Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Mirror Mirror at Melbourne Cup

Nearly a month since my last blog, when I announced I was back on the WOW hamster wheel! That month has gone quickly, as I have indeed been treadling hard, making the foundations of many components, moulding leather, and sourcing materials for the four garments I have settled on making. Reverse Garbage has been brilliant for this, especially with my limited travel options  - however, the licence is back in action as of tomorrow!! Apart from having the ability to visit Trad's again, I'm also really looking forward to accompanying Matt on a job to Maroochydore this Thursday, and spending time at Johno's Fabric Centre! Better check the bank account has available funds....

Gel medium and paint on organza - the starting point for Emergence, the evolution of Beyond Chrysalis, from 2008

Textured and painted leather to match fabulous fabric!
Wet-look lycra over a boned and padded foam understructure. Countless hours, many more to go.

The studio is an absolute mess, of course! MUST tidy up!!
This morning I dressed the amazing Sandra Girvan for a Melbourne Cup luncheon in my Mirror Mirror outfit, a finalist in the 2012 Art U Wear competition themed 'The Fairest of Them All' and later exhibited in the ATASDA Palmhouse Exhibition themed 'Fragment'. Mirror Mirror was inspired by the idea of a shattered mirror, and the dynamic and explosive lines  and fragments it creates. This was expressed through silver lamé crush ironed onto interfacing, crushed black organza and wired pieces.  



Monday, 9 October 2017

Back on the hamster wheel...

Beyond Chrysalis 2008
Beyond Chrysalis worn by Larissa Lal-Ponini in 2008
Two weeks home from WOW 2017. Last night was the final show for the year. It's always hard to imagine that after the big Opening, Awards Night, and the incredible party we have there each year, after we return home, it continues on for several weeks! The post-WOW slump did not last too long this year, as I had already been working on quite a few designs, and as of now, have completed fabrication of one Bizarre Bra (ready for painting and blinging), and have 3 others on the go, with pattern making largely done. And all with the blessing of Beloved, who is once again dealing with a house covered in sketches, mannequins, soaking leather, and drifts of stuffing.....
One of the pieces is quite important to me in that it marks my 10 year anniversary of WOW, in what will be its 30th year. My first piece was called Beyond Chrysalis, in 2008. This one is currently called Emergence, and continues the theme, but, I believe, demonstrates my progression as a maker over the subsequent years.

Although I was inspired by the workshops on Worbla that we were treated to at WOW Designer Day, and subsequent research into it, cosplay costumes, eva foam, and resin,  I decided that I already have such an extensive range of techniques and materials to work with that I don't really want to stretch my studio space and budget to include more! I spent a really enjoyable afternoon yesterday riffling through all my samples and reminding myself of all the techniques I can do -  even coming up with some original pieces from Beyond Chrysalis which gave me direction on working with the new version. Colour schemes are now the hardest part to settle on - although my huge stash provides a great deal to start with, I need to find a few key materials and settle it all.
Designing in progress - another year of secrecy and hints only!
Goodnight, Freyja and Cordycephila - I hope you enjoyed your time in the spotlight! Don't hurry home - there's no room at the inn!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

WOW 2017 - The Making of



















This is the fungus that started it all. Cordyceps. Spores from the cordyceps fungus infiltrate the body and mind of an insect, instructing it to climb to a suitable height and grip on. They die, providing a home for the fruiting body, which forces its way out of them in long spikes, which will release spores and start the process again. I can only blame my Dad, a passionate biologist, and David Attenborough for this kind of interest! My creation, nicknamed Spike early on in the process, was imagined as sprouting out of a beautiful green/blue metallic insect body. For many months though, he was all white, as he is made from bridal satin off cuts! Originally, there was only a minimum of spikes, then it was agreed that more, more, more was required! Here you can see the different sections in progress - main torso, legs, and headpiece. There are also arm pieces. You can see that the mannequin base is weighed down to balance the weight of the sculpture - eventually the glass base broke, and my sooper-dooper on-call engineer-in-residence made a brilliant and suitably weighty replacement from a car brake drum - Studebaker, of course!

 Although the white is very effective, and I can imagine a relative of this making an appearance in the UV section, it was always meant to be coloured, and an experimental piece was done to confirm. The base was spray painted to create initial coverage, then hand painted with beautiful metallic acrylic paints. Texture was created with heat distorted satin - you can see here how much a shape shrinks down once subjected to the heat gun. Continuous sequin trim was also applied, as well as fragments of mesh and sequin materials. I found the perfect sequinned lycra for the bodysuit, but it wasn't very stretchy, so I ended up making another two to send over with him - I'm still not sure which one was worn on the WOW stage!!


