labricoleuse: (me)
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:

no title 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.)
labricoleuse: (design)
So, in addition to this high-profile day job i have as a professional costumer (ha), i am also a writer--not only of [ profile] 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.
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
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.
labricoleuse: (mee)
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.
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
For the second of the Witch's costumes in our production of Into the Woods at Playmakers Repertory Company, designer Bill Brewer had a truly fantastic vision for a sort of wizardy robe made of ornately-dyed and embossed velvet.

Draper Denise Chukhina came up with the process for how this fabric would be created, from which she would then make the costume.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
There's a second part to the surface design adventures of Jen Caprio's costume design for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: hand-painted appliques! (The first part of the process, the digital textile design of the collection of twelve background fabrics, was described in this prior post here.)

Recall if you will Jen's design for the coat, inspired by the stained-glass artwork of Marc Chagall:

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
Recall if you will the super-exciting project we have in the works, the creation of custom silk crepe for our upcoming production of Private Lives at Playmakers Repertory Company.

I wrote the first post a while back, about the sample-creation process in which we determined techniques and media to use to get the results our designer, Jennifer Caprio, wanted for the gown. The second post, back before the winter break, covered digital manipulation of the artwork in order to prepare it for our process. And in this one, we really take it from 2D to 3D.

The draper on this production, third year graduate Leah Pelz, carefully laid out and threadmarked the pieces of the gown onto lengths of 4-ply silk crepe. She also threadmarked a lot of guidelines--where the floral pattern needed to travel, where darts would be sewn into the bodice, etc. We wound up having two lengths of fabric, each of which would need to be hand-painted with the lily pattern.

Recall that at the end of the sampling process, we had decided upon a resist technique using a thinned gutta resist and a combination of silk paints and acid dyes. In order to get the most crisp control for this sort of process, you have to stretch your fabric on a frame, kind of like a canvas for a painting. In my dye studio, i have a large steel table, 4' x 8', with a removable stretcher frame made from 1"x4"s that we bolt together and fit into the table. But, we needed to border our silk pieces with strips of muslin in order to stretch the fabric on the frame--partly because the crepe was not wide enough for the frame without them, but also because we didn't want to damage or waste part of the silk by stapling or tacking through it to hold the fabric on the frame.

Check it out! )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
In Part One of this series on some hand-painted silk we are making, i got as far as the sample process, in which my assistant and i created a whole range of surface design swatches to show our designer, Jennifer Caprio, how we might create the fabric. Once Jen chose the sample, our next task was to get the image onto the fabric, a rich 4-ply silk crepe.

Recall that the inspiration for the dress was a 1935 Schiaparelli gown in the collection of the Museum at FIT. Because Jen wants the lily motif to be the guide for our own fabric creation, i decided Photoshop would be the best tool to make our template.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
We've begun a really exciting surface design project for our next show at Playmakers, Noel Coward's Private Lives, in which we are making some fabric yardage inspired by this 1935 Schiaparelli dress in the collection of the Museum at FIT.

For the character of Amanda, costume designer Jennifer Caprio dreamed up a glamorous dress clearly influenced by the Schiaparelli gown but without being an exact copy:

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (supershakespeare)
We're opening two plays in repertory this Thursday and Friday evening at Playmakers Repertory Company, one of which is Shakespeare's The Tempest. I've got some posts in the pipeline about all the interesting work we've done in and around the production process (those pool water tests were only a drop in the bucket, ha!). Today's installment deals with the challenging costume process for the clown character of Stephano, which involved figuring out how to make a fat suit that someone could fall into a pool in!

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
For the past two weeks, i've been doing some freelance work as a pinch-hitter dyer for the NYC costume production house, Parsons-Meares. They produce costumes for theatre, film, opera, ice skating shows, and any number of other entertainment events for which costumes are required. Some years ago, i worked for them one summer on Shrek: The Musical, and have remained in touch with several of my coworkers from that time. So, when they found themselves needing extra help in their dye facility, a friend who works there suggested they bring me on short-term. I was happy to accept!

