labricoleuse: (mee)
June is here, which means it's officially the 10th Anniverary Month for the blog!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And again, thank you ALL for reading this blog. :D
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
I'm doing my first-ever book giveaway over on Goodreads, three copies of Sticks in Petticoats: Parasol Manufacture for the Modern Costumer! The giveaway is open for entries from now through midnight on Wednesday, July 9, and is open to Goodreads members who are US residents.

I wrote the book in 2007, because when i developed the graduate level course i teach in costume accessory production at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, i knew i wanted to include a parasol project, but there literally was no published text that addressed the methods for doing such a thing. I decided to fill that niche myself, and POD publishing was just getting off the ground so i was able to bring it to the (admittedly limited) readership with help from a friend and textbook editor, David Zubkoff. The excellent Ryan A. S. Jones of Rytography provided some lovely illustrations as well.

I've mentioned on here before that in addition to the "day job" of theatrical costuming, i also write fiction, essay, memoir, and poetry, and received my MFA in creative writing in 2013. I find myself in the position of wanting to expand the writerly part of my career beyond the scope of [ profile] labricoleuse and industry-related technical writing, so i've been pursuing a range of related projects of late. I recently launched my professional author website for the wider range of my work, and i have actually published enough things for Goodreads to grant me an Author Page. If you're on there, let's connect! And, don't forget to enter the giveaway, too. :D

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sticks in Petticoats by Rachel E. Pollock

Sticks in Petticoats

by Rachel E. Pollock

Giveaway ends July 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Crafts assistant and MFA alum '14 Candy McClernan adjusts the lining on an antique parasol frame for Playmakers Repertory Company's 2010 production of The Importance of Being Earnest
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
I completely spaced sharing photos of my students' parasol projects, earlier in the semester. Things got pretty hectic with the repertory shows and it just fell through the cracks! So, here they are, late but nonetheless fun and fantastic.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
My decorative arts class has just presented their parasol projects. Check them out!

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (opening night gala)
I see I have quite a bit of catching up to do, as I have a bunch of half-baked posts I need to finish up and share. I will endeavor to get that done over the next couple of days.

First off, I want to extend a hearty congratulations to our newest MFA graduate, Shanna I. Parks. Shanna is off to work as a draper at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. I have some great photographs of two of her final projects that compose the third-year thesis: creative draping, and historical reproduction.

For Shanna's historical reproduction, she chose a garment from our antique clothing collection, a polkadotted Charmeuse gown from the turn-of-the-century. Eventually her pattern and accompanying research paper will be downloadable and accessible on the online archive, but for now my amateur photography will have to suffice. Read more... )
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
Man-o-man, have i been champing at the bit to share the info about my own entry in this, but since there's an exhibit and a published catalogue that goes along with it, i felt that it would be best for the info to remain exclusive to the conference until after the fact.

So now, yay, i can write about it.

Tech Expo is a juried exhibit and accompanying text for which innovations in technical theatre are submitted, and the winning 20 or so articles are published in a bound catalogue, with an exhibit of the work on the Expo floor during the USITT conference. Usually, the vast majority of these are scenic machinery and props, with the majority of the costume submissions being crafts artisanship.

This year, i wrote up a submission for the parasol in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days, which we created at PlayMakers earlier this season. The parasol was a true collaboration between myself, props master Meredith Rapkin, props assistant Elizabeth Moss, and master electrician Liz Vella. However, at the time that the abstracts were due, i was the only paid-up member of USITT so my name's the only one cited as an author. Credit is throughout the printed article however, and the accompanying poster and video also cites the contributions of local stage magicians and combustion consultants Michael Casey and Jon Ferrante.

Check out this video to see how it works:

In the coming weeks, the 2011 Tech Expo catalogue will get added to the USITT online bookstore, should you wish to read the article that goes along with it, which includes a full list of supplies and costs and the methods by which the flame-resistant canopy and ignition frame mechanism were created.

I will note a caveat here though, in case the video inspires anyone to reverse engineer it by intuition:

Make sure you have all the proper permissions and safety precautions mandated by your local Fire Marshall before attempting to create or deploy this stage effect. Make sure you have the knowledge and, if required by your state/city, licenses for working with pyro, flash paper/cotton, etc.