There were definitely a few WTF moments as I dressed Ciera - things you thought were all resolved suddenly become an issue when dressing an actual human!! Thanks to Kiri for running out to buy emergency socks to cover Ciera's feet, and I was very glad to have my pins!
Freyja was at the same shoot. The brilliant fit of the dress (if I do say so myself!) was nutted out with teachers at TAFE Brisbane - in particular, Janice Mengerson and Anne McManus - in my 2014 project for 'Studio'. I used its sculptural, foam supported base to apply feather strips to. These were bought as loose feathers, and I sewed them into strips, before painting each with a base of gold paint.
Photographer Angelina Raisa, model Heidi Sun and myself.
When the dress was assembled, colours were applied to each individual feather. Most of the painting took place in what is now known as the deck studio! To create a really stable but light-weight headpiece, I riveted strips of aluminium together, before covering with foam and fabric, then adding the leather pieces. The reticule was made by making a simple stuffed satin shape, before covering in fabric and moulded leather pieces.
Freyja's story only came together after her creation - sometimes this happens. With her goddess-like appearance, and the abundance of feathers, she became Freyja. Drawing inspiration from global myths involving feathered entities communicating with the Underworld, Freyja is named after the Norse goddess, who possessed a cloak of feathers allowing her to fly between different worlds to those. From ravens as messengers of deities and as omens of death, misfortune and war, to the Egyptian Goddess of Truth, Justice and morality, Ma'at, weighing up hearts and souls against feathers to decide fate in the afterlife - feathers are strongly symbolic.
And here are the beasties are on stage, almost 6 months after I packed them in crates and sent them off!


Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The 2017 WOW Adventure


Preview drinks at the Foxglove
After only a few hours sleep, I was happy to get a few more on the early flight to Wellington, where we landed with, I think, only inches to spare on the runway! The weather was just as I ordered, and after a delicious nom of duck paté at the General Practitioner, a brief wander, and a wee lie down, we dressed for the Preview Show and strolled down to the Foxglove to meet some of our fellow designers - mostly the repeat offenders - as well as Janet de Boer and husband Peter, along with Susan Holmes, and International Designer Wrangler Esmé Palliser, with foot injury in a wheelchair pushed by husband Grant!

Keryn Whitney, Fifi Colston, Erica Gray

Programmes were available at 5:30, and they were promptly devoured (thank you Matt for getting it for me - your shooz were more sensible for the task!)
The show seemed to start slowly in the first two sections - or as Beatrice Carlson described it, a crescendo - and then it ramped up. When Cordycephila came out, the movement was SO amazing, he was really brought to life - so much so that I cried with delight! I later learned that it was a dancer performing in there, and passed on my sincere thanks and congratulations to her for doing such an amazing job. Freyja looked beautiful, and my model for her later contacted me to thank me for making such a beautiful piece, and that she hoped she was doing it justice - awww! Yes Misha, you are! Amazingly, a lot of people could tell it was mine - but not Cordycephila (AKA Spike!) You can see Spike in the second video on this article.
Freyja, Open Section
Cordycephila, WETA Workshop section - Science Fiction
Please visit my Pinterest for more images of Cordycephila and Freyja.
I was up at 6am the next morning, amazingly, and, Wellington being a bit of a slow-starting town, nowhere was open for coffee yet, so McDonald's it was. Next stop, Designer Day, where we met the other International Designers at their hotel before heading down to the
Fangirl moment - the beautiful Supernova by Gillian Saunders, Supreme Award 2016. Gives me hope that beautiful garments can win!
Fifi Colston, Vicky Robertson, moi on the WOW stage.
TSB Bank Arena to meet the New Zealand Designers for a traditional Maori welcome followed by a backstage tour. I was keen to catch up with Wardrobe Manager Leonie Trathen, and when I said I hoped my garments were behaving well, she said she needed to talk to me about some visibility issues with Spike. Apparently this happened for quite a few pieces which were fine in rehearsal, but became blinded when in lights on the stage. I was more than happy for the eyeholes to be trimmed up a bit to allow Spike to perform to his best! It was good to be reminded again of the angle and narrowness of the ramp that our poor models have to get up in the dreadfully wicked shoes we send them! Leonie also had another great tip for us - not to use second hand shoes, as they are more likely to fall apart, and that the shoe size changes when we make modifications to it. It seems that shoe size can be an important factor in many decisions!
Off to the Wharewaka function centre for the official welcome from the mayor, and a much needed lunch! Next were two workshops - one with Miodrag Guberinic on using worbla, the next with Weta Workshop staff on hair punching.

