Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Stitch = New Ideas

It started with this great reproduction locket, cast from an original gutta percha piece and featuring one of my favorite motifs - acorns and oak leaves.

But a locket needs to be suspended from something... and a period gold chain was NOT in the budget.

So after looking at a number of period pieces, I settled on tubular herringbone as the technique that would result in an appropriate period look, but there was just one problem: it's not a technique I've ever used previously.

Fortunately, it's a forgiving and easy stitch to work, resulting in a strong but flexible chain. I especially like the ability to add beads in a variety of sizes; it allows for great design possibilities. This is a stitch where thread color matters, again allowing for creative decisions.

I'm quite pleased with the finished product (it somewhat resembles hair jewelry) and have already started a much more modern interpretation, which will include some natural found objects.

Necessity drove me to learn a new method and now I'll be able to reap the benefits of a new tool in my design possibilities - what could be better?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Changing It Up - An 1860's Fashion Show

Have you ever attended a Civil War fashion show?

The format is fairly standard, a parade of mostly ladies in their finest, perhaps a "dressing for the day" showing all the appropriate layers of underpinnings and maybe a handful of children and gentlemen.

But I just couldn't do it...

I was asked to narrate the fashion show for Historic Charlton Park, and I wanted to change it up - provide information on the fashions of the 1860's certainly but also go a little deeper, tell a little more.

So I decided to explore the idea of fabric being relatively expensive and time being cheap, how clothing would be used for a multitude of functions and how each scrap of fabric would be used for all it was worth.

I started with myself as the first example, in my silk dress with large open sleeves and puffy undersleeves, a square neckline filled with a chemisette and my high style silk spoon bonnet - I'm dressed for an afternoon call or a carriage ride with the addition of a parasol and wrap, but wait...

I transition to a lovely costume for a formal dinner by removing my bonnet, adding a lace and ribbon cap, removing the undersleeves and chemisette (it's perfectly acceptable to show a bit of skin in the evening) and adding a necklace and pair of bracelets. I also showed the second matching low evening bodice that can be quickly basted in place and then I'm ready to dance!
Next I focused on less formal clothing, in fact it appears we've interrupted the workday routine of a hardworking housekeeper - she's ready for messy work, with her skirts kirtled up, her apron, neckerchief and slat bonnet.

But she quickly is able to ready herself for a quick trip to the general store by dropping her skirts, removing her apron and donning a simple but more fashionable straw bonnet.

I also mentioned the vast yardage contained in skirts of the period; how items such as aprons, cloth bonnets and even children's clothing could be fashioned from the fabric salvaged from an outdated or worn dress. I had an adorable little girl model the use of growth tucks and drawstring waist and necklines on children's clothing to ensure such items could be worn as long as possible before being passed down to a younger sibling.

We then moved on to a fashionable ensemble for a young miss, note her fancy, meant-to-be-seen petticoat and elevated skirt. She also sports a porkpie hat and parasol - perhaps she'll be strolling with a beau?

But by dropping her skirts, switching out her hat for a bonnet, she's ready for church services.
Trims on dresses and bonnets was typically just tacked in place, making it easier to remove and change out, yet another example of extending the use of each garment.

Men's clothing is not quite as changeable as the ladies, but one of my favorite "make-do's" I've ever seen, was a vest that had been split up the back, the edges carefully finished, to allow for the gentleman's increased girth - as long as he kept his jacket on, it'd would be his secret.
All clothing would be carefully tended - cleaned, mended and what couldn't be removed or repaired would be hidden. It's a very different mindset than today, making it last, reusing in new ways, NOT running out to buy new; it sounds like we have so much to learn from the past!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Forest...

... of masts!

Last weekend was the 86th Port Huron to Mackinac Race; having the racers arrive is always exciting and the energy level is so high you can almost see the air vibrate.

The Beau Geste of Hong Kong, was the first to arrive, in just over 47 hours, but not the winner - after the time was corrected based on handicap, she placed second in her division. She's a huge yacht, 80' long with a mast that towers 130' above the water.

There was a total of 206 yachts; they overflow the marina and line the space between the main dock and the coal dock.

Having arrived, the work isn't over. Gear must be dried, note the sails spread on the grass. Everything needs to be stashed away, many will be racing again this weekend, the Chicago to Mackinac.

I suspect I view the races just a bit differently from most spectators - I see color, form, reflections, repetition of pattern, etc. With all the energy floating about, who wouldn't be inspired?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Crossing the Mighty Mac

There's home, so close, yet so far!

We spent the weekend downstate, which meant a trip across the "Mighty Mac" was a necessity.

I've been crossing the bridge my entire life, by car, by motorcycle - I've even been beneath the bridge in a boat.

But I've never before had to come to a complete standstill for maintenance, and so discovered that you really CAN feel the bridge sway, which made for an interesting experience.

Maintenance on the bridge is a never ending cycle of tasks. These days, maintenance involves all kinds of safety equipment. But many years ago, when my father and uncle were young, they painted the bridge with not so much as a rope harness - it's a different world these days.

A very popular fundraiser in this area is auctioning off a trip up the towers. I'd love to see the view from that vantage point, but alas, it always goes for far more than my budget allows.

The architecture of the bridge is visually stunning and a frequent source of inspiration for artists, even me. Here's a view of the bridge, at night, with fireworks above and the reflections below, all in bead embroidery.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beach Roses

I've been rather intrigued by the huge rose shrubs growing down along the boardwalk, but a little research showed that they're growing exactly where they belong.

Rosa rugosa is a species of rose native to eastern Asia, in northeastern China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Siberia, where it grows on the coast, often on sand dunes.

In Japanese, it is called hamanasu , meaning "shore pear". In Korean, the species is called haedanghwa, literally "flowers near seashore".

Named for the wrinkled (rugose) surface of its glossy green leaves, this rose is a charmer that can soften and naturalize any area.

The sweetly scented flowers are used to make potpourri in Japan and China, where it has been cultivated for about a thousand years.
It took many attempts, but I finally managed to capture the bees enjoying the perfume too!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July's "Cycling" Page

The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum opened to the public on July 2nd and my piece "Cycling" is front and center in the contemporary gallery!

The grand opening party is July 14th and I can not wait; it's going to be such a thrill to see this building in use and the exhibits are incredible, both the historic and contemporary - you must come visit if you're in northern Michigan.

"Cycling" is a beaded herbarium, showing the plant life on Mackinac throughout all the seasons. July is represented by the Wood Lily or Lilium philadephicum, a native perennial species, currently in bloom.

Here's the original inspiration photo, taken on a bike ride around the Island:

And the finished herbarium page: