Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Project Accessory Thoughts-deux

A few of my updated thoughts after viewing four episodes of Project Accessory:

1. None of the wonderful people I encountered at my New York adventure made it to the show.  I am quite bummed as I was looking forward to seeing what they could do.

2.  There have been some very talented designs represented.  I continue to be impressed by Nina Cortes.  I would wear anything she has created so far and her use of matches in a ring as a pop of color was genius.  Rich Sandomeno is also awesome.  Both of them keep coming up with designs that could work well at an evening event but also be Macgyver'd into a tool to get you out of a stalled elevator.  Perfection.

3.  In case you missed it, Nicolina Royale got booted off of the show for over use of the phrase "camel toe."  I am relieved, I had to leave the room after repetition number four.

4.  Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti has been cast as "the mentor," or for Project Runway followers "the Tim Gunn" of the show.  She provides some great feedback and reading her bio (http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-accessory/season-1/judges/eva-jeanbart-lorenzotti) I am totally impressed.  Still, she has some large shoes to fill as Tim Gunn is perhaps one of the most warm, witty, and genuine people on television.  Eva is a little more reserved in her feedback and delivery so it is going to be a tough road to "Gunn-dom" but I see a warmth in her eyes as she provides her criticism so I am not counting her out yet.  Actually, with a background in finance, an eye for fashion, and affinity for travel and adventure (and a company called Vivre  http://www.vivre.com/) I feel like Eva really could be a women I would look to as a mentor.  I wish I knew more about her when I shook her hand in NYC... C'est la vie!

5.  All of the judges, Molly Sims, Kenneth Cole, Ariel Foxman are very likeable.  Who doesn't love a man named Foxman? 

6.  As you may have guessed, Project Accessory is very closely modeled (no pun intended) after Project Runway.  It is not the first spinoff to attempt to create success in the shadow of a successful show (I suppose that is exactly what a spinoff aims to do), however, Project Accessory is the closest in format, right down to the runway set and the logo font.  It may be the same set and pretty sure it is the same font.  This is both good and bad.  Positives: It is familiar, I know it is not going to offend my senses, I love the idea, model+designer+editor+mentor =fashion fun.  However, being so closely formatted is also a challenge as it lends to many regular comparisons to the original Project Runway and, lets face it, that is a tough match-up to win.

7.  After much debate and speculation it turns out each designer really does need to know how to craft a shoe, make a bag, weld some jewelry, etc.  There is a great amount of cooperative skill sharing among the designers, however, these are not easy things to master in a day or two.

8.  Wall of Ebay accessories not as essential on a show where designers need to make and showcase accessories.

9.  Next on my wish list after shoe closet, and dressing room is "Swarovski wall of crystals."  If you know me you know how I feel about things that sparkle.  I can think of endless possibilities with such a wall. 

10.  I am watching every chance I get, DVR'ing the episodes, and taking notes because I am determined: I will make a pair of shoes!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Experiencing Project Accessory

October 27th Project Accessory debuts on Lifetime.  The previews of this Project Runway spin off are shot with muted colors and shades of grey.  The previews cut quickly between the contestants, the hosts, and various tools such as a solder iron with sparks flying, and tin snips.  The dark colors, the elements of fire and metal, and the intimidating facial expressions create a fierce impression of the upcoming show. 

As the previews are quite cryptic let me provide some additional information by regaling you with my audition for Project Accessory during the early phases of production.  It may not have been a successful attempt as I will not be on this debut season; however, the experience was interesting and worthwhile.

It was June and it was just getting warm.  I “like” Project Runway on the Facebook and saw a post in my news feed about auditions for a new show, “Project Accessory.”  There was very little information about the audition process, premise, etc apart from a list of questions for the application process and eventually a list of dates and locations for the audition.  The application asked basic questions about design experience, business models, passion, and work history.  There was also a section that focused on more personal items such as if the applicant ever had a romantic relationship with a coworker, and “when was the last time you cried?”  Clearly, while accessories are the subject, as with all reality shows, drama is the business. 

Auditions were held in LA, Chicago on a Thursday, NYC, and Miami.  One of the only prerequisites for participation in the show was to be able to leave your life and work for six weeks.  Both of these items posed barriers to entry for a girl with a day job and a creative ambition from Ohio.  However, when I realized I had three weeks of vacation left, and a slim shot at making it past the audition let alone week three, the distance to an audition site seemed like a travel adventure to take.  I happened upon a flight to NYC for less than I have ever seen a flight to NYC, and it happened to be for the weekend of the audition!  Now it felt like fate.  Perhaps FoundryM and my basement jewelry making efforts would be brought to the masses.  I decided to make the audition a weekend trip to New York.

FoundryM experimental design
There was little time to prepare for my last minute effort.  Having lost all the previous photos of my work in an unfortunate hard drive failure I brought out the light box and camera and reshot all the FoundryM pieces and the new “unofficial FoundryM” experiments one evening after work.  The next evening was spent working late, the following evening packing and editing the photos.  That left me purchasing supplies to throw together a portfolio on the plane for the audition the same day.  Not the ideal set up for success but as the saying goes on the original Project Runway, “Make it work!”

Unsure what to expect for the open casting I went straight to Yotel, the first fully automated Hotel in NYC, for the audition.  I was given a wristband and a number and told to stand in a short six-person line.  Relieved it was not a scene like the open casting for American Idol, I alternated standing and sitting on my suitcase and admired the characters in front of me. 

