Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wearable Art at the IQA Conference in Long Beach, 2010

First, sad notes:
Fred Bloebaum
Remember Fred Bloebaum and La Fred patterns?

Nick Coman sent word that designer Fred Bloebaum passed away on September 4, 2010. She'd been battling insidious cancer and, if anything, this brings an end to her suffering. But we will miss her spark among us. I always picture her as I knew her before she became La Fred. We met at The Sewing Workshop long ago where eventually she was teaching classes before starting the pattern company. The Sewing Workshop would have an Open House with fashion displays and sales on fabrics and buttons and such. We regulars were enticed to come by and see what was new and exciting. Fred was always there with her short, sleek dark red hair and sparkle. I know there was a sale of everything in Fred's business so I can't tell you if you would receive any response to her website if you wanted to buy a pattern, but I think you might like to see the gallery.

I have received word that family and friends are invited to celebrate her life on Friday, Sept 17, 1 pm at Plymouth United Church of Christ, 424 Monte Vista Avenue, Oakland, CA. Per Fred's request, please wear your favorite colors. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Project Open Hand 730 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA and Sutter VNA Hospice, 1900 Powell St, Emeryville CA.

Bonnie Leman
We also lost Bonnie Leman, the founder of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. She was one of the major sparks behind the resurgence of quiltmaking in the US. Her magazine continues in other hands, but she's the one who persevered with it for so many years at her kitchen table and brought the old skills to the fore.

I'm catching up on weeks of notes. This one started at the end of July, 2010:
IQA, Long Beach
I'm back from the International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, rejuvenated, happy to have been with friends, and also very happy that I went to David Taylor's lecture and to Saturday Sampler. David Taylor is a quilter with a style all his own. This has nothing to do with wearable art except that he kept talking about how his quilting has gotten more and more dense. I thought that was a good concept for quilted clothing. The more quilting, the stiffer the fabric, but on the other hand, I like the look of a garment that has complex quilting. In other words the quilting becomes more texture than design. You just have to allow for the stiffness through the garment shape you choose, and/or judicious placement of quilted areas. You don't have to quilt from edge to edge.

Glennis Dolce
As for Saturday Sampler, that's where I met Glennis Dolce whose comments I've been reading on Facebook. It's always good to hear the thoughts and frustrations of an artist and to know she's having the same problems you are, so that's why the Facebook comments are so interesting. Glennis calls herself the Shibori Girl because she does a lot of shibori dyeing. Go to her blog to see a video of her booth in Long Beach and what she has for sale. She pleats up silk pieces and dyes them, then sells them as ribbons and the basic components of soft flowers you can wear, among other ideas (in the photo Glennis is wearing her flowers on her shoulder). I sat in on her lecture at the Saturday Sampler to see how she creates her flowers. They're pretty and soft and many of you would likely want to try this. She also had pieces of her indigo-dyed fabrics which interested me most.

Jude Hill
A big draw for me in that booth was to see up-close the quilted collages made by Jude Hill. I'm one of Jude's fans because I love hand embroidery and especially the way she uses it—I study her work on Facebook—but she also has a website and a "what if" blog. This blog is so inspiring to me because it reminds me to try little things. It doesn't have to be a huge experiment, I can do some little work on a corner of a jacket, try a little paint, use a different stitch, and voila, it will get noticed. I have a store-bought denim jacket that I never wear because it needs embellishment. But I didn't want it to look like what everyone else makes with little bits of lace and charms and yo-yos, or appliques, that sort of thing. Since I admire Jude's collages so much, I thought that's what I'll put on my denim jacket. I'll use the packet of Glennis Dolce's indigo pieces which are cut and ready for me to test my layout and embroidery skills.

Saturday Sampler
A few more words about Saturday Sampler. If you're not familiar with this event, a number of teachers are set up with mini classrooms around a big room. You move from one teacher to the next as they give a short lecture. I love to go to these because you can get up close to some very famous teachers with wonderful techniques. You get a taste of their lecture style, you get a view of that person's personality, and usually you can buy their book or products. This time I met Esterita Austin. I wasn't a fan of her rocks quilts and was surprised when friends told me how much they enjoyed her classes. Well, five minutes with Esterita and I'm a convert! She's funny, she's innovative, and she knows what she's doing with all kinds of techniques. There were several others I will tell you about another time.

