labricoleuse: (Default)
In the same vein as the interview series i've recently begun here on La Bricoleuse, i'd like to point to the resource of the vast library of videos assembled by the American Theatre Wing, of interviews and panel discussions with some of the world's leading theatre artists. There are literally hundreds of videos stretching back over a decade, so i'll link only to the most relevant to this blog's focus, though i encourage you to do some surfing for yourself through the archive as well!

Theatrical Milliner Lynne Mackey (7 min)

Shoe Designer Phil LaDuca (7 min)

Textile Artisan Gene Mignola (7 min)

Puppet Designer Emily DeCola (7 min)

Theatrical Wig Maker Paul Huntley (7 min)

Costume Shop Manager at the Alliance Carol Hammond (7 min)

Costume Designer Carrie Robbins at Parsons Meares (5 min)
labricoleuse: (milliner)
I love surfing old newsreels on British Pathe, and there are an incredible number of excellent documentary clips on hatmaking and related techniques. The narration is often a bit cheesy and dated in tone (and occasionally sexist/racist by modern standards), but the opportunity to see these artisans at work is invaluable!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Hatters forming silk-plush top hats in 1951! You can read about this process in Debbie Henderson's excellent resource book The Top Hat, but it is cool to see the processes happen which are described in that text, too.

Felt hat blocking in 1938 at a Luton hat factory. Some great shots of the industrial finishing machines in use.

Luton hatmakers stitching straw boaters by machine in 1952. I love the point in this video where a factory worker basically does the industrial-process version of the technique i describe in this post on restoring vintage straw! Cool!

Silent newsreel from 1933 of Italian straw-plaiters, including a great section of a woman making a spiral-plaited Breton hat and installing its lining.

Have you ever wondered about the structure inside the tall fur hats of the Buckingham Palace Guards? There is a great clip from 1936 showing exactly how they're made to satisfy your curiosity!

Feathered hatmaking techniques from 1955. Great to see the milliners' process in constructing these hats, particularly since if you have some in your costume stock, they often need restoration of dropped feathers.

A video from 1958 featuring hair designers ventilating wigs and creating some hairstyle/hat hybrid looks, super-fun!

In keeping with the recent spate of posts about the Stephen Jones Millinery Contest (for which the winner will be announced Tuesday, August 30th!), there's a great clip about a 1945 hat design contest, which includes a cute section showing initial mockups contrasted with the finished hats created according to the winning designs.

Here's a great one showing a cordwainer making a leather Billingsgate porter's helmet, what's probably a lost art at this point, but well-documented and technically interesting to watch!

A truly bizarre 1932 video of hatters making varnished wooden cloches. Seriously, what? They're cool-looking!

Another unusual millinery material trend from the era of silent film: crepe paper! This clip from 1926 illustrates a couple of methods for making garnitures and trims from crepe paper, not exactly a durable medium for stage millinery, but fascinating from a historical perspective. Reminds me of all the paper and husk flowers I bought in the street markets in Mexico last summer! And this 1930 video shows the process of making a wide-brimmed sun hat with a gathered underbrim, which could be super-cute reworked as a buckram and fabric hat!

And, definitely just for fun, this clip shows the manufacturing process for papier mache party hat styles from 1957. It's neat to see these hats going together in fairly traditional processes modified for the medium (like the section where a lady attaches a foiled-paper visor to a mache "dragoon's hat" the same way you would stitch one onto the "real" version).
labricoleuse: (frippery)
British Pathe is a wealth of excellent videos, but i heartily recommend checking out this short demonstration from 1942 on creating fashionable "hats" using scarves, flowers, and feathers. I am definitely going to be trying some of these out!
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
My former Utah Shakes colleague Kyle Schellinger is one of the contributors to a cool concept blog entitled A Sketch A Day, in which costume designers post...well, the title says it all, really. Lots of renderings to check out, pre-colorizing!

simple mask images )
labricoleuse: (CAD)
I found some great new (to me) blogs over the weekend that i have to share with you guys, two millinery ones and a tailoring one.

Lucy Chalk is a French milliner blogging biligually, each post being written in both English and French versions. She's got a wealth of cool information, from focus posts on blocks and equipment to spotlights of runway millinery to hat-heavy costume-film reviews!

West Coast milliner Wayne Wichern now has a blog, and his first post on recarving "outre" old hat blocks into new fashion-forward or more versatile shapes is a real winner! Mr. Wichern is teaching a two week blocking course this summer at Penland School of Crafts that i'm hoping to attend. Just sent in my application last week!

