Tuesday, 27 January 2015

NEW YEAR, NEW POST, NEW ME?.....................

New year, new post, new me and a new commitment to be able to write a blog post without deleting it.  How many of you out there, have done exactly that and spent what seems like ages, writing and editing a post only not to save it! URGH.

Annoying beyond words......so what did I write.  In a concise form back on track with PhD and am fortunate to have attentive, thorough and also very nice supervisors, Dr Linda Sandino and Elizabeth Dawson both of whom read, edit and give me feedback on my research.  How lucky am I?

I have been attending courses at The School of Historical Dress which have been inspirational and informative.  The wonderful Jenny Tiramani holds them in her house which, fittingly is small but beautiful 18th century lodge near Old Street.  My first weekend course was draping on the stand comme Madeleine Vionnet.  We made a half size toile of the a summer dress (1921) which although looked simple (Golbin, 2009, p. 98) was complicated and gave me a concrete understanding to exactly how skillful Vionnet was with her pattern cutting.  We were also shown several fabulous bias cut dresses from the school's collection.  What the teachers, Jenny Tiramani and Claire Thornton don't know about historic dress is quite frankly not worth knowing.  I learnt so much over that weekend and I followed it with a further course in 18th century tailoring techniques.  Another great experience, this time taught by Melanie Braun and again Claire Thornton.  We were given the opportunity to examine a number of wonderful 18th century men's coats and we created a sampler which show cased a variety of stitches from button holes, to eyelets, half back stitch and pad stitch.

Vionnet sample toile


This hands on practice based approach to dress history is an excellent way to understanding not only how the garments were created but also to comprehend an aspect of the culture of the society that made them. In as much as we worked with materials as close as possible to those used in the 18th century.  Furthermore, increasingly, as the day wore on and the sun went down I found it harder and hard to thread my needle using the thick linen thread.  Had I been living and sewing in that time period, I am sure I would have been out of a job as my eyesight is just not good enough for that type of precision sewing.   The tailoring techniques were tricky and required a good deal of skill. The end result was a sampler that I have to say was my own personal triumph even though it was incomplete.  I have always had reverence for my past sisters and brothers craftsmen but the course gave me the space to experience how the garments that I analyze, theorize, investigate are actually cut and constructed.

Doing a practice led PhD has been a wonderful opportunity to not only take my research interest to another level but also the practice side of it has allowed me to explore and push the boundaries of my work within the parameters of an institution which is safe but also freeing.  I am fortunate to be able to combine dress history with contemporary design and construction.  My latest project is based on a Parisienne redingote that was once a men's 18th century court coat and is now a 19th century women's jacquette. I visited the said garment in Paris where it is in the collection of Musée Galliera.  It is a good example of imaginative historical refashioning techniques.  The garment is in a bad state of conservation and the lining which covers the original 18th century silk lining is completely shot and so brittle that it virtually disintegrated in my gloved fingers.  However, it has provided me countless inspirational ideas for the practice element of my research.

I have been working not only with digital embroidery machine but also the laser cutter both of which produce such interesting effects and are quick.  The lazer cutter, in a very short space of time can cut through silk in such a way as to produce a pinking effect not to dissimilar to those produced on an 18th century gown.  Amazing.  I particularly like the effect of a laser machine on fabric as it almost burns the edges of the fabric cutting it with a fine and precise line that doesn't fray.  However, in order to produce these pieces, I have had to use Adobe Illustrator and for me that is a challenge.

To change the subject completely, I have been helping designer, Flavia Amadeu with her PhD thesis.  It tackles an interesting area of 'sustainability' in as much as she is devising a methodology for practioners who work with indigenous people to follow using the capability approach.   Her interest lies with rubber tappers in the Amazon rain forest.  Fascinating.  Look out for Flavia Amadeu as she designs original and quite beautiful jewelry made from organic rubber tapped from the Amazon www.flaviaamadeu.com


Digital machine embroidery based on a my design inspired by daisies growing in the Musee de Albertt Khan and 18th century embroidery


Shall I change the title of this blog site?  I'm bored with it - any suggestions?