When Anna Champagne was growing up in Connecticut, her mother taught her how to knit, embroider and crotchet. Soon the little girl was strolling around her neighborhood selling small pieces of beaded jewelry. When she was 14, Champagne had her first craft show, and she's never looked back.
Today, Champagne designs and produces wearable scarves through her one-woman business, A Path of Beauty. And recently, she branched out to create custom window treatments, throws and other fabrics for the home.
Champagne has two lines, Charmeuse and Jacquard. Both feature her signature look, a vibrant color on one end rippling its way across the piece, lightening or deepening in shade until it transforms completely and emerges a completely different color on the other end. Soft and luxurious to the touch, the silks are splashes of turquoise, magenta, coral, amber and butter yellow. For Champagne, the vivid colors are not just pleasing to the eye; they play a psychological role.
"It all comes down to vibrational healing," says the artist. "Beauty is a vibration. Color is a vibration, and pure colors are higher vibrations. You can feel that. It's very tangible. When you connect with the healing in silks, we can hold our head high, breathe deeply and feel the peace and joy in our life." That's not the way most commercial artists talk, but Champagne has always looked for holistic ways to live her life and whenever possible, fuse together her interests in healing and art.
When she was 16, she took a two-week weaving course, then put together a floor loom and continued independent study. She also studied subjects from printmaking to professional framing. Years later, armed with a bachelor of fine arts from Boston University, Champagne began to combine dyeing with weaving, and almost immediately began doing high-end craft shows in Boston and San Francisco and showing her work in galleries in New York City and Carmel, Calif.
When she sustained a wrist injury, Champagne began to explore acupuncture, dietary changes and other holistic approaches to health. Also around that time, she became pregnant, and she and her husband moved to a house in the woods in New Hampshire. Maybe because there was no television, she jokes, she began to study mind, body and spirit balance, and transformational breathing (of which she has become a facilitator and trainer). Even as she continued making silks, she attended shows such as the New Life Expo and the Whole Life Expo.
"I was ravenous for all that healing stuff," she says.
After an amicable divorce, she moved into a 200-year-old house in New Hampshire from which she continued to work. A severe attack of pneumonia convinced her to move south, and she chose Sarasota for its warmth, artistic opportunities and large healing community. Here, she works out of a studio in her garage, where she has set up wooden frames across which she stretches her silks. She mixes her dyes from scratch here, and over 10 years, has become an expert on gradations. Dyeing the silks is a painstaking process, because she paints the different shades on while wet, and works horizontally and vertically at once. "It is a dance to paint them," she says.
Her silks are not the only beautiful things in the house. Outside are pots of roses that Champagne is teaching herself to grow in a climate that differs radically from New England's. She keeps fresh flowers on her dining table, mixes antiques with ordinary chain-store pieces, and sets out handmade floral plates and hand-embroidered napkins for a midmorning snack. It's all part of her philosophy about how beauty should be integrated into everyday life-her children are allowed to wear her scarves even when on a hike-to impart peace and joy to the beholder.
"This is all the path of beauty," she says. "And everyone responds to beauty. Beauty is not frivolous; it is essential."
Anna Champagne Silks start at $110 for a silk scarf. You can reach Champagne at (941) 342-7336 or at www.apathofbeauty.com.