And, Made By Hand is a great blog written by a tailor, who spends a lot of posts excavating the interior construction and hand-finishing details of bespoke suits. Fascinating stuff.
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
First post of the decade!

This spring, the graduate course i teach will be Masks and Armor. Because of the way some course-offering rescheduling has shaken down, I haven't taught the course since 2007. The last time i taught it, I recall that the students struggled with a couple of the topics we covered--scaling up from a maquette to a full size matrix [1], and molding and casting in plaster. We talked about it and looked at static images, but at the time i thought it's be great to do a demonstration of either of these things, but that it wasn't really practical--the class period is only so long, and it doesn't help much to get started on something as a demo that's going to actually take you 10-20 hours to realize. And, i have mainstage responsibilities to keep up with as well; it'd be one thing if i were making masks for the show i'll be working on (and thus have a built-in reason to do the sculpture outside of the course demo), but i'm not.

At the time, i thought, "Next time i scale up a mask from a maquette, or cast in plaster, i should make a video to show them the stages." In all my copious free time, of course. So needless to say, that didn't happen. And then, some time ago, i heard about some existing videos which, though not specifically tailored to the purposes of theatre, might be some good resources: John Brown's character sculpture training DVD series, and the Monster Movie Masks series by Omar Sfreddo and Anthony Giordano.

So, who are these guys?

John Brown has worked as a character sculptor for the toy and animatronics industries, and as a creature concept artist in Hollywood for such films as Mars Attacks!, Jumanji, and Monkeybone. He has released a series of DVDs through the Gnomon Workshop on various aspects of the character-creation scuplture process--everything from making armatures to maquettes to full-sized characters.

Omar Sfreddo has done creature effects for films such as Spiderman 2 and The Chronicles of Riddick, while Anthony Giordano has worked as a prop fabricator for Saturday Night Live. They've put together a three-disc series on sculpting, molding/casting, and finishing/painting monster movie masks of the 'giant rubber villain' variety.

The creature-creation demands of film are different than mask-making for theatre (for example, the high degree of close-up realism film commands is not applicable to theatre, while the allowance for speech acoustics and actor vision that theatrical masks require is not applicable to film), but there's enough of a basic crossover that i thought, it's worth checking them out.

The problem is, well, i'm successful at what i do, but i don't just light my fireplace with burning $100 bills because money means nothing to me anymore; educational DVDs are costly and i don't want to drop a few hundred dollars on DVDs sight-unseen, when they might be poor references or not useful with respect to my field.

That's where comes in! They're a mail-order DVD rental service, kind of on the same level as Netflix, except all their DVDs are instructional topics in a wide range of fields, everything from blacksmithing to working with fiberglass to firearms training to sewing techniques. From SmartFlix, i was able to rent the DVDs i was interested in for a fraction of the purchase price. It turned out to be a great bargain (3 DVDs for a week's rental came to $26, as opposed to a purchase cost of over $100), and completely convenient; like Netflix, they come with their own postage-paid return packaging so all you do is drop them back in the mail when you are done watching them.

So, on to my reviews of the DVDs themselves!

First up, the Sfreddo/Giordano DVD, Monster Movie Masks: Molding and Casting Latex Masks.

Okay, so clearly these men are good at what they do, given their resumes. And, my expectations of educational DVDs are much lower in terms of things like whether there's segue music, quick cuts between multiple camera angles, artistically designed credits and other text elements, and how many takes are possible. Plain fonts, stretches of silence, and occasional imperfect action segments ("Whoops, dropped my i was saying, apply the solvent here...") are to be expected.

This DVD though, it embarrassed me to watch it, the production quality was so slipshod and the presenters so unprepared and nervous. It's clear that both men are extremely uncomfortable in front of a camera, and they give the impression of having never taught any kind of workshop before. There were several spliced sections of text (such as tools/equip lists, supplies needed, etc) that were full of blatant spelling errors--at one point, even Omar Sfreddo's name is misspelled. Overall the actual editing is truly poor, as well, cutting the men off mid-sentence at illogical points in the presentation and struggling with volume issues. I'd crank up the volume to hear the sotto voce narration, only to have some dorktastic segue music blow me out of the chair. There's stuff on YouTube that people have made on their laptops that's better quality than this.