Worbla Wokshop

Hair punching into silicon 'skin'
Baroness Varcra III, Dawn Mostow, Ben Gould and Adam McAlavey
We ran out of time to play in the worbla workshop, and blew the fuses with all the heat guns anyway, so packed the loot in our bags and chatted. We were supposed to play with moulding the material around the cute little WOW signs we now have! For the hair punching workshop, we were given a slab of silicon, a hank of human hair and a punching tool, and shown the way to punch hair in a realistic pattern. It was quite a nice, meditative action, but I wouldn't want to do it day in, day out!! Adam was grossed out, then pretty excited about it, and we were all giggling as our pieces ended up looking like armpits, vulvas, or really bad hairpieces!!!
The section categories for next year were then announced by Dame Suzie Moncrieff, then it was drinks and nibbles.
Jubinav Chadra and slightly sozzled designers!
Although exhausted from the day, I perked up enough (bubbles will do that!) to manage to chat to a few more new people, including a lovely gal from Switzerland. Her story was fantastic - on holiday in Nelson a few years ago, it was a rainy day, so off to the WOW museum she went! A staff member encouraged her to enter, although she didn't think she could, being from overseas. And so a star was born! (She went on to win the Suzie Moncrieff award!) For the first time ever, I have had people immediately recognise my piece when described during the Designer Day, and enthuse about it! That instant recognition spoke volumes to me.
We decided on a quiet night, and went home for a nap before dinner in our hotel restaurant, which is excellent - The Arborist.
After an excellent sleep we woke early before meeting Esmé and the other Australian Designers to head off to brunch at the Australian Embassy. We were met straight away by the Acting High Commissioner Andrew Cumpston, and enjoyed a chat with him, before moving in and talking to other staff, and some invited students from local schools. Erica Gray gave the Designer address, and we then proceeded to enjoy a lovely brunch with bubbles. I was very hungry, but was wary of eating as it made conversations a little bit messy and difficult!
 Back in town, we were met by Esmé's husband Grant and not an empty wheelchair, but one containing Lynn Christiansen!! We visited a few favourite shops before heading to the #wellyloveswow sign on the waterfront. Fortunately, we ran into Kerry Gelmi and her daughter Victoria - lovely to catch up, and of course, have our own photographer! Just a few days shy of our 2 year anniversary of getting married on the waterfront there, it was a perfect kodak moment! We also ran into Chris Davis and Jeffery Jones, then Janet de Boer and Sue Holmes!


Worn out again, we refreshed ourselves with another delicious Great White (wheat beer) at Mac's before heading to siesta.
Almost reluctant to get out of bed, I began to apply the glitter to myself and to Matt - dipping the ends of his moustache in it - looked fab - and packing a spare pair of shooz for the after party. Don't worry, they were ridiculous too!

We caught a cab down to the Foxglove - first ones there - then it was time to go. Once installed in the seats I decided yes, we WILL have an overpriced bubbles each, and settled in. Knowing there would be a rush on the toilets after the show, I popped out during the Illumination Section, took my shooz off and bolted across the other side and back.
And then, the Awards. I will be truthful and admit that I was disappointed to place second in the WETA Workshop section - Spike had just looked SO good moving around on stage! At least I lost to Fifi Colston, and her wonderful piece The Organ Farmer! Ah yes, see the joy in my face for her here, top left!! Hilarity!
The Organ Farmer by Fifi Colston
I didn't expect Freyja to place, as she is very pretty, and that does not usually bode well.
A quick shoe change and it was on to the after party at Dockside to drown our sorrows with free-flowing champagne, delicious nooms, and awesome 80's music. I think we left around 2am....
The next day we made it the final Designer function, but it was really more awkward standing-around-talking-to-strangers and I just couldn't take any more, so we headed off early to Mac's for a brekky before the infamous post-show recovery! Someone took some awesome pics of me trying to punch Fifi!
As that all broke up and we said our final goodbyes, it was back to the Foxglove for the ol' married couple, and another Red Lady or two, getting some photos taken by some ladies who had lunched long and hard, and were off to the show that night!


As we walked home we found the International Food court, and picked up a room picnic.
Sunday morning, hatching an egg on the wharf... 
Sunday morning was another beautiful day, and we headed down to the produce markets behind TePapa - I was thrilled to see what I call the 'Fish Show' - fisherman selling the morning's catch off their boat and scaling and slicing to order.  A walk up to Cuba Street, and another reunion with Chris & Jeff on our way to cheesy noms - a three cheese tart and some bubbles for me! It was just too cold in the gorgeous courtyard to last, so we moved inside to eat, and it was probably best for us that they forgot our parmesan & truffle fries!! A trip to Wellington isn't a trip without a visit to the textile oriented bookshop Minerva, which then required a trip back to base to deposit purchases. With the hotel restaurant of such good quality, we thought we should also check out the rooftop bar, which was very funky!

Sadly, we got the warning that rain was on the way in, so we scuttled downstairs. It didn't really hit though, so we headed out for a long walk around town before ending up at the Polo Club for dinner.
Monday was a good day to be leaving - wet, cold, and windy!! We caught a cab down to TePapa and visited the amazing Gallipoli exhibition, constructed by the WETA Workshop - first time for me, at least the fourth for Matt! Another exhibit had a simulation of an earthquake in a house - terrifying!! As we were driven to the airport, I made the mistake of looking at airoplanes taking off, and flopping around like kites in the fierce winds - gulp!! Luckily, we were quite early, and by the time we left it wasn't too bad.
So there it is. The WOW pilgrimage over for another, the ninth, year.
Today I ended up at TAFE to be interviewed for ABC news, in conjunction with the Jimmy Choo Symposium being held there this week, which I have been invited to attend. I ended up being filmed by the brother of Vicky Robertson, of WOW fame, who I had been hanging out with all weekend - small world!!
I had absolutely no idea I would also be filmed dressing a model with my 2012 WOW entry, which will be worn at one of the fashion parades during the 5 days of events, nor that my feet and shoes would be filmed! So that will fill the WOW gap this week.....!!