Many of the projects Parsons works on are protected by confidentiality agreements with corporations like Disney, so while i could tell you that they are currently working on costumes for a new Broadway musical of Aladdin, i can't share any images of those costumes. (You could go check out Costume Designer Gregg Barnes' Pinterest moodboard for the show and get an idea of them though!) I do have a few pictures though that might be of interest.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
I teach my craft classes on a two-year cycle, and whenever i teach my dye class, we generate a lot of mixed-up dye solution which has a limited shelf life. I have the students label and save the solutions they make for their projects, in case over the course of the semester, they want to reuse some of their dyes.

I'm leery, though, after the class ends, of keeping those solutions indefinitely--many dyes have limited shelf-lives, particularly depending on exposure to temperature changes and light, and even if i had an appropriate future project for the stage, i'm just not likely to rely on a solution that a student mixed up three months ago once the theatre season resumes in the fall.

But at the same time, it's a shame to just throw those dyes out when they might be used for something, so this summer i decided to do some shibori experiments with the leftover solutions. These are all Procion MX fiber reactive dyes mixed into water and applied to silk. The fiber reactives require soda ash to activate the reaction, so once i applied the solutions to the fabrics, i then applied a soda ash solution to initiate the dyeing process.

Check out the results!

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
Have you ever thought to yourself, "man, i wish i knew more about the science of dyeing, but science textbooks are all so dense and complicated, i just don't have the basic knowledge to get much out of them..."?

I did, for years, until i took some distance-education classes in textile science, dyeing and finishing from the NCSU College of Textiles. It remains the best thing i've ever done for my career, in terms of gaining truly practical, applicable knowledge to help me do my job better, knowledge i use literally every single day. I realize though that many theatrical dyers don't have the option to do the same--my tuition was waived as one of my benefits, and my superiors at work were hugely supportive of my study. Money, time, and colleague support are sometimes not as easy to come by. And besides, it can be intimidating to someone with an artistic self-image to enroll in a polymer chemistry class. Sometimes we can be our own biggest hurdles.

Most of us who dye for costuming purposes come from art-dyeing backgrounds, where the chemistry is glossed over. I mean, sure, back when i was getting my degree in costuming, i took a graduate level class in dyeing for theatre, but it was offered through the department of dramatic art, not chemistry or textiles, and it was taught by a professor of costume design. Even our graduate level courses often deal more with processes like batik and screenprinting than with the basic science of why dyes do what they do on a molecular level.

And yet, each class of dyes does something very different to the fibers it affects, and IME the majority of theatrical dyework does not involve the fun, artsy projects like shibori or batik or silk painting. Sure, those come along once in a while, but at least 80% of the work i do in my dyeshop is completely straightforward. Dye this to match that. Can we dye this that color? Why won't this take dye? Can we strip the color out of this? All the beautiful shibori scarves in the world won't answer these questions, but a basic grasp of the science will.

But how? You don't have time or money or the inclination to take textile science classes. You just want to read a book about it. Well, i've just read the book you need.

Linda Knutson's Synthetic Dyes for Natural Fibers was first published in 1982, but it's far, far from outdated or irrelevant to the 21st-century dyer. She doesn't dumb down the science, but she does explain it in accessible terms with simple, easily parsed diagrams and illustrations. She explains the chemical differences between classes of dyes, structurally why each one works (or doesn't work) on particular fibers.

Knutson also covers a wide range of related topics, from color theory and how it applies to color-mixing of dyestuffs, to fiber structure and how it relates to shrinkage/felting/weave strength. She discusses ways in which one might choose to incorporate equipment from a science lab into a dye studio (such as graduated cylinders and pipettes). The book has an excellent index and glossary as well. The age of the book makes the list of suppliers in the back largely obsolete, but finding suppliers of dyes and auxilliaries in the age of the Google search is not a daunting prospect.
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
Recall my post a few weeks back about the out-of-print status of my old dye-class standby text, Deborah Dryden's Fabric Painting and Dyeing for the Theatre, and my sub.

