May 2015



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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...

IMG_3016.JPG 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.

Apr. 30th, 2015

dye vat

PLA filament for 3D printing: dyeable!

Lately I've been considering all the implications of 3D printing technology for costume craftwork, and have begun working with the Makerspace here on the UNC campus which is attached to our library system.

If you're not familiar with the process of 3D printing and some of the ways in which it's beginning to be incorporated in professional costume production, check out this excellent blog post by Joe Kucharski of Tyrrany of Style, which is essentially a postification of a panel he chaired at the USITT national conference this year. It's a great overview of how the process works, the materials one might use to 3D-print objects, and culminates with several different types of applications currently in use (like 3D-printed "filigree" masks worn by Disney parade performers) or in development (like scanning and reproducing renaissance lace using a 3D printer).

So, here's only a small contribution to the information one might take into consideration when evaluating the possibilities of 3D printing in creating props and costumes for theatre: dyeability. The filaments one can use to 3D print do come in colors, but those colors are fairly limited at present and (if i may make an aesthetic value judgement) somewhat unsophisticated in range. The printed objects can be painted as well, but in the spirit of experimentation, i did wonder about the dyeability of the completed object. Could a printed piece be dyed faster than it could be painted, for example, since time is often a factor in our field? Paint needs time to dry, but if you could dye an object, you could just rinse and dry it off and hand it back to an actor within the hour.

In looking at the composition of the various kinds of plastic filament that one can feed through a 3D printer, i noticed that PLA plastic's composition seemed to indicate a fairly high proportion of cellulose-derived elements. That would make it potentially dyeable, would it not?

So, i requested some sample filament in both clear and white from our Makerspace librarian and conducted some preliminary tests using Rit dye. I chose Rit for several reasons. It's the most common dyestuff in theatre dye facilities, and easily purchased in most grocery stores, even. It's easily used in solution by even a novice dyer. And it's a union dye, which means it has components which dye both cellulose-based and protein-based fibers, so if the PLA plastic is of a blended composition, it would potentially affect more of its components than a fiber-specific dyestuff like an acid dye or a direct dye.

Check out my findings!

The top two pieces are the undyed filament,
and subsequent ones show uptake of different colors of the Rit range.
More of the filament is in reels at the bottom of the image.

The only one of the tests which i'm not pleased with the result is the Dark Green sample, which came out more of a taupe brown. The rest took the colors quite nicely, and the translucent PLA retained its translucency. This could be fantastic for a prop item that is supposed to be made of a translucent material like an "amber" pendant or a "cobalt glass" finial or similar, especially if the prop or costume needed not to break like actual glass or amber might.

Apr. 22nd, 2015


period pattern class projects

They're almost done. This group of projects had such cool little details that i've got more closeups than full-length shots!

Closeup of faux embroidery on a coat by third-year grad Denise Chukhina.

Close-up of machine-embroidered plastron on a gown by third-year grad Corinne Hodges.

Rear view of pocket and vent on a jacket by second-year grad Erin Abbenante.

Plastron and sleeve/cuff detail on a bodice by second-year grad Katie Keener.

Mariner's cuff and pocket flap detail on a women's jacket by third-year grad Colleen Dobson.

Broader detail view of the women's jacket by third-year grad Colleen Dobson.

Left rear: pocket-hoops and gown by third-year grad Corinne Hodges.
Left foreground: fichu, bodice, skirt by second-year grad Katie Keener.
Right foreground: women's riding ensemble by third-year grad Colleen Dobson.

Left: jacket, waistcoat, breeches by third-year grad Denise Chukhina.
Center: jacket, waistcoat, breeches by second-year grad Erin Abbenante.
Right: pocket-hoops and gown by third-year grad Corinne Hodges.

Apr. 17th, 2015


Interview: Maria Curcic of Le Chapeau Rouge!

Today i've got a great new interview to share, with milliner Maria Curcic of Le Chapeau Rouge.

Photographer: Judy Bandsmer
Model: Emily Mann
Hat, hair, and makeup: Maria Curcic

Q. How long have you been designing hats, and how did you get started?

A. I have been in the arts since the early 80’s, with fashion shows, producing my own shows and so on. My life circled around hats, design, fashion, and architecture. My mother was a seamstress and made a lot of our clothes--she taught me how to sew and the basics of sewing. She always had me in hats at a young age, and I wore them often in our outings in Paris. I really believe growing up in Paris influenced how I saw women accessorize.

