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February 2016



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Feb. 5th, 2016


Mask class projects!

My grad students in Masks and Armor this semester have just presented their first round of projects. At this point, we've covered a range of different maskmaking media, and the students have proposed basic mask projects for which they may choose which type of media to use. These masks are meant to be fairly simple, in that they don't require a life cast or any full-head structural elements.

Check out what they made!

Fosshape/buckram/kanakelon Noh theatre mask by first year grad Michelle Bentley

Wonderflex mask by first year grad Robin Ankerich

Wonderflex Scandinavian mask by second year grad Max Hilsabeck

Embroidered textile mache mask by first year grad Erin Torkelson

Wonderflex/TerraFlex Witch King mask/helm by second year grad Emily Plonski

Hardened leather maquette and full size Bioshock mask by PlayMakers Repertory Company stock supervisor Alex Ruba

Jan. 27th, 2016


3D printed St. Stanislaus medal

For our current production of Three Sisters at PlayMakers Repertory Company, we had to make the Order of St. Stanislaus medal for the character of Kulyegin.

Our costume designer, Tracy Christiansen, provided me with this great research image of what the medal looks like:

Read more...Collapse )
I did the manip using Photoshop and Tinkercad, and you can grab the file off of Thingiverse, here, if you want one of your own!

Jan. 16th, 2016


Book review: Fashion Victims - The Dangers of Dress Past and Present

I recently finished reading the excellent new book from fashion historian Alison Matthews Davis, Fashion Victims - The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, and my advice to the readership of this blog is, in short, get your hands on a copy. It's fantastic.

I'm not sure which came first, he book or the eponymous exhibit which ran at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto recently--the book is much more than an exhibit catalogue, though it does contain a substantial number of illustrations (129 full color ones!). So perhaps the book begat the exhibit? Regardless, it's an imminently readable volume, hardcover, full-color, a coffeetable book of sorts, well worth the $40 retail price. I'll defer to a quote from the press release for an excellent summary:

A boldly gory and thoroughly illustrated history of death by clothing, from blazing crinolines to mercury-laden fur.

As a major proponent of safe work practices and an instructor who incorporates OSHA/EHS compliance topics into my classes, i found this book at turns fascinating, heartbreaking, gruesome, inspiring, and at times downright disturbing. Yes, the example cases mentioned within are sometimes horrible on their own, but more horrifying are the bits where the author discusses having lab techs at her university run tests on modern-day products easily bought in stores in your own neighborhood--lead content in lipsticks, for example, or radioactive metal used to ornament imported studded belts.

The book is structured so that each chapter focuses on a different class of danger--there's a chapter devoted to the hazards of the hatting industry, then one on flammable tutu net and flannelette, etc. As a sometime-hatmaker, the hatting chapter was particularly sad--one illustration showed examples of hatters' legible signatures as young apprentices contrasted with the unreadable trembling scribbles they signed with after a decade in the trade.

I highly recommend the book in general, but it's a particularly significant read and reference volume for those working in costume archives and in vintage clothing houses, as well as those in academia with study collections or large stocks of antique/vintage clothing.
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Dec. 9th, 2015


Decorative Arts class: footwear projects!

Wow, i can tell it's been a busy season and semester--no posts since October! But, the semester's winding down and i found some time to blog. Today, a survey of some of my students' footwear projects for the class i'm teaching this semester! (If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have gotten a realtime peek at some of these already...)

Button-boot spats by first year grad Michelle Bentley

Crossweave faille button boots by first year grad Robin Ankerich

Top left: velvet spats by undergraduate Natalie Carney
Bottom left: plaid wool spats by undergraduate Athene Wright
Right: wool spats by first year grad Robin Ankerich

Heels with appliqued leather/suede "wings" by undergraduate Athene Wright

Heels with 3D printed dinosaur skull toecaps and foot/claw heel ornaments by first year grad Erin Torkelson

3D printed platform sole prototype by first year grad Michelle Bentley

Oct. 9th, 2015


Decorative Arts class: gloves and period accessories!

I've been lax at sharing student projects, probably due to having taken up Instagram, but hopefully this post will remedy that a bit. This semester's graduate crafts course is Decorative Arts, but what that tends to mean is a catch-all for craft topics that don't fit neatly into one of my other three classes (Millinery, Dyeing/Surface Design, Masks/Armor). So far, we've made it through two projects--gloves and period accessories. Check them out!