Today, i'm reviewing the second of four contenders: Elin Noble's Dyes & Paints: A Hands-On Guide to Coloring Fabric. This book was recommended to me by a colleague in academic and professional theatre, who also teaches a dye course and uses it as one of several textbooks for that class.

Noble is a textile artist who for years managed the dye laboratory at PRO Chemical & Dye, Inc., and as such this book uses PRO Chemical's product names exclusively, and it focuses almost entirely on fiber-reactive dyes. I'll admit, that's part of why i've never really looked into it before now--PRO Chemical is fantastic about product transparency and education, and their website contains dozens of PDFs of instructions on how to use their products for a range of different techniques and processes. TBH, I thought, Why buy a book full of information that's free on the internet? And, there's no lack of information about how to use fiber-reactives in any number of other reference texts, so I just hadn't prioritized checking it out.

However, I'm so glad i finally did because this book is great! It's got excellent information about safe work practices including how to recognize an allergic reaction in a fellow dyer, and how to separate your dye facility from food service areas and how to modify your processes for safely working with children and youths (which, since many theatres do youth conservatory programs or summer camps as part of their outreach, can be helpful to consider). She discusses a few really useful topics for dyers in terms of the entertainment industries, such as how to set up a dye space outdoors or with limited access to water--if you find yourself dyeing something on a film set location, these could be strictures within which you find yourself working.

I like the large format of the book (8.5x11) and the full color printing with many excellent examples of techniques, from basic shibori to marbling. The margins feature "Helpful Hints" every so often, tidbits of random useful info such as cleaning your dedicated-dyeing washing machine or straining undissolved dyestuff through a nylon stocking. She features makeshift mixing boxes in many of her "equipment setup" photos, which is nice to see.

The appendices in it are great as well--a glossary, many useful conversion charts, a list of auxiliaries and their uses, a worldwide list of suppliers divided by country/region, and a comprehensive index (that's another beef i have with many art-dye books: no index). I particularly appreciate the bibliography, suggested further reading list, and list of magazines and journals that cover dyeing and surface design.

I wish Noble had also written chapters on working with the other classes of dye which PRO Chemical carries--they sell disperse dyes, acid dyes, and vat dyes, and as manager of their dye lab, Noble must have worked with them. I'd be totally sold on this book had she addressed working with those as well.

I also realized something which marks a major structural difference between textile art books on dyeing and the science texts i own from my dye chem classes: a spiral binding. I have maybe two spiral-bound texts aimed at the artist, while all the books i own from the science realm are spiral bound, the better to sit open conveniently while conducting processes in a lab or studio. I've tried to take my art-realm texts to the campus bookstore to have their bindings cut off and drilled and spiral-bound, but inevitably the interior design aesthetic of art-book print layouts are such that their margins are too narrow and the bookstore can't do it without losing some of the text/images.

So, in terms of a new primary text for my class, this also isn't it, but it's definitely another great secondary text we'll look at and a new addition to my library!
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
Two orders of business today: giving away that copy of the Resurrection Engines anthology, and the first in a series of reviews of books on the subject of dyeing: Dyeing and Screenprinting on Textiles, by Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor.

I used the Random Number Generator to select the winner (assigning all the comments here a number by the order of receipt, then appending all the comments on Facebook in the same fashion), and it chose

Lee Strickler

Congrats, Lee! Hope you enjoy the book! I'll contact you privately for mailing instructions.

Now, recall my post a few weeks back about the out-of-print status of my old dye-class standby text, Deborah Dryden's Fabric Painting and Dyeing for the Theatre.

In the weeks that followed, two heartening things happened. First, a staff member at Heinemann Drama responded to my email, saying they were looking into the possibility of releasing the Dryden text as an e-book. Then a short time later, I received an email from Dryden herself--someone had forwarded her my post. She expressed dismay at the high prices used copies of her text  were listing at on services like, and said Heinemann had returned to her all rights to her work. She mentioned the possibility of releasing it herself with a POD/ebook company, and potentially in an updated new edition.

