Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Foundations

Letters from a Single Year Lived Beautifully
In a sort of inverse to spring cleaning, am shedding leaves (of paper) and mulching (metaphorically) garments as autumn descends.

Have treasured letters from lengthy correspondences with friends near and far. Prior to the ease of email the arrival in the post of an airmail envelope and a foreign stamp generated excitement and warmth. Leaves of paper were handwritten then folded, traveled a distance to where they were unfolded and the words slurped up. Glorious.

Undeniably there is ample room in a lifetime for a multitude of friendships. These collected letters are cobblestones along the path. A celebratory bonfire is more appropriate than a dustbin.

Bra in Blush Lace (with black straps), 2014
There is always room for metamorphosis in attire. The season of layering has begun. Am in the mood for that which is...
Sparkling.
Soignée. 
Elegant.
These qualities in mind, have discarded some clothing and made more lingerie.

It is early morning. The pleasant fragrance of toast from a neighboring apartment wafts in. Birds that have yet to migrate are chirping in a community of song. It is a less riotous sound than a summer morning brings. Bra and birdsongs, the foundations of a day?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Receptive to Material

Sewing, 2014
Fabrics made from natural fibers have distinct properties (e.g. density, surface texture, friction, weight, suppleness, crispness...). These determine how best to cut pattern pieces from a material, the type of sewing needle and pins to use, even the way to press the seams. It's a collaborative process--working attuned to the cloth.

In between other projects have bit by bit made a linen shift to wear as a slip. This is a fabric I love. Rarely use pins when working with linen. In the photo my right index finger is tucking under a narrow edge of the linen while my left hand keeps the material aligned as it passes under the sewing needle. A foot on the pedal powers the motor simultaneously. There's a harmony to it.

Lately it's primarily silk taffeta on the cutting and sewing tables. This material! It is magnificent. Taffeta has the subtle sheen of the surface of a lake at dusk. It is so sculptural one could make origami with it. Working with silk taffeta is like entering an elegant home whose hostess' inviting manner makes one at ease in the sumptuous surroundings. A lot of metaphors for one fabric. Honestly, it's poetic stuff.

Synthetic fibers have advantages, of course! Though they aren't quite penicillin, Lycra and its kin have allowed clothing to become softer, more durable and to be adapted to different climate conditions and provide simpler sizing [applauding: stretch].

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Always Room for a Hat

Sun Hat
Scalloped Hem Jacket
Pirate Pants
Wrap Belt
Lace-edged Blouse

Photograph: Robert Lucy
Labor Day Weekend. Summer's last hurrah has been a generous wave of heat and humidity.

Autumn is on the way.

A sun hat, sandals and lightweight linen (blouse, pants). A jacket to usher in the season.

A hat hook on the exterior of a building?! (A matter of perspective.)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lingerie and Lemonade

Moonstone Lace Lingerie. (Nylon, cotton) 2014
Fancied new lingerie. Lace. Was headed to the Garment District.

En route popped into a textile trade show. Looked at neatly displayed samples of lace in a manufacturer's booth. Chatted with the sales representative (about laundering the lace, its elasticity). The three day expo was closing. She and her colleagues had hundreds of samples to pack. She spontaneously offered that I should take samples of the lace to try. Thought about which pieces would be useful. Chose a swatch of wide white galloon lace. (Galloon lace has a decorative scalloped border along the top and bottom edges.) There was a black piece too--both with stretch. Perfect for lingerie!

Barely any scrap of white lace remained once it had been patterned, cut and sewn. Combined the black lace with cotton for a different style.

Onyx Lace Lingerie. (Nylon, cotton) 2014
Buying has its merits, yet there's an intangible joy in making. With a desire to share the benefits was practically singing, "I want to teach the world to sew...(tra-la)."

Yesterday passed by a stoop sale. A seven year old boy was pleading with his mother (who was selling the wares) to let him go to the corner deli to buy lemonade. She was explaining to him that he was too young to go on his own.

An hour later walked by the stoop sale on the way home. The boy was drinking lemonade from bottle with a straw. He was smiling widely, his grin extending on both sides of the straw. His mother had relented. To the boy that lemonade must have tasted better than any other. It was flavored with independence. To make what one wears has a similar essence.


(The background in the photos? Fuchsia fabric draped over the ironing board.)







Friday, July 25, 2014

Studio Visit

Visited in the studio by the curators of Ground Floor Gallery.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tool Belt

Noticed a handyman standing outside an apartment building holding a large wooden door. He wore a canvas tool belt. On a quest to make a belt to hold daily supplies (keys, phone, pens, etc.) my attention has been drawn to examples of belts with pockets, fanny packs or bags worn around the waist of a passersby. His tool belt looked pretty great--useful and with a soft patina of wear to prove it.

Tool Belt from Home Depot
The tool belt came from Home Depot he said. In the photo is an identical one found there. It is well constructed (in India), made primarily of heavy canvas. The bottoms of the pockets and the edges are bound in suede, the corners reinforced with rivets. An adjustable nylon webbing belt is stitched and riveted in place along the back length of the canvas.

It was a good taking off point.

