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A Look Back at Semester 2…

Well, it turns out that grad school pushes everything else to the side (surprise!) and I have’t updated this baby in umpteen months. Here’s a look at what I’ve been doing for the past 5 months…

When last the internet saw me, I was flailing about with dye and a red cape, I believe. After that, I really had the spark of interest for learning about dye, so I did a few experimental pieces, just playing with color, stitching, form… seeing what I can do with the dye; how it’s like paint and how it isn’t. I was also expanding my range of surface design techniques so I embroidered some sacred geometry-based designs into them, thinking I might take this into actual quilting at some point.

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Originally these were conceived of as straight yardage, no pre-conceived functional end-goal, but once they were complete and I was living with them, manipulating them and draping them, I realized that there is really something about clothes that resonates with me. When I hung one on the wall–meh. When I wrapped it around my shoulders, instant shift. Suddenly the piece had a life, purpose, character.

I didn’t want to cut them up, so I worked the pleats in to make the fabric bend around the body as a wrap. I left off any closure or distinctly garment-related findings to let them keep living in this space between garment, wall hanging, pure textile…

I was completely stumped in how to display these for the final show, and I think that ultimately failed. I tried both hanging them on the wall and on a form, and I felt that they fell pretty flat. Which brought me to this semester. This semester I was focused on both honing the concept and narrative behind the work, as well as examining presentation possibilities.

I thought that I’d stick with garments, but let myself go a bit mad with the surface design work. I really wanted to try more dye techniques. I decided to keep the cape as my control garment, to create some parameters/boundaries. Plus, as I’ve been working with concepts of fantasy worlds and transformation, what better garment to use? Capes have such an inherent fantasy feel, and really engulf you into an experience in a way few other types of garment will. This first one is the Seeker cloak: I’ve been reading a lot of Jung, Campbell, and YA fantasy, okay? The visual inspiration for it is Hubble photos of galaxies; I wasn’t trying to say anything particularly spacey, but I am moved by the idea of a type of warrior/seeker/mage character who is wrapped in the fabric of worlds. Also, creating a galaxy with dye sounded hard, thus, something I had to try.

I drafted the pattern and sewed the first one together. It started as pure black velveteen:

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…aaaand then threw bleach all over it.

Before anyone gets shirty about it, I did use bleach-stop, so it won’t just eat the fabric away.

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Next, to begin adding color:

IMG_4656This is it in stage 2 or 3, after a few rounds of dye:

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Then more dye:

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Then stars:

IMG_4713 IMG_4732 IMG_4739 IMG_4740 IMG_4789To the final:

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It’s lined in purple poly satin that is dip-dyed into an ombre effect; dark at the hem, light at the neck. There are long-slit arm vents on either side of the double-breasted facings, for ease of movement and utility of the hands and arms.  It’s also got multiple pockets on the inside facings, as well as two inset pockets in the arm-vents, because adventurers need lots of pockets.

After the Seeker was complete, I simultaneously began work on a second cloak and an installation for them to live in. Being as I had so much dissatisfaction with presentation of last semester’s work, and at the urging of my awesome mentor, I began studying installation art and set design. Fascinating and amazing stuff! With the final show approaching, I realized that I could either keep the installation part somewhat toned down to make sure the capes were front-and-center, OR I could let myself really run with the set install, realizing that it might, for this iteration, take away from the capes as centerpiece. For this go-round, I said fuck it, let’s go crazy. I can always come back more towards the middle to privilege the capes later; let’s build something weird. I’ve been very interested in the blending of worlds, the dichotomies of inside/outside, not to mention the mythology and language of references in well-known stories, so I wanted to build a bit of a forest moment indoors. I also thought, in terms of a forest scene, that perhaps a tree opens, almost as a wardrobe (yes, intentionally). Quickly this came together in my mind as a piece speaking to Campbell’s Call to Adventure and Crossing of the Threshold, a concept that seems particularly resonant these days…

So I began building it:

This was a particularly fun, but also nail-biting, adventure. I’ve never done anything with building, much less installation before, and that, combine with having maybe 3 weeks to do it, equalled, in hind-sight, pure foolishness. But I am nothing if not a fool! I decided to go for it, with the knowledge that some of this would be an exercise in cobbling things together; it didn’t need to be perfectly polished on this go-round.

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First I built a closet-form out of MDF board

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…and painted it gold. And realized I’d made the damn thing too tall for the spray booth. Oops.

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Here’s the door. I found a banged-up piece of mirrored plexi in the studio and cut it into that shape on the band saw.

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More on this later, as I have to run out the door now. Tomorrow: Tree-Armoire part TWO!

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