There were a couple of bits of good advice (for example, their "standard" of sculpting at 120% scale for "one size fits all" applications, or the use of a custom-made skin texture stamp created by taking a latex surface mold of an orange), but i felt they went too fast for the utter beginner and too slowly for someone with some experience in maskmaking already. I think these DVDs would have benefited from Sfreddo and Giordano hosting several real-time workshops with actual students, to iron out their own confidence issues and to preempt a lot of the problems with timing. Real students would make them stop and clarify, or they'd realize when they were spending too much time on something, and that would have ultimately improved the video itself. But, all that's moot, because the videos exist, and i am glad i didn't pay $60+ for them.

John Brown has an 8-part set of videos out, but many of them deal with full-body sculpture of characters, either for animatronics, CGI 3D surface mapping, or prosthetic production. I chose to check out just Volume 3: Sculpting the Detailed Head, which covers scaling up a creature head to full-head size from a 1/3 scale maquette.

Brown is a better teacher than Sfreddo and Giordano--he exhibits a bit more confidence in front of the camera (though his frosted Hollywood rocker hairdo made me, admittedly only because it reminded me of a guy i used to date), and seems to have at least conducted a few workshops in real-time situations before making his DVD sets. He suffers from improvisational diction issues (lots of "you know, uh") and his propensity for prefacing teaching moments with the word "obviously" worked my nerves a bit. If it's obvious, why would anyone spend $50+ on a DVD about it? And if it's not obvious to the viewer, way to potentially alienate them.

He does show practically how to use a pair of calipers to scale up a sculpture from a 1/2, 1/3, or 1/4 scale maquette, which is exactly what i was hoping to find in a video of this sort. Because in this video he's working life-size, i think it IS probably quite useful as a teaching tool in a maskmaking context, because it does very clearly illustrate how to go from small to large; granted, in theatre you will probably not be making a full-head orc mask (which is what he's sculpting in the video), but you might, and the exact subject itself is not what's important to focus on here for my purposes, it's the technique.

The editing is a bit crummy at times (though compared to the prior DVD it's fabulous)--some sections feature repetitive narration, and some sections could probably have been shown at double-speed. At one point Brown has a coughing fit, which is humorous but really, they ought to have rerecorded that section of the voiceover. And, there's a point where he spends some time working with epoxy putty with his bare hands that made the OSHA dork in me cringe--the MSDS for it clearly advises nitrile gloves.

He has some great points on the importance of visual reference materials and is clearly coming from a classically-trained art background when he lists off his examples, of which some include Michaelangelo's David, the portrait photography of Yousuf Karsh, the figure drawings and facial expression studies of George Bridgman. He also suggests other resources such as image searches on Corbis and bodybuilding magazines (for weird veiny muscular necks/heads). He talks a bit about exaggeration of features for extreme character looks (his example is the huge brow muscles in the orc face he's making), and ways to manipulate composition of the face to convey emotions (i.e., V-brows denoting anger, while pitched-brows convey worry or sadness).

One great aspect of Brown's presentation is the coverage of his own particular techniques and custom-modifications of sculpting tools--he shows how he's made several specific tools by modifying store-bought loop tools and wire rakes, created custom ergonomic grips with duct tape and foam, and even done things like cutting up a dog-brush to create a great stippler. He shows several sculpting techniques specific to face-renderings in clay, and is GREAT about keeping you apprised of "real-time" passage ("I'm about 4 hours into this sculpture now..."), which i find invaluable. He also has some good tips on lighting your sculpting space for maximum visibility--he recommends an overhead lamp, fluorescent so it doesn't put out heat and soften your clay or make you hot while you work, and with variable intensities, as lower light helps bring out the visibility of the details once you get down to any fine sculpting work that you might need to do.

The DVD includes a "Lecture Notes" section (basically synopses of the segments and links to URLs mentioned) and a "Bonus" section (some 360 pans of sculptures accompanied by laughably new-age music), which were ok, but i'd have preferred some PDFs of equipment/media lists and some trailers for the other DVDs in the series. Regardless, this is the DVD i plan to make available to my class as a resource when we discuss the leap from maquette to full-scale mask, as its shortcomings are overlookable and the material presented is excellent.