Top: ultrasuede gloves with beaded trim by first year grad Erin Torkelson
Bottom: burgundy leather gloves (replica of antique pair) by second year grad Emily Plonski

Left: blue knit gloves by second year grad Max Hilsabeck
Top right: crepe knit gloves by first year grad Robin Ankerich
Bottom right: rick-rack inset gloves by first year grad Erin Torkelson

Top: royal leather gloves with cutwork by first year grad Robin Ankerich
Bottom: coral leather gloves with cutwork and ruffly by first year grad Michelle Bentley

Sequin lace fan by second year grad Max Hilsabeck

Beaded reticule by first year grad Michelle Bentley

second year grad Emily Plonski designed the frame for this velvet reticule and had it 3D printed by the makerspace at the Kenan Science Library here at UNC. This purse is now featured in a display at the library on using 3D fabrication technologies across arts and science disciplines.

First year grad Erin Torkelson designed the rigid base for a gambling purse and had it 3D printed by the makerspace at the Kenan Science Library here at UNC. She then ombre-dyed the print to get the blue halo at the bottom shown here.

Then, she created a crochet pattern and made this sweet gambling purse!

Oct. 3rd, 2015

ass head mask

3D printed bear mask for Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls

This past couple weeks, i've been working with the undergraduates of the Kenan Theatre Company to produce a bearskin cape costume for their upcoming play, Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls. When the costume designer, Ashley Owen, expressed a desire for the cape to feature a hood which incorporated a bear head mask structure (kind of like a bearskin rug), i thought this would be a great opportunity for us to partner with the Research Hub on campus and 3D print the base structure for this piece.

Traditionally, we might carve or sculpt the rigid foundation support for such a mask, but in this case we had limited time, money, and labor--i knew that if we could print the base structure, we would save an enormous amount of time in terms of available labor to work on the piece, and because our campus has a grant which underwrites the cost of the filament for 3D printed objects through the end of the semester (within reason), we could in theory get this done for only the cost of the fur.

So i took a look around Thingiverse for a shareware animal head file which could be modified for our bear and i found this great file for a puppet or fursuit head, in this case a fox/wolf shape but i thought we could make it work for our bear hood with some minimal tweaks in ear/nose shape and the fur skin patterning itself. I spoke with the librarians at the Research Hub, placed a request for a print of the file, and in a few days, i had our base structure!

The file prints in three pieces: the face, the back of the head, and the jaw. We didn't need a movable jaw so i only requested the cranium pieces, which here have been glued together with Super Glue along the radial seam. I love how the file already has openwork designed into the topography to minimize weight and to give anchor areas for stitching if need be.

Working with me on the project was undergraduate assistant Glennda Campbell. Glennda used a Valspar primer formulated specifically to adhere to plastic to prime the 3D printed mask base and then painted the whole thing with a brown enamel. Glennda also began to sculpt the nose and teeth from Wonderflex thermoplastic.

Meanwhile, i began working on the fur "skin," creating the ears from a layer of pink suede and the fur Ashley provided us, and patterning out the shapes for covering our "skull."

Here you can see the mask with one ear and some of the fur attached.

The finished mask sitting on a head form, after we stitched it into the hood of the cape.
(The cape's hood has some inset pieces of brown felt in a dagged shape, visible here.)

Side view, better illustration of the nose and teeth.

The show doesn't open until October 9th, but we had to have this finished last week so that they could work with the cape in rehearsal. All in all, this was a great opportunity to incorporate 3D printing into the production process to serve a costume need which would have been much more difficult to turn around in the time needed with more traditional mask-structural techniques.

Sep. 30th, 2015


New OSHA HazCom labeling standards: our label station

So, you may or may not have heard about OSHA's new labeling standards for products you stock in your workplace. This info is going to be of particular interest to those running a dye facility--especially if you stock dyes for synthetics and color-removal chemicals--and for anyone who runs a craft shop, paint shop, etc.

If you haven't heard about this new regulation, there's a great FAQ about it here.

Our Environmental Health & Safety department has been helpful in terms of getting us the required info and helping to establish procedures for the switch. If you haven't got a resource like that, you can find a lot of info on the OSHA website (like their printable Quick Cards for HazCom Pictograms and Labeling Standards).

I've created a labeling station in the dye shop to help our employees learn these new procedures and standards, located right inside the facility where any worker can access it:

How are you accommodating the new standards in your facility?

