More stuff I’m doing these days. Part Two.
I had the opportunity to take a little side trip into fashion design.
I was asked to join with some other designers in town to make some grand finale pieces for our local bi-annual Artwear Fashion Show. The show is a huge event and receives over 300 entries from fashion designers all over the country, so it was an honor to be a part of the fun.
Several of us here in town were given the challenge to take stunning Kantha quilts made from East Indian cotton saris and remake them into wearable fashion. We divided up nearly 80 lightweight quilts between us, and then just went wild. No two fabrics are alike and the quilts are hand stitched together. The resolution on these photos are pretty bad, so it’s hard to see what they really look like—but these are a couple examples.
The challenge was that we were to use only one 6’x4’ quilt per garment, and to make the pieces fully reversible. (This is my little niece who did a quick model of my pieces before I handed them over to the show.)
We also had a scrap exchange and made bags, jewelry, baby clothes, and hats from our left over fabric pieces. These are a couple of my scrap projects.
All the money from the sale of these items sold in the gallery after the show went back to the women of India who are able to stay away from human trafficking by making these lovely quilts instead. We worked directly with the organization UCount to make this happen.
I spoke on a panel before the show about working with the quilts—as all the designers felt an affinity towards the women who made them.
I wrote the Indian women a letter which the UCount developers brought with them to India:
“Hello beautiful women of the quilts.
I think I can speak for the other designers on this project as to the honor and joy we felt while working with these unique and beautiful quilts that you made.
We are all enthusiastic makers and artists here in town, and we know and appreciate the work that goes into stitching these marvelous quilts together.
We also truly enjoyed the collaboration and imagination within each other’s company here in our town. New friendships were formed between us and there was much excitement, camaraderie and laughter!
Our designs are deliberately simple as we took the quilts into a wearable form—we felt that we did not want to detract from the beauty of the original quilts.
For me, I did only hand sewing on my pieces. Perhaps I went a little overboard with that, but I felt such a deep respect for the workmanship you have done, and I couldn’t bring myself to use a machine.
It was even emotionally difficult for me to pull out some of the stitches that had been made by your hands, in order to make some of my designs work. But I reused those pieces of embroidery threads and restitched my own embroidery designs back onto waistbands or pockets. I also used the pulled embroidery threads for multi-colored hair on an Art Doll that I made.
I love that you signed your pieces. It made them even more personal. So while I worked on your quilts, I thought of you, Ambiya, and Sahida and Ambia Mandal. My hands worked where your hands had worked, and I felt a far away partnership with you. Each garment felt like it was OUR garment, yours and mine.
I tried to picture you, even knowing that I could never imagine the lives you have lived and survived. But I hope there is laughter and camaraderie for you now, as your busy fingers sew alongside your sisters. I know how the needle and thread feels as it goes in and out through the layers of fabric. I know how the same cloth you touched feels in my hands and drapes over my knees.
I hope there is light in your hearts and hope in your worlds.
Thank you for the privilege of working together with you to make something beautiful into something wearable.”
The show and the finale were a huge success. The 25 quilt designs we ended up with were a huge splash of color on tall serious models striding under lights and pounding music. The sales gallery afterwards was like a feeding frenzy, and only very small items were priced under $300. Most of the garments and accessories we made were sold and we were able to send a sizable check to UCount.
This long open paneled vest was quite popular, and sold immediately. I have a few custom orders to make more. (And one for me!)
I also made an 18” art doll using polymer clay and then dressing her in some more of the scrap fabric. The doll was bought by the organizer of the event and never made it into the gallery.
This is now a new and fun polymer clay direction for me, and have a few more pieces that I will share on the next entry.
I love my new friendships with these wonderful and talented artists who live here in town. We were all so thrilled to find each other, and the camaraderie and support was so warm and exhilarating.
I experienced my first ever pangs of financial envy while getting to know some of these artists. I truly love my little bohemian life. I grew up in a household with just enough. We were rich in music, art and love—-and learned from a young age to find or make something wonderful from nothing. Life has always felt full and I never really needed or cared for much over-the-top material success. People with prestige, cars, houses, jewels and the “right” zip code have never impressed me to the point of envy. I care more about someone’s art and soul. But to find people with art, soul AND money? THAT was a brand new encounter for me. I chatted with these incredible, intuitive, real-deal artist women in their treasure-filled spaces and felt awed. Some of them have the proverbial wealthy husbands, but others were their own entrepreneurs and business owners. And here were their light-filled art studios they designed with their architects, French doors and fireplaces, Enormous windows and skylights with gorgeous views. Lots of room for sewing equipment, and spacious work tables. A room-sized quilting machine…a washer/dryer dedicated just for dying fabrics. Floor to ceiling storage. (These are things that thrill me….)
At each home we shared travel stories and they showed me collected art and pieces from around the world. I recognized familiar work from local artists, and suddenly wished that I could also afford to buy big art and support artists.
But the thing that caught me with a physical pang of unfamiliar and sharp yearning was hearing about the workshops they’ve attended around the US and world.
A week in Ashland Oregon doing a millinery workshop in the Shakespeare Company costume shop? Oh my heart!
Three weeks in Paris studying with the designers from Vogue Patterns and wandering through the hidden and ancient button, trim, and fabric shops in the city? I could barely breathe.
And then coming home with nearly $100,000.00 (yes, she was embarrassed to admit to that many zeros) spent on luscious fabrics, rich dyes, artwork and found pieces of vintage Parisian wonderfulness? Why, it was just unfathomable to find my heart pounding with something I realized was actual bald-faced envy.
I was laughing the other day when a friend turned to me and exclaimed over an extravagant kitchen remodel that a mutual friend just had done. “Don’t you just LOVE this???!” She cried.
Nope. I don’t have kitchen remodel envy. At All. But I found that I have remodeled and temperature controlled shed envy, big workshop space to create envy, sunlit studio envy, and going to sewing workshops in Paris envy.
Of course I still totally adore my shabby chic place and purpose in this world…but Jeeeeze Louise!