Which, all this is wonderful news for the long-term, and perhaps the book will once again be available the next time i teach my dye class (which will be Spring 2015), but I'm moving forward as if that won't be the case. What text or texts might I use to replace the Dryden book?

See, yes, the Dryden text is twenty years old and sure, it could stand to be updated. However, the main reason that I have stuck with it as my text is that it is fairly comprehensive and frames dyeing and surface design within a theatrical context so very well.

In terms of dye recipes and products/auxilliaries/etc., we talk in my class about doing your own legwork, how any book's "recipes" are only starting places unless they are formulations you yourself record with the intent to replicate later (such as in long-running shows where you know you will need to dye new fabric for new cast members over the course of the run, or even in short runs if for any reason a process needs repeating). We talk about classes of dyestuffs and where the starter recipes can be found for various types--for example, companies like PRO Chemical and Aljo Dye make all their dye recipes available on the web. We talk about the math of scaling your recipes in ratios, and the chemistry of why different types of dye need different types of auxiliaries. None of this figured into why I used the Dryden text.

I used the Dryden text because she includes information about things to consider when setting up or overhauling a theatrical costume shop's dye facility, because she talks about distressing and aging of garments, because she places surface design within the context of a functioning costume shop and as a part of the process of realizing a costume designer's vision. Even at twenty years old, the level of safety information in Dryden's book is vastly superior to most other dye books out there. The fact that she addresses the use of basic and disperse dye classes is great, and she includes information about stuff like mixing your own French Enamel Varnish (FEV), stuff my students need, i feel, all collected in one place.

But, until/unless it's rereleased, I need to decide what will replace it as my text(s) next time around, so i'm auditioning books. I solicited opinions from other professional and theatrical dyers and professors of similar classes as mine on the USITT costumers email group, and I pulled some potential titles from the recommendations of my colleagues. I also took a gander at Dr. Paula Burch's book reviews--Burch is a scientist with a particular interest in dyestuffs and maintains one of the most useful clearinghouse reference sites on the web for dye information.

Today, i'm reviewing the first of four contenders: Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor's Dyeing and Screenprinting on Textiles. This book was recommended to me by a scientist friend in the dyeing field, whom i know from my time spent taking dyeing and finishing classes over at the NCSU College of Textiles.

Kinnersly-Taylor is a textile artist based in Glasgow, Scotland, which unfortunately makes her book potentially confusing as a primary class text, since all the measures are metric and most of the brands of dyes and auxiliaries are UK specific. There are conversion charts, sure, but when students are learning an unfamiliar and complex subject and some may have no experience beyond Rit in a washing machine, i don't want to ask them to work from a book where I have to keep reframing things for them ("It says Metapex but that means Synthrapol for the US.")

However, this book is fantastic and I plan to get it for my personal library regardless. It's got excellent information about safe work practices and some great images of and info about industrial dye equipment one might consider if setting up a high-volume standalone dye studio catering to the entertainment industry such as A Dyeing Art: steamers, heat presses, winch dyers/beck dyers, and more. She also coveres all the classes of dyes the Dryden text does. This is an issue i have with many art-oriented dye books; they often only address fiber reactives and/or acid dyes in any depth.

In addition to screenprinting, Kinnersly-Taylor covers many more surface design techniques like resists, transfer printing, and digital printing, and offers good explanations of topics like flocking, foiling, and discharge printing. She's got a helpful section on the different types of print repeats and how to manipulate your art to achieve them. She lays out the processes and the science in an accessible but not dumbed-down way, and doesn't pad the text with "Make Your Own Shibori Scarf!"-style projects as some otherwise useful arts-n-crafts dye books do.

The appendices in it are great as well--glossary, a list of auxiliaries and their uses, a worldwide list of suppliers divided by country/region, and a decent index though not comprehensive (that's another beef i have with many art-dye books: no index).