There were a bunch of other cool exhibits in the Expo, so click through for photos of a couple more...

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (shoes!)
So, first order of business: [ profile] labricoleuse will ostensibly be on hiatus for the month of July. I'm spending July in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and though there might be a couple things topical that come up, i don't expect to have a lot of time or fodder for the type of things i typically post here. I might have a link or two to share, so don't forget to like La Bricoleuse on Facebook. If you like, you can follow my sporadic travelogue on Blogspot, and i'll catch you all in August!

At some point, i'll write up the exhibit properly, but for now, here are some photos from the exhibit American High Style at the Brooklyn Museum.

shoes, hats, a parasol )
labricoleuse: (frippery)
The Importance of Being Earnest is in its final week at PlayMakers Repertory Company; i just had some time this morning to sit down with the photo call disk and go through the crafts items, nearly all of which were made for the characters of Gwendolen and Lady Bracknell.

stage shots and discussion )
labricoleuse: (frippery)
Wow, it's been a while since i updated here. Needless to say, things are extremely busy right now with Nicholas Nickleby in-house!

I did grab a scrap of time last week to blog over at Nickleby Page 2 Stage about the dyeshop calendar, but beyond that, i've been in nonstop fittings for what feels like a dog's age. I'm probably going to have another post going up soon over there, too--the conclusion to the hat construction chronicled in "Bespoke Millinery, Part One"--so look for that.

Just to give you an idea of the scope of this production, check out this photo: click for more (hats & parasols) )
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
My Decorative Arts class presented their parasol projects today and i have some lovely photos to share.

photos )

I'm so proud of all my students! Such amazing, lovely work on these!

And, i guess i'd be remiss in promotion if i didn't note that if you'd like to learn to make parasols like these, buy my book, which is (as far as i've been able to find) the only extant resource on the subject.
labricoleuse: (supershakespeare)
Today, i'm not the source, i'm just the conduit. Links on a variety of topics of potential interest to follow.

Topical Links for Decorative Arts Class

I'll have images of glove projects to share on Tuesday, but for now, illustrates for us in this post some answers to the question, "When is a glove more than a glove?"

And, because we can't get our respirator fit-testing dates scheduled until the end of the month, I'm postponing our shoe unit and we're moving on to parasols next. In that spirit, check out Elena Corchero's solar parasol, which turns into a chandelier after dark. I may have to experiment with this idea myself! Corchero also does a lovely folding fan/flashlight design in the same vein, and some cool reflective lace for trimming delicately frilly sportswear.

Speaking of shoes, here's a cool how-to on for bricolaging a power-generating shoe modification!

Health and Safety

Many of us who make a career out of costume production develop a repetitive stress injury (RSI) at some point. Vigilance and care of your muscles and joints is the key to maintaining a long, successful career without damaging your body beyond repair. I'm big on learning about a range of ways to minimize or avoid RSIs, from technological advances in ergonomics (simple example: spring-action scissors, compression gloves) to physical therapy exercises. On that tip, i was thrilled to run across's "Yoga for Crafters" series. So far they've got targeted posts aimed at jewelers, stitchers (they say "seamstresses," but in my industry, i've worked with my fair share of male stitchers, too), & interloopers ("knitters & crocheters", but i think the post applies to all yarn artists, including tatters, nalebinders, macrameurs--wow, i just got really pedantic, there, sorry).

Blogs of Note is a great wearable-art/couture/technology blog exploring the intersection of science, technology, fashion, and attire. I set up a LiveJournal feed for it at [ profile] fashioningtech, if you're an LJ blogger and want to follow it on your flist. Some of these links above (parasol, shoes) are swiped from there.

Fashion Creation Without Fabric Waste Creation is a patterning-centric blog written by Australian PhD candidate Timo Rissanen, whose passion is garment design utilizing patterns with zero fabric waste (with occasional birdwatching). He's got some great open-source info on his own pattern creations, such as this no-waste hoodie pattern and these no-waste codpieced leggings. I love this concept, not only for its ecological implications, but also because it holds the same appeal as creative writing within a rigid structure, like writing poetry in sonnets, villanelles, pantoums, etc. but in a clothing design paradigm. I also made him a feed on LJ, at [ profile] 0wastefashion.

