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In Hot Water – Awkward Mess to Costume Cool

in hot water

In early 2017, I designed In Hot Water for the sixth annual wearable art competition sponsored by the Museum of Art in Deland, FL.  It was one of three entries I had in the show, one of many “best of times, worst of times” I’ve had in my life.  The show itself was fun and exciting. Unfortunately, it was also pretty embarrassing!  Read all about the experience in my blog Wearable Art – My First Juried Competition.

The most noteworthy thing about the experience was that none of my three designs were complete when they hit the runway.  Too much on my plate, too little time.  Consequently, the show was one of my most cringe-worthy experiences!

Right after the show, I started to work redesigning In Hot Water.  I think I went with this one because it was my favorite of the three designs. It’s whimsical, bright, and colorful, and just quirky enough. In my mind, the tea cup skirt and the tea bag top are the most important features of the design.  They were also the most challenging to put together.  For both of those reasons, I’d like to share a bit of the redesign and construction process with you now!

Tea Cup and Saucer

The oversized tea cup skirt tilts as the model walks, and a bit of fabric “tea” spills over the edge.  My original plan was to create a soft sculpture cup and saucer, embellished with applique and embroidery.  Unfortunately, soft sculpture didn’t provide enough structure to keep the saucer up!  As a result, the redesign included a wire infrastructure for flexibility and support.

Once the infrastructure was in place, I stitched the pieces together at the top (cup) and outside edge (saucer), right sides facing.  After turning them right side out, I stitched cup and saucer together, adding a stretchy inner skirt.  The inner skirt allows for sizing flexibility and comfort.   I used mercerized cotton for the cup and saucer, and power net for the inner skirt.

Tea Bag

My next step was to redesign the tea bag top.  The original was too heavy, too opaque, and not “tea baggy” enough.  I decided to create a stand alone tea bag with ribbon straps.  Bare in the back, but still a bit covered in front. I used silk organza for the top and the tea leaves. (The first photo below is my muslin practice piece.) I hand dyed the organza to achieve just the right leaf colors. Next, I cut them into leaf shapes.  I placed a layer of leaves in a strategic manner, then layered a few more here and there.  White organza created a tea bag sandwich for the leaves.

I inserted a few ribbon loops to the sides of the tea bag, and stitched ribbon ties to the sides and neck.  A decorative satin cord string and card stock tag complete the top.  I love how it turned out!

Completing In Hot Water

I completed the look with a sly nod to Mad Hatter style, adding a shrunken jacket, jaunty top hat, and ankle boots with spats.

I purchased all of my fabrics for this design from Dharma Trading.  They offer great quality at reasonable prices, and provide wonderful customer service.  I wish they had an affiliate program!  All of the fabrics were hand dyed to get just the right color, except for the white vinyl I used for the spats.  I have so much fun dyeing fabric!

I hope you enjoyed this little walk through my construction process.  Let me know if you would like me to develop a pattern for In Hot Water!

 

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Wearable Art – Going Down the Rabbit Hole

wearable art

Call it awkward, call it uncomfortable, call it a learning experience.  My first adventure into the world of wearable art competitions was all of these, and more.  It was exciting, new, and pretty embarrassing.  In the end, I came away with a better understanding of myself and what I need to do before getting into another show like this one.  I also know what I want to do when I grow up – make wearable art.  Before I get into the story, I’d like to share a  definition of wearable art.

What is Wearable Art?

Individual, often extremely personal, and generally conforming to no unifying aesthetic criteria, wearable art is by its very nature difficult to define. It could be called artwork for the body, but this does not acknowledge its complex relationship to the art world, the fashion world, and the world of craft. It is separate from mainstream fashion, yet remains related to it. Although it takes varied forms— sculptural or flat—and employs diverse techniques such as knitting, leather tooling, weaving, dyeing, and sewing, it shares a spirit of fantasy, craftsmanship, and commitment to personal vision.  Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion COPYRIGHT 2005 The Gale Group, Inc.

