labricoleuse: (frippery)
When i was in Manchester at the end of June, I had the opportunity to visit h'atelier, the boutique studio of resident milliner Jen Scott Russell. She works entirely in one-of-a-kind and bespoke hats--her studio is full of handmade hat designs displayed in a fun but elegant atmosphere. 

What I particularly loved about the retail space was the shared presence of her workspace--customers and browsers are in this way afforded a view of her hats in progress, the blocks all stacked into cube shelves, the trimmings and feather boxes, the blocking station, and so forth. This is a savvy move, i think, in that people want to see what goes into the making of a hat--they don't appear fully formed from some millinery egg, and they aren't just flung together with spit and hot glue (or at least, not at the level of quality that h'atelier produces). By giving her clients the option to observe her artistry and artisanship, Ms. Scott Russell provides a lagniappe to the standard millinery experience.

I took several shots of the shop and workspace which are included below, and should you find yourself in Manchester, h'atelier is a millinery must-see!

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (frippery)
For my fortieth birthday last week, my dearest friend from highschool and i planned a special vacation--a retreat to the Grove Park Inn resort and spa in Asheville, NC. I could wax rhapsodic for pages about the beauty of the mountains, the fascinating history of the inn itself [1], the beautiful Mission style antiques filling every room and hallway and lounge, and the relaxing mineral spring pools in the spa. But, this blog is about craftwork, and the relevant info here is found in the galleries and art studios in the Asheville area.

The Grovewood Gallery is located on the grounds of the Inn, and features the work of over 500 artists and artisans in its 9000-ft gallery space. The buildings in which the gallery is housed were once the home of the Biltmore Industries' renowned weaving and woodworking facilities, and exhibits about the history of those workshops may be found both in the gallery itself and next door in the Homespun Museum installation.

As you can imagine, there's almost too much to look at--jewelry, furniture, stained glass panels and lamps, sculpture, paintings, pottery, fiber art and other wearables, you name it. One of my favorite artists featured is Ellyn Bernstein, who keeps a farm in Henderson, NC, and uses the wool of her sheep to create wearable art through the nuno felting technique.

Essentially, nuno felting is a variation on the traditional wool felting process in which woven silk serves as an integral part of the finished textile. Because the wool fibers shrink up and the silk fibers do not, the textural nature of the finished piece has a very interesting depth and complexity to it. Ellyn has an excellent overview page of her process on her website, here. She studied art and design in college and spent 13 years as a successful painter in Charlotte, NC, before embarking on the new focus of farming.

"With this change in my life, my medium changed," Ellyn says. "The sheep that I was now caring for were to be put to work and my felting began." She is involved in all steps of her process, from raising the sheep which provide the wool, to dyeing the fibers she uses to make her creations, creating the garment patterns, felting, sewing, embroidering, hand-finishig, you name it.

What really drew me to Ellyn's display at the Grovewood was a collection of her felt hats. As a milliner, I am always drawn to hats, but often i find in the arts/crafts gallery realm, the stylistic focus of the pieces displayed can be...well, fairly ordinary. The pieces tend to be made from beautiful materials, yes, but show a pedestrian millinery sensibility, and from a fashion standpoint can be utilitarian or even staid. Hand knitted caps, felted bretons and berets, with ornamentation that comes off as rote: a single fabric flower perhaps, a pompom or tassel. Which, fine, everyone wants warm ears in the wintertime but where's the adventure or the spark in a knit toboggan, no matter how cool the yarn from which it is made?

This is where Ellyn's work really leapt off the shelf: her shapes are far more adventurous and contain an element of the glamourous, often peaked and folded into dramatic shapes reminiscent of the svelte cloches, whimsical toques, exotic turbans, and sophisticated bicornes of 1920s millinery.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (me)
Ballet bodice and tutu construction methods are one area of focus all of our grads are required to explore in their third year as part of their collection of thesis projects [1]. Sometimes these projects are underwritten by ballet companies as part of our Supported Research program; the company will provide the rendering and materials and receive the costumes in return. This year, unfortunately, ballet companies are quite strapped for cash and could not participate, so all the grads did theirs as conceptual projects instead.

I have some final photos of 2009 MFA graduate Jacki Blakeney Armit's rendition of a snowflake ballerina costume design from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

Read more... )

Jacki constructed the bodice and basque (the upper part of the tutu-panty) and then dyed them using an ombre technique, so the color gradually progressed from darkest at the ballerina's waist, growing lighter as it went up/down to white. The tulle layers of the tutu were also dyed progressively darker, so that they would match the color value and saturation level change of the bodice and basque. My only criticism is that the sparkle mesh of the upper bodice (which was not custom dyed, but was purchased as shown) needs a slight dip to blend better into the ballerina's skintone.

