Tag Archives: inspiration

Bloomsbury Inspiration

16 Jul

One of my longtime favorite art/home deco inspiration sources has been the art and craft of the Bloomsbury group, Charleston Farmhouse, and the Omega Workshops.

I love the aesthetic–the rich yet muted palette of colors–and also the idea of living surrounded by art on all sides, where each component of one’s familiar space is also a work of art. It’s something I’ve long aspired to in my own home (handmade pottery, painted surfaces, etc.) and now, clearly, touching my wardrobe as well.

(fabric by the Omega Workshops, source: http://www.culture24.org.uk/art/art69644)

Lately I’ve been returning to this inspiration again, thinking of fabric design. The Omega workshops translated many of their paintings into textiles for both home use and fashion, many of the participants wore clothing of their own design, with their own fabric patterns as well.

Various companies have done contemporary interpretations of old Omega/Bloomsbury designs, including my favorite fashion retailer Anthropologie:

I recognize this print from my own library as a very close copy of one designed by Vanessa Bell–and they’ve paired it, so cleverly, with Nina Hamnett plaid stockings.

Here’s Nina, in her own Omega-fabric dress, painted by Roger Fry in 1918:

 

“I had a wonderful collection of stockings at that time and wore flat-heeled shoes with straps on them like children do. They made my feet look very large. They cost five francs and were worn by concierges. I had red stockings and yellow stockings and some that looked like a chess board. Modigliani would run after me up the Boulevard Raspail after the Rotonde had closed. He could always see me because of my loud stockings.

-Nina in her delightful kiss-and-tell autobiography, Laughing Torso.

 

At any rate, I’m brewing Bloomsbury-style fashion inspirations. Whether these will be ideas that come to fruition in some future project, or whether they stay in the brew pot of unreachable crafting aspirations, only time will tell.

American Craft Favorites, Part 3

23 Mar

One other “Maker of Fine Clothing” that I admire is textile artist Leni Hoch.

Leni Hoch makes silk scarves (mostly) but also jackets that start with a very light, transparent fabric, and then are hand-dyed lustrous and brilliant colors, often with a metallic sheen. Then they are intricately pleated. The resulting scarves have more body and form to them, from the scrunched pleats. As you’ve seen, the cloth-as-sculpture thing is a perennial favorite for me.  With a fabric this distinctive, the shapes and styles of a garment can be really simple, as the fabric takes over and makes any resulting item a statement piece that’s hard to imitate. Complex, intensive process leads to strong, distinctive and unmistakable results.

American Craft Council Favorites, 1

26 Feb

My hands-down favorite clothing vendor at the ACC show was Teresa Maria Widuch.

Widuch makes jackets in wool felt and ultrasuede: simple, sculptural jackets with crisply cut raw edges of fabric stiff enough to stand up like paper. Indeed, at first glance one might have thought the booth held paper cut-outs  of clothing. The colors were pure and vivid: fuchsia and citron, smooth, even colors that let the shapes stand out  and highlighted the three-dimensional forms by emphasizing the cast shadows across the surfaces.

 


They look, at first glance, deceptively simple: a raglan sleeve here, a rounded collar there. But this is yet another instance where a “simple” look comes from a myriad of perfect details, all lined up to deceive the eye into reading the whole, “simplicity”, rather than each of the details on their own.

 


I’ve never seen anything like these.  I’ve never seen anything constructed quite like them, either–the pieces are put together like sculpture, not like clothing. And there are no two alike. I don’t know how many I looked at (nearly every one there, I think) and each one offered a slightly different shape or variation from all the others. Some (like the red example, above) had an inner part that serves like a vest, under the opened petals of lapels. Many had asymmetrical collar lapels, wrapping differently on the left than on the right.  Some had decorative design details cut out, some had toggles or closures and others just fall open smoothly. All of them are based on traditional jacket forms–blazer, kimono, cape, etc., but none is quite straightforward. This is a great example of how, crafty and clever as I might think I could be, I know that I could not duplicate this effect in my own workroom, for any amount of trying, at least not without spending far more for materials and effort than the finished jackets themselves cost. (You see, I’ve tried ultrasuede!) And I think it’s because I sew, myself, that I appreciate this all the more.  Because I know where the seams usually go, on a blazer or jacket, that I notice how the traditional seams are moved or missing, and  all the different variations Widuch has made to design a garment that looks like and yet nothing like what we expect from a jacket.