[1] By "scaling up from a maquette to a full size matrix" i mean, initially it is a good idea to sculpt a mask on a smaller scale--1/2 scale, 1/3 scale, or 1/4 scale--when you are working out the actual translation of a mask design with your costume designer. S/he may only have rendered it in 2D without any oblique or side view, or the design might not be as intricately defined as the mask will need to be. I can work up a 1/3 scale maquette in an hour or less, and can go through as many iterations as i need to in order to settle on a given design; this is FAR more efficient than working 10-15 hours on a full-size sculpture, only to find out that the designer would prefer the nose larger, the ears in a different location, the eyes further apart, and the forehead way more bulbous. Or something. But, once you settle on a maquette, you then need to scale that up to a full size mask.
labricoleuse: (milliner)
Two hat-related topics today:

First up, I'd like to share this cool video of a panama straw hatter demonstrating how to use one of Mark DeCou's foot tollikers:

Look at that fine crisp edge he gets between crown and brim with this technique. I can't sing enough praises for DeCou's hatmaking tools, so if you are looking for a great gift for a hatmaker for the holidays, his pieces are unique and useful! I have his puller-down, runner-down, a right-handed foot tolliker, and a custom rounding jack, and love them all.

Also, Judith M Millinery is sponsoring a hatmaking contest in honor of their 15th anniversary. Here's the details:

The competition is to promote hat wearing and honor the hard-working milliners and hatters of today, and is being held in cooperation with National NonWovens company. WoolFelt™ can be blocked or used in cut n' sew pattern work. It has a nice body and weight and comes in a lot of colors. There is no deadline for entering but your finished hat images must be submitted no later than January 29, 2010.

Entrants must be a subscriber to the judithm e-newsletter. The newsletter is free.

The competition consists of two categories, Blocked WoolFelt™ and Flat Patterned WoolFelt™. We will award one First Prize and one Runner-Up in each category, four winners in all. First Prize for both categories will receive a $250 gift certificate to and $500.00 worth of WoolFelt™. Runners-Up for both categories will receive $150.00 gift certificates to and $350.00 worth of WoolFelt™. The WoolFelt™ yardage is given by the competition co-sponsor, National Nonwovens. Winners will be announced in early March 2010.

We carry the blend, 70% wool/30% rayon, and the 100% wool. Both categories, Patterned and Blocked, will be using a 36x36 inch square of WoolFelt™ for the hat. You may use either the 70/30 blend or full wool in any of the colors listed on our website. The only limit to entries is the hat must be wearable. It can be brimmed or brimless, utilitarian or whimsical. The theme is your choice.
labricoleuse: (shoes!)
More Blogs

I always get excited to find other people blogging about topics related to my field, and I've got three to share today which are super.

First Pullover is a footwear design and industry blog(!), written by Richard Kuchinsky, a footwear industry professional and shoe designer. His work is largely athletic shoes, but much of his content is of interest to footwear creators (or enthusiasts) in general, and wow, what a great niche blog. Here are some highlight posts:

Garment industry guru Kathleen Fasanella writes the blog Fashion Incubator (LJ feed: [ profile] fashionincub8r), which is jam-packed with excellent information on garment production from an industrial factory-line perspective. She's got a TON of great tutorials on a wide range of subjects, from putting in zippers to an excellent crotch-seam-fit-discussion series entitled "Anatomy of a Camel Toe" (seriously). Of interest to historians is her series of vintage pattern reproduction posts in which she reinvents a Vionnet pattern. LJ feed for this: [ profile] fashionincub8r

The Art and Business of Costume Designing (LJ feed: [ profile] costumedesignbl) is a blog written by Costume Designer Jessica Risser-Milne about...well, the title pretty much says it all. She's got a lot of great posts, but here are some i bookmarked to share, because they offer a great alternate perspective from a designer's POV on several of the topics i've covered in my series of FAQ posts:

Upcoming Conferences

September 3-5, 2009, the USITT Southeastern Regional Conference will be held in Greensboro, NC. In addition to the Design/Tech Expo competition, there will be Master Classes on a range of relevant topics, including PatternMaker software and puppetry.

October 8-10, 2009, the UNCSA Southeastern Regional Entertainment Technology Conference, presented by Cirque du Soleil Resident Shows Division, will be held in Winston-Salem, NC. This conference has tracks for all tech disciplines (sound, lights/projections, automation, sets/rigging, production and stage management, and costumes/wigs/makeup), and will feature behind-the-scenes education on how Cirque's regional and touring shows are run. The conference is limited to 175 participants, and the registration deadline is September 30th.
labricoleuse: (milliner)
Milliner of the Month! That's me!

HATalk magazine is an e-zine published monthly by the fine folks at, also known for their excellent selection of e-books on millinery techniques. The magazine contains several how-to articles in each issue on various millinery tips and tricks, a prize giveaway, a "hat of the month" focus, and the "milliner of the month" focus, which in the September issue (released today), is me!