I Shopped, No Books, etc.
Did I shop at the show? You bet, I really helped the economy because I haven't been to an IQA show in four years, but it was different. So many favorite vendors were missing—Treadleart books is always my most important stop and they weren't there. The only garment patterns booths were those of Lorraine Torrence and Saf-T-Pockets. Not that I'm complaining, those are two special companies, but in the land of southern California where there's a large wearable arts group, why weren't there more vendors with garment patterns and more products that would be of interest to them. I have no doubt with the economy, many vendors couldn't afford to pay to go and also risk losing more if the customers weren't there. But I'm wishing it weren't so.

What I Missed
Why wasn't the Wearable Art Connection represented? Why wasn't there an exhibit of the fabulous clothes they have? I know Justine Limpus Parish was busy with a sale at the Palos Verdes art gallery. But she's one of many designers who live in the area. So on that level I was really disappointed. I took photos of the only garments I found in the exhibits. I know Judy Mullen made the kitty-cat jacket, but I'm sorry, I didn't record the names of the other artists. If you know who they are, please send me a comment so I can give them credit. The pieced jacket was part of an exhibit of pineapple block quilts.

No Competitions?
There is something else. Strictly on the level of quilt exhibits, we (meaning various people I talked to) felt the lack of a superior quality. The SAQA exhibit was worth seeing for the great variety of ideas and techniques. But the entire IQA show as a whole fell flat, there was little to excite and stimulate. Nothing stood out for me and so said the others. I thought maybe I was feeling some ennui. This was my first big show since my husband died, the drive itself was a big event, and I wasn't yet geared to creative interests. But I don't think it was just me. Something was missing from making this a fabulous show and someone thought it was the competitive aspect. No one was striving to win first place, and likely these shows weren't juried, so we got interesting pieces but nothing spectacular.

Saturday Runway Show
I was thrilled to find that they had arranged a one hour runway show for Saturday afternoon in Long Beach. It turned out to be lackadaisical or maybe the word is lackluster. When the person running the show proudly explained that she had embellished her long vest with Steam-a-seam® gold tape which she had ironed in a long line around the openings, what could I do but groan? This they present as an example of wearable art? She then brought out another person who works in the background at the show, explained that she doesn't sew either, but had crafted a jacket from scraps. I didn't get a close look. I'm sorry, but beginning sewing doesn't come close to a competition-winning work of wearable art. The amount of work involved is far and away beyond what a beginner could conceive of and I wouldn't want anyone to have the impression that a bit of embellishment is all it takes.

Fortunately there was a small nod to the competition of Stitch-in-Time, and several women displayed their work. I think these entrants came from the Stitch-in-Time show held in Houston last fall but I don't really know—I was held up at the front of the hall and was a couple of minutes late so missed introductions. They paraded up and down the aisles so I got photos though not names. (Please send me the names if you know them.)

This fashion show was over in 35 minutes. I think they were gearing this for quilters who don't make clothes, trying to encourage them to try it. I heard one older lady say, "That was interesting." It was, briefly, as you can see in these photos. But it was just a start; just a bit of representation of wearable art. Not really enough to get fingers tingling and juices flowing, and making people rush to their machines.

By All Means Plan to go to Long Beach!
All that said, would I encourage you to go to the show in Long Beach? Yes, because it's still very new and evolving. I was told they will no longer put on the fashion show based on the Stitch-in-Time show from Houston—so this was just a lame finish. It wasn't clear if they would have any wearable art displays next year. I imagine the cost of insurance for these garments continues to be prohibitive and people don't show enough interest. But I do think we could find willing local designers who would share their work—at least I'm wishing it were so. The wearable art group in Los Angeles is heady with skilled garment artists. Let's give them an exhibit or even a fashion show. If they can do it for local art galleries, why not for the IQA show? That would give us something really worth seeing!

If you have any new ideas for something to replace the Bernina shows in Houston (maybe on a limited budget), and what might work in Long Beach, please let me know. I can put you in touch with the people who want to hear it. By the way, I also took photos of passersby who were wearing something interesting.

I did find interesting things to buy in Long Beach. I'm going to stop here now. My next update is half written and I will describe the products I found plus maybe more about what I've been doing all summer (sewing!). Stand by! Rosalie