Textile Interrlude

Today begins the final two weeks of my grandmother’s exhibition at the London College of Fashion. On November 15th the exhibition will pack up and move to the Palazzo Morando in Milan, Italy. I suppose it is fitting that the exhibition which, in addition to paintings, displays clothing Coco Chanel gave to her and my mother is soon to arrive in the fashion capitol of Europe. The textiles used to create the clothing still hold up in design and structure to this day. My mother and grandmother wore the clothes and used them as Coco intended. Only now have they been plucked from our collective closets and put on display as artifacts. I’m sure Coco would have loved to have seen the collection displayed together as it tells the story of their friendship and mutual admiration.

Being an artist, others hold you up to a higher standard in all areas of artistic disciplines; including all kinds of craft making. We all have different skill sets and sadly apparel design is not one of mine. I know this because in 1990 when I was a sophomore at RISD, I had definitely decided to change my major from sculpture but the question was, to what? I took pattern making and fashion illustration in the apparel department. I was woefully under skilled at both and watching the other students effortlessly draft a pattern with all its geometry “issues” was miserable. My fashion illustrations skills were worse. Having said that, I enjoyed every minute of it! I often say to people that I would go to RISD all over again and major in something different from Painting. Not to change my career but to experience something entirely unlike painting; textiles, glass blowing, and landscape architecture top my list.

During our summer trip to the Balearic Islands, we discovered an exhibition of art based on textiles made on this loom:


The artist was using the traditional hand-made textiles woven on her loom and incorporated them into fine art wall hangings, garments, and handbags. She wove while visitors looked on and stopped to explain how the loom operated or to explain a finished piece on display. I remember that this is exactly what the looms looked like at RISD in the textile department and I was told (feeling deep envy) that each student was assigned to their very own loom for the three years of the degree program.

Whenever I hear that cringe-worthy phrase, “My kid could do that” I feel like shouting from the mountain tops while shaking my fist in anger! My experience in the RISD apparel department made me appreciate the skills of other professionals even more. I am pretty confident that my own skills lay in color and brush technique. A studio visitor asked me the other day, “How do you do this?” I think the question was more than just about the physical task of painting a large canvas. I explained that it has taken me 20 years of painting to get to this point and although my work may appear be minimal in composition and color the road to distilling these elements to their raw core was neither fast nor easy. So no, your kid could NOT do that!

This brings me to the “couture Halloween” costume I hand sewed for my daughter this year (the hand sewing was due to the fact that I don’t have a machine here in Europe). I made a pattern, cut the fabric and sewed two four-part sleeves to a three-part dress. It took me hours of labor. I told my daughter that if it did not turn out, we would go to plan B. Much to both of our surprise, it was a success. The bow and arrow was hand-made by her father. Here is the result. Just don’t let Tim Gunn see the construction:


My show with BSDA went well this past summer and more work is still available through the curator Kate Singleton in Brooklyn, N.Y.

This month’s music-Big Black Delta

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