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Meet Scottie Kersta-Wilson of ImageDiary in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Scottie Kersta-Wilson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I first picked up a camera in 19[mumble] after a breakup with a boyfriend; the camera proved far more reliable. I still remember the first black and white print I developed in my first photo class at Houston’s Rice University – I was hooked – on all of it – mostly the picture taking, but also the development process – looking at the contact sheet and selecting specific images to print, getting my hands into the chemicals – all of it.

It became such a part of me that I decided to go to the University of Houston, where I had first graduated with a BA in Sociology, to see if I in fact could go anywhere with my art – did I have talent, vision, perseverance? I gave myself five years to get through the photography program and then determine if I had what it took.

I worked full-time, but managed my schedule so that I could also go to school full time. Almost immediately I got hooked on putting my images into a computer and adding to text to build a story. I was lucky to study with two artists who were at the forefront of the digital movement and who mentored me. At the end of the time I set myself, five years, I knew I had to be an artist and continue, so I came to Chicago to obtain an MFA at UIC. My goal was to stay here three years, and that was 25 years ago.

I guess now it’s time to talk about my story: I am an Army brat; my father was career military and was killed in action in Vietnam in 1967. His father survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines and three years in a POW camp. All of my cousins on that side of the family served and still serve in the military. My story revolves around my relationship with war and the unintentional consequences that stem from conflict. From a family in the turbulent 60s who lost their dad in an unpopular war to the unsullied beauty the DMZ in Korea has become since there’s no humans to destroy it. From my relationship with the Greatest Generation in the Pacific conflict to the soldiers still serving today.

I don’t seek to say that war/conflict is bad or good (obviously, I clearly think it’s bad), but to look at the fact that regardless, it continues. Only by telling stories can I bear witness.

As I got more involved in my storytelling, I moved from traditional photo paper to watercolor paper. This progression felt natural and for me felt like I was getting closer to the art materials used in Southeast Asia. The move to printing my stories on silk was the next step; scarves seemed a way for viewers to carry the story with them as well as wear the art. Each scarf has a unique story and is a unique image; they are each limited to 15 pieces. I feel strongly about giving back to the Veteran community and I do this by giving a portion of each scarf/image sale to two veteran groups.

Since this past spring, I have experimented with putting the silk pieces on canvas in order to give them a chance at a “new life”.

I’m incredibly lucky to be able to share my art and stories; Chicago is a wonderful place for the arts and for the community that supports it.

Has it been a smooth road?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a “smooth road” – what would be the challenge in that [eye roll]]? My biggest challenge is knowing that I deserve to make the time to make art, even while I attempt to balance that with a rent-paying job – because my husband and I must eat and have a roof over our heads and buy cat food for our two kitties.

Another struggle has been marketing myself; I’m a natural introvert. That’s where my community helps me out. I know artists from grad school who have introduced me to new artists; I’ve met a lot of creative people through a fashion mentoring group I’ve been involved with for about four years – FashionBrainAcademy – the people I’ve met are generous and giving of their time and expertise – just what you want as an introverted artist.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the ImageDiary story. Tell us more about the business.
ImageDiary designs one-of-a-kind and limited-edition silk scarves from photographic images and collages that touch on travels, war, and nature’s unintentional consequences. Rather than using repeated prints, each piece is a complete composition, possessing a distinct narrative. Each scarf is a piece of fine art and comes with its story.

I think that what sets me apart is the story that each scarf tells; while it is my personal story, it also reflects on society as I see it – for example, in Helo Girl, a young girl spins a hula-hoop while the blades of a helicopter mimic the hoop’s circle. In Cinnabar, a Vietnamese soldier holds his young children – it’s always the children who suffer no matter what side of a conflict you’re on.

Contrary to what the words, war, story, unintended consequences, may bring to mind, the images are my attempt show the beauty of life – in all its imperfection.

Every scarf is a piece of fine art and a percentage of the proceeds goes to the non-profit Veterans groups, The Telling Project, and the National Veterans Art Museum.

I am most proud of my persistence; I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and completing action after action. I’m thrilled to have been a part of the National Veterans Art Museum programming the last several years. And, I’m excited anytime any client has let me that their scarf art arrived and what it means to them when they actually see it and touch it.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I don’t feel qualified to speak for an industry as a whole. I do see the desire for beautiful wearable art that is limited in number, tells a story, and doesn’t have the feel or look of “fast fashion.” I think that exquisite construction, fabric, and image will continue to drive any story fabric I create.


  • $185-$250 depending on size
  • Free shipping

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Melissa Morley, photographer

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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