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Artist eager to share enthusiasm for silk painting with Ballet Wichita runners

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Sunday, June 15, 2014, at 8:07 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, June 15, 2014, at 8:27 a.m.

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Julie Cox Hamm has been drawing and painting people since she was a young girl.

With a professional background in graphic design and illustration, exemplifying creative ideas has always been second nature for her. When she took her first silk-painting class in 1988, though, she found a niche that would later gain her national recognition.

“The first time I painted on silk, it was like my whole world changed,” she said. “I loved the color and the feel of it. Before then, my art had always been colored pencil on paper. It was very realistic and refined, and it was not very deep color-wise. When I started painting on silk, I was using all my drawing skills, my knowledge of color mixing. The colors are so intense and brilliant.”

Participants in the Ballet Wichita 5K Art Run will have a chance to try out this unique form of creativity themselves on Saturday when Hamm guides them through a silk-painting experience after the race. Participating in the event is a full-circle moment for Hamm, because she was born and raised in Wichita. In fact, Barbara Chamberlin, executive director of Ballet Wichita and one of the key organizers of the race, has known Hamm since they were both 5.

Though she now lives in small city east of Dallas, Hamm said Wichita helped shape her as an artist.

“I took my first painting classes at the Wichita Art Museum. I know how strong the arts are there,” she said. “There are so many good artists in Wichita and a lot of supporting of the arts. It makes me proud to be part of a community effort and to be able to express through my own art form. It’s an honor for me to be able to share this.”

Hamm started her career as a fashion illustrator after earning her bacher of fine arts degree in graphic communications from the University of Kansas. She worked for a top fashion store in Wichita before moving to Dallas in 1980, where she did graphic design and advertising for corporate and fashion clients for 25 years. After retiring, she built what she calls her dream studio in 2006 and has been doing her own silk work full time ever since. She produces one-of-a-kind garments, scarves, handbags and other articles of clothing from original and printed fabric and sells them in galleries and stores across the country.

Her work has garnered recognition and even prime-time fame. The Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., displayed her silk orchid painting as part of its “Orchid Express” exhibit in 2005. In 2008, Hamm and fashion designer Abi Ferrin collaborated to paint more than 200 yards of fabric for samples to be shown on New York runways. Their pieces were included in the spring collections of 2009 and 2010. Actress Vanessa Williams wore one of the garments from Hamm’s printed fabric collection on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” in 2011.

Hamm wants to give runners a unique experience.

“It will be fun for them to try something completely new since most people probably haven’t painted on silk dyes,” Hamm said. “I want people to have as much fun painting with silk as I do. It’s enjoyable; it’s instant gratification, too, because you get the color reaction right away. It’s a process that is so unique.”

Find out more about Hamm’s work at www.juliartsilks.com.

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