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October 2015



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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!


Aug. 19th, 2015


Book review: Stencil Craft - Techniques for Fashion, Art, & Home by Margaret Peot

So, first up, a caveat: the author of this book is a colleague and a personal friend. However, I don't do shill reviews for friends' books. If i don't think someone's book is worth touting to my readers, i just don't mention it. However, Margaret Peot's Stencil Craft is well worth a mention.


This book is a great new resource for stencil techniques and processes, particularly for textile artists and costumers. Margaret is not only a painter, illustrator, and artist, but she is also a costume painter for the Broadway production house Parsons-Meares, Ltd. Her work is onstage in productions such as Aladdin, Lion King, Wicked, and more. Some of the stencil techniques and samples she depicts in this book, she uses in the creation of those costume fabrics! So, a good resource, particularly if you have never had the opportunity to take one of her workshops at a costume conference.

The book is large format, full color, 127 pages, and mixes information about techniques and media with specific suggested project ideas shown from start to finish. The language is clear and concise, and chapters address four different areas of stencil use: fashion (clothing/accessories), home decor (linens/furniture), paper goods, and artwork.

The reason labricoleuse readers will definitely want to take a look at this book is the range of types of material covered. She shows examples of stencil effects on silk chiffon, china silk, 4-ply silk charmeuse, cotton jersey, canvas, and so much more. There are some great images of paint sample tests, and throughout the book are little boxed highlights which address safe work practices. She even covers stencil effects on dark fabrics with discharge paste!

So, the upshot: highly recommended, a good addition to your library of surface design books for painters/dyers or anyone with an interest in exploring sophisticated-looking stencil techniques on textiles, paper, wood, and more.
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Aug. 17th, 2015


3D printed skull mask!

I've been doing some other 3D printing projects in tandem with the librarians at the Research Hub here on the UNC-CH campus, and today's entry is maybe my favorite of the results: a 3D printed mask!

 photo 100_4038.jpg
Back in 2012, then-grad-student Candy McClernan created this skull sculpture (left) to make a traditional leather mask (right).

She also did versions in Wonderflex (top) and papier mache (bottom). So when i embarked on this project, i thought it'd be cool to use the same sculpture for the 3D print experiment.

We worked with science librarians David Romito and Drew Robertson to 3D-scan the sculpture in the top photograph. The laser scanning process doesn't do well with reflective or shiny surfaces, and our sculpture had been painted with a glossy topcoat to more easily release the mache mask. Drew suggested that we paint it with a flat primer to help get a better capture.

Here's the matrix sculpture on arotating stand being scanned against a white backdrop. Those red lines are the laser beams moving across the surface and registering data points of its topography. It rotates in full 360 degrees throughout the scan, which took around 15 minutes.

Another perspective on the scanning processs.

We didn't get a good coverage of data points from the flat grey sculpture. Sadface. So Candy took it back to the workshop and sprayed it flat black instead, for even better contrast.

Black version being scanned. Looks pretty cool.

Much better capture this time! Drew then cleaned up the scan for us in MeshMixer, to plug any wayward holes in the surface and fix any flaws in the scan. Then i went to NYC for a month, and when i returned, David informed me that there was a new printer in the lab:

The Fusion3 fabricator! It's got a 12" x 12" x 12" print capacity, so the mask could print in one go.
With the smaller footprints of 3D-printers like Makerbots, i was going to have to cut it up into two or three pieces, then attach them all together. Which, fine, but fabricating in one piece is preferable!

David then took our scan with Drew's edits, hollowed it to a 2mm thickness, and fabricated it on the printer depicted above. The print, i'm told, took around 10 hours to produce.

Mask printed in PLA plastic on the Fusion3, at a thickness of 2mm. You can see some of the topographical ridges created by the toolpath of the print head, which could be smoothed out with epoxy putty if desired before painting. Or, could be a feature.