There’s something almost existential about these that I love. They’re sculptures: art pieces that comment on the “essence of jackets”, perhaps. Sculptures about clothing that double as actual, wearable clothing.  And they’re quite chic when worn, as well: they have their own dimensionality and stand out and away from the body, and yet their  shapes are as conscious of the shapes of human bodies that fill jackets as they are about jackets, and thanks to carefully angled darts and seams they look quite gracious when modeled.

One day, perhaps, when I return to buying clothing that other people have made, I may find that it takes something this dramatic, this chic to make it worth my while to go shopping. And wouldn’t this be a handsome acquisition, to a handmade wardrobe?

 

The Art of Handcrafting

25 Feb

This weekend I was fortunate to attend the American Craft Council show. Because of this project, I paid particular attention to the textile artists, clothiers and designers.

I am tempted to call it “inspirational” but what I felt most, looking at the fine handcrafted work of others, was quite different from inspiration. I think of “inspiration” as when I feel the need and impulse to run home and try out something for myself–it’s what I feel, often, when looking at pictures of runway fashion shows, for example. Or knitted items in retail stores. What I felt, however, looking at the work of these artists was quite different from that. So often, whether it was a craft I can do myself (like sewing) or one I’ve never tried (like furniture making), what I felt was more like awe. Awe and admiration, that someone had thought of this. That someone had tried it with this twist, or had perfected it to that level. And rather than wanting to run home and try out each process myself, I found myself feeling grateful, instead: grateful that someone had demonstrated that this could be done, and done so beautifully. I realized that while I do want to make a lot of things (like my clothing), I don’t need to make everything and yet, fortunately, for many things I really like, there is probably someone making it by hand, and making it very beautifully.

Teapot by Michael Scarborough

Teapot by Michael Scarborough

The craft vendors that I loved the most were the ones to whom I wanted to say “I couldn’t possibly make this, myself–but wow, you have done it, and done it so splendidly, I will never need to.”

I like to say “the world is full of beautiful things”, and this weekend I feel overstuffed with beautiful things. I will post a few of my favorite “finds” from the show, to share with you, here.

Inspiration: Alabama Chanin

10 Feb

Every once in a while I’ll see a photo of some hand-stitched, hand dyed garment with a motif of floral cutouts, or an interesting texture created with a simple stitch, and I catch my breath and follow the links….

…and find Alabama Chanin.
I love the textures and the layers, and the way the raw handstitching is so often used in garments that end up being so much more elegant than a sum of their parts.  Of course, their items are also way out of my budget, so I will look, and learn, and as I’m thinking about ways to create, and ways to refashion things into new iterations, I will remember the way rough stitches look next to an unfinished raw edge of fabric, and can still be perfectly glamorous.

Fun Fashion Accessories

31 Jan

Here’s something I’ve never thought of wearing before: Spats!

These are from Lux Legs, and I know they’re a little “out there”. But in my opinion, there’s a lot to like. The whole idea of spats is retro and/or steampunk, but I think some of these choices transcend that costume character and could be worn as a fun fashion element away from the theme park or con. I also like the way they change the silhouette of a shoe, and give the impression of ankle, calf, or knee-high boots, but without the investment or commitment of boots.  I wonder if spats wouldn’t be a fun sewing project, to play with this line and shape on legwear.

Felted Inspiration

26 Jan

I’ve never made anything out of felt, but it’s a fabric texture that appeals to me in many forms.

A lot of designers are doing interesting things with it, and it has great qualities that make it really versatile. Like the German designers Marianne and Josef Wurst of “Filz und Kunz”, who do silk and wool felt, sometimes woven together, sometimes in layers of transparent and thickly opaque.

See how the jacket on the left has strips of felt beginning as stripes and continuing down as a sculptural effect.  My favorite, though, is the belt (left) and bustier (right) made out of strips of colorful felt, and then “strung” on thing black elastic, to create a stretchy band that hugs the body, curving the vertical stripes along the shape of the waist.

To think of it: a felt bustier!  It is both surprising, and yet still  wearable. And the construction of those might potentially be applied to other materials, as well.