grad school

…Am I flailing hard enough?

They make it pretty clear to us that this year, and particularly this semester, is a time for exploration, experimentation, and other “ex” words that are generally designed to both stimulate you and keep you a bit off-balance. As a respected professor put it, “this is the time to flail about and fail big.”

Am I flailing hard enough yet? Have I failed grandly enough? Would you like some more irony on your toast?

Kids, don’t be artists. Do something easy, like brain surgery.

I kid, I kid.

Lots of questions as to process, meaning, intention, audience, concept, formal material decisions. I decided to make a cape as a large-scale material exploration. Plus, it’s still working in my conceptual brain– it’s still a piece of outerwear, which y’all know I love– plus it’s a simple enough design as to be fairly easy construction. I don’t have time for no 34 pattern pieces right know–knowwhaddimean?

I wanted to try overdyeing, so I started messing with applique over a white fabric I had in my stash. Apologies for the crap pictures– apparently my iphone and the studio lighting are NOT friends.

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I’m also starting to study a lot of surface design techniques, and I love incorporating hand stitching into the work. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to hand-stitch this whole mess, but I love to see the evidence of the hand– it makes it so much more personal and storied.

Sampler!

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Hand-stitching and reverse-applique with velvet as the underneath fabric. Very inspired by Alabama Chanin, who I loooove.

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I did some color samples, foraying into the world of dye!

73616324113820670166018575b124f7And then overdyed the whole damn thing. 1ea8ecf3aa5558082ad2c04f7fff2c66 3cb50e90db6f714c07f54a18574de39a

Detail:

f75badd6b4f5a19ea7bd5f40f187b4d1I’m really interested in beginning to work with more reclaimed textiles and less new fabrics, so for the lining I took apart two vintage velvet dresses and made franken-lining.

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There were some holes in the velvet, that I decided to highlight in mending rather than hiding them. It’s part of the fabric’s story, after all.

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Here is is inside-out. I think I might like it best that way actually. 
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I inked some secret things in the lining in my coded alphabet. I’m not loving how it looks but it’s a foray into how to incorporate language into the garment.

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13ccf8e19c58dbf226092fb281c19d7eI’ll have to get some nicer pictures at some point. I still need to figure out what sort of closure I want and finish the hem, but since I don’t think I’ll show this piece in the spring show/last crit it doesn’t seem as important at the moment. There’s a lot I like about this piece and some things I don’t, lots of ideas have been brought up. I think I may step back from garments for a bit (flailing, right?) and just focus on textile and surface design and what I can discover and convey through that medium. There are a few too many variables in the air with a garment, and I’m not sure, in my next crit, that I’m ready to answer questions about who this is for, who wears this, etc. Everyone wants to wear this, right?

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grad school

The processing of process….

Notes on November

…thus far.

Nothing dries here. Mom bought me a box of sun, which seems to be helping the doomy gloomies a bit.

I think too much about what I could be doing, and berate myself for not living the life I think I want, or am supposed to want, but if I want to be the sort of person who goes to bars alone and practices karate, why don’t I ever actually want to do those things? Perhaps the new coolness is someone who goes from home to school and back again and eats mac and cheese. This is a thing, right?

I think too much, I think. Oh wait. Crap.

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School is different the second time around. Better and deeper in many ways, but I can no longer summon that wild, vicious sense of youthful self-import that undergrad held. There is less of a sense of inevitable greatness, though it is replaced with a stronger sense of what I do and why. But I miss feeling like a ball of greatness waiting to explode. Maybe it’s a slow detonation. Also, I drink much less in this iteration, which is probably for the best. I seem to recall a lot of drinking alone and baking cookies while crying at “Friends” the last time.

So, basically, I’m awesome.

I am continuing to work with letterforms. I did the whole alphabet in large, 18″x24″ form:Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 12.05.47 PM

…and hung the whole shebang up for crit. I kind of want it up forever.

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I’m trying to learn to use it, which is trickier than I thought. Learning to write in it is going alright, but reading it is a whole other matter. Makes you realize that we don’t see the individual characters when we read; we just grab the whole word. I can READ the code-language, but I still have to parse it letter by letter. I’m going to try to get some friends to be secret code pen-pals with me to help me learn– I need stuff to read that I did not write, that’s cheating, and really doesn’t work. It’s, in the wise words of my father, like a three-year-old memorizing Go Dog Go and then pronouncing that they can read. I suspect he may be speaking from experience on that one.

I’m not quite sure where the language/code thing is going yet, but I find it compelling. I think, at the core, I’m trying to create the world I want to live in, all magical and shit, and this is perhaps how language looks in that world. It seems very important for me to be able to use it, not just have created it and let it sit there. I have lots of little seeds of ideas of how this might fit into other work later…

I also started to get back into makeup a bit, at the urging of my mentor. Again, not sure where that leads but hey, we’re all about experimenting right now. Can you tell that “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing” is a common theme recently?

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This one was mostly practice with a white base makeup I got for Halloween. There was no character theme; just play.