The Adventure Begins

Back in November 2016, my daughter-in-law (and love) forwarded me a call for artists for a wearable art juried exhibition put on by the Museum of Art (MOA) Deland.  Her message?  “I think you should do this, momma.”  We had talked about the show the year before, but found out about the competition too late.  This time, I decided to go for it!

The theme for the exhibition was “Surreality – From Dali to Deland.”  I have to tell you, the theme itself was a bit intimidating.  I didn’t see myself as a surrealist by any means, but I knew I could come up with some good designs if I let go and went with the flow.

Now, I have never been in a wearable art competition or anything like it, but I didn’t see any real problems.  I’m an experienced designer, pattern maker, and seamstress. I’m creative, love to experiment and learn new techniques, and I’m a hard worker.  No worries.  I was excited, I was prepared, and I was ready to go! At least that’s what I thought.

The Process

Step 1? Get those designs going! I researched surreal art, thought outside my normal box, and bounced ideas off family and friends.  I came up with three designs that I thought were kind of out there, and got to work on the application.  Here are my designs:

I think in the back of my mind I expected ONE to get in.  Imagine my surprise and excitement when all three were accepted! I was a little nervous, but mostly just kind of thrilled.  I was going to have the opportunity of a lifetime.  A chance to go kind of crazy, create some fabulous pieces, and find fame and fortune as an artist!  I look back on it now, and realize that was just nuts.  I would have only 25 days to plan, gather supplies, develop patterns, and figure out how the heck I was going to bring the designs to life.  Broken down, that meant 8.33 days for each piece. What, me worry?  No way.  I dove right in.

Long Story Short(er)

I had so much fun working on these three pieces, right up to the time I realized I couldn’t possibly finish them in time. I hand dyed fabrics, designed appliques, and made glittery polymer clay fish scales.  The closer I got to show time, the harder I worked.  The more I accepted help from my amazing sweetheart Ray, our moms Mim and Joyce, and my dear friend Joyce.  I’m pretty sure by the end of week two, they were all having second thoughts about my chances of success, but they hid them well.  I was mission focused, and would not admit defeat.  A few of us even pulled an all nighter the night before the exhibition.  For whatever reason, I still thought I could pull it off.

Problem was, none of the pieces were anywhere near finished.  Here are a few pics of the night before the show.

As I recall, these pics were taken around 2am.  I’m working on the teacup skirt, trying to figure out how to stabilize it.  Mim is pitching in to help with some sewing. Ray was taking pics, and helping in any way he could.  He even ran to Walmart at some point for more straight pins.

Show Time

By the next morning , the best I could say is that each of my models would have something to cover their bodies on the runway.  After about two hours of sleep and a minor breakdown on my part, we pulled it together and got ready to head to the show.  I have to admit I thought about backing out, but I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do.  Ray and I packed up the designs along with my sewing machine, tools, and supplies.  We set up shop in the green room, and I kept sewing.

We hit a few snags with model fittings, but our models were amazing.  They were extremely supportive and helpful, and they rocked their unfinished looks on the runway!

As I sat in the front row and watched my designs come down the runway, I wanted to crawl under my chair.  My greatest hope was that no one would know they were my designs.  I am so grateful for the wonderful friends and family in the audience who cheered me on, clapped for my pieces, and pretended I might have a shot at a prize.  They are so appreciated.  I love each and every one of them for being there, and for loving me enough to support me unconditionally.

Looking Back & Moving Forward

Would I ever do it again? You bet! All things considered, I really had an amazing time.  I loved the process, and the freedom to create something totally out of the box.  Every day for 25 days, I came to work energized, and excited to get to work.  Maybe I’ll be able to make wearable art my main focus at some point.

My plan is to continue designing and creating wearable art pieces.  If and when a show comes along, I hope to have one or more pieces in the works that I can tailor to fit the current theme.

By the way, I finished In Hot Water several months after the show.  Check out my blog post on that process! The costume itself is currently available in my Etsy shop, if you’re looking for something adorably different!

Finally, I’ve promised myself that I will finish Orchid Tree and Becoming by the end of 2018.  They might be a bit different than the original designs, but I am confident they will be all the better for the difference.