Q. You work with a wide range of materials--felt, feathers, fabrics, straw, etc. Do you have a favorite and why?

A. My favorite materials are silks, satins and felt mostly, but really, my work is about wearable art. My pieces tend to reflect my knowledge of materials to create wearable forms. My work is multi-dimensional, so [I appreciate] materials that can be applied to these methods of millinery.

Q. Who are your influences in hat design?

A. I really loved the work of Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and Louis Mariette to name a few. I love their whimsical styles and their dedicated life passion.

Q. Tell me about your store in Calgary, Le Chapeau Rouge, and how you shifted to wholesale.

A. I opened in 1994, knowing there was nothing like it at all in Calgary, or much in Canada [at all] for that matter. I was designing hats for a friend’s store in 1990, and she encouraged me to open my own store. I really wanted to push fashion-forward hats to women who wanted something that was not run-of-the-mill or mass-produced. Most of my clients wanted me to create something I would wear.

My store stocked many European designers such as Louise MacDonald and many others…I also carried a great line of men’s hats from Germany. Around that time, men were not even seen in hats other than baseball caps; the same went for women.

I had some great lines of my own which I produced for various retailers across Canada while running a store full time--thus began the wholesale aspect of my business.

Currently, I still sell wholesale (more of my unique art pieces) to boutiques as well as retail on eBay:

I create custom designs with clients around the world. With easy access to the internet, these days it’s easy to sell abroad.

Q. Do you design seasonal style collections, or strictly one-of-a-kind pieces?

A. I design both seasonal and one-of-a-kind works.

Q. When it comes to designing, do you construct your hats based on concepts and drawings, or do you work sculpturally, letting the media determine the form?

A. A bit of both. I sometimes love to manipulate the materials, then I sketch out the idea and move forward with the concept. Sometimes it’s the other way around--I draw the hat, then look for the materials. Either way, both processes are rewarding!

Q. What's your favorite tool or piece of equipment in your millinery workroom?

A. My vintage blocks.

Q. What advice would you give readers considering a career in contemporary millinery?

A. Learn the basics of sewing, materials and how they work together. If you are serious about this trade, take a credited course in fashion/millinery design. Taking a few workshops here and there, that does not make you a milliner. Millinery takes time, creativity, and patience to master.

I studied Interior Design and majored in drawing in art school prior to millinery, so I am very familiar with various fibres, drafting, color theory and so on.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me about your work, Maria! You can keep up with Maria's millinery on her Facebook page and website, and she's also shared a link to a video as well:

Apr. 15th, 2015


period pattern class projects

Moving ever closer to the end of the 18th century, period pattern class presented their post-cavalier yet pre-revolution era projects recently. There will only be one more of these this semester!

Left: women's look by second year grad Katie Keener
Center left: women's look by third year grad Corinne Hodges
Center right: men's look by third year grad Denise Chukhina
Right: men's look by second year grad Erin Abbenante

A better view of Erin's guy with research image.

Riding habit by third year grad Colleen Dobson

Apr. 14th, 2015


Dye class: Repetition

My dye class presented some of their projects today for the most recent unit, repetition techniques. This segment of the class covers a wide range of methods for creating surface designs on textiles involving repeat images, from screenprinting to blockprinting, stenciling to digital fabric printing. Check these out!

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First year grad Max Hilsabeck converted a mosaic design into a stencil in order to create multicolor border print on a purchased tee-shirt.

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Second year grad Erin Abbenante screenprinted this "Treadle to the Metal" motif on...well, just about everything. (Pictured, tee and test print.)

Second year grad Katie Keener owned this antique woodblock and wanted to somehow incorporate it into her project--note the pattern loss in the stamped samples here, due to severe damage to the block itself. She cleaned up the impression of the stamped image and digitized it...

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...then she worked with Sallye Coyle of Good Harbor Bay Studios to carve a new block using a ShopBot CNC router. Pictured is the new block and two prints using it.

Then, she talked to the folks at the UNC Makerspace here on campus about 3D printing the block! At left is the actual block they printed (with residual ink from use) and at right are two test prints which were flawed experiments.

A comparison of test prints using the two blocks. Still some issues to work out with accurate registration on the 3D printed block, at right, but they both sure do make some great repetition-patterned fabrics, don't they?

Mar. 30th, 2015


Period pattern class grows quite cavalier...