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My mentor suggested I remove variables to make the focus really on the face and makeup, so going forward I’m going to try a few set poses, same outfit, no wig, no face expression, just really focus on the makeup.

Oh, and speaking of Halloween, here’s how THAT turned out:

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We were pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. Dancing at the Lovecraft ensued and a good time was had by all.

Right. Off to make some capes and write some letters. Huzzah!

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grad school

…And then it rained forever.

This is our forecast. I am trying to think of this positively. We get so much green! Things grow! It’s not a flaming ball of fire like the other places I consider home!

But still. I don’t know about this at all.

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This week has been a lot of ups and downs, focus and weird floaty feelings. Sleep comes hard. Insecurity abounds. I am trying to speak kindly to myself, noticing how much of my inner dialogue is negative: you’re not good enough, you’re too old, if you were going to “make it” you would have done it by now, everyone else is more together than you, what are you doing still mucking about like a teenager get a goddamn career path already, why can’t you get up early, why can’t you keep a schedule, your work is a joke hahahahaahaaaaaaaa…

Yeah so that’s there. I know this is a common human condition and I am not alone in this vat of bullshit, but GODDAMN it’s annoying. How much could I have achieved if I just blithely thought I was awesome? Why does it seem so hard to be nice to ourselves? What the fuck is that all about?

Did I mention it’s raining forever?

ANYWAY.

Entrepreneurial, history, and the other “classes” we take come in an out of focus. It’s an odd setup because you are basically doing YOUR WORK, whatever that is, and most things are in service of that in one way or another. Very different from undergrad, where you have a range of classes giving you a set of skills and you are applying yourself to all of them and seeing what comes of that. Now we have a PRACTICE. My history professor related it as undergrad being about starting broad and narrowing to a point, and grad school being about starting at a point and opening out again. This is such an exciting prospect, but also a massive undertaking, and this week I feel like it has dragged me under a little. Being as my husband, family, best friends and dogs are all far away, it’s so easy to get lost in all this philosophy and questioning and there’s no one to make me come out. It can get very surreal and eventually pretty unpleasant; I’m pretty lousy at making myself stop working, and I forget where the line is between work and everything else. Maybe there is no line.

I’m sorry, I’m only supposed to blog about happy things like how meaningful life is, and, like, cookies and craft fairs. I am remiss 🙂

I did a fair amount of work this week. Still exploring the concepts of object, symbol, language. I’m continuing work on the ponies. I’m planning to finish at least the 5 large ones and possibly the other 2 small ones I have primed before I let myself move on from this exploration, however long that takes. We are meant to be doing more iterations and experimentation than finished work, but I am partial to the big ponies and I at least want to do right by them.

I found this one at goodwill this week. Serious pony bath time!

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Primed Ponies

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IMG_3906Spring Pony Process. Same model unicorn, different colors.
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Pony progress lineupIMG_3894It’s amazing how long these suckers are taking me. I have a crit next week– I will admit I am nervous.

I also worked more on the letterform stuff. Originally I was looking at symbols and thinking I would make my own syllabary, but then I sat down to consider what concepts or words would need to be represented, and it got real big real fast. Seriously, guys, it’s like ooh ok, “love” “hope” “dream” and then you realize you’re just listing off those inspirational etched rocks. And that there are A LOT of important concepts, and nuances to those, and then it got too big and my brain exploded, so I scaled it back for now, and thought I’d try making an alternate alphabet. Nothing groundbreaking, I’m not going all Tolkien and making a new language, I just want to make my own version of the alphabet and try to learn it. Which is harder than you think! I have pretty much all the letterforms and their correspondences memorized, but it’s the input that gets you: I can write a word in it fairly fast now but I can’t look at a word and instantly see/translate it. So more practice.

Here’s the alphabet. It took me quite a while to decide on the letterforms, and I still have some I feel like perhaps I should change, but I’ve already started memorizing it so I think they will just stay. It’s visually influenced by Sanskrit, Arabic and Elvish (of course).

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Practice pages:

IMG_3862 IMG_3908I began making large, ornate versions of some of the letters, just because I wanted to. They are so beautiful and it’s like getting to know them better. These are 18″x24″

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IMG_3874Sooooo that’s the week. Now it’s off to make mac and cheese for a class project. That’s right, I have to. Hah.

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grad school

The story so far…

Right, so… I moved here:

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.00.25 PMWhere they have doughnuts that watch you…

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And I finally decided to learn to be a sort-of bike commuter. Behold: Shadowfax the Magnificent!

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…And now my legs look like this:

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My program takes a mentor-based approach, and my mentor has told me to stop working the way I’ve been working for a while– to open up, explore, and nurture the creative practice. Part of this practice has included creating a collection of inspiration and resonant items– lots of pictures, etc. It’s sort of like making a visual representation of my head.  A psychological mood board.

Another part has involved poking around in vinvtage stores, where I found PONIES!

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Ponies of all sizes!

