Monday, 10 February 2014

Musings on Wearable Art

Since first finding out about the unique spectacle that is the World of WearableArt in around 2006, it has slowly and insidiously worked its way into my life until it now is my life. I structure each year around entering and travelling to the World of WearableArt, and I’m back at college studying fashion so I can better realise the ideas I have. Over the past five years, I have established a profile strongly linked with my success in this arena. Just recently I was asked to teach a workshop on Wearable Art, and this is making me think about how it might be possible to do that.
Firstly, where does wearable art sit in the creative spectrum?
Iris Van Herpen

Although I believe that fashion is an artform, and is highly suited to express the creative concepts of the designer/artist, I think wearable art is in another category entirely. It’s a complete one-off, never to be made again, so is not meant to be a part of a co-ordinated range. It’s pure expression, unconstrained by most aspects of practicality. It’s often made in unusual and unrealistic materials, exploring their potential or using them in order to convey a concept. Both fashion and wearable art, however, use the human body as a base for sculptural works.(On further musing, I think that catwalk couture is wearable art, and the collections that spring from them are fashion - just look at the work of Iris Van Herpen!)
I also think there is another genre in between, produced by the Craft-Arts movement in (predominantly) America, which is often referred to as wearable art, possibly better described as artwear or ‘art to wear’.
This is the making of fashion items using artistic techniques like weaving, shibori and other dyeing techniques to make magnificent and unusual, one-off, but still, essentially, fashion items. Of these three related categories then, it would seem that wearable art is most strongly aligned with what is accepted to be art, in that it has no other purpose than to express ideas in a visual form
Wearable art, like most art forms, is a very personal thing. For me, it’s about exploring ideas that interest me, exploring aesthetics that appeal to me, and most importantly, problem solving using the skills I have, or gaining more in order to do so. In summation, I draw upon myself, as any artist does.
So how do I teach other people to do this? Do they want to know about the multitude of ways I make things or the way I come up with the ideas? If so, how can I do that?!
My brain is a constantly whirling storehouse of images and concepts, and I reach in and pluck one out to explore and develop. In saying this however, I do seem to remember a time when I would look inside for things and there was nothing. No fruit. Not a bean. Empty. I think what I am trying to say is that a large part of the process is a long term project, feeding the eyes and brain with images and ideas, as well as building up a library of practical skills. I feel that at this stage of my existence that I have an entire arsenal of images and techniques to explore.
However, with wearable art encompassing such an enormous breadth of materials, this could not be a technique based workshop, as I am currently doing with feltmaking. Perhaps a  presentation format would be more suited, surveying the different ideas and techniques I have explored, and directing people to further useful sources? Although some of my works have been widely publicised, a lot could be explained in further detail regarding conceptual development and construction. Would this help anyone?
Food for thought for me, and I welcome any discussion on this topic!