Wednesday 23 October 2019

Treasures in the Tideline

After a month of being out of action - flat on my back style - I was finally much improved, and hosting international guests! Our big day out was a trip to Maleny, where I snuck in a quick surprise visit with a wonderful friend, Laina (we shared a house together on Mt Tamborine many years ago!). I'm not sure who was more excited! (wish we'd taken a photo!)
After a wonderful lunch at Maisie's on the Noosa River, we came home via the coast road and stopped in to what seems like my second, or perhaps spiritual home, Caloundra. Whilst our guests explored and chatted to locals, I rummaged in the tideline, finding bluebottle bladders, spinifex, and all sorts of seaweed. With only 6 weeks until I land on King Island to study its coastal treasures, I felt I should get some practice in, and here is what I found.

Losing your health and mobility puts many things into perspective, and I have to admit that I lost a certain sense of self and purpose during my enforced down-time. Fortunately, it returned almost as soon as my mobility, but I have taken note!

Sunday 13 October 2019

The making of Odette & Odile

This years entry for WOW of course, began mid last year, and although the section 'Mythology' was full of inspiration for me, the work was largely driven by my wish to play with the material of plastic soda bottles. Driven by a desire to find a cheap, mouldable and firm material (leather and worbla are both great but not economical for large pieces) I found myself top and tailing plastic soda bottles, ironing them flat, then texturing the edges with a soldering iron, giving them a feathery appearance, and a little more flexibility.

Spray painted either black or white, the edges were hand painted with gold and copper paint.
 After a brief flirtation with idea of making the base in fabric, I felt the journey towards sculpture meant it was better to use a solid material, so chose aluminium sheeting. I made a large sandbag for shaping the curves, and folded over all the edges for neatness, rigidity, and safety.
Matt was super-proud of me when he saw I had made a jig for creating the wire hook-and-eye set up, but these got cut into individual pieces in the end for ease of use.
I had fun scrounging around markets and op-shops for shiny things - necklaces, glo-mesh bags, bits of fabric - who knew there would be sequinned camoflauge fabric?!! I even found the lycra bodysuit material for one! Along with laser-cut acrylic off-cuts from Reverse Garbage, these were all woven together with wire on a metal mesh base to form the necklace, bodice decoration and 'crown' for each.

The decorative pieces for the gauntlets were stitched together over tulle on an embroidery frame before glueing and stitching to the vinyl bases (vinyl also from Reverse Garbage, as was the lace mask for $1.50).
The white mask was made from lace fragments stitched together on the embroidery frame.
So this is what the back deck looked like during the process, and here is Matt, happily wedging himself between all the craziness for his morning coffee!!
Pegs and paper rivets which can easily be redone were very useful in assembling the plastic pieces - all in a downward alignment for the dark Odile, all angled upwards for the white Odette.

I was lucky enough to receive the help of greatly beloved TAFE teacher Carol Costa, who was generous enough to allow me to come and literally hang in her Stretch Sewing room to work out how to make the very minimal bodysuits to go under the bodices.
Carol, attempting to sketch ideas with my ridiculous feather pencil!!

The final explanation of Odette &Odile from Swan Lake:

A princess is changed by sorcery into a swan, symbol of life in many cultures, yet also referencing death, and the soul flying away – the ‘swan-song’. Swan Lake draws its inspiration from Russian and German folklore, and is a myth exploring the dichotomies of good and evil, love and betrayal, life and death, reality and fantasy.
A creature of the lake, the mirror-like meeting place of air and water offering reflection versus reality, the duality of Odette and Odile in Swan Lake often being performed by the same artist adds a further psychological layer revealing the struggle within the self.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

WOW trip 2019

My 11th year as a World of WearableArt finalist has concluded, after yet another whirlwind week in Wellington, New Zealand. It was, as usual, fantastic weather, enabling the revisiting of favourite haunts, and an exhausting but wonderful catch-up with designers old and new.
Arriving early Tuesday morning, I had my first ever coffee at a pub for brunch, and it was great! I spent the afternoon climbing the hills of Wellington in search of the famous moggy Mittens, but to no avail.  