Tried it on. It was heavy. The nylon webbing used for the actual belt was stiff and scratchy making it difficult to adjust. The belt had to be removed to work the webbing through the plastic fastener. The cotton canvas--a natural, sturdy fabric was ideal. The pockets were spacious and varied in size. That they were open facilitated accessing tools. Having previously made a belt with open pockets, however, decided for the urban landscape it is more practical to have ones that close.

Belt Sketch, 2014

Above is a sketch of the bag I was thinking about. Lidded pockets in a variety of sizes. A hidden back pocket. Water resistant canvas fabric. Two loops for the bag to hang from any belt.


VSL Belt. Water resistant cotton canvas, leather, 2014.

When it was partially sewn I realized the center of the bag would pull away from the body if it only hung from a belt at either end. Decided instead to follow the Home Depot model: sewed a belt to the bag. Made of leather it adjusts easily; the bag may be worn at the waist or slung low around the hips. The pocket edges are pleated so they can expand [think cargo pants pockets]. The entire length is backed with heavy canvas--another echo of the HD belt. 

Athletes use the mind to envision the performance they wish to achieve. (Hurrah for H.A. Dorman's The Mental Game of Baseball.) Is it very different for the artist? There are identical components: acquired skills and practice, planning and spontaneity. Removing the finished belt from the sewing machine and clipping the threads was sort of astonished. Had long been thinking about the design, planning it, paying attention to examples, drawing different versions. Now here it was!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Performance Art

Lingerie Set. 2014
Made lingerie that is ideal for summer. The material is very soft rayon, almost like knitted silk. The bra's lower edge is trimmed with black peaked elastic (detail photo below). The straps are made of the same. Elastic is hardly a sexy word though the type used here is just that.

It has been a process, figuring out how to photograph undergarments. A useful tip came via information about stylebookapp: lay clothing out as it looks when one is wearing it. Kind of obvious in retrospect.

In the morning I am running an errand on foot in the neighborhood. It is quiet before local shops have opened for the day. I walk a couple level blocks then turn to head up the hill. At the first corner I wait at the curb for the traffic light to change. A black SUV is stopped at the intersection with its front windows rolled down. (These early days of summer the air is a tonic.) The driver's gaze is turned away from the road. He is looking over the empty front passenger seat staring at me through the open window. I wonder, maybe it is only in my general direction? The signal changes in his favor. The SUV lingers.

From the dimly shaded interior I hear, “Can I borrow that hat?’

I grin. The driver has the height and mass of a linebacker. The hat I'm wearing is enormous--21" wide. It is made of woven straw with a downward sloping brim. I've lined it in pleated folds of geranium pink silk. He’d look phenomenal. “Sure!” I reply. Gesturing to the SUV I lob back, “May I borrow that car?”

Laughing he agrees. The deal established he drives away at a leisurely pace. As I walk on I'm envisioning making another of these hats. Maybe I'll use a different lining, one befitting a linebacker with a sense of humor.
Detail: Elastic (and more accurate color)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In a Breeze

Western Hat, Prairie Dress, 2014
Photograph: Robert Lucy




Along came a breeze...

The hat began with a western shape, however, I chose to give it an ultra-wide brim. The only downside to such a generous brim is its tendency to lift in a breeze. It also is impossible to wear on a crowded subway train! That may be why cowboy hats traditionally have radically upturned brims; they are aerodynamic. (Referring to the wind dilemma rather than the crowded subway scenario. Rare is the western hat on the R train.)

The dress is aerodynamic! Have made it in a variety of lightweight fabrics including silk and cotton, varying the sleeve length and its fullness. This dress forms part of what has essentially become a summer uniform.

Fell in love with western hats on a family visit to a working ranch in Wyoming when I was 9 yrs old. Found equally appealing: wide belts with prominent buckles, shirts fastened with metal rimmed opal snaps in lieu of buttons, riding horseback on an open plain to round up cattle and square dancing.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Urban Prairie

Fedora, Prairie Dress, 2014. 
Photo: Robert Lucy


To find a style of one's own... 






















Made the fedora a few years ago. I'm also wearing it in the profile on the right. Though it looks faintly blue here it is decidedly dove grey. It has been a canopy in light rain and collected snowflakes on its brim in winter. A well made hat lasts! There is a wonderful story about a man's affection for his hat in I Thought My Father Was God And Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project, titled "A Felt Fedora".

The dress' fabric is printed with a quaint butterfly motif. The material is so light it sways with every footstep and floats in a gentle breeze like a curtain billowing across a windowsill.

The photograph above was taken by Robert Lucy, an artist who is both an exquisite photographer and a painter.
Fabric detail: butterfly pattern.
Washed, lined dried...
yet to be ironed

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Every Day A Hat

Hats for Winter
Just inside the door stands a hall tree with an abundance of hats. Before exchanging the felt hats with straw ones designed for hotter weather, here is the collection I've made for winter. With the exception of the synthetic fur hat (middle left) they are fashioned from felt which is first steamed then molded onto a wooden form called a block and anchored into position to dry. For years I've worn a hat every day, favoring large brims (or enormous ones)! In this walking city, these hats seem to invite conversations with strangers on practically a daily basis. I love it.

Hats (clockwise from top right): Garbo Fedora, Outbacker, Round Crown in ochre, royal blue, pine, (on table: Navy Fedora), Edwardian 'Fur' Hat, Texas by way of Milan.