Visually Speaking: Welcome Susan Corbin Designs

Anna Horsnell

Before paper or canvas, there was painting on silk. Different from other paints which adhere to the surface, silk allows dye to flow into the fibre and bond with the proteins, becoming a part of the silk thread itself. Dye also does different things on silk than on other fibres such as cotton. All of this is intoxicating stuff for someone like textile artist Susan Corbin, who loves to play with colour.

Corbin designs and creates clothing with hand-painted and printed silk. “I dye silk with various shibori methods (ways of resisting dye by folding, tying etc.). I paint with silk paints, and lately I also block print on the silk, which has a similar look to screen printing. Sometimes I use more than one method on a piece. For example, the piece may be dyed first, then painted or printed.”

A Halifax native, Corbin’s interest in art naturally drew her to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. “I enrolled in three evening classes: pottery, batik, and backstrap weaving. I was pretty keen on pottery and the other two I thought would be interesting. Well, it turned out I was no good at pottery at all. I enjoyed batik, but I was smitten by weaving. Four years later I finished my degree with a major in weaving and textiles, and thus began a 30+ year creative life. Since then I’ve been through many creative phases, creating woven silk jewellery, painted paper jewellery, painted paper collage art, and now finally back to dyeing and painting fabric, mostly silk.”

After time spent living in England and on Canada’s West Coast, Corbin returned to Halifax where she sold her creations at the Seaport Market and to cruise ship passengers for many years. Most recently she has moved to Millville, outside of Aylesford, and has happily become part of the local creative community which she describes as very welcoming.

Just as the word seems to slide off the tongue, silk brings to mind luxury, a light, smooth and delicate elegance. In fact, silk is the strongest natural fibre available, with good insulation properties (warm in winter, cool in summer), silk is highly breathable, and highly absorbent. Chemically similar to our own skin, silk is a natural protein fibre produced by moth caterpillars to form their cocoons, meaning it makes naturally light and comfortable clothing. The shimmering appearance of silk is also a natural trait created by the triangular prism-like structure of the silk fibre which allows the cloth to refract light at different angles. All qualities that wear well as clothing for everyday in addition to special occasions.

Corbin’s scarves and lovely loose-fitting tops are stand-outs in rich and vibrant colours. “Colour makes me feel good,” she smiles, “I have a long history of creating things. I’m very practical-minded and I like to make things. I especially love to design. I love colour and pattern and I love to see people get pleasure from enjoying and wearing (my creations).”

What’s next? “I love to experiment and innovate,” Corbin answers, ”It’s like being a cook, but changing the recipe.” Certainly, she will continue designing and making clothing, but she also has plans for wall and window hangings, silk for interiors. She’d also like to design the perfect summer dress. Stay tuned.

Corbin’s Designs may be found at Jon Wayne’s Big Red Barn located at 908 Highway 360 (North of Berwick, Exit 15 on 101 Highway) where she’s preparing for the large Christmas Market on Saturday, November 14, and online at or by email