Friday, March 20, 2009

Show Your Wearable Art Skills

Do you know Rachel Clark? (Sorry for the blurry photo, but I had only a small image.) Rachel was one of my first teachers of quilting and wearable art techniques. I love her sense of humor and direct way of speaking--and that sense of humor shows up in her clothing. Long ago there was a whole article about Rachel in Threads magazine because of her style of working and piecing clothes. Since then you've surely seen her on tv, in quilting shows, and she teaches regularly at guild meetings, and annual workshops and retreats. Her fashion shows are a hoot plus she has been both a Fairfield and Bernina Fashion designer. Rachel has also designed a line of patterns suitable for wearable art. Check out her website and gallery at

In recent years, Rachel's been curating shows of quilts and wearable arts. The opening is at Back Porch Fabrics in Pacific Grove, CA in December, and then the show travels for at least a year. (Last year the display was also exhibited at the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara. As soon as I get them edited and organized, I will bring you those photos.) Now here's an announcement from Rachel of her next exhibit of garments and quilts. Maybe you'd like to enter? I've already signed up so come and join me in this show.

Ethnic & Cultural Influences
Often we like to look to different cultures and traditions when it comes to creating designs. They are seen as different, unconventional, and out of the ordinary, because many of the textiles or garments from other cultures are based on patterns, images, and colors that are often not seen in our everyday life. Many of us have incorporated ethnic styles, colors, and patterns into our work without even thinking about their origins. We think nothing of using Indian shisha embroidery, batik, or indigo dyeing, or making an Afghan coat or beading a vest. Gosh, remember the days of peasant blouses and skirts, the African Dashiki shirt, or making those Afghan coats? We were so excited using many of the Folkwear patterns. I am inviting you to go there or near there again.

I have been asked to do another show at Back Porch Fabrics in December and I invite you to participate. Drawing inspiration from Africa to Turkey, from Australia to Alaska and Northern Canada, create a long vest, coat, or small quilt using one ethnic influence. I have listed over 40 different cultures for you to choose from. Email me if you need further clarification (

Do look to cultures that we seldom see. Kimonos are everywhere, but what about the appliqued robes of the Ainu peoples in Japan? (Editor's note: This partial photo is of the large catalog put out by the Seattle Art Museum. It is titled "Beyond the Tanabata Bridge, Traditional Japanese Textiles," edited by William Jay Rathbun, published by Thames & Hudson, no ISBN number. I found this book years ago at a textile show for collectors--it was the first time I had come across both an Ainu robe (fabulous!) and information about how the Ainu robes were made (in an essay by Michiyo Morioka.)) We have been influenced by Aboriginal peoples on all the continents, maybe you'd like to pick one and use their designs for beading or applique. You may use inspirational fabrics from the country of origin, dyeing techniques, ethnic embroidery, or the patterns, colors, and styles from those other cultures. Do show us how their designs inspired you.

Guidelines and General Information

1. You may make a long coat, a long vest, or a ¾ length coat.
2. The culture or ethnic influence you choose should be instantly identifiable when viewing the garment.
3. You may use one of Rachel Clark's patterns, or a pattern of your choice.

Small Quilt
Small quilt measurements: 30 inches x 30 inches, 30 inches x 36 inches, or any size within the above dimensions.

Artist’s Statement
Please provide a one-page statement describing your experience participating in this project.

All garments and quilts accepted for exhibit will be shown at Back Porch Fabrics in December 2009/January 2010. The garments and quilts will travel to other exhibits for at least a year. They will remain in Rachel's possession for that time unless you make special arrangements with Rachel.

Back Porch Fabrics hosts an opening reception for the artists and guests the first Sunday of December from 1-3 p.m. Cards will be sent to all participants for mailing to friends and family.

I am requesting a fee of $20.00 to cover part of the expenses. Please make the check payable to Rachel Clark.

Dates to Remember
*April 1, 2009: make first and second choice of culture you will represent. Call or email Rachel to make declaration to participate, then pay fee (see address below).

*October 1, 2009: Artist’s statement due.

*November 1, 2009: Garment or quilt due at Rachel's house, 622 Martinelli St., Watsonville, CA 95076. 831-728-4179

Select the Culture and Design
If you are interested in participating, select a culture from the list below and let Rachel know your first and second choices as soon as possible. If you want to represent a culture that is not on this list, propose it to Rachel. She wants something different, something ethnic and eye-catching, something from peoples/tribes we don't normally encounter--just not the usual. She's not asking for reproductions of authentic ethnic costumes, but rather the influences.

African, American Indian, Australian, Austrian, Brazilian, Bulgarian, Canadian, Celtic, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Egyptian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Kuna Indian, Maori, Mexican, Nepalese, Norwegian, Pakistani, Persian, Peruvian, Filipino, Romanian, Russian, Scottish, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Tibetan, or Turkish.

I can recommend one book, will show others at other times. I do my research via Google online and sometimes find helpful photos, but my favorite resources are remarkable books. Many show photos of people in costume and you can get a sense of the embellishment. The Folkwear Book of Ethnic Clothing, Easy Ways to Sew & Embellish Fabulous Garments from Around the World is one of the few that include some how-tos. It was written by Mary S. Parker, published by Lark Books in 2002, ISBN 1-57990-510-2. The embellishment designs shown are the same as in Folkwear patterns. The point of this book is to explain how you can make a garment that "looks" like the original but uses "easy" techniques. It's a dumbing-down of the traditional. Nevertheless, it has many wonderful photos of garments and drawings of embellishment design details that you can make any way you want. I checked only on and found they have several copies in stock.

Correction of Last Blog Notes
Last week I listed the Goldstein Museum of Design's exhibition "Expressions of Stability and Change: Ethnic Dress and Folk Costume." Barbara Porwit, Administrator of the St. Paul, MN museum sent me a corrected web address. What I listed was an old url that might work but takes us to outdated pages. The new one is:

And in Other News
##Carole Parker of the Peninsula Wearable Arts group sent this from Carol Woods: Anyone going to France anytime soon? You might want to take a look at this exhibit.

##Bohemian Element is a vendor of world textiles, patterns and more. www.bohemianelement.comThey are holding a Sit n'Sew event on March 27 & 28 · $55 Sheraton Tucson 5151 E. Grant Road, Tucson, AZ.
* March 27 - Crazy Quilt Purse, 9:30 am - 4:00 pm Learn Crazy Quilt Paper Piecing and make a wonderful bag, includes kit, lunch and door prizes. Use wonderful ethnic fabrics, silks, ikats, batiks!
* March 28 - Surface Design, 9:30-11:30 Using Paintstix, stencils and woodblocks, create beautiful and unique fabrics. Use these to make a fast and easy card case in class. A light continental breakfast, door prizes, and shopping will make a fun morning!
* March 28 - Fiber Art & Textile Show (trunk show) · $25 12:30 pm -4:30 pm Hands-on Demonstrations and Make-and-Takes. Fabrics and Embellishments from all over the world.
* April 3 & 4 - Bohemian Element & Philip J Mertens trunk show of Beads, Findings, Jewelry, and Textiles (Old and New), 10:00-5:00 at UN Center/Unicef, 6242 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson AZ 85712 520-881-7060

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