Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Memorial Neck Tie Coin Purses (Part One)

It's difficult to lose a loved one. Not only that, but often we are left with the stuff. And the stuff can take over our lives and often manifest itself in a physical sadness that needs to be stored and dusted. It can actually sometimes even take over our lives much like those individuals featured on "Hoarders". I feel hard for those folks. They live in their own sadness like they live in a castle with a moat. It pains me.

I constantly reinvent myself as an artist. Which is not to say that I one day decide to be a dancer or a lawyer (although it is sometimes relevant. My parents are a dancer and a lawyer and they are often inspiration for my art). I'm all mixed media all the time.  That often leads me to be an architect, a painter, a sculptor, a stitcher, a drafter, a jewelry artisan and the like. It allows me the creative freedom to help my clients express themselves. I listen carefully to the message they want to say and then help them say it.

Every once in a while I get to "pay it forward" as an artist. Not meaning work for free necessarily, as I often volunteer for community art projects, but sometimes commissioned pieces can be really satisfying and wonderful. For example, my current client's father passed away and she had several of his neckties that she wanted me to make into coin purses so that she could give them as Christmas gifts. I'd never been officially asked to do a memorial piece before, so I was really honored.

Memorial items are a wonderful way to use the stuff and still remember the person. I call it "respectful recycling".

Here is the beginning of the Memorial Necktie Coin Purse  journal. The pictures are a bit outdated since I'm further along in the process, but I wanted to post today.

There are eight of them in total. (Nine ties total. There is also a solid black on that I plan to use for the lining of however many purses I can) The client provided the hardware.

Each kiss clasp had a different color or attribute, so I first  matched up each frame with each tie. The ties themselves are a beautiful time capsule of menswear. I love the one with the Spartan warriors. That one is my favorite, admittedly. They are all really great vintage and contemporary pieces, though. Some silk and handmade, some not. All vibrant and colorful.

Now since it is a coin purse, I won't be posting the pattern, per se.  I drafted it from several free online patterns that are available from quilting websites that I follow. I got permission to use the pattern.

However, I do have several construction recommendations. First, it is recommended that you photograph the items and look at them before you cut them out. If you want to change the color assignments with the kiss clasps, it's easier to do while the ties are still whole so that you can see the neckties and the little detail beads in the right lighting.

 Secondly - I highly recommend that you reserve some of the material and connect it to the tie with a safety pin so that you don't lose your place - or worse - come back later and forget your plan.

Stay tuned for part two. I'm about two weeks ahead of myself in construction and pictures...so....worry not...I will include more construction photos.

Until next time readers, stay savvy and stay creative.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Costume Design Presentation

Tonight is the designer presentations for the upcoming production of Jekyll and Hyde that we are doing this Fall.  The cast will be there to do a read through and then it's "go" time for me. The director, Nathan, and I have talked at length about the process and the stage business. Now it is time to implement all of those things into one cohesive design concept.

Sounds easy, right? It can be a challenge. Especially when you have two actors who rarely leave the stage and play at least three people. These same two actors also perform stage violence so the outfits have to be both convertible and comfortable.

I'd mentioned all of that before. The part for designers that becomes the challenge is "selling" our ideas about how we plan to do this within a set budget. While our budget is not "shoe string" - it is not at all the budget that the Steppenwolf, Lookingglass or Chicago Shakespeare Theatre would have to put on a Victorian production. So I have the opportunity to get really creative with my resources and my tools. And I do look at it as an opportunity. Problem solving is also part of design.

For example, these actors need a plethora of pockets. Where will they go? Can they be seen? Do they need hidden pockets to conceal things and what will they be concealing? Is there stage blood utilized? Yes. That means laundry. Can Victorian clothing be washed? Not really - but now it has to be.

While I'm not going to give away exactly how things will work (I do want to save something for the post show talk backs) I will tell you how many hours go in to planning this sort of thing.

From Draping to Patterning to Building to Embellishing - you will know the truth behind these costumes and why they need to be a certain way to tell this story the way we want.

Today we talk concept. I will repost pictures after the director has given his blessing.  :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Doctor Jekyll, I Costume ... er ... Presume

My theatrical production company, Idle Muse, is producing one of my favorite stories: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  We will be putting up the production this September. Whoa. Wait. Hold on. Stop. Halt. Stani. ArrĂȘte. Alto! Lest you start channeling "The Hoff" and dancing about proclaiming that “this is this moment”...please know that we are not, I repeat not, doing the musical Jekyll and Hyde

You will just have to get your Wildhorn and Cuden fix somewhere else.

This play, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, from the novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. We've only had two production meetings and even though it will have it's classic Late Victorian splendor, it already promises to be just as thrilling and gory as I remember the book being.

This provides me with, now, one of my greatest challenges as a costume designer. We want to portray the grit of the era while staying true to the text. There are six actors each with his or her own track (e.g. five of said actors will play a handful of characters while the actor playing Jekyll will remain only himself). 

Did I mention that this is Late Victorian? Yep. 1883. All of its upper crusty and West London with a side of Industrial Revolution.

Most of the actors have costume changes in 5 (yes, “five”) seconds or less. The impetus is to have it all be deftly wrapped in a blanket of seriousness and not have it become a giant ludicrous "camp fest."

There is a thin line between speed and humor and speed and efficiency of movement that makes the hair on every designer's neck stand up. We designers all want our serious work to be taken seriously. Camp quick changes are all well and good when doing a production of The Mystery of Irma Vepp.  

Camp is not our intention here, so, I must carefully examine each actor's stage business with the patience of a neurosurgeon before I proceed.

The principles of the show will be guided by the director, Ensemble Member, Nathan Pease. The Concepts of the show fit into our mission statement as a company.

So too must the costumes of this show conform to that Late Victorian setting.

I love a challenge.

"This is what I know..."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I've had two really great successful photo session with Greg Inda of Greg Inda Photography.

And now to post into oblivion.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Everything "YES"...and Now I Want Ethiopian Food.

This year, I gave myself the challenge of “everything ‘yes’”. If I saw it in the thrift shop or mending bin…the answer was: “yes. I will make something out of it”
I try to never limit myself...but I do always throw myself a designer challenge to keep my life interesting.
My sister gave me vintage clothing from the 1980s. Yes.
I found a plethora of vintage things that were pastel. Pastel??  But I'm afraid of pastel. No matter....  "YES".
My neighborhood is Pakistani, Indian, Afghani, Israeli, Croatian, Russian and Ethiopian. Saris. Yes. Habesha Tibeb. Yes. Yes.
Result is a super collection of delicious cantaloupe, coconut, tamarind, lime, plantain, wheat, yam, clove, coffee, chai and curry. Sumptuous velvets, sassy plaids. 

All the spices and twice the sugar? Yes. 
All the warmth - twice the cool?  Yes. 
All the fashion and twice the practicality? YES.
Now serving up a plateful of Chicago summer.  Do not miss it.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Are you kidding me right now?

So apparently - my life is an episode of "Hoarders".  Theatre Addition.  My shop has not been usable since I closed The Mystery of Irma Vepp.  In OCTOBER.

Yes. There is a toaster oven in there. I know, right. Ridiculous. (It bakes FIMO really well...obviously...not while it is in the middle of the floor.

So.  This is really embarrassing.  Problem is that I don't even remotely want to have anything to do with cleaning it. Drudgery.

I'll have to make a game out of it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Let's do the time warp. Again?

Oh. heavens. So a year has passed. I'm a bad blogger.

So. Today is about getting back on the horse. Giddyap.  Photoshoots, posters, inventory, taxes and book work.  Oh my.