On a similar note, if you want a fascinating pattern-theory read (and really, who doesn't?), check out the Julian and Sophie School of Pattern Cutting site, which is the result of a residency at the Royal College of Art. It's mindbending, the way they completely freaktastically puree everything you know about pattern-drafting into these crazily draped garments. One caveat: the photographs of the garments produced are really poor and unilluminating. You can tell from the text that they probably produce visually-intriguing garments, but it's probably something that's going to require practical experimentation to visualize it from a "page to stage" perspective.

Aight, that's me, then. I'm going to wind this up so i can go run around in this lovely autumn sunshine a bit. Have a great weekend, folks!
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
So, recall that the course i teach this semester is Decorative Arts--our first topic is gloves and glove-based structures.

FYI, past posts of note:

The students are starting to make their first straightforward pair of gloves, and by a stroke of luck and coincidence, there's a great article in this month's Threads magazine about glovemaking, with an excellent set of step-by-step photographs for making a pair of outseamed gloves.

(Outseaming is when you sew the gloves together with the seam allowances on the outside, as opposed to inseaming (SA's on the inside) or pique seaming (SA's overlapping to lie flat).)

Their website has some free augmentative materials--a stitch gallery and a gloves gallery--and scale patterns in three sizes as downloadable PDFs!

It's not a comprehensive article--there's not a lot of discussion about pattern manipulation for fit, nor coverage of the other types of seaming--but it's GREAT for seeing actual images of each step of glove construction, which is (IMO) a completely counterintuitive spatially-bizarre thing to wrap your head around.

In the same issue, there's also a cool article on recovering an umbrella frame with a new canopy. Again, not as comprehensive as, say, my parasol textbook--the article offers one method for creating the canopy pattern, as opposed to the three i discuss--but again, great photos and instructions.

Point being, it's a good issue for crafts artisans to pick up this month! (Or, anyone into gloves/parasols, really.)
labricoleuse: (shoes!)
This fall, the graduate course i teach is called "Decorative Arts," which basically indicates that it covers crafts-related topics which don't neatly fall into the other three course topics of Millinery/Wigs, Masks/Armor, and Dyeing/Surface Design. We start out with gloves, then progress to shoes. We cover jewelry, then parasols, and lastly discuss body padding and other projects in a unit called "reshaping the actor."

And, the students also do a hypothetical project in which they propose and solve a crafts-related engineering project (usually something involving macropuppetry, like a four-person elephant, but sometimes something like "inflatable Lysistrata phalluses" or "the growing bird tail in Seussical"). For this project, once their general concept is proposed and accepted, i give them a venue size and budget range, and they do all the research and development--materials sourcing, drafting construction plans, creating a half-scale model or a miniature mechanism, and labor projections. Basically, they get to the point where they'd start making the real deal, but due to time and budget restraints, we don't actually build them.

One of the things i totally love about the cycle of teaching these courses is, it allows me to regularly revisit specific crafts-related topics on a biennial basis, even if it's something that hasn't come up in a stage context in the interim. Before i began teaching, my work was tied to the programming of the company for which i worked (i.e., if we weren't doing any shows with masks in them, i wasn't making them). Each time a course topic comes around, i have the opportunity to comb the library stacks for related books. It keeps me on my game, as it were.

There are a couple of "general overview" books i've not mentioned in this blog before which i'm going to be using as potential project references for students, Fashion Accessories since 1500 by Geoffrey Warren, and the eponymous Fashion Accessories: The Complete 20th Century Sourcebook by John Peacock. Warren's book, published in 1987, is very similar to the hand-illustrated The Mode in... historical references produced by R. Turner Wilcox. (We use her book, The Mode in Footwear, as another class resource this semester.) He divides it into chapters by century beginning with the 16th, each one a general sort of collage of detailed drawings of shoes, gloves, hats, handbags, canes, and so forth, interspersed with little blurbs of text. It's not thorough or comprehensive, but it's a decent enough resource for a very broad overview. Peacock's volume, published in 2000, is much the same, except its drawings are rendered in color, and its blurbs are less detailed--Peacock's text would feature a drawing with a caption that said simply "Lace jabot," while Warren's might say something like, "collarette of lace, net, and silk ribbon."