Sep. 19th, 2015


Alumni interviews: Amy A. Page, Costume Director & Professor

I've got another installment of the alumni interviews to share today, this time with Amy A. Page (MFA '10), Costume Director and Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

labricoleuse: For a bit of background for the readers, tell us about the department in which you teach—how many shows, how many students (rough guess is fine), anything that communicates the nature of the academic and theatrical-performance context for your job.

AAP: University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Theatre currently has about 114 undergraduate majors and we are rapidly growing due in part to the addition of a BFA in Musical Theatre in fall of 2015. We do five fully-produced shows including one musical and the Festival of Ten Minute Plays which includes student- and staff-written work. We also have at least four touring shows each year, this year we have five.  These touring shows are booked for Friday performances throughout the academic year. Our recent seasons have included Proof, Clybourne Park, Urinetown, Twelfth Night, and Avenue Q.

labricoleuse: Could you describe the costume facilities at your university--how many employees/student workers, what different positions there entail, specialty equipment the shop owns, etc?

AAP: UAB has a lovely Costume Studio that is full of windows We have four large cutting tables, a fitting area, ten Bernina domestic machines, one Pfaff industrial straight stitch machine, four Babylock airthreading overlock machines, two embroidery machines and one Juki industrial serger. Our Craft Room has one large dye vat, a kickpress, a hand press, and a small spray booth with a ventilation hood. We have two costume storage rooms; one is onsite, the other is in another building on campus about a block away.

Our Theatre UAB Costume area is made up of the Costume Director, costume shop manager, faculty designer, 6-8 costume stipend students, 5-8 practicum students who serve on wardrobe crews or work in the shop throughout the semester, and students completing lab hours for THR 125. We have student costume designers every year. These students are mentored by our faculty designer Kim Shnormeier, shop manager Sharon McCoy Morgan, and me.

For each production, costume construction and/or pattern development assignments are thoroughly thought out. We focus on student’s ability levels, their ultimate goals and portfolio development.

labricoleuse: Tell us about the classes you teach—topics, enrollment size, etc. And if it changes each semester, what are you teaching right now?

I teach three sections of costume construction each academic year--the class is capped at ten and fills every semester.  Flat pattern drafting and costume crafts are offered every other year. The goals for these courses are gaining knowledge of industry standard terminology and techniques as well as portfolio development. I can teach fifteen in each class. So I am currently teaching two sections of costume construction and serving as Costume Director.  I typically drape on two or three of the productions, depending on the season. I mentor students during production work, portfolio development, employment document development, and conduct mock interviews in preparation for SETC job contact service. I enjoy seeing our students get jobs in the field and I love helping them through the process.

I have taught individual study courses in advanced pattern drafting and construction and couture tailoring techniques.

Theatre UAB also offers costume history and period styles, costume design and corset construction courses.

labricoleuse: You recently received a huge donation of antique/vintage clothing. Give us the details on how that has impacted the UAB theatre department!

AAP: Our vintage collection is a study collection. I have used pieces in my costume craft class and for reference for department productions. I look forward to drafting patterns from the vintage garments for reference and research.  Kimberly Schnormeier, Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and our faculty costume designer, uses the vintage pieces while teaching costume history and period styles.

http://www.uab.edu/uabmagazine/features/stitching-history - this article has some great photos!

labricoleuse: Can you talk about some of the projects you have worked on recently?

AAP: I am currently collaborating with the UAB Department of Computer and Information Sciences with 3D printing for costume crafts. I look forward to seeing this work come together.

labricoleuse: What is your favorite must-have tool or piece of equipment for the workroom, and why?

AAP: I have to have a kick press and hand press.  The kick press with all necessary grommet dies and the hand press with bone cutting and tipping dyes. We make a great deal of corsets here at UAB. Our recent students have at least three corsets in their portfolios.

labricoleuse: What is your background in the area of academia and costume production, and how did you come to teach at UAB?

AAP: I took my first costume class as a freshman in college. Soon I was working in Winthrop University’s costume shop as a teaching assistant and was offered a job after graduation. I worked there for a year while freelancing with professional theatres in Charlotte, NC.

I worked professionally in the area of costume construction with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, Carolina Ballet, and Santa Fe Opera, and Playmakers Repertory. I also worked on the The Lion King, Hot Feet, and The Phantom of the Opera with Parsons-Meares in New York. I have professional experience as a costume shop manager, draper, first hand, stitcher, and crafts artisan. I work with the St-Arts summer program as an instructor of stage make-up and technical theatre during the summer.

I was the costume shop manager for both Paramount’s Carowinds and the University of North Carolina Charlotte, and have taught theatrical and couture sewing techniques at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Oklahoma City University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Alabama at Birmingham.