I wish i had a photograph of the original rendering from which this costume was constructed for comparison; that's something to make certain i remember to document next year.

[1] I believe the theory behind this is that since professional ballet companies make up a significant area of potential employment for our graduates, a comprehensive knowledge of production techniques for the creation of ballet costumes is a useful avenue of study, in terms of maximizing their future employability in the field. Even if a student's focus is, say, men's tailoring, it's better for one's overall career/resume to be able to work producing a new ballet in between tailoring jobs than to make up the downtimes doing office-temping or waiting tables.
labricoleuse: (Default)
As a special treat, i spent my tax return on a custom professional rounding jack from woodworker/artisan De Cou Studios!

Want to see? Read more... )
labricoleuse: (macropuppets!)
At the end of February, i had the good fortune and wonderful opportunity to work as a fabricator with Basil Twist, master puppeteer and Artist-in-Residence at Duke University on director Ellen Hemphill's production of Ionesco's Exit the King. I took some photos of the construction process for a couple of the creatures...

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (top hats!)
I can't even begin to express how excited i am to have run across Mark DeCou, an artist and artisan woodworker who has recently begun producing functional reproductions of hard-to-find antique hat blocking tools.

DeCou has been working with some hatters in his community on the development of these tools, and taking his inspiration out of the 1919 text Scientific Hat Finishing and Renovating by Henry Ermatinger, which is a wonderful resource on blocking and finishing of men's hat styles.

check out the tools I received in today's post... )
labricoleuse: (macropuppets!)
Because we are eventually going to be talking about macropuppet mechanisms in Decorative Arts this semester, I've been scoping around online for cool links and images and such to show my students. I came across the work of NC master puppeteer Hobey Ford, who specializes in rod puppets. He's just finished a week-long residency here in the Triangle area, courtesy of the Carrboro Artcenter.

You can view a video of highlights from his show Animalia on the Loyd Artists website. The quality of the video is a bit grainy at times, but the magic of the mechanisms comes through anyhow--i particularly love his caterpillars that cocoon and emerge as butterflies. There are a few of his puppets that look like they are glove-mounted rod puppets, which are of particular interest because we're addressing ergonomic safety with respect to glove-based costume projects (a subject i touched on last year in this post on the Edward Scissorhands gloves. is an excellent resource for all kinds of puppetry information; of particular interest to me is their aggregate of macropuppet posts. I particularly enjoyed reading the step-by-step post about how a bunch of Star Wars fans built a life-size 3-person Jabba the Hutt in some dude's driveway.

They also maintain the Puppet Building Wiki, which is a cool idea in theory and seems to have a fair number of cool, useful articles (like how to make stilts) but the enormous masthead of spammy links at the top of the pages is distracting and irritating.

Puppeteers Unite have such a huge links page that it'll keep me busy for days just paging through all the cool stuff.

PuppetVision has a group on YouTube where they've collected a whole host of over 100 video clips of puppet performances and construction how-tos as well!
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
In the spring, i oversaw an independent study course in theatrical footwear topics. My student, Grier Coleman, recently turned in all of her research and projects, and i thought i'd share with the readership her final project, which was to make a pair of "blue-footed booby feet."

This image was one of the primary research images Grier used, a booby doing the famous booby-dance. (This project is excellent on many levels, not the least of which is the chance to use phrases like "booby-dance" in a completely innocent context.)

We talked about how, were one making a complete booby costume, you'd have to take into account the shape of the bird and the gait of a performer--often big walkaround costumes like this that portray short-legged animals with a wide gait will have a "saddle" built into them so that the actor walks around in a sort of sumo crouch. A blue-footed booby costume would probably involve just such a saddle, and thus the width of the foot-splay could get a bit wider than it would if it were being worn by a person walking with a normal human gait.

Read more... )

Grier starts this week as an intern in the costume department and Juilliard in NYC. I'll miss her in classes and working with me on mainstage shows, but i can't wait to see where her career goes from here!
labricoleuse: (opening night gala)
Even before my Lady Artisan's Apron was featured in Steampunk Magazine (but moreso since that came out!), i've been getting a lot of great feedback from folks making their own version of this project.

[ profile] jadecat9 has a wonderful writeup on her own process, here. She made the apron in a heavy pinstriped denim and wore it at the Westercon convention as part of a costume. The post features lots of pictures, so check it out!

ETA: Complete dress diary here--

[ profile] trystbat also has a dress-diary of her own costume version of the apron here, done up in a heavy burgundy twill!

I know a few other readers are making versions of this, so if you are one of them, please post pictures, or put a link in the comments if you're writing a dress-diary on it or similar! I love to see what others have done with these things!
labricoleuse: (hats!)
(Wow, two posts in one day!)

