Monday, December 29, 2008
(bottom photo: vintage dress from Oh Leoluca on Etsy.com, middle and top photos: gleaned from my ever lovely sixties/seventies dressmaking/craft book collection)
And these are my inspirations...(sing it like Death Cab) I often hesitate to make my inspirations public because they are many and sometimes even I am surprised by what my end product turns out to be. So I don't want to mislead anyone else in the process. This means that my process is rather intuitive, and that I change my mind often. Well, let's put it this way: I often have a very specific impulse or desire about what I want to sew, it just takes me a while to nail it down and find it's proper manifestation in the physical world. This is just a little shout out to the current warm infatuation I feel regarding yellow and child-like cozy things.
That being said, there is a special (large) place in my heart for the handmade styles of decades gone by. Among the many things that draw me to the fifties and early sixties style of dress is greater emphasis on formality. People dressed up then. Women still wore dresses when they went out, with gloves and hats. Men wore button up shirts and ties with shiny shoes while they got sweaty on the dance floor. Regarding the seventies, something about elephant bells, long hair and earthy patterns in warm colors makes me feel great. About all three of these decades, there was still a significant amount of handmade clothing out there. To buy or to sew was a legitimate question, because the majority of mothers and grandmothers still had this skill set. It was like cooking. Everyone could do it to some extent and being able to sew one's own clothing or clothing for the family was not the novelty it has become today.
Of course the irony here is the disappearance of the ability to sew a wardrobe has given way to a newfound general appreciation of this once ubiquitous skill, thus allowing me to turn my primary artistic love into a business! So cheers to the fifties, sixties, seventies and 2009.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Welp, now that I have three weeks free of teaching child dance, I've successfully reverted to my 4pm to 4am winter hibernation schedule. I mean, if I'm going to be sewing in the dark creepy basement for hours anyway, why not do it when it's already nighttime, right?
Other exciting news: ETSY! I now have a teeny tiny online shop where you can purchase among other things, some of the dresses I post on the blog. I try to put something new in there every few days, so check back often! Plus, friends, if you've ever had a fantasy about something you'd like to me to make for you, please do not hesitate to put in a "private request" in the shop. I love custom projects :) If you're visiting my blog after seeing the Etsy shop, welcome! For me it's downstairs to dinner and then off to my sewing cave...
riotsiren.etsy.com or just click on any of the photos on the right and they will take you to the store :)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My favorite German wearing his birthday present (yes I made it, and it has earflaps, but he's tied them behind his head) and his new medieval teutonic beard. Keep looking at this picture. It just gets better the longer you contemplate it.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
So I've been sickety sick sick sick this weekend. Good old lying in bed fever/ache and other less favorable symptom sick. And I have to be honest, xmas kind of gets me down. Plus, we are cleaning out the entire dusty basement this week for a party and my roommates had successfully NOT done their dishes until every single bowl and silverware element was molding on the counter, interspersed with nasty lunch tupperwares and gooey plastic bags that we are apparently going to wash and save. I then found out I had two LESS days to cough up some cash to pad my bank account for the next student loan withdrawl. Shortly following, I discovered that my German bank card is too scratched for me to tap my Euros and I forgot my pin number for the card that works.
There is a scene in My Own Private Idaho when after a whole series of trials and tribulations, River Phoenix is being asked by an Italian man to rip his jacket and shirt off in a hotel room. As he starts to do it, he becomes so overwhelmingly fed up with everything he begins flailing about, stomping, squealing, jumping, and eventually does a sort of backwards swan dive onto the hotel bed, falling immediately into a fit of epileptic narcolepsy. All day I have been doing this scene in my brain; watching him but pretending it's me. For about 50 percent aforementioned reasons and the rest indecipherable harbingers of doom and frustration.
Also: I did not make this dress, it was my grandma's. I just hemmed it.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
You thought I'd left you, didn't you? No such luck. I've simply been lurking about in the basement, hunched over my drafting table, or stuck in horror novels behind closed doors (and covered in blankets). I raced through "Heart-Shaped Box" by Joe Hill in a matter of two days, a thoroughly satisfying quick read about an aging death-metal rocker who purchases a ghost through the internet and things begin to go awry. Following completion of the book, this little number came to be. Rather appropriate timing in my opinion. The victory dress gone goth...the collar, skirt and bias binding are made from my old college curtains, the bodice crafted from a T-shirt dug out of the bins. I must admit, I am rather proud of this collar, having drafted it myself (with the assistance of my sixties/seventies craft and sewing books) and look forward to further adventures in dressmaking details...