I knew I wanted to teach costume production in a university when I was 18 and was lucky to have some talented mentors along the way: Janet Gray, Professor of Theatre at Winthrop University and Judy Adamson, Costume Director and Head of the Costume Production Program at the University of North Carolina.

I was interested in my current position because of the job description, the faculty, staff, the students and the student-centered approach to education in the UAB Theatre Department. The department has 15 full time faculty to mentor student development as an artist, writer, technologist or a writer.  In addition we have four full time professional production specialists.  I love my job.

I am fortunate to work in a student-centered department. We make our decisions based on what is best for our students. The faculty work well together and are all experienced professionals. We have a very strong professional staff. Our department is able to model theatre as a collaborative art due to their professional experience and talent as artists and technicians.

labricoleuse: What advice would you give to readers who aspire to teach costume production at the university level?

AAP: Work professionally for several years prior to teaching because students deserve to learn from your professional experiences. Do your research and attend a strong graduate program.

Most of all, make sure you want to teach. Students learn from the professional behavior you model. You must be able to collaborate on projects with students that are learning the process from you. If you are frustrated when you work with an intern during summer stock, perhaps teaching is not for you.

labricoleuse: Can you share a photo of a recent project?

I draped this wine and burgundy bonded bodice for In the Next Room,
designed by Kimberly Shnormeier.
Students patterned and constructed her
corset--Phoebe Miller--and bustle petticoat--Samantha Helms.

labricoleuse: Thanks so much for talking with me, Amy, and sharing all of this great info with my readers! Best of luck for the coming season and academic year.

Sep. 14th, 2015


Book review: The Spoonflower Handbook

Last week, i had the good fortune to attend the book release party for The Spoonflower Handbook: A DIY Guide to Designing Fabric, Wallpaper, and Gift Wrap, by Stephen Fraser, Judi Ketteler, and Becka Rain.

A sitting area in the Spoonflower facility, love the upholstery!

I bought the book (as one does at such things) and have since been poring over it with the intent to write about it here, and i suppose that i should begin with a few disclosures, as i am hardly an impartial reviewer.

Spoonflower is a local company with offices literally just up the street from my house. I count more than one friend (and one alumna of our graduate program) among their employees, and have been a customer and designer of theirs for years.That said, i don't have any affiliation with this book and its authors beyond being a fan of the text.

So, what's the book like?

One could argue that it is a book-length infomercial for Spoonflower, which i suppose is technically true, in that there's a lot of information about how specifically one can use the company to produce textile designs, wallpaper, and gift wrap (the three products they print). But on a general level, there's an enormous amount of useful information about the basics of print designs--everything from how to use both analog and digital tools to create your designs, to how one might create a seamless repeat in a range of different configurations. The book does touch on some of the more "pro" programs for digital design, but also illustrates techiques and methods that are decidedly low-tech and non-intimdating for those who have no proficiency with, say, Photoshop.

The first section is a sort of overview of textiles and design--discussions of everything from types of fabrics one can print on (knits/wovens, fiber contents) to the definition of digital design terms like raster and vector based image files, hex codes, dpi, and so forth.

The structure of the second half of the book is project-based, with specific how-to craft projects, each of which addresses a different technique or medium. So, an example of a simple project for working with a digital photograph is the Doppelganger Dog Pillow (which involves printing a photo of your pet and making a pillow out of it), whereas a project addressing working with text involves creating a repeat for the Typographic Wrapping Paper.

Overall, it's an excellent book for demystifying digitally-printed textiles (and papers), which will appeal to hobby crafters, fashion designers, costumers, prop artisans, interior decorators, scrapbookers, and sewing enthusiasts. In terms of its specific appeal to theatre professionals, it's a good book to have in your arsenal, though it covers little new ground not already addressed by Kimberly Kight's Field Guide to Fabric Design.

Aug. 26th, 2015

silk painting

Book Giveaway! Stencil Craft - Techniques for Fashion, Art, & Home by Margaret Peot

Remember my recent review of Stencil Craft - Techniques for Fashion, Art, & Home by Margaret Peot?

Margaret has generously offered to partner up with me to run a giveaway! If you'd like to win a copy of this excellent new resource book for stencil techniques, comment with a link to either a stencil project you really like (hint: check Pinterest!) or a pic of one that you yourself have made.

You have until 5pm EST one week from today--September 2nd--to enter! Then, we'll choose a random winner and Margaret will send you your very own copy of the book.

Good luck!


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