I have seen many photos of Mittens here, but no luck today.
Great view from the uni!

On Wednesday, we were picked up by Vicky and Fifi before collecting Anna from the station, for a trip out to the famed Pete’s Emporium, where we teamed up with Keryn. OMG. I would have to go to at least 8 shops to see the range of strange, crafty and well-priced things there! Each aisle elicited shrieks of disbelief. 

Fifi found a cat mask...
In the evening, we met up with the gang at The Foxglove for drinks before the Preview show, ready to devour the WOW programme, which we couldn’t access until then! It was great to meet up with Janet de Boer, Peter, and Susan Holmes – a NZ WOW legend – amongst others. The show itself left us a little perplexed, and not a little depressed. I’ll warn you now – I am giving my honest, unbiased, but experienced opinion, which through sharing in conversation, I found many
others agreed with. Whereas other WOW shows have taken us on a journey surging through different emotions, this definitely felt monotone, and although much of the especially commissioned music was fantastic, there was a lack of emotional dynamic throughout.  Similarly, the stage atmosphere matched the dark tone, with dark lighting, and there was a serious lack of fun! I’ll admit that I didn’t enjoy the Preview much, however I had a much better experience at the Awards Night, when I just stared at the rotating stage directly in front of me, and drank in every bit of every garment.
Saw a great exhibition at the Wellington Academy of Fine Arts Gallery, Gloriously Eclectic - I believe this is the work of Jan McLean.
Thursday was Designer Day, beginning in the usual fashion, with myself skulling a Maccas coffee outside the venue, before ponying up to be peoply! Bless the brave poppet first-time NZ designer Autumn Minnear who identified me as a designer and just rocked right on up to say hello during my humanisation process!

Breakfast at the InterContinental was followed by a backstage tour and a presentation from show director Andy Packer, who admitted to having a bit of a dark aesthetic. It was interesting to hear him say that the performance was all about showcasing the garments, when in fact it seemed to be the opposite to many audience members.
The morning was rounded out with an interview and a demonstration from B. Ackerlund from The Residency, NY. OK. So, full disclosure here – I don’t do mainstream, I can’t stand ‘celebrity culture’ (oxymoron) and I’d never heard of her before. Apparently a stylist of Madonna, Beyonce etc. Maybe I might sound a bit pretentious if I say I consider myself to be more of an artist than a costumier? The work, not who’s wearing it, is what means the most to me. Her demonstration of dressing a live model in plastic bags and fluffing them up with a leaf-blower was probably not as enlightening as she might have thought it would be. Don’t we all go crazy on a mannequin with whatever when working out design ideas? No? Just me?!!
After lunch we were taken to WETA workshops, where we saw a make-up transformation, and visited the amazing miniature sets of the Thunderbirds. Finally, we were delivered to the classic Roxy Cinema for some fabulous smokin’ cocktails and noms! The party kept going on our return to the CBD, with a gathering at our beloved AVIDA tapas bar, with magnificent host Stephen. Although exhausted and completely peopled out, a few Spanish wines and my beloved Goats Cheese Puffs got me back on track!
Friday morning we were off to the Australian Embassy for brunch and a designer panel discussion, but with no Esmé to wrangle us, there was a little confusion ie. leaving Janet de Boer, Susan Holmes and R.R. Pascoe, guest speaker, at the hotel! It’s a great format which makes sense of the event, connecting students, designers, and all attendees. I was thrilled upon arrival to recognise NZ journalist Zoe George, having met her there a few years ago, so immediately plonked myself down next to her and representatives of her old high school!