The section that i find most dear to my heart, though is the step-by-step instructions for making what Kinnersly-Taylor calls a Dustbin Steamer--essentially, how to make your own pipe steamer from a trash can and a coffee samovar! Bricolage at its finest. Given that a new pipe steamer runs around $1100, I love that she's written up a means for making one from stuff you can get at a thrift store--even the most budget-strapped dyer could make one of these. (Of course, Dharma Trading has instructions online for making one from galvanized stove pipe as well, so this alone is not why folks should check out the book.)

So, in terms of a new primary text for my class, this isn't it, but a secondary text we'll look at and a new addition to my library, most definitely!

And lastly, i must congratulate and brag on a trio of my grad students who attended the Southeastern Theatre Conference this past weekend.

Second year Kelly Renko and first year Colleen Dobson were both finalists for the prestigious Marian A. Smith Scholarship for the pursuit of graduate study in the field of costuming--they only choose three finalists out of all their applicants so that in and of itself is a great achievement. And at the banquet it was announce that Colleen was awarded the scholarship!

In addition, second year Leah Pelz won first prize in the Costume Craft Competition for her exhibition of five examples of her millinery work, all of which you've seen in the back posts of this blog.

Congratulations to all three for these wonderful distinctions! I couldn't be more proud.
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
Theatrical dyers, take note! Sure, you probably are familiar with Pantone color guides, but did you know that they recently released a 110-color skin tone guide? For years I have been working with a home-made skin tone guide, composed of a fat stack of paint sample cards from the hardware store. It's worked fine, but it looks a bit slapdash when you bust it out in a fitting to take a skinton color for a dye job.

So, i was thrilled when our shop manager presented me with the new Pantone Skin Tone Guide, and i'm looking forward to having it for teaching the color match unit in my spring dye class. It's not cheap at $89, but it's not exorbitant and I like how it works much better than the paint-chip one I've been using.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (CAD)
I went ahead and splurged on the myPANTONE app, which seemed almost too good to be true: the entire Pantone color library accessible on my iPad, anywhere, any time? Think of what a fantastic resource that would be as a dyer!

But myPANTONE at $9.99 is fairly expensive for an least it seems that way until you start looking at the pricetags on the analog versions of Pantone colorguides, and you realize that a single basic Formula Guide printed on cardstock is going to run you upwards of $125, nevermind the combined cost of all the different libraries included in the app. Suddenly that ten-dollar price starts looking like a mega-deal. So i bought it.

I can't tell you how many shows i've worked on at theatres that didn't have a Pantone book for picking dye colors out of, where a designer had to find a scrap of fabric from a remnant pile ("Like this but more punchy!" Uh, what?), or an assistant had to run to the nearest hardware store for paint chips. Imagine though if a designer could whip out her iPhone and pick a Pantone swatch right then, and later a dyer could pull out his iPad and refer to it while processing the job? You see where i'm going in terms of this being a potentially excellent tool for the theatre, where maybe a shop manager just can't justify a $150 expenditure for the Pantone formula guide, but a $10 app could be the answer to everyone's frustrations about dye-swatching.

Not an iPhone user? The Android version is $2 cheaper at $7.99.

There are also a couple of related Pantone apps that look fairly useless for the purposes of a dyer/costumer--myPANTONE Wedding ($5, only 200 colors and geared toward product sales of wedding attire/accessories) and myPANTONE X-Ref ($2, converts Pantone color numbers across system libraries, but isn't searchable/browsable across the spectrum for any of them).

So, from the perspective of a costumer, what can i tell you about myPANTONE? Overall, i find it pretty exciting.

You can fan through a deck of color swatches easily and swiftly, then maximize visibility on a specific 5-value color card or individual color chip (each of which is labeled with the Pantone number).

You can search on a swatch number and call up that chip easily. If an out-of-town designer with the app were to email me and say "Hey, dye those t-shirts Pantone 339C," i could search on the number and immediately see the swatch for the color s/he wanted the shirts dyed.

You can even take a picture of something and pick out a swatch from the image. To test this, i took a photograph of one of the costumes on the rack at work, a set of blue medical scrubs, then touched the sleeve of the shirt in the photo, and the app popped up a Pantone swatch matched to that scrub color!