The article is a basic overview of the millinery course i teach for the Costume Production MFA program, addressing the particular challenges of making millinery for the stage and the types of techniques and topics we cover in the course. It's a good article, and i'm particularly pleased for several of my students, whose hats are featured in accompanying photographs, credited to their creators.

One of the professional goals i set for myself a couple years back in terms of academia was to help facilitate the acquisition of publication and press credits for my grad students, by encouraging them to submit articles and papers to industry journals, newsletters, and other trade publications, assisting them with creating and/or publicizing their own professional websites or blogs, and via collaborative publication efforts like co-authored articles or pieces like this where photography of their work can gain visibility. Six of them made it into this piece, so hooray!

The September issue of HATalk, in addition to the article on my millinery course, also features another theatrical millinery topic: a piece about the commission of a custom hat block for an opera, from renowned blockmaker Guy Morse-Brown! If you've been thinking about subscribing, maybe this is the month to check it out. You could piggyback the payment on top of a book order, which brings me to...'s August e-Book Sale! 50% off all titles!

Every August, run a huge sale, half off all their e-book titles and DVDs. It's a great time to stock up on books you've thought about buying from them, especially for non-UK customers whose currency doesn't hold up well against the pound on exchange rates.

Last year when the sale was on, i wrote up a few book reviews of four of their titles, including their book on stitched-strip hat construction (a topic it's very hard to find documentation about), and Barcelona milliner Cristina de Prada has covered even more of them in her blog, here, in a post about her splurge during the 2007 sale. So, check those posts out if you want some customer feedback on the e-book titles!

Image viewing issues for [ profile] labricoleuse posts?

Unrelated, over the past two months, three readers have contacted me saying they are unable to view images posted on this blog.

I have tested the image visibility on both PC and Mac computers, and using Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari web browsers, and have not had any difficulty with any of them. I can only guess then that perhaps readers having image viewing issues may be accessing the blog through service providers who have blocked content from, which is who i use as my primary image host.

The majority of readers have no issues with viewing the images, so if you are unable to view my photos, i would suggest calling tech support for your service provider and describing the problem to them. I never have high enough traffic to exceed my bandwidth for images, so beyond that, i don't know what else to suggest. Sorry! :(
labricoleuse: (top hats!)
One non-theatre/-costuming blog that i read religiously is Faster Than Kudzu, by bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson. I've read all her modern-Southern-gothic books and enjoyed them, but that's not why i read her blog, which is really more about her day-to-day life than anything else. Rather, i read Kudzu so i can laugh until the tears squeeze out the corners of my eyes. She is one highlarious lady! (Or at least, her sense of hyperbolic humor and mine align perfectly.)

In addition to writing her own novels and blogging at Kudzu, Joshilyn also posts occasionally for A Good Blog is Hard to Find, a group blog written by a whole roster of Southern authors. I have to admit, i have always felt a little pang of jealousy, whenever she made a chipper, chirpy post to the effect of, "This week i am guest blogger over at the Southern Authors place!" with a link to some hilarious post for an entirely different forum, and wished that there were some similar outlet for me, somewhere i could go swoop in and make a quick post every now and again on some [ profile] labricoleuse-related topic, not a-whole-nother blog all for me, just an occasional change of pace, y'know? Different exposure to eyes that wouldn't maybe have found my words otherwise.

Well, the time is nigh and that day is at hand!

This week, i'm the featured blogger for the Nicholas Nickleby production blog, Page to Stage! (If you are a livejournal user, the site-specific feed is [ profile] nicknickleby.) Today in my first post, i've discussed my place in the world of the play--namely, bonnets galore!
labricoleuse: (milliner)
Divina Infusino has an interesting article in the Huffington Post about the UK's National Theatre's HD-broacasting program, in which they simulcast performances at cinemas in Europe, and air them a few days or weeks later in other nations (including the US). Infusino attended the live performance of Phedre with Helen Mirren and Dominic Cooper at the NT, then went to a rebroadcast shortly thereafter in California, and her HuffPo piece compares the two experiences.

She touches briefly on the double-edged sword of theatre's immediacy--how its fleeting character of "just these people, in this space, right now" is both its appeal and its limitation, and how the HD broadcast aims to expand its audience. It's interesting to read her comparison as well--which nuances translated well to the broadcast, what was enhanced, and what was lost.

