured maker:

My name is Kylee Barnard, the founder and designer of Silk Diaries. When I was young, I had a habit of rubbing the silk trim of my baby blanket on my face to ease my anxious mind. My whole life I wanted to be known as a woman that embodied love, strength and happiness, but my anxiety was gripping me. I started to observe my behaviors, learned my triggers and what helped me cope. I needed comfort in the times of panic. I needed a reminder of my self-worth. A little luxury. It all came back down to silk. Click here to learn more.

Let’s start at the beginning. What did Silk Diaries grow out of?

The idea for Silk Diaries was very personal and came about as I studied the idiosyncrasies within myself in search of something to provide refuge from the impostor syndrome I was feeling when I started my first full-time job. Throughout my entire life, I’ve wanted to be known as a woman that embodied love, strength and happiness, but my anxiety was gripping me. Recalling the comfort I felt from my silk-trimmed blanket as a child, I utilized my passion for self-expression and color to create a brand of unique silk products that pay homage to the issues women face in the workplace. Each piece is one-of-a-kind, which I believe parallels beautifully with my mission to empower women in their individuality. 

Silk Diaries became an official sole-proprietorship about a year and a half ago and I moved into my first commercial studio last June. The majority of Silk Diaries is handled by my own two hands and heart. Each silk is individually hand-dyed, photographed, marketed, designed, packaged and shipped from my studio in Austin. My products are available for sale in my online shop (www.silkdiaries.co), select stores across the US, and I often pop-up at various markets and shops. While I don’t have regular store hours in my studio, I am available by appointment.

How do you approach collaboration within your work? When and where do you collaborate on making products?

Personally, I seek out collaboration because I believe it to be an important part of a successful business. This idea led to my second entrepreneurial endeavor, co-founding an all-female artist collective, Broad Studios. While each of us have a committed practice and a dedicated workspace, we collectively made the decision to unite under one roof for three purposes: to hold each other accountable to our work, to challenge each other’s practices to grow, and to work together to share and promote that mission for others. Once a year I work with a close friend, Anna Criswell, to put on a styled shoot with local Austin women as our models. These photo shoots have turned out to be the highlight of my year and have connected me to some truly beautiful souls that will be life long friends. In terms of product collaboration, I have a few projects in the works that I’m excited to share very soon (Hint: one is with Daisy Natives!). In a world where we are seemingly drifting further and further apart, I try to do everything I can to bring people together in authenticity, love, and light.

How do you balance the creative side and the business side of your work?

Fortunately, working full time in a corporate environment allowed me to see the forest and the trees early on. I understood that it was necessary to have a business and a creative track in mind if I wanted to have a viable product that touched people’s hearts. However, it does get hard to balance, structure and grow the business side because the creative side flows innately from my heart. I am trying to immerse myself in more business oriented workshops and classes to help with this balance.

What resources have helped you grow your business? What resources do you need more of?

Meeting women in real life and connecting over a creative meet-up, a workshop, or a coffee has helped my brand spread by word of mouth more than I could have ever imagined. In addition, social media resources like Instagram are something I have leveraged from day one, despite the unfortunate side effects such as algorithms, comparison, and theft of art / ideas. I would love to see more collaboration between women business owners for critique sessions, strategy sharing, and creation. It’s easy to feel lonely and get caught up in your day to day business tasks, so the relationships that you form with others are vital.

Photo by Anna Criswell

Photo by Anna Criswell

Tell us about the production process required to make a single product.

Each silk is laid out flat and arranged with natural materials such as flower petals, leaves, and fruits in a composition I admire. From there, I begin to roll the scarf up gripping two adjacent corners and pulling the materials with it. When the silk is fully rolled, I wrap it tightly with a piece of twine and tie it into a knot. The silks are then steamed for about 2 hours to extract the color from the natural materials and are left to sit for three to five days to dry completely. Once dry, the dyes are color-fast and hand-washable.

What is a good leader to you?

A close mentor once told me: ‘Rules without relationships leads to rebellion’. With that said, I believe a good leader is defined by the quality of the relationship they seek to have with you. They make themselves available, provide constructive criticism regarding your work, demonstrate kindness and empathy, tend to your career aspirations and growth, and provide an honest perspective on life itself. Ultimately, a good leader cares about YOU as a human being, and less about what they can gain from you.

What do you wish you knew before starting your own business?

I wish I would have known the importance of having an effective business plan mapped out. Typically, I have a ‘yes’ mentality, therefore balancing a side hustle, a full-time job, and a heart that enjoys spending time with friends and family has been difficult. Sacrifices are made daily to stay on top of my work and maintain emotional, mental, and physical health. Nevertheless, I am extremely grateful to have grown as much as I have in the past year, but I didn’t plan accordingly which makes me feel like I’m treading water some days. If you are sincerely investing your heart into your side hustle, be positive and plan on growing

Photo by Sam Sing

Photo by Sam Sing

Would you like to meet Kylee in-person? Come out to craftHER Market on April 14, 2019 at Fair Market and stop by her booth. Click here to learn more.