Period pattern class projects were presented this past Friday, and i've snapped some photos of them on display in the hall outside the costume shop:

Left: Yellow satin gown by second-year grad Erin Abbenante
Center: Eggshell gown by third-year grad Colleen Dobson
Right: Navy gown with venice lace applique by third-year grad Denise Chukhina

A better view of Denise Chukhina's project.
Bodice by third-year grad Colleen Dobson. Check out the wave-blade slashes in the fabric!

Detail shot of Denise's embellishment and the research image she worked from for the pattern.
Left: Blue mens ensemble by third-year grad Corinne Hodges.
Right: Gold mens ensemble by second-year grad Katie Keener

Detail shot of Katie's paned sleeve structure.

Mar. 24th, 2015


Dye class: Resist projects!

My graduate students presented the next round of projects in dye class today, the focus of which is use of resist to create surface design on fabric. They decide upon a method, a fabric, and a dye to use, and must create a substantial length of fabric (the minimum requirement is 4 square feet, but most choose to do more surface area than that).

Take a look at what they created!

PRC Costume Technician Sam Kate Toney made this batik of a traditional tattoo design using soy and parrafin wax for her resist, and fiber-reactive cold-process dyes on a yard of cotton fabric.

Second-year grad Erin Abbenante made this batik of a nautical allover design using soy wax (and an anchor-shaped tjap!), using fiber-reactive cold-process dyes on a yard and a half of cotton fabric.

First-year grad Max Hilsabeck made this dress from an engineered batik of palm fronds, using fiber-reactive cold-process dyes on cotton fabric.

Second year grad Katie Keener used gutta as a resist to create this Bakst-inspired yardage with acid dyes on 2.5 yards of china silk.

Mar. 20th, 2015


Book review: SHOES: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY by Rebecca Shawcross

One of the advantages of blogging about such a narrow focus as costume from a professional and academic perspective? The very, very rare occasion when something happens like this: Bloomsbury sent me a review copy of the new book Shoes: An Illustrated History, by Rebecca Shawcross.

And it's exciting, yes, to get such a fantastic free book in the mail, but i'll tell you this: i'd have bought it anyway. If all you want is a soundbite of a review, there it is. The book's great, buy it. If you like shoes, if you love shoes, if you dig costume history, if you enjoy footwear in terms of fashion, buy it. And i'm not just saying that because i got a free copy, i'm saying it because it's a great book, but i'm getting to why, and that takes more time (and words) than a soundbite.

Above: new Fluevogs!
Below: new shoe book!

First up, let me say that i'm well versed in what's out there in the way of books about shoes. Historical surveys, coffee-table photo books, little gift books with tons of pictures but barely any info. I either own them, owned but deaccessioned them, or check them out of the library each time i teach my shoe unit in Decorative Arts seminar. My usual beef with most shoe survey books produced in the late 20th century is that they pretty much have all the same shoes in them--you can expect to see the same exact images licensed from the same popular sources. So, if you're a shoe-book connoisseur, you could practically play bingo with a card of shoe pix from the Met and the Bata.

And sometimes, sure, that's because the shoes are iconic. It'd be strange to have a history of shoes with no images of the famous Ferragamo styles, or the Vivier comma heels, or a pair of wooden pattens or a Chinese lotus shoe. And this book, Shoes, does have those included. But, it has SO much more--so many other pairs of footwear that you just don't see in the majority of other books of this sort out there. Presumably this is partly because most of those books are drawing primarily on North American collections for the majority of their images, while this book's author, Rebecca Shawcross, is attached to the Northampton Museum's footwear collection from which she can draw for even more images outside the most commonly circulated images/pairs.

This book is beautifully put together and enormously readable/browsable--a great balance of full color images, historical illustrations & engravings, and meaningful yet not dense text. It could be a reference book in your workroom's library (as it will be for me), but it could just as easily be a coffee table book in your home. You could read it cover to cover and learn about shoes from 3500 BCE to the present, or you could dip in and out of it by era or subject. Shawcross gives equal weight to the progression of the history of footwear itself (construction, materials, innovations, styles) as she does to recurring iconic styles and innovations/innovators. She even approaches some footwear topics from a sociological perspective, like the phenomenon of concealed shoes within the walls of architecture from prior centuries.