I can’t exactly explain the allure– it’s surely at least partially nostalgia-based, as I had a LOT of ponies as a kid, but there’s also something just aesthetically pleasing to me about some of them. They are a nicely-shaped object, and certainly cute. We are doing a lot of reading and discussion about objects and our relation to them, what gives an object value, the nature of craft vs. art or design, the psychological resonance of everyday objects, etc. and all this was rattling about in my head. When I saw the pony on the left, something just struck me about it. I felt the need to rescue and resuscitate it; I also felt as if it was a totem object– something of potentially profound significance or spirituality waiting to be found. This is what art school will do to you…

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So I took it home and took it’s face off.

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Our process here is big on iterations– you don’t do just one of something– so I got myself a mini-herd to play with. Originally I thought I’d plan each one out– have a concept and design plan, but then I remembered I’m supposed to be playing and experimenting, and definitely not overthinking, so I just went for it.

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Primed Ponies.Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.03.50 PM

Pony workstation.
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In-progress poniesScreen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.04.57 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.05.24 PM


Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.05.37 PMPonies set up for first critique session
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Part of my visual mind-mapping. This took up a whole wall. I had more pictures but my phone has eaten them in a dramatic fit of pique. Have I mentioned that electronics seem to commit suicide around me?

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Crit went pretty well. I really need to practice speaking about my work; I tend to get so nervous that I am not able to pay as much attention as I would like because I am busy calming the fight-or-flight stuff that is happening. It is also so hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to questioning, as opposed to coming at it from a defensive position. This experience of changing my working patterns has been both hard and freeing, but it did put me slightly in a place of feeling like I needed to defend what I’d been spending my time on, that I’d been doing enough. I think a lot of us felt that way… Anyway I survived and the exploration continues.

I’m adding in new things this week but I’m still working on the ponies. I am still enjoying them and they also seem to serve as a tool to think with my hands. None of them are exactly done but this one is close. I discovered there was a run of large, 9″ tall ponies in 2006 and I have managed to snag a few of them. The large size is so nice to work on and feels very compelling; my theory is because it’s the proper pony-to-person ratio for an adult.

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Through the mind-mapping, I began to recognize (or remember) how much language and visual communication and codes are resonant with me. This has me starting to play with letter forms… 
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So that’s that. More to come.

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Coats, Philosophical Musings

Will It Blend?

Will it blend?

And now you’re all “thanks for that, there goes my whole day.” The point was that my creative brain feels like a blender recently– I’m throwing all these ingredients in there and hitting “frappe.” Also I’m not sure my blender has a lid, nor do I have those cool safety glasses, but ah well. Creativity is a contact sport; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Things in my head right now: Coats (Duh) Largely double-breasted coats with a hint of military style. I really like the blending (oh there it is again) of styles– military mixed with whimsy, or bright color, or punk…

Via Yahoo Image Search– source unknown.

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Jillian Lewis Trench

I am fascinated by the sculptural structures that can be created with just fabric and thread; particularly the work of Inaisce, and, of course, my hero, Alexander McQueen.

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Alexander McQueen

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Alexander McQueen

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Alexander McQueen

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Alexander McQueen

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Inaisce

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Inaisce

Also coats using riots of color or creative embellishments. Remembering that the details, while not always immediately noticeable, can be the thing that takes a garment from ordinary to special.

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Via Simply Rebecca Studios; creator unknown

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Desigual

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Balmain Summer 2010 collection

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Red thread poetry dress by ruthrae, via Flickr

 

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Jamie Avis Sharpie Coat

 

The question comes to me: Why coats? Why not dresses or, for that matter 2-dimensional art? Drawings and paintings?

I did not expect clothing to speak to me so deeply. I thought I was going to be a painter; make huge, meaningful canvases.

I have always had a deep interest in clothes, but it was a personalized interest, all wrapped up in my teen angst years. Defining what was “me” and what wasn’t; creating the self I was trying to become through the use of clothes. The clothes create the character, right? So dress as the person you wish you were. Turns out this means a lot more to me than I realized at the time.

In college I was an illustration major, and I got really into tattoo art, and body modification in general. I wrote my senior thesis on the evolution of tattoo art in America and it’s modern applications. There is something beautiful and deeply tribal about body modification– the way that it is both a quest of personal creation/evolution, AND a form of visual communication.  Over the years I have realized that the things that fascinated me in tattoos are not completely disparate from what interests me about fashion. We use tools like tattoos, hairstyle and clothing to speak, to identify,  to whisper incantations of what we are, think we are, or want to be.

These art forms are extremely dynamic– they exist actively in the world rather than in a gallery. They are constantly in flux, evolving. To work in the medium of fabric and fashion is a more interactive experience for me than I could achieve through more classical art forms. I feel like I am drawing inspiration up from myself, but I am also simultaneously having a conversation with the people who will eventually own, wear, and live in my pieces. I’m putting in little messages for them to decode and treasures for them to find.

This has been today’s philosophical diatribe. Can you tell I’m ramping up to apply for grad school?

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