The nature of Rory Worby’s designs

The Pound Ridge artist designs hand-painted silk scarves that call attention to nature’s majesty.

Breathtaking sunsets conjure many feelings, not the least of which is a longing, perhaps, for the ever-receding horizon, or the memory of the sun’s warmth caressing your skin.

Rory Worby wanted to recreate the palette and emotions of sunset. So she decided to capture it on hand-painted, silk scarves.

Worby’s designs — which are featured at Katie Fong in Greenwich, The Horse Connection in Bedford Village and, come August, The Store at MAD (the Museum of Arts and Design) in Manhattan — are handmade in her Pound Ridge home studio. There’s no middle man or assistant. It’s just Worby, in sync with some of her favorite tunes and expressing herself through line and color.

A selection of Worby’s hand-painted scarves. Photograph by Elijah Riess.

“I find that I get into a zone,” she says. “It allows me to escape and the time goes by. It’s incredible. I find that I can be painting for hours and hours and not even realize what time it is.”

A board firmly holds (and stretches) her fabric in place, while paint-filled mason jars sit to her left. She meticulously draws scenes onto her fabrics — from flowers and plants to animals and abstractions — using a fabric pen before she selects her paints. She gently washes and rewashes each piece, followed by a steaming process, to ensure the dyes are set.

And she adores each phase.

“Everybody says I’ve just looked so much happier,” she says. “I think it shows.”

Worby’s studio overlooks her perennial garden, which is filled with peonies, lilacs, tulips, irises, hydrangeas and roses in the soft seasons. In the winter, the once flourishing flower beds become blanketed in white, inspiring her in a different way. 

On this particular spring day, soft, indie music fills the air. On other days, she says, the music might be upbeat pop or it may be classical. (She’s a music lover, along with husband, Joshua Worby, the executive and artistic director of the Westchester Philharmonic.) 

Her studio is somewhat of a creative haven, a sanctuary of sorts, for Worby.

Next to her workspace is a delicate display of scarves, varying in texture, palette and fit. Some are intended to be worn as bandanas, while others are wraps. Next to this is a selection of kimonos and tunics, pillows and even custom work, which is an area of the business that she is growing. (She also creates one-of-a-kind items for charity events to benefit Cystic Fibrosis’ Rose to Runway, ArtsWestchester and the Greenwich Riding & Trails Association.)

Worby has been designing accessories for a year, but she’s no novice to fashion or art. Having attended the Art Institute of Boston, she worked in fashion for some 25 years in roles that involved textile development, research and merchandising. Her first job after college was, ironically, hand-painting T-shirts and jackets and up through 2016 she continued to work for a private label. 

But she felt that something needed to change.

“I really needed to get back to being creative,” she says. “Then it just started flowing.”

She returned to painting fabric, a preference, and her designs quickly became noticed for their bold personality. (One of her scarves bears a fiery, sharp-toothed tiger, while one of her pillows boasts sassy, fuchsia, puckered lips.) Within a year of creating, she was nominated as a finalist for the Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award. 

“When I would commute to New York, I would be looking at my watch the whole time. It’s freedom,” she says about her business now. “It allows me to be free and creative.”

WAG couldn’t help but notice the scarf draped around Worby’s neck. Adorned with complementary shades of blue and orange, the accessory appeared to resemble a summer sky during sundown. Worby explained that it was inspired by a Hamptons sunset, and she used sea salt to manipulate the dyes to create a wavelike texture. 

She found a way to preserve the sunset.

“A lot of my inspiration is from nature,” she says. “Either I’m looking at it or I’m referring to it.”  

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