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Never in my life have I felt "proud to be an American" until now. Glad that I come from Oregon, happy to say I've lived in California, sure. I remained, however, riddled with doubt and cynicism about America. This cynicism was amplified by living abroad and a constant duty to explain the disparity between America's politics the beliefs of its citizens. While in Germany, I almost felt it was my job to prove to Europeans that we are not what we might seem. That the ideals on which this country was founded might still be put into practice. That the policies of the past eight years have been extremely unpopular not just abroad, but at home. That we don't necessarily agree with the way our country has been run. But I dared not hope for something different. Honestly, since Kerry lost in 2004 I have never even gone so far as to imagine an America governed by someone other than an inept embarrassment and a calculating, sinister puppet-master. On Election night it all melted away. The constipated nightmare that has been American politics for the past eight years ran down the drain with Barack Obama's impeccable acceptance speech. Of course he cannot fix everything. But this is a sea change on the side of hope and positivity. This is a man I can admire as president. A man who will create a government we can unite behind. A man who thinks things through, who speaks eloquently, and finally a man who truly represents the racial and cultural melting pot that is America. For the first time ever, this is a president elect who represents not just the country I come from, but ME.
I remember once reading about how John Lennon met Yoko Ono. It was at one of her art shows, and he recounted climbing up a ladder to look into a sort of magnifying device at something written almost microscopically on the ceiling. As he peeked into the eyepiece, the word "YES" appeared. He described how overwhelmed he was with the positive energy of this word, the simplicity of it. How just one word can conjure a world of good. I think of this when I hear the slogan of Obama's campaign. "Yes we can." It is inclusive, positive, and hopeful. It indicates that although we have chosen a leader to set the example, change is everybody's responsibility. It is inspiring to know this is our future.
P.S. When was the last time a U.S. president inspired anything in the media other than criticism and fodder for the Daily Show? Think about that while you watch this.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sure, it's been a little while...but does this make up for it? At the suggestion of an organized and responsible friend, several of us donated a couple hours of our Hallow's Eve to reminding the good folks of the greater Portland area to vote their hearts out. Not like they needed it too badly. About two thirds of our respondents cited "mission accomplished." The volunteers were all in costume, including our fifteen-year-old group leader in a homemade bacon getup. The neighborhood we were assigned to canvas was just north of my new abode and many a household was decorated in dedicated Halloween spirit. Lucky for my door-knocking partner and I, everyone we encountered was friendly and/or amused. I was surprised at how many people offered us candy! As we reminded them to fill out their whole ballots and distributed literature about drop spots, little boxes of Nerds, lollipops, and full size candy bars were dropped into our complimentary tote bags. When I was a kid doing actual trick or treating, full-sized candy bars were the stuff of legend. Trick or voting gifted me no less than three. Anyway, we had a blast. By the way, I bet you know exactly what I am. Don't try too hard. What did you say? Yes! That's it! I am a...
"White girl! Yeah, you. White girl. Whatchyoo s'posed to be?"Don't forget to cast your ballots!
"I'm a mummy rabbit."
"Huh. I like your costume."
Friday, October 17, 2008
For the last several months, my inspiration to create dresses was borne primarily from a "what I'd like to wear tomorrow (or even today!)" perspective. Regarding experimentation and skill acquisition, this is a legitimate process. In order to craft a cohesive collection however, a bit more integrity is required of me. It's time now for some depth rather than breadth and while my new workspace is taking shape, I am ready to get obsessive. Prepare yourselves for the deep end. :)
Monday, October 13, 2008
This weekend we turned my colleague Lorraine's (sheshasho) garage into an art gallery/studio/dance party and invited Portland to come take a look. Together with photographer Daniella Cardona we exhibited paintings, drawings, photographs, and of course, dresses. Along with 97 other studios, we opened house and had visitors ranging from skeptical older women to our various relatives to enthusiastic crafters and neighbors. I was surprised by how many folks made the trek out to Beaver-Tron to inquire about our creations and to shoot the breeze. Lorraine and Daniella both sold several of their works, and I sold the black and white checked jumper pictured to Colleen. All in all, a positive experience. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Having moved into a house where one of the roommates receives Harper's Magazine on a subscription basis, it was my privilege to encounter an article on one of my many favorite subjects; Iceland and its inhabitants. The article dealt with the history of democracy in the little volcanic island. Over breakfast, I learned how medieval Icelanders would meet on a yearly basis in a spectacularly lush and picturesque valley called "Thingvellir" to discuss governance, recite laws, and sentence wrongdoers to fines or punishments. I imagined them civilly discussing the matters at hand in a Hans Blix-esque fashion, possibly issuing formal complaints to those who sold their sheep at too high a price or borrowed a neighbor's boat without asking, and then I learned several stoic Icelanders had in fact chronicled such events. One of these being lawyerly Njal, notorious for his thoughtful contemplation. The author points out, however, that during her perusal of Njal's Saga, she came to see a distinct (and in my opinion, humorous) dichotomy in the content. "Njal's careful legal deliberation, though, was an odd contrast to much of the saga's grisly violence, as though Black's Law Dictionary had been spliced into Grand Theft Auto. Njal notes the importance of the rule of law--'With laws shall our land be built up but with lawlessness laid waste'--and not many pages later, his eldest son catches sight of his enemies on an ice sheet beside the river and, in a celebrated passage, decides to make the most of the opportunity:
'Skarp-Hedin made a leap and cleared the channel between the ice-banks, steadied himself, and at once went into a slide: the ice was glassy-smooth, and he skimmed along as fast as a bird. Thrain was then about to put on his helmet. Skarp-Hedin came swooping down on him and swung at him with his axe. The axe crashed down on his head and split it down to the jaw bone, spilling the back-teeth on to the ice.'"
