Member Highlight October 2022

This month we meet Erica Tiliacos
(by Joy Davenport)

Erica Tiliacos was born in Mexico City, Mexico to an American mother and a Danish father. Her paternal grandfather was a Danish diplomat in Mexico, which is what took her father’s family there; it is also where her mother met her father when she went from the U.S. one summer to study Spanish.

The eldest of five children, Erica spent most of her childhood in Mexico, with occasional visits to her maternal grandparents in California. Her grandmother was an excellent seamstress, as was her mother, and Erica learned to sew while growing up in Mexico. With her ability to sew, Erica realised that she could create whatever she wanted to wear. This led her to expand her designs beyond her own wardrobe, and she became hooked on art and design. She began drawing portraits in high school, and quickly won recognition for her artistic talent.

At age 17, Erica went to Thailand as an exchange student, and through a fortunate turn of events, she met a member of her host family who happened to be a Japanese custom clothing designer. After Erica’s exchange program school year ended, the woman gifted Erica admission to her pattern-drafting course, mentored her, and took her along when buying textiles.
On her return to the US, Erica got her AA degree at a local community college and transferred to UC Berkley as an art major, but fate intervened, and with help and encouragement from her maternal grandmother, Erica transferred to LA to study at The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

She had wanted to go back to her home country for some time and landed the opportunity after design school. She worked as a clothing designer in Mexico for eight years, where she met her husband, Nicholask. In the late 1980s they decided to move to New York, and Erica continued to work for the Mexican company from her home. She travelled back and forth from New York to Mexico until she was offered a job by one of her company’s suppliers that took her to the garment district in NYC, where her career shifted from clothing design to textile printing and development. When her husband accepted a job that took them to Seattle, she continued to work for her NYC design firm, again designing from home.

In Washington, Erica and her husband lived on a large property that was part of a wildlife corridor with wooded lands and wetlands at the bottom of the hill. It all became impacted by a large structure behind them with water drainage issues. This catapulted her into extensive research on local environmental policy studies, which led her to being appointed to the Sammamish City Planning Commission, and later involvement in two environmental organizations.

Because of Erica’s passion for nature, she completed a course in native plant studies and led a habitat restoration project for the city, which resulted in a community garden and a restored forest area. She is proud to have also played a role in changes in city policy with monitoring and protection of the wetlands and wildlife in the area. She continued her volunteer work in the state of Washington until her move to Portugal in October 2016.

Since moving here, Erica has renovated their home on the island of Rhodes in Greece. She’s working on becoming proficient in Portuguese and is fluent in Spanish and English. She also studied Thai while in Thailand. Her husband still works as an executive consultant, and they have an adult son who lives in California.

Erica loves the history, beauty, and societal aspects of Portugal. She is impressed with how the Portuguese have so many cultural amenities that are available to everyone. “I love a society that has built monuments to poets!” She enjoys the social aspect of the IWP and looks forward to meeting new friends and is seeking ways to get more involved in the community.