I mentioned a few glove books in this prior post, but another resource i picked up for potential project images is Valerie Cummings' Gloves, part of the costume accessories series edited by Dr Aileen Ribeiro. These are slim volumes (under 100 pages usually) on specific fashion accessories, discussing history, trends, applicable vocabulary terms, and full of both color and B&W photographs of several examples both period and modern.

Another great book in that series is Jeremy Farrell's Umbrellas and Parasols. Since the course is about making these things, i require my students to buy my parasol construction text, but it doesn't have a lot of historical research images on which to base their projects, so Farrell's text is a good supplement.

I led an independent study in footwear alteration and construction some years back, and at that time posted an extensive list of shoe book reviews. I've got three more to add this time around, as well.

If you have perused a lot of shoe books, you do wind up seeing the same historical examples depicted in them, volume to volume. Lucy Pratt and Linda Woolley's Shoes does contain a fair number of color photos, but many of the shoes are familiar from the Shoe a Day calendar and Mary Trasko's Heavenly Soles. Unlike the calendar and Trasko's book (which is essentially a coffeetable flip-book), it's got a lot of well-researched text augmenting the images, historical info and trend analysis of previous eras and construction commentary.

Joy of joys, am i glad to have found Norma Shephard's In Step with Fashion: 200 Years of Shoe Styles! This book is to shoes what Susan Langley's Vintage Hats and Bonnets is to hats--not only is it full of nicely color-photographed period and vintage shoes (and not ones you've seen in five other books on the topic), but the footwear photos are augmented by period advertisements, daguerreotype portraits with prominently featured footwear, images and info on related topics like hosiery, socks, and even shoeboxes! This book only just came out in 2008, so it's fairly new.

Stepping Out: Three Centuries of Shoes is a full size glossy 95-page exhibit catalogue that was published to accompany the exhibit of the same name at Australia's Powerhouse Museum. Much like the Shephard book, it also contains reproductions of period advertisements, photos, and paintings related to the shoes (which are also shown in full color photos), and is peppered with great historical information. This is another 2008 publication as well. Guess it was a good year for shoe books!

To peruse some past projects for this class and read book reviews from previous posts on related topics, you can check out the "class: decorative arts" tag in the sidebar. And, i've got a full class of six students (with a potential overenrollment of a seventh, depending on paperwork coming through for her) so there will be lots of cool projects to look forward to this time around! I'm wondering whether anyone will rise to the pattern-matching challenge of [ profile] handyhatter's parasol... :D
labricoleuse: (Default)
I finally have all the photocall shots and was able to put together an overview post of the crafts projects in Pride & Prejudice. I'm really pleased with the photos from this show, they really turned out well in terms of highlighting made-to-measure costumes for portfolios, not only for me but for the drapers/tailors as well.

photography behind cut-tag )

Hope you've enjoyed this overview, and the opportunity to see all the projects in context, aesthetically. If you're in the area and want to see the show, get tickets soon; they're a hot commodity, the original text being so popular. Reviews are mixed, which i think usually is a good indicator of a good production to go see, in that it's clearly made the critics think and come to different conclusions. (I'm always wary when a show seems to please all of the critics!) The college paper gave it a good review, whereas the News & Observer was critical of the production. But, the Classical Voice of North Carolina's review was glowing.
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
Perhaps one of the most popular parasol canopy shapes is the pagoda or onion-dome, with its striking peaked center point.

The simplest way to do a parasol with this shape is to purchase a frame specifically made for it, with a piece of spike hardware called the pagoda spring attached. However, in this post, i'll explain how to do it without a specialized pagoda frame.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (history)
We're starting our second round of fittings on Pride and Prejudice today, which means the designer's seen some more of the hats, which means i can share a few more photos here!

Behind the cut are some images of new mockups, the finished striped silk parasol (shown in mockup in the previous P&P post), a blocked hat (which, the block's pretty much the stand-in for a mockup on those), and a spiral straw.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
We're hard at work on our first round of fittings for the final production of the season, Pride & Prejudice. Now that our costume designer, Camille Assaf-Doshi, has seen my mockups, i can share some pictures from behind the scenes!