Broadcasting theatre performances isn't a new idea--the Public Broadcasting System has been doing it for years and years. As a child and young adult, i vividly recall watching broadcast versions of Ravel's opera The Spellbound Child, George Hearn in Broadway's Sweeney Todd, and the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Nicholas Nickleby. Beyond PBS though, the concept never really took off, though perhaps this new program at the NT will change that.

Perhaps the greatest boon of the simulcast/rebroadcast idea is audience expansion. Someone who hesitates before spending $20 or $40 or $75 on a theatre ticket is much more likely to pay a movie-ticket price to check out a play--and, if they enjoy it, they might keep coming back, either to the simulcasts or to take a shot at the live version. The theatre company expands its revenue base, the broadcaster has another option for programming, and the community has another option for affordable entertainment. In fact, I think what's most interesting about the whole thing in terms of a widely-appealing concept is the idea of forging new partnerships within a particular geographical area, between a regional theatre and local or academic broadcasting services. The recession has underscored how vitally important it is for a theatre (or any other business or institution) to be strongly rooted in its community, to be considered a necessary part of its area's cultural landscape, and this could be one more way of strengthening that support base.

Infusino does mention briefly the inability of live-immediacy to transcend the broadcast medium and to maintain its "lack of a fourth wall magic," so to speak--she mentions how impressive the set was in person...the implication being, on film we're used to such grandiose spectacle that we now refer to something like an amazing sunset as 'cinematic,' so a great set on a stage is only so much background when broadcast.

There's also this interesting passage:

After Hippolytus is stunned by Phèdre's sobbing confession of pent up desire for him, he rushes to a fountain, quickly opens the spigot and ducks his head under water to cool off from the intensity. The moment drew a laugh from the live audience. In the taped version, the relief for Hippolytus -and for the audience -was lost.

...which i think is a fascinating observation. The laugh in that live performance is wholly tied to the live experience, to the technical production factor--the audience's delight in the fact that there is a spigot onstage and actual water comes out of it, Hyppolytus actually ducks his head in it and is there sopping before them, that the front few rows might even catch spattered droplets before the scene ends. The laughter is partly tied to the chance for tension relief from the action, but the actual means of release is inseparable from the live medium.

Again, we're used to faucets that spew water in film, it's an accepted part of the medium--in theatre, we're always just a bit thrilled when a faucet works, or an egg actually fries on a stove, or an actor completely changes clothes in 5 seconds' time, because we seize on that: it's real. In the midst of all the acting, false walls in a stage room, performers in costumes speaking lines someone else wrote for them, that water or fried egg or incredible quick-change is a vehicle for supporting our suspension of disbelief, and that's what makes it a theatrical moment, which is lost in film and in broadcast as well.

I'm interested though to see where simulcasting goes--it's so easy now to bring technology into any element of life. Theatres film commercials for their plays or videos of rehearsals, interviews, set builds, and put them on YouTube. We write blogs about our process, like this one, or like [ profile] nicknickleby.

Simulcasting or broadcasting a whole play isn't only limited to a company as large and reknowned as the National Theatre.

We could do it, you could do it, the local community theatre could do it.

Will we?
labricoleuse: (Default)
First off, i should mention that there's a very brief-run upcoming millinery exhibit in London at the Menier Gallery that looks excellent!

If any of you over in the UK have a chance to go check it out, please drop me a comment or message and let me know how it is! What with this and the Stephen Jones exhibit at the V&A, i sure wish i had planned to spend my springtime in England! :D

28 Apr to 2 May 2009

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, The HAT magazine is bringing together an exceptional collection of twelve designers and creators from around the world. Each designer's work could be described as wearable modern art. Be it sculptural and surreal or dark, serious and disturbing, their artistry and technical achievements are truly amazing. You can explore the work of this new generation, see firsthand the inspirational qualities of their creations and understand their enormous contribution to the world of contemporary design. Entrance is £2.50.

And, i also have a few questions for you guys, with an eye to various means of expanding the scope of topical coverage here at La Bricoleuse. I'd love to hear any and all your responses, either via comment or PM! First, the perennially-popular poll:

[Poll #1388135]

If you're one of the many readers who don't have a LiveJournal account (and thus, can't vote in the poll) please do leave a comment with your input if you like. I'm welcoming all voices here!

