Stroll along Beach Boulevard on a Tuesday morning and you'll likely pass by Jill Kalber's table and tent featuring one-of-a-kind scarves during the Gulfport Fresh Market. Behind the set up and vibrantly colored fabrics is a story of a woman who perfected a craft after falling victim to the ailing economy.
Three years ago, Jill Kalber was laid off from the Tampa Bay Times. She played a vital management role in the company, overseeing a team of 16. The lay off was hard for Kalber, but she trekked on.
Prior to her career at the newspaper, she worked on a cruise ship. With her time at sea, Kalber was able to travel the world. One destination from her travels still sticks out to Kalber. She was just outside of Russia when she purchased her first hand painted, silk scarf.
“I paid twenty bucks for it, got all the way home and thought, ‘I should have bought more than one,’” said Kalber.
Kalber had so much interest in the scarf that she began researching the process of its creation. She researched silk painting and studied the different methods. Eventually, Kalber attempted to make her own hand painted, silk scarves.
“I liked it so much that I taught myself and I’ve been painting ever since,” said Kalber.
Kalber uses three different styles of silk painting:
Brush is a technique that originated in China. The brush is similar to a watercolor brush in the U.S. The tip is fine so that a wide variety of objects can be achieved.
Serti is a French style of painting. Since there is more labor involved, it is considered to be a more intermediate or advanced form of silk painting. The design is drawn onto the silk prior to painting.
Heliographic is a style that uses natural elements to create a unique design. The sun is the main ingredient, but aside from that there can be no wind whatsoever. Due to this limitation, heliographic painted silk is more rare and requires a larger amount of time and effort.
Kalber expanded the silk painted products from just scarves to wall hangings and table runners. Now, Kalber’s silk paintings are her livelihood. She said that the method is relaxing and helped her cope with the stress of losing her job.
“When I got laid off, I started painting for therapy” said Kalber. “It calms me down.”
She sets up shop at a number of locations to sell her silk products. From Tuesdays at the Gulfport Fresh Market to the Saturday Morning Market in downtown St. Pete, Kalber is always looking for new customers.