Read more... )

I guess i'd be remiss in self-promotion or something if i didn't mention that, should you be interested in learning to create your own parasol canopies, i've written what is to my knowledge the only resource in print on the topic, available from Lulu Publications in paperback or as a downloadable file. I can't wait to get the "real" canopy onto that other frame; the striped silk the designer's chosen is downright jawdropping gorgeous! (Photos forthcoming when i do, of course.)

And, I'd also like to wave hello at [ profile] spikywheel, who's serving as our overhire tailor on this production, creating the military uniforms for a couple of the gentlemen! It looks like she's possibly going to be blogging about the creation of those under a "p&p" tag in her own journal!

Hope you enjoyed this quick look backstage! I'll have more detailed info on some of these projects later on, and of course the usual stage-shot roundup when we open in April.
labricoleuse: (manga avatar)
This year, we remounted last year's successful production of The Little Prince with some remade costumes. I've mentioned the Snake paint effect (stage shots behind the cut), but i've also got some images of our new parasols, as well as a couple of the Planetmen.

My assistant, Shanna Parks, remade the four-layer silk canopies of the parasols, which "flip" from green apple trees to red flower blossoms. Meanwhile, i replaced the plastic handles on the frames with nice oak ones.

photographs! )
labricoleuse: (milliner)
Enough people have asked about it that I've been giving some serious thought to offering some short single-style hat classes for the community.

These would be more basic, straightforward classes than the advanced level of instruction in my graduate class, and would probably be aimed more toward those wishing to make hats to wear in their everyday lives, rather than historical or stagewear millinery. They would be classes for students who already had basic sewing skills (hand and machine), and though advanced stitchers would produce couture results, beginners would also be welcome and would be able to produce nice, wearable hats.

Today, i spoke with some folks at a local venue who are interested in hosting such a thing, so i'm beginning to turn some wheels on this. I hope to start out by offering 2 or 3 classes in partnership with this local venue (TBA, nothing's set yet), and if they are successful, run them as long as there is demand, with a potential to add additional classes if there is interest. These would be short evening or weekend classes, offered perhaps quarterly or twice yearly. Nothing huge, i'm certainly not planning to make bank on it or anything. Really, my goal is to get more people in my community interested in hat-making and hat-wearing.

Please indulge me and help me out with my little "market research" poll. If you have friends-lists comprised of folks who might be my target student-base--DIY fashion enthusiasts, skilled home-sewing practitioners, wearable-artists, etc.--i would very much appreciate if you could send them to this poll. I want to make sure if i do this that i offer the classes that people out there want to take, not the classes i think they ought to take (if that makes sense).

[Poll #1272549]

If you've taken a short weekend or one-week hatmaking workshop, i would love to hear details on the context of the workshop (i.e., "bridal veil making at an adult ed center"), what you particularly appreciated about it and what you wished had been different. And, if you have any alternate suggestions or anything else to add, please do comment!

Thank you all SO much in advance for the feedback on this. I am very excited about potentially expanding my teaching repertoire in new ways.

Also, i wanted to post a heads-up about a (minimal) drop in price on my parasol book, Sticks In Petticoats: Parasol Manufacture for the Modern Costumer. sent out an email to their authors this past week concerning the restructuring of their pricing setup. The changes will shake down in such a way that prices on shorter textbooks will actually drop a few cents. The new pricing structure goes into effect October 25th, so if you've been thinking of getting a copy and you do so now, don't be shocked when the price lowers at the end of the month. (So, that's a roundabout way of saying that if you care about saving like, a DIME or whatever, wait til November to order i reckon.) :D
labricoleuse: (paraplooey)
Last night was photo call, and the show opens Saturday here at work. We're generally busy so i've not got much time for a long post on it yet (i'll make one when i have the photo CD in-hand). I did go around and take some "behind the scenes" photographs of some of the period-pattern half-form projects and some hats in-progress to share. According to the cliche, this is at least as good as me writing several thousand words... :)

Read more... )

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