Artists ~ Joanna Read Cotter ~ Providence

Artist’s name: Joanna Read Cotter
Shop name: Joy in My Studio
Twitter: @joyinmystudio
Other – [art portfolio]

1. Tell us about your work
I create hand-painted silk scarves and neckties. The process is just as important to me as the end result –it’s truly a moving meditation. I start with white silk, and everything I make is created with nontoxic materials and painted freehand, without stencils or tracing -though occasionally I’ll carve my own stamps and use those.

I recently created a scarf with a GoPro camera mounted to my head and made a 2-part time-lapse video to walk my viewers through the process of how a scarf gets created from start to finish – including all of the work that goes into each piece after the painting is complete. I did this to allow my audience gain a better understanding of how each piece is a unique work of art, and to show them the love and care that goes into the process. You can view it here.

I’ve also posted some process photos and studio shots on my etsy page which you can view on my about page.

2. How did you come to be a professional artist/crafter/designer?
It all started when I was invited to tour the studio of acclaimed silk painter Judith Goetemann, who I had come to know through my work at the Rockport Art Association. One day I ventured over to visit her harbor front gallery, and she asked if I would like to take a peek at her upstairs studio. Climbing the stairs to see hundreds of vibrant, neatly stacked swatches of silk, various sketches and notes pinned caringly to her worktable, with shiny glass jars of dye lining the shelves --- it made my heart flutter, and, seeing how awe-struck I was with this behind-the-scenes glimpse into her work, she recommended a company based in CA, Dharma Trading, where I could get started. I ordered a beginner’s silk painting kit from them soon after.

Having worked throughout art school primarily in black and white, I was immediately drawn to the vibrancy of colors in silk painting, and the mesmerizing way that the dyes could spread and travel throughout the fabric as if having a life of their own. The first moment my brush made contact with the shimmering silk awakened something in my soul, and following that day I set to work reading and learning as much as I could about this magical, somewhat mysterious medium.

I’ll admit that a LOT of sweat and tears went into the learning process. There are a fair amount of technicalities involved in silk painting, both in the actual application of dye as well as in making the dye permanently bond with the silk fibers, and I determinedly struggled my way through learning it all. In 2010 I started a blog,, documenting many of my processes and learning experiences, in hopes that it might help others.

Since then, I’ve exhibited in many local shows, and currently sell primarily via my online shop and through custom orders. Arrangements for studio visits can also be made on occasion.

3. Where do you draw your inspiration?
My work draws from nature and the subconscious. I’m greatly inspired by surrounding myself in nature, and make it a priority to spend some time appreciating it each day. I have a very active imagination, am fascinated by dreams, and strongly believe in the power of color to promote healing by evoking particular moods and feelings.

4. What’s your favorite item to create?
That’s a great question! I enjoy the balance of different techniques. Some methods, like Serti, require one-pointed concentration with a very meticulous and steady hand, as well as a great deal of patience in waiting for the resist to dry completely (otherwise the resist lines get “flooded” and the image is lost). Other methods, such as soy wax batik, require fluidity and swift, intuitive, confidently placed brushstrokes. I find these different processes complement each other well and they’re both very therapeutic.

5. What’s your best seller?
I’ve been selling quite a few galaxy-inspired scarves lately, and I had a number of customers purchase galaxy neckties this year for prom and even for groomsmen gifts! I’ll be introducing a new line of skinny ties this summer, and I’m curious to see how they’ll do.

6. How long have you been in Rhode Island?
I moved to the area in 2009 and have been working in Rhode Island ever since. I live right across the border in Rehoboth, MA with my husband and three kitties.

7. What do you {heart} about Rhode Island? 
I love the communal feel of Rhode Island - we’re all so closely connected to each other here versus those of us living in larger cities. There are so many amazing nonprofits, advocacy groups, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and festivals here in Rhode Island and so many opportunities to become more involved in the community. I’ve been building quite an incredible creative/entrepreneurial network through the PVD Lady Project over the past year, and I’m very excited to tour different parts of the state this summer to see, eat, and experience all that Little Rhody has to offer!

8. Please include anything else you’d like to add:
I’m also a mixed media artist! I combine silk painting with pen & ink, wax, and solvent-free oil paints to create semi-realistic paintings primarily of animals I find fascinating. You can view some of my paintings here.

From a fashion standpoint, I’ve found that scarves have been a simple and elegant complement to my low-maintenance lifestyle – and I love that there are so many possibilities for how to style them! My closet pretty much consists of a handful of wrinkle-resistant neutrals that set a blank canvas for my scarves for my corporate day job, and I play more with patterns and texture combinations on the weekends. This makes getting dressed in the morning a total breeze… though I’ll admit there are times when I have a really difficult time deciding on which scarf to wear!

Also, I’m very grateful for the studio space I have now – but I do dream of one day having my own detached studio filled with natural light – with adequate workspace, a small showroom/gallery area, a loft for teaching art and yoga classes, and an outdoor garden filled with flowers, organic fruits, veggies and herbs, and a couple of beehives. Maybe even beautifully landscaped koi pond, too ☺ I like to dream big!


  1. Thanks so much for the feature! :) This is great ---thank you!! :)

    1. You're welcome! We love featuring local artists whose work we enjoy. We wish you much success, and look forward to getting a scarf or two for gifts. :)


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