With respect to the addition of video content and coverage of selected topics, I'm thinking of something like, short video segments (15 minutes or less) along the lines of ThreadBanger or the Fashion Television clips or Torb & Reiner millinery tutorials up on YouTube. With respect to the addition of podcast content and coverage of selected topics, it'd be the same idea--downloadable (free) audio content on the same kinds of topics I already cover.

To that end, can anyone recommend good video editing software that's not too complex to learn, fairly intuitive, straightforward, etc? I just want to be able to do things like cuts, wipes, add in text/titles/credits. Nothing crazy fantastic.

Also I'd love recommendations of affordable video camera makes/models and audio recording equipment, similarly usable by an amateur videographer or podcaster like myself.

(With your tech and software recs, presume that i'm not completely ignorant--I worked as a DJ in college and a few years thereafter, so i've done my share of running sound through a board, albeit a simple four-channel setup. Presume though also that i have exactly no equipment to start with beyond an old iBook.)

This is all the very preliminary beginnings of a longterm plan for potential expansion of the blog...information-gathering, as it were.

Thank you all SO much for all your input, on this and in general as part of the readership overall. La Bricoleuse turns three years old this summer, and i just love what it's grown into, the feedback and dialogues and queries and brainstorms, all of it, excellent! I couldn't do it without y'all. (Or rather, i could, but it'd be the proverbial tree falling in the forest; what would be the point of writing a blog with the goal of information exchanges and artistic methodology discussions but no readership?)
labricoleuse: (Default)
Just a quick link today, the shop i worked at last summer on Shrek: The Musical was featured on a recent episode of Threadbanger!

It's fun to see my former coworkers talking about various shop processes, and see what's in the shop getting worked on. About halfway through the video, they talk to my two fellow first-hands that were on the Dragon team with me, Tiffany and Jo. Hi ladies! :D
labricoleuse: (milliner)
I promise i'll get around to the rest of my book reviews soon! In the meantime though, i've come across a load of cool, interesting links online to other folks' hat book reviews, interviews with milliners, and videos...which of course i'd like to share here:

Reviews and Interviews

The blog "Bumped and Foxed" reviews a 1951 UK text here, The ABCs of Millinery by Madame Eva Ritcher. "Bumped and Foxed" is a blog that reviews serendipitously-found damaged books, which in and of itself is a pretty cool idea for a blog theme.

Here's an interview with New Orleans milliner Tracy Thomson of Kabuki Hats. Tracy is a self-taught millinery who works in a range of media like straw, recyclables, ribbon, and more. She talks about a lot of cool stuff in the interview, including dyeing toyo hatbodies in a former crawfish pot and a post-Katrina fashion show of garments and hats made entirely from blue tarp material (which covered most of the houses left standing in the city at that time).

An interview with UK milliner Stephen Jones. You've seen Jones' hats if you pay attention to haute couture and runway shows and the like. He's probably the second-most famous milliner in modern fashion. (The first being Philip Treacy.)

Western hatter "Big Al" Gonzales customizes cowboy hats! This one is part interview, part overview, and even features a video. Big Al shapes his hats by hand without hatblocks, just steam and sensibility.

Speaking of Videos!

Louise Green Millinery--great overview of how they produce made-to-order hand-blocked hats in a factory setting.

Watch this, if you have never seen Philip Treacy's hats in motion.

The process of carving hat blocks!

And, having just finished reading The Panama Hat Trail (reviewed in a previous post), i was excited to come across several videos on toquillo straw hat weaving in Ecuador, including an entire documentary broken up into 3 parts!

A short interview with a hat weaver
Weaving Life documentary, Part 1
Weaving Life documentary, Part 2
Weaving Life documentary, Part 3
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
1.) In Search of Lost Colour: The Story of Natural Dyes, Maiwa Productions.

This is one of the DVDs i bought at the Textile Museum in DC. I bought this one potentially to show in my dye class, because students want to know about natural vs. synthetic dyes, and we only do practical projects in class using synthetics (that being the industry standard in theatrical dye shops). Still, though the class is primarily intended to cover topics that pertain to professional theatrical dye and paint processes, i do also like to discuss historical context for dyeing in various eras and cultures, and i was hoping that this documentary would be a good overview of natural dyeing methods using plant- and animal-based dyestuffs, which it is. It is also an excellent resource for explaining why natural dyeing is a completely different world, time consuming and inexact, and why in general it is not practical for theatrical costuming (unless costumes are to be made from purchased naturally-dyed textiles).