Back in town, I had an interview and photoshoot at The Foxglove with the delightful Tom from @lovewelly – such a sweetie – it felt more like making a new friend than anything! Matt needs serious training as an Instagram/Facebook husband, as no photos were taken of this event…

After a little much-needed down time, it was off to meet Beatrice Carlson and Belinda Cook at Les Saigon for dinner before the show. Having ordered, I suddenly realised that we did not have our tickets, so went back to the hotel. After much searching, I was relieved to find them in Matt’s jacket from the Wednesday night!! Phew!!! As previously mentioned, the show was much more enjoyable for me as I was able to completely focus on the garments. It was pretty stress-free, not having any hopes of placing within my section. However, when the Sustainability Award and International Australia/South Pacific Awards passed me by, I felt a little clenching in my gut…. There were a few things that grated on me during the Awards ceremony – the fact that 3 or 4  awards were given to one designer in quite a few cases seemed a little bit much – however, I was thrilled to see that ALL award winners went on stage to receive their awards!! I was somewhat disappointed to see some very familiar shapes and techniques on stage – although the judging panel changes every year, surely Dame Suzie Moncrieff, as the resident judge, must use her vast knowledge and educate guest judges on previous appearances? Wouldn’t it be helpful if WOW had an on-line library of the past 30 years of entries? Oh wait, what, have I said that before?! Another point which has been niggling for years and very much rode to the top of the pile this year, was the ever-widening gap between artisans like myself, and those who have a small army working on their behalf. How can the lounge room sewers, skilled as they are, compete with those who have an entire atelier making their design come to life? It just doesn’t seem to be a level playing field at all. One great suggestion I heard was for an ‘Artisan’ award – whereas digital technology has its own award, how about honouring the skills of the hand crafter, keeping old skills alive?
We danced until after 1am, before trying to find our way home. Unfortunately we missed curfew and were unable to access the lift home, so ended up climbing the Plimmer Steps and becoming lost, only to catch a taxi around the corner in desperation! Matt’s calves have still not forgiven me. The final designer function of Saturday morning brunch was nice, but just a little much for those of us old moles who are hearing impaired in crowds – I could hardly wait to leave and hit the real function, the chill-as Matt & Svenja Afterparty Bitchfest at Mac’s Brewery. Beers, no-holds barred discussions – the frankest moments of the whole week! We did ourselves proud, lasting until the early afternoon, before retiring to the hotel with some early nomszzzzzzzz.
Beautiful colours in the harbour
Now we’re home (home is so good) and preparing for the December residency on King Island. Although I had my piece half-constructed for WOW next year, in the Aotearoa section, it really does seem right now to pull the pin, and I have already mentally transformed it into a wall-piece…. So now I just have to finish my work for paperonskin, and then it’s full-steam ahead… to wherever.

Saturday 3 August 2019

Masquerade Masks

Recently I was asked to make some masks for a masquerade party – a matching set of his and hers. Given ideas along this line (below) as a starting point, I came up with these (above). I had some stiff cardboard-type masks in my stash (as one who works in this area does!) and over time gathered bits and pieces, like these decorative metal pieces - a couple of dollars a bag at Reverse Garbage, with a few more found at an op-shop. They were thin enough to bend to fit the curve of the masks, and I secured them, along with some lace fragments, with multi-purpose wall filler, which unlike glue, I was able to sand off the pieces where it had bubbled through and sand around them to integrate them into the mask surface..
 The next step was painting with gesso, then painting them black, getting into all the many nooks and crannies.
There were a few alternating sprays of gold and black as I tried to get the balance just right. I was still not completely satisfied with the male musk, so removed the cheek under one eye and added another 'wire' - a piece of crinoline tubing glued either end, as well as some 'studs' in dimensional paint. The final touches were some rubbings of Treasure Gold gilding wax, and some dustings of Moon Glow two-toned pigments to bring out the textured surfaces. As they went out the door, I belatedly thought of gilding flakes.....
It was a fun project using some new materials a techniques, which is always great.