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


jude said...

thanks for the kind review... good luck with your jacket....

Mandi said...

I too am very sad at the lack of interest in beautiful wearable art. I don't bother to enter anything into quilt shows because I know it's just an afterthought of a category and poorly represented compared to a few years ago.

I know of nobody who is at all interested in trying to replace the Bernina fashion show. I missed participating in the final one because of an accident to my fabric, but when I tried to contact people about starting something else I got no response. It was sad. So I'll just make something every 2 years and enter it into the SDA conference show.

shiborigirl said...

great meeting you at the show and thanks for posting such a thoughtful review of the festival.
i have heard many lamenting the loss of the Bernina fashion show and while I am not familiar with all the ins and outs for the reasons behind them pulling sponsorship (mostly financial from what i have heard) i still hope there is enough of an interest in wearable art to restructure this category in a way that will allow it to continue to exist on a quality level. perhaps it might just take some people thinking outside the box to come up with a new way for it to be presented. Quilts Inc is quite good about partnering with people and organizations (from my experience) in order to bring forth and further such work. it would be wonderful if the WAC group and Justine became involved in a project of this sort. perhaps FIDM, Art Center, Belle Amoire could also participate. it will really take someone in the WA world to co-create it with Quilts Inc for it to take shape.
moving on to another point- many of the smaller individual artist designers that have graced the show floor in previous years (i have been doing their shows for 10 years now and have seen some extremely talented people come and go) are unable to do these shows due to the rising costs associated with them in light of the current economy. these missing (IMO) vendors add spice, ingenuity, and inspiration to these shows and without them we are left with a far less interesting and vital show floor. i mean really, how many booths can you have selling fat qtr stacks of similar fabrics? of local stores setting up shop for a weekend and bringing in the same merchandise you can purchase in their shop any day of the week? next time you go to one of these shows, walk around and see just how many booths there are where the maker themselves is present in the booth- where all the product in the booth is made by the person right there exhibiting it? it used to be many more. this is what makes me sad. i'd like to see more balance as far as this goes but if the vendors aren't there, they just aren't-at least for now.
that being said, i intend to continue to be there, for as long as i can hold out, making and creating things to inspire and sell to all the wonderful people who attend these shows. it was a pleasure and an honor to bring jude's work to long beach and nice to know the effort was appreciated!

rosalie cooke said...

Delighted to hear from all three of you! Thank you for the thoughtful remarks--maybe I can start a dialog that will create a force to be reckoned with, like the quilters did. Money speaks so we have to buy and attend when we have the chance. I can't encourage you enough to enter your garments wherever you can. These shows get nervous when they don't see many entries. It costs them money to put on an exhibit. Hmm, I think I should write this up as a topic in future.
Keep up the great work Glennis--you have our support!

justinelimpusparish said...

Hi all, I too am very sad that the Berina show is no more. In fact the whole wearable art field has pretty much imploded commercially. Many of the original Galleries are gone or are in bad financial shape. FreeHand Gallery here sells very little clothing, mostly accessories, jewelry and focuses on traditional crafts like ceramics, glass & wood. Santa Monica Contemp. Craft Show has lots of people attending, but not buying.

I have gone back to teaching, primarily at Art Center College of Design. I am in the Product Design Dept teaching Apparel design to very talented designers with an industrial design background. A whole new experience for me and I LOVE it. They fuse technology with design and are interested in the traditional embelishment techniques but NOT the kimono jacket silhouette AT ALL. I show them the WAC website Fiber Techniques Library, but they are totally uninterested in the rest of the work. Most of my younger students (19 - 28 age) think of this kind of clothing as "my grandmothers clothes". Tough to hear but that is the reality. But they are very interested in combining DIY with high tech methods like digital printing, etc.

Lots to think about and I have had many conversations with the folks at Belle Armoire about this. We are all trying to find our way.

rosalie cooke said...

Thank you for that insight Justine. Yes, I figured what we still like to make is now "grandmother's clothes" but that's no reason not to make them. Grandma still has to be dressed and these clothes keep us from being invisible--something that happens in this society which doesn't revere age. I've been looking around and the quilt shows aren't exactly overwhelmed with young attendees. We still have to cater to our audience. But yes, we also have to start showing work that appeals to the younger demographic. I wonder how Threads is doing--are they reaching them? I know they're trying. This is a conversation that needs to keep going. BTW in looking at my photos again, I just decided that all those black and white jackets are probably sweatshirts. Why else that rounded poor fit? Some need bust darts and you don't usually do that for a sweatshirt. Ah, one of these days I'll finally catch up with my sweatshirt article for you. I have to finish making the shirt first.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for shareing
your experiences with the long beach show