About SoLace Studios Fine Handcrafts, Virginia Artists and Unique Gifts
Owner/artist Barb Polin has been designing clothing since 1966 focusing on intricate marbling patterns on silk, leather and paper since 1990. In 2000, SoLace Studios moved into its current location in Elkton, Virginia, originally housing The Kite Drug Co. This space became the workspace and showroom for the original marbled silk, leather and paper designs of fiber artist Barb Polin.
At the heart of the community in 1922, the Kite Drug Company served as a pharmacy and doctors’ office. Today, the 1920’s brick building has been restored to as close to original as possible, revealing the tin ceilings and plaster walls that were hidden by paneling and a drop ceiling.
Today SoLace Studios not only boasts the fine marbling of owner/artist Barb Polin, but the unique, fine handcrafts of over 250 regional and national artists. Winning numerous local and national awards including Best Gift Shop in the Shenandoah Valley in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 by Virginia Living Magazine readers.
The shop is located in Elkton, Virginia, where you can enjoy a Shenandoah Valley small town setting surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. We are about 5 miles west of Shenandoah National Park and the Swift Run Gap entrance of Skyline Drive, 5 miles east of Massanutten Four Season Resort off of Virginia Rt 33 and 15 miles east of Harrisonburg, Virginia home of James Madison University, Eastern Mennonite University and Bridgewater College. Minutes from the Shenandoah River and within reach of world-class cycling, hiking, paddling and fishing. Come visit!
About The Artist
For Barbara Polin, it started in 1991 with a gift for a friend, a piece of lingerie she designed with some pieces of handmade vintage lace. Then she created a few more pieces of lingerie. Her friends asked to purchase the lingerie designs, so she created more. Then she began calling what she did a business, SoLace because she was sewing lace.
In the meantime while working full-time for a local printing company, Polin was dabbling with another artform, marbling. Now marbling silk and leather, sewing and selling the finished creations has become a full-time job. Polin, of Penn Laird, Virginia, has hit that lovely balance between art and fashion with her beautiful “artwear.” She also makes a full line of marbled accessories in silk and leather for men and women. All in sweeping chevrons of blues, aquas and maroons. Swooshing bouquets of reds, yellows and lilacs.Waving sunsets of purples, oranges and pinks.
Marbling is an extraordinary, ancient way of printing typically performed on paper. You may have seen it on end sheets of old hard cover books. When Polin became interested marbling, she took a class. But that didn’t teach her everything she wanted to know. Marbling is an art. And as an art, Polin had to learn more, practice, fail, get better and finally master it.
“It was trial and error, trial and error,” she says “Sometimes it just didn’t look good at all.”
Some of the variables that make a huge difference in the finished product, Polin discovered, are the ink and water temperatures and the amount of surfactant she mixes with the ink. She was determined. After months of experimenting, Polin settled on mediums, inks, materials and tools. She fills a four-by-eight foot tray with water and carrageenan, a binder that gels the water. Next, she floats inks on the top of the gelatinous mixture. A comblike tool is then pulled through the surface of the ink creating the marbled design. A tray-sized piece of silk or leather is then laid on the surface for just a moment. Once the fabric touches the ink, the ink is on the fabric or leather.
The marbled fabric in then rinsed in water and hung outside on a clothesline to dry. Blessed with the ability to sew, she’s been making her own clothing since age 10. Polin fashions her marbled silk and chiffon pieces into dresses, skirts, jackets, vests, shirts and blouses that flatter women’s bodies. She also creates vest, shirts and neckwear for men from the marbled silk.
Polin believes in supporting cottage industry so she partners with ladies who sew at home. This allows her to “play with fabrics,” observing how they hang on different body types. She can change seams, cut hems or change patterns until the article is just right. Her clothing designs are always evolving.
“My clothes evolve out of wanting to be,” she says.
Along with finished products, Polin also sells her marbled fabrics by the piece. “Quilters love it,” she says. She custom marbles pieces of fabric in specified colors and designs, and also takes orders for clothing in the size and style customers want.