A friend gifted me a book from her shelf: Artwear Fashion and Anti-Fashion by Melissa Leventon. For anyone interested in textile arts, and various methods of garment making, the book is a treasure trove. Like a delicious box of fine chocolates I knew I needed to ration the lavish colour illustrations. Unlike a box of chocolates, this book will be a treat and a source of inspiration again and again. The dense text illuminates the history and context of ArtWear in North Amerika and worldwide. Each illustration comes with the title, artist name, dates and an insightful explanation of the piece.
On page 97 I discovered a loom-knitted coat created by Linda Mendelson. The coat is beautiful, long and rainbow coloured. Mendelson is known for referencing text and music. I found her poetic inspiration for the coat in the work’s description:
I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.
The poem is by William Butler Yeats, 1914. Intrigued and drawn to the rhythm of the poem I looked for information Poetry Foundation’s website and discovered that the coat in the poem is a metaphor for Yeats’ poetic style. Yeats simplified his style of writing, “walking naked” and thereby disappointed many readers of his time. It was one of many style changes he made over his working life. According to Irish poet Seamus Heany, Yeats came to believe that it was important to constantly discard the old and find the new voice “to say that area properly”. The principle translates well from writing poetry to other arts. Like Yeats, fibre artists will not run out of ways to hone their craft and “face into another area of experience” to do justice to their project, sometimes without considering audience appeal.
Did Linda Mendelson’s need to apply new skills or use a different style to create the coat on page 96? I will have to look it up.
Delivered with her Aussie accent, Pam De Groot assured me that the stiff silk organza with even stiffer embroidery stripes on it would felt on the inside of a lined nuno vest without the need for fibres to “glue” it down … “She’ll be right” she said. And she was!
Again, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from the amazing community of felt-makers from around the world, this time a Felted Vest with Pam de Groot. Every workshop (in person or on-line) is an opportunity to pick up more skills to make the fine felt products I aspire to create. The angle of the template, the curve of the neck, the patterning of the design, and the shaping of the “fit” were all techniques picked up from Pam.
Here is a snap of my vest which I’ve called my “NYC-Transit Vest”... although perhaps I should call it “She’ll be Right”!