Solnit, Rebecca. News from Nowhere: Iceland's Polite Dystopia.
Harper's Magazine, October 2008: Vol. 317 no. 1901, pgs. 47-53.
So I'm not trying to say that splitting open the head of your enemy with a battle axe is funny, but...the fact that its part of Iceland's great literary tradition sure is. Just read that passage aloud to yourself in your best Icelandic saga voice, and imagine reading it aloud to children of many ages sitting around the hearth. Possibly even choosing your favorite brother with whom to act it out for these children, dressed in intricately knit sweaters and thick wool socks. In the 12th or 13th century. Maybe then you can extrapolate to join me in raucous laughter.
And in case you're wondering about that crushed velvet skeleton I mentioned a week or so back? There it is. Flesh and blood.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Word! My busy pal Lorraine is flying up from LA to host a group exhibit in her "former studio" in Beaverton next weekend, and you are all invited! Yours truly will be there with a brand new series of garments in fine form...additionally there will be painting in action, dresses for sale, photographs, and fun-fun-fun waiting for you adventurous souls. Treat yourself to a weekend of art and support Portlandia in all its grassroots creative glory! We look forward to seeing your lovely faces there!
More details from Lorraine:
On the weekend of October 11th and 12th from 10:00am-5:00pm the annual event Portland Open Studios will be taking place all over Portland's Westside! The Open Studios program, in it's tenth year of operation, is an opportunity for the public to interact with Portland based artists in metro area in the intimacy of their own studios, view their most recent works, watch art being done, and buy art directly from the artist. You will see a diverse group of artists working in their chosen media—painting, sculpting, blowing glass and much more. You will meet emerging artists in their 20s and 30s as well as mid-career and well-established artists from all over the United States and the world!
Tickets and a directory of all 98 participating artists and a map are obtained through the purchase of the Portland Open Studios Tour Guide online (portlandopenstudios.com) or at one of the following vendors; New Seasons Market, Art Media or these retail outlets. Your Tour Guides admits 2 adults (children through high school are free) for all 4 days. The Guide includes a map of the studios, pictures of artists' work, and a full-color calendar.
As most may know I am no longer living in Oregon. I have been fortunate enough to set up my third studio in Los Angeles, where I have been working, creating, and scheming for the future, not to mention living it up (accounts both colourful and wordy of this adventure can be followed at sheshasho.blogspot.com!) However, I will be returning to the NW on the weekend of October 11th and 12th to re-invent my previous studio in Beaverton and be the youngest presenting artist ever.
Along with my most recent collection of works, a large in-process canvas, and two short films, three other artists will be accompanying me by showcasing their practice and recent works as well during this year's Open Studio:
Ben Young A fellow UO alum and art student, Ben is a transplant to Portland from Phoenix. He is a painter, sculptor and mechanic extraordinaire who's responsible for a majority of the mechanical moving parts and the construction of many of this year's Rose Parade floats. He has shown his sculpture at the Everett Street Lofts downtown.
Caitlin McCall A fellow Westview High School alum, Caitlin is a fervent clothing designer and crafter. Following an extended period living and working in the clothing design world in Germany, Caitlin has returned to Portland to throw down and introduce her cross-generational, bright dress designs to the States.
Daniella Cordona A fellow child of the Earth, Daniella is a freethinking photographer with the fervent and curiosity greater than most. Her black and white photos tell stories of nature and the human form. The Bolivian describes her edge as one from "the camera itself, just letting the lens lead and then deciphering a narrative, if any later."