I find the chapter sections on footwear trends and designers of the 1990s and 2000s to be of particular note, because most other books of this ilk were published IN those years, so they stop with 1980s footwear trends. This book actually addresses topics like the influence of the Spice Girls on the return of the platform, and the influence of sports celebrity branding on the athletic shoe industry (i.e., Air Jordans). The main beef i have with the book, really, is that the author makes no mention of some of the most innovative and influential brands and designers from that period--no John Fluevog, no Luichiny, no Irregular Choice. But, that's a small quibble in the scheme of things.

Ultimately, this is an exciting new book on a subject I adore, and i highly recommend it.
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Mar. 18th, 2015


Alumni interview: Adrienne Corral, Crafts Specialist at Feld Entertainment

Hooray, another alumni interview! Recently I e-spoke with Adrienne Corral, MFA '14, about her gig working as a crafts artisan for Feld Entertainment. Feld produces costumes, props, and scenic elements for a whole range of different touring shows, from Disney on Ice and the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Q. First up, what is your official title?

A. Costume Specialist : Crafts

Q. For a bit of background for the readers, would you describe the costume facilities at Feld--how many employees, what different positions there entail, specialty equipment the shop owns, etc?

A. The facilities here at Feld are pretty spectacular.  We have seperate paints and dye rooms for crafts, as well as a draping station in the main room. The main room consists of 8 potential draping / first hand stations with a 4 × 8 table,  an industrial and domestic machine. There are multiple cover stitch machines and sergers on a middle table.  We've a tailor, two drapers and two first hands in the sewing room,  though our manager often does show work as well.

We have two kind of special jobs here, a Disney Specialist and a Wardrobe Liason. The Disney S  pecialist works on the of all the Disney characters (meaning Mickey and crew, not princesses). She works closely with Disney shops to ensure consistency with the parks. Our wardrobe liason is in charge of talking with and taking care of the needs of our 19 touring shows. He helps schedule refurbs, orders show laundry (think Equity underwear), and any other similar issue. There are often show visits involved, which means traveling out to wherever the show is, be that Chicago or Dubai or London.

Q. What is your background in the area of costume production, and how did you land the job at Feld?

I started sewing at a very young age, costumes in particular in high school.  I attended FSU for theater and realized quickly that I had no great skill with or affinity for design. I worked at Utah Shakespeare Festival my first summer of graduate school with Ruth George,  our Disney person. She was orginally hired to do my job as well as care of the Disney things. The summer after I finished my courses at UNC the job was split in two and she called me about it.

Q. What advice would you give to readers who aspire to work for a company like Feld?

A. Feld is very much a company that hires from the inside. Many of our office staff were performers or stage hands who moved to a sit-down job. We are constantly hiring for our tours (I think a total of 19 or 20 different shows) and at least one of our managers in the shop came off of a circus wardrobe head position.

Q. Can you talk about some of the projects you have worked on recently?

A lot of the projects I work on are refurbishing jobs. So I often am putting unitards on dress forms and trying to recreate the painting effects orginally put on there by Parsons-Meares or [Eric] Winterling's, or whomever made the garment. If not that its stripping and repainting latex prosthetic masks. I also have a very tight Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) on my contract that makes it so I can't talk specifically about my work on Disney shows. But for the circus, I can. I do a TON of dye work during circus time. Lots of flesh tones and crazy rich colors.  Our shop builds the clowns, so it can be hard to look at some of the yardage. I also play milliner for the clowns and make new hats for those clowns who require them. Circus is my favorite part of the year, even if we're working the craziest of hours.

Q. What is your favorite must-have tool or piece of equipment for the work you do, and why?

A. My airbrush. It's the best way to paint the majority of the masks and unitards I have to work on. It's a midrange Iwata, and though they can be a pain to maintain, they are what I use to paint with 90% of the time. Then I would have to say as an extension of that, our 90 gal stand-up air compressor really makes the job easy.

Q. Does Feld have any internship opportunities for those still in school and if so, can you talk a bit about what it involves and how readers might apply?

A. We're starting internships, though I believe they are limited to the University of South Florida - Manatee campus. We don't currently have any costume interns, but I hope that changes soon.

Q. I like to include one image, a stage or workroom shot of something recent or your favorite costume or whatever...

A. The image below is a shot over the top of our third rail of our three-level-tall stock (two stories). It's about the size of an indoor football field. I was on the sccissor lift, restocking.


Thanks, Adrienne! It's always exciting to hear about what our graduates are doing, and to learn about all the different careers out there for professional costume artists. To read more of these kinds of posts, check out the "Interviews" tag.

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