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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

Jun. 14th, 2015


Summer batik project, conclusion

Today we conclude the batik project i began covering in yesterday's post. (Though admittedly the observant reader will have spotted a bit of the finished product already in my #TonyCanYouHearMe post...)
I'd worked out the wax layers and the colors and gotten several hues onto the fabric, as well as waxing in substantial areas. Here are a few more photos of that and the conclusion:

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Here, we're well into the color applications, nearly all the dyes are layered in. But, you might ask, what's that circle in the middle of the lower figure's throat?

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Detail shot of said circle. It's a jar i placed under the fabric because i didn't like how the dye was running as the weight of the wax caused it to sag. I chose to put it in this place, because a circular motif is a recurring image that my uncle (an artist/illustrator) uses a lot in his work superimposed over the subject, creating a kind of lens or mandala effect incorporated into an overall composition. The jar acted as a resist the same as if i had waxed a circle, except it allowed me to later go back into that section with dye, which you can't do with a waxed-out section unless you start again after removing the wax.

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Last application of all dyes/wax. At this point, it was time to do the cracked effects. This (for me) is the scariest part of the process because you can totally overdo it and really screw up your piece, and then you've spent days and hours on something that's just a failure. But i totally wanted the cracks, because shattering and brokenness are motifs in the novel that inspired it, and particularly for the character represented by the lower figure--i wanted basically a web of fractures all over the piece, but concentrated in the lower right section.

So, i took it off the frame, crumpled it in a controlled fashion, and then did this:

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...black dye over the entire thing. See why i find this the scariest part?

But, then i rinsed off the extra, boiled/laundered out the wax, painted in some style lines with Jacquard Airbrush Color (applied with a brush), and headed to the art store for some stretcher bars.

I stretched the finished piece just like i would a canvas, and here's the finished work.

This iPad shot doesn't capture a lot of the subtle layers in the fire background (the novel begins and ends with a building burning down), or the texture the dye layering gives the hair of the upper figure. And you can only barely see that there are four pieces of piercing jewelry in the fabric itself on the faces of the characters (the book being set in 1998, everyone at the club in question had loads of body piercings).

The finished piece measures 24" x 32", and as you saw in my Tony post, hangs in my living room now. And i'm sure once the book sells and comes out, this won't be the last piece of art somebody creates inspired by its characters, but as the author, i'm pretty thrilled to have had such success with the first! (Well, second, but that test run didn't count.)
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Jun. 13th, 2015


Summer batik project, part one!

So, in addition to this high-profile day job i have as a professional costumer (ha), i am also a writer--not only of labricoleuse, but of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (That's right, i even have a Goodreads Author Page to prove it!) This project i'll be writing up in two parts is kind of a crossover of sorts; bear with me.

Most of what i have published so far has been short-form work--essays, short stories, short memoir--in journals, magazines, and anthologies. The obvious exception to this, especially for readers of this blog, is my parasol textbook (which BTW remains on sale at 30% off throughout this month, in observance of the blog's anniversary).

Upon finishing my masters in creative writing, i began to pursue traditional publication of long-form work, specifically a novel. And, that's moving along--i'm represented by the excellent literary agent Jonathan Lyons of Curtis Brown, Ltd., and my novel, The Decadence Papers, is out on submission. Yay! And cross your fingers. And bear with me here, beause i swear this gets around to batik, and includes process pictures.

A writer spends a lot of time with the characters of a novel. I mean, a LOT. Honestly, when i was revising the manuscript of The Decadence Papers before seeking an agent, i spent at least two hours a day and sometimes up to eight or ten on weekends for a six-month stretch with the manuscript--rewrites, revisions, reading, talking to my fellow writers and friends and family about it (those who'd read it). The characters became like coworkers in a second job, which i guess they kind of are, except, you know, they're fictional constructs. But, point being, you spend 20-30 hours a week thinking about something, and if you operate within an artistic brain, you extrapolate from the written word to visual art concepts.

So, this batik project began with a Pinterest board, where i had begun to collect images that were somehow evocative of the mood of the novel (which--as is obvious if you click through--centers around an underground nightclub full of goths, drag queens, club kids, punks, artists, and other assorted flamboyant folk). It helped with getting into a mindset when revising since, though i did work in clubs just like the one in the novel back in the 90s, i don't now. ANYWAY.

On my Pinterest moodboard i had pinned (among 293874 other images) this one watercolor that i just loved, I Love You I Hate You by Alessandro Andreuccetti. And the more i looked at that piece, the more i wanted to do my own reinterpretation of it, not in watercolor (which is a medium i don't enjoy working in and am not terribly skilled at) but as a batik.