There is, however, a pretty big caveat, and that is that the colors that show up on your mobile device screen DO NOT exactly match the colors of the printed Pantone colorbooks. I haven't tested it across platforms so i don't know if the colors on my iPad exactly match the ones on the Android version of the app, or the iPhone version. I have to wait i guess until someone else i know buys it to see.

The colors *are* close enough that you could probably run with a dye request from the app in most cases, since a textile's weave structure has just as much influence over how a color appears to the eye as a difference in handheld displays. Think about how different the same exact color of dress looks if the dress is acetate velvet, or silk satin, or cotton broadcloth. So while this caveat is an issue, i don't think it is nearly the same significant problem for dyers and costume designers in theatre as it is for, say, graphic designers.

In short, i'm glad i bought the app, and I'm hoping it becomes something that's fairly standard in theatrical production, in terms of a resource that designers and dyers can have easily and inexpensively for color communication.

Do you have myPANTONE? What do you think of it?
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
Last week, i posted the first half of a two-parter on how third-year grad student Adrienne Corral has been creating a range of different samples for a lizard-skin costume effect, using the silicone effect known as gicking. I left y'all on a cliffhanger with the spandex stretched and masked, and here's what happened next.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
Our graduate program at UNC-Chapel Hill affords some students the opportunity to work as a crafts artisan on one of the mainstage productions for PlayMakers Repertory Company. Typically this happens in their second and third years, as in the first year they usually do a show working as my assistant.

When i design a mainstage show, a student--usually in their second year--will serve as the crafts artisan, where they may have a degree of autonomy over the position but still have some direct mentorship. In the third year, if a student has a particular interest in crafts as a career specialization, they are afforded a broader sense of professional responsibility and work as my co-craftsperson on a large craft-heavy show.

Such is the case with our forthcoming production of The Imaginary Invalid, for which third-year graduate student Adrienne Corral is serving as the production's dyer/painter, and overseeing the production of one of the crafts builds. At this point in her graduate study, Adrienne has served as my assistant on a show, worked as production crafts artisan on last season's The Parchman Hour (which i designed), and has completed the series of four crafts classes which i teach. In addition to her academic work, she has spent two summers working as a craftsperson at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and one summer in the same position at Glimmerglass Opera. Adrienne intends to work as a dyer/painter after graduation, hence her duties on this upcoming show.

This post is the first in a two-part series, chronicling Adrienne's process for making lizard skin samples for a character who has a reptile tail. (It's a new translation of the Moliere script--if you don't remember a reptile man in the show, you're not missing something! He's not specified in the original.)

Take a look at the research images our designer sent for reference:

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (Default)
I'm abroad in the UK for the next month for research, scholarship, and fun, and I'm taking the opportunity to check out lots of museums and galleries while I'm at it. Anything relevant I'll share here, and more general travel journaling is happening in my travel blog.

Last week I visited some friends in Manchester, where I also got to see some of We Face Forward, a citywide exhibition of West African art, culture, and and artifacts spanning the collections and spaces of museums, galleries, libraries, and music venues across the city. I didn't have nearly the time to see it all, but did get to the textile art shown at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

I found the most compelling work to be in the first hall, in which were hung historical and contemporary fabrics and garments of West African origin. Though they were displayed in no discernable sequence, the pieces themselves were fascinating in their artisanship from a design perspective. 

Egregiously, though, the attached text barely addressed how the pieces had been made and by whom or placed them in any West African cultural context. Instead, the blurbs focused largely on who had donated them to the museum. Instead of telling viewers about the culture from which the piece came, how and why it was made and used and worn, we learned about a bunch of imperial/colonial white dudes and their families. The blurb would perhaps then say something about the work being indigo dyed with wax resist, with no explanation of what indigo dyeing entailed or what a wax resist process is--my friend who attended the exhibit with me and who is not familiar with textile artistry techniques found the descriptions useless, and we both found them culturally offensive.

Read more... )

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