This would still need some cleaning up, filing off some rough spots or lining with foam/felt, just like with any traditionally-produced mask, and clearly we'd have to determine eyehole placement and any other openings (mouth? nose?). For a first try though, i'm really pleased with the result! We could print another one just like it with a 10 hour turnaround, or we could adjust the file--cut the eyeholes digitally, say, or scale it down 10% if it's too large, etc.

It produces a mask that feels much sturdier than a vacuformed plastic mask (though i have not done stress-tests to see how much force would break it), and with a higher melting point than Wonderflex. It's not as lightweight as papier mache or Fosshape, but not as heavy as cast neoprene. It's not flexible at all.

Point being, this method doesn't work for every application, but if you need a rigid mask to be worn, say, in direct Florida sun for an hour long parade? This would be great! If you need a flexible mask that can bend in half and pop back into shape? This is not it.

Regardless, it's exciting to have one more option for maskmaking, with a solid idea of the turnaround time required to produce it.

Aug. 13th, 2015


Museum of Science Fiction Replica #1: 2001 Flight Attendant

This past spring, we entered into a very exciting partnership with the in-development Museum of Science Fiction.

This article gives a pretty good overview of how we wound up getting involved, and you can watch a brief video about it at this link.

So, this post is a behind-the-scenes photoessay overview of what this first project entailed.

Graduate student (now alumna '15) Denise Chukhina adjusts the jacket.
One challenge of this project was building the costume for a display form instead of a human being.
Look how tall our mannequin is!

Mockup of jacket and hat - at this point, Denise was working with scale and proportion and figuring out the patterns for making the finished pieces. Denise drafted and draped the patterns for these garments from measurements and research images, and made the garments from materials provided by the Museum.

We worked with Richelle Devereaux-Murray, Emerson College costume shop supervisor, to produce our custom embroidery of the jacket logo. (Note our sweet MOSF label in the lining, too!)

The finished hat has this cool 3D printed medallion on it! We worked with science librarian David Romito, who helped us take the original PanAm medallion (which is much smaller than this one), digitize the shape, and print it on a MakerBot at the UNC Research Hub here on campus.

We had three fabricated, just in case we needed extras. Here they are sprayed first with plastic primer...

...then they were painted with metallic paint and foiled for reflectivity. Shown before foiling here with one of the research images.

The Grip Shoes are perhaps the most iconic part of this costume!
The unusual shape of the mannequin's feet made this a particular challenge.

Logo color/scale tests on the white leather.

Ready for display! She will be on view at various preview events, fundraisers, and installations between now and the opening of the museum in DC.
See her and much more now at Reagan National Airport, where the first exhibition opened July 7.

Aug. 4th, 2015


Books to check out

Wow, i've not posted since June. Embarassing! But, i left the state to work a contract job for the month of July, so that's my excuse.

I received a couple of review copies of books that i'd like to mention today, not strictly within the focus of this blog but close enough that i feel the readers would want to know they exist. I've got some more in-depth reviews coming of other titles, but this is more of a PSA, i guess.

no title
Dress, Fashon, and Technology: From Prehistory to the Present by Phyllis G. Tortora
This book is a fairly slim volume, given the vast range of time addressed--240 pages. But, it presumes the reader has a basic understanding of fashion history over time, and specifically addresses the ways in which technology influences, informs, and expands the world of dress and adornment. If you dig that kind of thing, it's a good subway book--easy to pick up and put down, always some fascinating info.

no title
Indian Fashion: Tradition, Innovation, Style by Arti Sandhu

Another fairly slim volume, this one clocking in at 190 pages, and another one that would (for me) make a good commute book. The book begins with a very brief overview of Indian fashion in general and its history, but the majority of the text deals with modern fashion topics within an Indian context, and the interplay between Indian and Western fashion.

Now that the theatre season and academic year are gearing back up for me, i've got several more posts coming on a lot of interesting developments which have come about during the past couple months. Watch this space!

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