Let me be clear here: I didn't want to make a copy of the original--if i wanted that, i could have bought a print of it from the artist for much less time and effort and i would have, because i believe that artists deserve to be paid for their work by people who want to own it, and he sells prints of that piece. I realize that i am preaching to the choir about that among regular readers here, but still, it bears saying. Art doesn't come easy and we shouldn't feel that it comes free.

But point being, i'm giving credit where it's due here--to the inspiration--but i am writing about making my batik, which in its finished form is very different from the watercolor which inspired it.

What i loved most about the Andreuccetti piece was the positioning/framing of the subjects and the way he allowed the paint to form its own blended colors in a way that appears serendipitous--but i wanted my batik to be of the faces of two of my novel's characters as i imagined them, and to explore the medium of batik in ways that batik works best. I wanted to layer dyes over one another to get unexpected colors, to wax out areas and dye back into the cracked wax, etc.

The first thing i did, i didn't photograph (because it was ugly, and because i forgot) and that was a sample batik to scale using the dyes we had left over from my dye class. This is all done with fiber reactive dyes on Kona cotton, and those things have a shelf life once mixed into solution. I figured, i always screw stuff up the first time i do something and so i might as well use those up on a test run, just to decide things like in what order i wanted to apply the wax to different sections, what colors i would use where, etc., because i did want to work with primaries--reds/yellows/blues--and let those create the secondaries. I learned a lot from that first test-run, used up my old dyes, made a truly ugly version of this, and hid it in a drawer. So what i'm about to show you is the second version. Just know that i did it once already, and that my best advice on this kind of thing is to plan to do it at least twice before you get something you're pleased with.

For that first one, i had drawn out my layout map with a sharpie on white paper and traced it into a square yard of cotton with a 6B pencil (because a 6B will launder out in the wash), so for the second one, i took that same template drawing and traced it onto a new piece of cotton. I don't have a photo of this--i assume you have traced something before. Then i stretched the fabric onto a wooden frame.

It looked like this, basically 3' square. Trust me, there's a pencil outline of my figures on there. At the top left, you can also see a strip of the cotton i prepped (laundered) along with the stretched stuff to do dye samples, because for the real one, i wanted to pick my own colors and not just use the rando dyes left over from my dye class students.

Dye tests: complete! I used this as a key to decide which colors to use where. I worked with skintones and primaries, mostly, as you can see here. So remember when you see the end result, all secondaries are created in the dye process with layering. This piece had also been stretched on a little frame when i did the tests BTW, and i'm not going to write up the process for mixing fiber reactive dyes since those are easily found on the websites of places that sell them, like Prochemical and Dharma.

Here's what you see: white streaks in the hair of the bottom figure have been painted with liquid soy wax. You always start with the lightest value in batik and work toward the darkest, so anything that stays white get waxed first, Then once that wax cooled, the entire surface was saturated with a soda ash solution ("chemical water" in some parlance). Then i used some of my dyes to paint in the lightest skintone values. The upper figure is darker-complected, but because those two faces don't touch or overlap, i was able to do both at once, knowing that there would be a lot more overdyeing there in the space between the faces. So, this is with one pass of wax, one pass of dyes in a couple different saturations/shades, painted kind of like watercolor, but not.

This shows the scale of this piece on my work table. Those jars in the back are my dye solutions, and you'll note that the frame is up on canister supports, because if it just sat right on the table, the fabric would sag down and touch it and the dyes would bleed around against the surface. Which could be cool in some cases (as we'll see in the second part of this series) but not this one. And, at this stage of the game, you can see that there ahve been a few more applications of wax, darker browns, and yellows.

It's sorta-kinda starting to look like something now. Here we have even more wax and dye layers, the addition of the first blue. I'll stop here with pix and come back to them in the second part.
Batik is a real zen exercise, in that i often waited for an application of dye to completely dry before moving on to the next wax application and the next dye. This means i would spend maybe 15-20 minutes applying wax, then some dye, and then have to come back to it the next day. If i were doing it for a show with a tighter deadline, i could have put a fan on it to dry each layer a bit faster, perhaps doing three or four a day, but still, it's a SLOW process with a lot of downtime. I think i wound up with something like 15 separate applications of dye/wax? And, you kind of have to trust the universe that it won't suck, because you don't see the true colors of how the dyes will turn out until after you remove the wax and wash the thing at the very end.

When i teach this technique, students who have their hearts set on exact color control find it maddening because yeah, you can spend a week working on something only to find out it came out totally different than you planned. I prefer to think of it as an opportunity for happy accidents, and after those initial dye test swatches and the design trace-out, abandon all expectation of control. Dye will always migrate or splash, wax will penetrate in ways you didn't expect, color will saturate or process oddly, and if you are lucky, you'll still get something awesome at the end.