Please mark this event on your calendar! I look forward to see all of you and sharing my art and encouraging the celebration of three other artists who keep me stimulated from Portland. There are about 5 other studios all in very close proximity too that offer diverse art as well, so come enjoy, thrive, and get inspired! The standard art gallery fare will be provided.
Again October 11th & 12th from 10:00am-5:00pm @ 14752 NW Forestel Loop Beaverton, OR 97006
See you there!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Several weeks ago, I went camping. In the desert. In Nevada. Where lots of other people go camping too. There are costumes involved. I made costumes for my tent-mates and entitled the series "Fringe Benefits." I was pleased with the results.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Finally. How I covet crispy air, golden sunsets and harvest smells...like pumpkins and spirit sauce. I am diving in. With the assistance of boots, tights, petticoats and scarves, my summer dresses are coming with me. This petticoat is made from a pair of big-lady bloomers from GWO; the dress is made from an old sheet and based on a commercial pattern, which I altered in order to get an A-line shape. Fall brigade of dresses marching in to join rank soon...
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
At my esteemed German visitor's suggestion, we had a rather intimate tie-dye party in the backyard this summer. He was primarily inspired by a detailed chapter on tie-dyeing in a sixties craft book; one of the many I continue to collect (against my better judgment and desire to own a minimal amount of heavy things). Welp, our party was small but quite focused and our results were rather magnificent in my opinion. Everyone came up with at least one thing they would treasure in the future. Here is my "great success."
Saturday, September 20, 2008
When this whole sheet-dress business began in our Berliner apartment, I distinctly remember informing all of our inhabitants of my intentions. There was a pile of textiles in the "laundry room" (Sebastian's kitchen) that had not moved for months and enough was enough in my mind. "Hey guys," I announced, "does anybody need any of those sheets up there (in the "laundry room")?" "Nope" was the resounding answer. "Okay, well if there's anything important, make sure you get it out of there before I start ripping things to shreds..." "Ja, ja, okay, no problem." This was my first creation (knew nothing about darts really, look how far things have progressed!). After its completion, I sported it proudly to the weekly Sunday flea-market excursion. Upon roommate assembly in the courtyard, Max froze and stared. There could be only one explanation. Me: "Oh no, don't tell me this is something you needed." Max: "...Noooo...it's...just strange to see my childhood bedding as a dress." Sigh.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
while I will the crushed velvet skeleton on my kitchen floor into existence...excited? I sure am. This onsie, by the way, is salvaged from a failed "african pant" experiment in Berlin. It's basically a bunch of fabric scraps sewn together using my favored patchwork method of textile resurrection. Boom.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I just finished reading Dave Eggers' new book, What is the What, which is rather genius not only in the sense that Eggers wrote it, but nears my ultimate favorite genre: Historical Fiction. The best part about this book though, is that it's NOT necessarily fiction. It's true. It's just fictionalized in certain portions for the sake of style, cohesiveness and so forth. The novelized format tricked me into learning all kinds of interesting facts about Sudan as well as marveling at the resiliency and humor of the protagonist, Valentino Achak Deng. It really wove an exquisite web of stories and recent history eliciting a heavy contemplation of the cruetly we can inflict upon one another, befuddlement at the extreme tension between groups of humans everywhere, and utmost resepect for both the protagonist and the author. One for surviving horrific political turmoil and genocide, then using the force of his personality to assist his fellow refugees and rebuild his country; and the other for presenting this information to the public in an articulate, inspiring piece of art.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
We all get a year older every now and then. This dress commemorates Shola's newest age (whose blog by the way, is a must-see for any obscure online image enthusiast: http://shola.endingthealphabet.org). I will admit that many of my recent creations stem from commercial patterns and/or my barely-significant/drastic alterations of them, but this one was complete improvisation. Happy birthday.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Before we get too caught up in where I am and what I'm doing now (DRESSES! Say it rabidly with a lisp while pressing the palms of your hands together under your chin), let's not forget some rather formative years. Let's back it up to the Berlin days. Karen O was my hero, I had an asymmetrical bowl cut, and flashy unitards were all I wanted to wear. I actually threw together this beauty (made from some sort of heinous flea market women's skirt) for a dance performance in Stuttgart. Our costume was "wear what you feel comfortable in." As I side note: I realized shortly after moving back to Portland that I bounced to California when I was 18, following which essentially ALL of my experience as a non-student adult in the real world occurred in...Germany. It really shouldn't have been THAT difficult to adjust to a new (old?) setting upon my return to P-town, but gosh, in Deutschland I was actually trying. Here, I thought things would just, you know, "happen" because I'd arrived. This is where I'm from, right? Au contraire. In many ways, this is more of a challenge than just hopping a plane across the Atlantic and building my life from scratch. Here I'm supposed to be starting with something...