I'm always on the lookout for other bloggers in my field or related trades, and I've found another one: "The rantings of a MAD HATTER wannabe", by Barcelona milliner-in-training Cristina DePrada! Ms. DePrada is a Spanish milliner learning the trade and blogging about it (in English, not Spanish).

Her blog is almost completely hat-centric, with frequent reviews of books and magazines on hat-related topics, illustrations of techniques, links to online videos about hatmaking, overviews of her own projects...tons of great stuff! She's only begun it relatively recently (November 2006), so it's not too much of a time investment to read the archive and get caught up! I came across it quite by accident, searching for hat block makers for work.

Because Ms. DePrada's blog is currently quite active, i created a syndicated feed so that other LiveJournal users might add her to their Friends Lists:
labricoleuse: (Default)
Here's something exciting: I randomly discovered another crafts artisan who has blogged about her work!

Roo, an artisan based in Manhattan, writes (or wrote, since it has been on hiatus since January) a general-personal blog called roo the day--it's a scattershot sort of collection of diary-style entries, but she does have three entries of note featuring process shots, detail shots, project descriptions, and lovely multi-angle finished-work photographs of craftwork she's made for theatre productions in both NY and Vegas.

Here's an entry on making feathered wing attachments for some "Mercury"-like winged boots.

This is a fun entry on making a large petaled "daisy" hat.

And this is an amazing post on a beautiful combination headdress/mask shaped like a fish.

Ah, Roo, i never knew ye, but these three gems are worth checking out, dear readers!
labricoleuse: (shakespearean alan cumming)
If you haven't heard about Michael Bourne's ballet reimagining of Tim Burton's film Edward Scissorhands...well, i guess you just did. It's running in Charlotte, NC, through Jan 10th, and then goes on to nine more North American cities over the next four months--Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, DC, St. Louis, Brooklyn, Toronto, St. Paul, Denver, & Seattle. (Sorry, if you live in SF or LA, you already missed it.)

In addition to being a fan of Tim Burton's work and the film version of Edward Scissorhands, this production held particular interest for me professionally: a ballet, essentially, all about a work of costume craft artisanship--the very nature of the main character and the entire story depend upon Edward's hands being made from scissor-blades.

First, here are some stills and video from the production for reference: Read more... )
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
Happy midwinter holidays to those who celebrate them!

Here in La Bricoleuse land, we celebrate Christmas, and i want to share with my readership two of my favorite presents: hand-carved wooden masks from Indonesia! They are simply rendered in a soft light-colored wood, sanded smooth and finished with a clear sealer, yet manage to convey such a depth of character. The interior of the masks are only lightly sanded, retaining faceted planes of the wood chisel. They came from a "museum boutique" in Jonesborough, TN--the proprietress apparently travels all over the place finding artisans whose work she wants to sell. She particularly features basketry, jewelry, pottery, and sculpture, though she also has some fiber art. These masks were part of a huge number of pieces she had by Indonesian sculptors.

photographs & more text )

So, did any of you get anything costuming- or craftwork-related for Christmas? I'd love to hear about it, with any attendant links to photos or detailed posts, etc.!
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
I'm super-busy right now (two shows starting tech concurrently this week), so i apologize for the present lack of content. I promise that a full write-up of the event i costumed last weekend will pop up as soon as i can go through the photos from all the various photographers who were in-residence. There's a rumor that two of my costumes will be on the cover of Chapel Hill Magazine's next issue, which would be exciting.

For now though, I'd like to direct your attention to a wonderfully thorough step-by-step projet overview page on building a giant robot costume, written by Kevin Kelm. The project is wonderfully multi-faceted, incorporating stiltwalking, LED electronics, miniature puppetry, trigger/"tendon"-operated macrogloves, and skinning of foam structures with casting latex, and Mr Kelm has documented his construction methods wonderfully. Check it out!
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
One of my graduate students went to Chicago for the weekend and brought me a gallery card for an exhibit of the mask artwork of Semmerling and Schaefer, "Mask In Style," at the Inside Out Art Studio (2005 W. Montrose). The show, which runs from September 13-October 28, 1006, will have an opening party from 6-9pm on the 13th.

Paging through the catalogue and gallery sections of the site is a good overview of the types of masks they produce--seems the base structure is most often either molded leather or neoprene, and the creations range from a fairly standard line of Commedia dell'Arte character half-masks to crazy enormous full-head feathered birds and raffia-maned Mardi Gras madness masks. They've got a wide variety of past clients, from the Goodman Theatre to Disney/MGM.

Those in and around the Chicagoland area (or, willing to travel) can take workshops and classes in various styles of maskmaking from the folks who run the studio, as well.

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