Which i did, and we'll look at the rest of the stages in the next post, including a totally awesome happy accident that occured, which has turned into a technique i want to experiment with in future batiks.
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Jun. 7th, 2015



The Tony Awards are tonight, but i won’t be watching. I often do and enjoy them, but this year, i just can’t.

In general, yeah, awards shows are political constructs, small cadres of people within a given industry congratulating one another on doing their jobs. But they are also tied to the visibility of an industry, a discipline, an art. They are a space in which the breadth of a collaborative art is acknowledged, even publicized. Oh yeah, someone designed all those cool costumes, someone planned out those dramatic lighting effects, etc.

In my nearly 25 years of working as a theatre artist—specifically a costumer maker—i have worked for five of the companies who have won a regional theatre Tony Award.

I have worked on the production team of three Costume Design Tony Winning shows and two nominees.

I do not say this to brag, but rather to illustrate how collaborative an art theatre is, and how when one person or one show or one company wins a Tony, actually there are dozens (sometimes hundreds) of us high-fiving each other all over the country, because we had a part in making it.

And yet, we are unseen. We don’t do it for the recognition, but without us, the show does not go on. And when the committee eliminates an entire technical discipline (sound) from their consideration? We all feel it. The furor's been in the news, but if you want to read up on it, Victoria Deiorio wrote a good piece for HowlRound on what it means to sound professionals. And if you want to engage in some armchair agitation about it, there's a petition to sign, and you can hop onto the Collaborator Party/USITT-driven hashtags #TonyCanYouHearMe and #Collaborator on social media.

But ultimately the live broadcast’s tonight. Of course, the show won't feature any of the creative arts awards being bestowed.

And try watching it with the sound off, and see how much you enjoy the show.

Jun. 1st, 2015


Happy anniversary! Parasol textbooks 30% off all month!

June is here, which means it's officially the 10th Anniverary Month for the blog!

I'm still running the Best of La Bricoleuse flashbacks over on Facebook, featuring a daily repost of some of the highlights of the past decade, but I also want to recognize that one of the great things which came about in tandem with writing this blog was the publication of my textbook, Sticks in Petticoats: Parasol Manufacture for the Modern Costumer.

I wrote the book because in my professional experience as a costume crafts artisan (though in some theatres this winds up being the responsibiity of the props artisan), i was asked to recover and repair numerous parasols, both antique and modern, according to the specifications of costume designers, but could find NO written information on how others might have done so in the past. I decided that, when i was finished, i would begin work on documenting the various things i'd learned, and Sticks in Petticoats became the result.

It remains to my knowledge the only extant book on the subject.

So, for the entire month of June, I've put Sticks in Petticoats on sale for 30% off, as one more thank-you for reading and supporting this blog! If you've been on the fence about whether you wanted to buy the book or not, maybe this is the month to do it.

Download the eBook for $9.99 (formerly $14.99)
(This is actually 33% off because i like easy numbers, and Lulu doesn't precalculate discounts on digital downloads.)

Purchase a print copy in full color for $24.19 (formerly $34.56)

Purchase a print copy in black-and-white for $18.43 (formerly $26.33)

I promise i have some exciting new posts coming up soon, including ones about a batik project, more 3D printing adventures, and making costume display replicas for the Museum of Science Fiction!

And again, thank you ALL for reading this blog. :D

May. 7th, 2015


Ombre dyed 3D printed folding fan

So, in my ongoing experiments with 3D printing applications in our field, here's a fun new project!

I came across the freeware file for this Chinese folding fan on Thingiverse, which prints all in one--no assembly required. Cool! So i had the folks at the Makerspace here on the UNC campus 3D-print me a copy so i could test it as a fan prototype, figuring that if the file was sound and the mechanism functional, it would serve as a potential template for any number of other folding fan designs. (BTW, you can follow me on Thingiverse here if you have an account!)

Since i did my dye tests last week in PLA, i decided to do this project in ABS, another type of plastic which our 3D printers can process. I went by the makerspace this morning to pick up the finished fan, and here's what i found waiting for me:

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The fan fresh out of the printer, folded. You can see it's about 7.5" long and frankly, that the staves are fairly thick for a folding fan. Most fans of this length carved in sandalwood would be half as thick. So there's that.

Here's the fan open on the table. Note that you do need to run the stabilizer thread through each stave of the monture in order to control its range when open--otherwise it's just a bunch of disconnected staves on a pivot post. There are three holes in each stave for this purpose so it's a matter of about 10 minutes spent lockstitching them together. It's pretty cool! But also fairly plain...

...so i did a round of dye tests on the ABS filament using Rit dyes again, with reasonably positive results.

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So, i ombre dyed the fan like this! I used Violet and Royal Blue, no auxiliaries, simmering baths.

The bottom-most stave of the fan that was touching the bottom of the dye pot deformed a bit, but i was actually able to iron it back straight again using an industrial iron with steam and a presscloth.

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