The documentarians traveled all over the planet making this film and cover a wide range of dyes--Turkish madder root, cochineal, indigo, shellfish purple, and more. It'll be a great way to give my students a rough background in various kinds of natural dye processes and, should any of them take an interest in it, a jumping-off point for further exploration of it as an art, while illustrating why we don't cover natural dye processes in practical projects in the course.

2.) Indigo: A World of Blue, Maiwa Productions.

I also got this one at the DC Textile Museum, and it's a fascinating look into indigo processing in various cultures--Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Laos, and India. It includes interviews with indigo dye historians and scholars from all over the world and features tons of amazing footage of indigenous dye facilities using basic early technology (clay vats in the ground, fermenting pools, stomping the indigo bath, etc). It's an excellent documentary if you are interested in the cultural heritage of indigo, but also a fairly good deterrent if you are thinking of exploring indigo dyeing, as it discusses how difficult, time-consuming, inexact, back-breaking, and fickle the dye process can be. I probably won't be showing it in my class unless the students really go ape over natural dyes and just want to see it; even then, i will probably loan it out to interested parties to watch in their own time.

3.) Arimatsu - Narumi Shibori: Celebrating 400 Years of Japanese Artisan Design, Studio Galli.

This one, i first heard about on the Dyers e-list, unfortunately because there was some sort of problem with the first run of DVDs where half the program wouldn't play. They recalled the disks and put out a new corrected version, which i received as a birthday gift from my grandmother. It's narrated by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, author of Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing, among other works.

This documentary is invaluable to those wanting to learn shibori techniques, and functions as an excellent supplement to Wada's book, which describes many of the techniques, but frankly, nothing beats watching a master artisan actually performing the tasks required to create the effects.

I have a few criticisms of the DVD, none of which remotely come close to outweighing its supreme value as a resource. The editing at times isn't that great--sometimes the narration is redundant, restating nearly verbatim information already imparted, and sometimes the footage is repetitive in similar or related techniques. The intervals between sections drag, taking a couple beats too many to move onto the next section (or, it feels that way to me, thinking at the fast pace of modern American life). I don't intend to show my class the sections depiction the actual dyeing process, partly because we'll have already covered that in the course once we get to the shibori project, but partly also because the artisans aren't always using proper PPEs and it makes me crazy to watch.

I will also probably shuffle the order in which we watch the techniques in class, because some of the more complex techniques are presented before simpler ones, and i'd rather show them things in ascending order of difficulty (i.e., here's something you can do with no special equipment in a few steps, here's something you can do that you need to make a simple tool first to create, here's something that is fairly complex and requires many different steps, etc).

All told, i recommend all three of these documentaries to anyone interested in historical dye processes; they are full of great information and honestly, reading about something doesn't compare to observing experts actually DOING it! All of them are around $20-$30, very affordable for a niche-market DVD.
labricoleuse: (opening night gala)
Dyeing enthusiasts: The Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery at the University of Nebraska has a new exhibit, Unfurled: Expressive Cloth, for which one of the participating artists had recorded a podcast.

Knitters and crochet fans: Do you know about It's a community for sharing patterns, pictures of your work, tracking your fiber stash, etc!! It's still in a beta mode, so you have to sign up to be invited, but so far it looks like a wonderful resource and a great creative community for fiber artists!

And, my parasol book is so very close to being done! I got the final images back from the photographer today and wanted to share one teaser picture; he did some amazing work for me!

parasol photo )
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
I finally have all the stuff to make my post about the parasol development for The Little Prince. Though they are technically props, parasols are frequently the responsibility of the crafts artisan, because they are often designed by the Costume Designer to match the costumes of their carriers. I've written a forthcoming book on parasol manufacture for costumers (out in January 2008, more info as soon as it's available, of course!), so when it comes to traditional parasols, it's safe to say i know my stuff.

pictures, design renderings, and a video of my inverting parasol! )
labricoleuse: (macropuppets!)
Want a sneak-peek into what i've been doing for the past two months? There's a "trailer" up on YouTube of scenes from PlayMakers' forthcoming show, The Little Prince, opening tonight at the Paul Green Theatre on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill:

Also, a podcast interview from NPR with director Tom Quaintance and performers Lesley Shires and Joy Jones, as well as a page of production photographs!

Monday i'll have to do a comprehensive write-up about all the craftwork on the show, but for now, i need to start getting ready for the show. The curtain time has been moved to 7pm to accomodate children in the audiences.

In other news, this article on the ecological consequences of fabric and clothing production certainly gives us costumers something to think about.

December 2016

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