One particular woman stood out.  She was about 60, had on a flat topped, broad rimmed hat, short cropped hair, and was wearing a white and black stripped blouse paired with cropped cigarette pants, platform sandals, sunglasses, and bright red lips.  A tourist from another country approached and asked to take the woman’s picture.  “What is this for?” the woman answered coldly, her mouth still a pursed pout.  “I like you style,” the girl managed in halting English, holding up her camera.  The woman agreed with a slight nod and the picture was taken, pout in place.  The woman went back to her phone call describing where she was, holding a well-worn portfolio and the audition application still blank. 

The six at the front of the line were called into the audition leaving me the first one in line.  The only one left in line.  I struck up a conversation with the two guys running the outside line.  “How is the day going?  How was the turn out?  How did you get involved with this? , Etc.”  My wristband number “61” indicated I was the 61st person of the day to audition.  Not the 61st in the “x ‘batch of 100 but simply the 61st.  The turn out in the earlier city auditions had been similar and everything was going smoothly.  One of the guys was a fill in, presenting a Christopher Walken impression to demonstrate he was a comedian when not filling in on similar projects.  The other was a more experienced reality show production man.  He made a phone call and introduced himself as “Jim [not his actual name] from The Apprentice.”  I should have inquired for more reality audition tips but was nervous and not thinking strategically.

I was not the only one in line for long.  A friendly woman looking to be about my age soon fell in behind me.  She picked my brain for details about how it was going as I checked out her electric purple eyeliner and eclectic casual look.  She was friendly, seemed to know what to expect, and her willingness to chat made her approachable.  She was calming my nerves.  She had been in the industry for ten years and her most recent work was designing for the Nicole Richie House of Harlow fall 2011 handbag collection.  The feeling of being slightly out of my league was not relieved with the next few people to join the line.  There was a very put together looking blond in brown and taupe tones, heavily accessorized with bronze inscribed with Hebrew like symbols.  Her Kabbalah inspired collection, she shared, is distributed through Donna Karen’s Urban Zen clothing line.  Reading her jewelry right to left, even if you were unable to understand the reading, brought the song of the universe.  You can’t go wrong with the song of the universe on your side.  Next in line was an older woman brightly dressed, talking in a friendly way, but authoritatively in her New York accent about her shoe line production, and her casual friendship with Jill Zarin of the Real Housewives of New York.  As the line grew I grew silent taking in all the conversation, feeling a bit out of place.

The conversation in line was an education in itself.  There were clear brand perspectives, discussion of the importance of knowing your character and presenting a dramatic storyline or being booted from reality television, and much casual networking.  Two of the women that were personally invited to the audition were having none of standing in the late day sun and our line was repositioned to a nearby spot of shade.  More comfortable, and having completed introductions, we were cordial and attempted to understand more about this new show.  Consistent among the group was a lack of understanding on how the show would work. 

How many accessory designers at the professional level make their merchandise or patterns?  I can make an accessory out of almost anything, self-taught and with many near injury mishaps, I would not consider myself an expert but I felt confident I could figure jewelry samples out.  Shoes would be much more challenging.  The shoe designer in our bunch was beyond self-construction, the handbag designer with the purple eyeliner also produced designs electronically; someone else prepared the products.  Would we all have to make shoes one week, jewelry the next; or would each person be designing with a particular medium from the start?  It was not clear from the application or the little information that was available.

Our short outdoor line was moved upstairs to stand in line again.  The Yotel interior was beyond modern.  Here there were beverages available, hip hotel guests congregating on a nearby balcony with cocktails, and the woman with the flat top wide brim hat was sitting on a mod sofa.  Her style looked out of place in the purple lighting of the upstairs lounge.  She floated from one production member to another, brushed off but still not ready to leave.  We tried to determine if she was still supposed to be there but no one seemed to be paying attention or asking her to leave.  We became more focused as we were clearly closing in on the audition.

We were prepped to present our portfolios to the casting director and told that if she felt we were a possibility we would move on to present our samples to another group of people in another room.  It was exciting to see the portfolios of the other people auditioning.  Calming my nerves, my new friend the handbag designer offered to assist with getting ready for the judge panel.  She offered to give me some merchandising tips and direction on what to show and how to present my samples after we both talked to the casting director.  I appreciated her optimism that we would both be moving on. 

FoundryM necklace loved by casting directors 
The casting director was also from Ohio.  She was friendly, energetic, and personable.  I didn’t know her but she had a familiar look about her.  She liked hearing about how I had purchased my grandparents house and used the remaining contents of the closets to start FoundryM.  She loved my portfolio and told me to tell the woman that would direct the next line that I was “fun.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to work, “I am fun” into a conversation with a stranger without feeling a little uncomfortable but hey, whatever.  Talking to the casting director was extremely encouraging and I was directed to another line for the panel. 

It was clear from this third line that things were getting serious.  The woman I was instructed to tell I was “fun” was not, herself, all that fun.  She was enthusiastic but it was nearing 5pm and her enthusiasm seemed a forced.  She directed me to organize my samples, keep my portfolio out, and wait in line to be “mic’d.”  I watched, as the shoe designer, and the Kabbalah maven, in turn, were mic’d, introduced to the floor tape marker standing spots, and escorted into a room with three judges.  (If you have not already picked up, being “specially invited” got you moved up in line.)  I was excited to have the anticipated consultation from my new friend, the handbag designer, for the final test in the audition.

Ten minutes went by, then 15.  Where was my new friend?  It was my turn to be mic’d.  A good-looking young mic guy joked about it being a good thing I wasn’t wearing a dress.  He wasn’t kidding as he reached up the back of my shirt to pull down a mic wire.  I was relieved as my friend the handbag designer finally joined the line.  She had hit it off with the casting director and it delayed her progression.  I was excited that she made it but my uncertainty continued as it was now my time to go into the room and I did not have a chance to hear her suggestions for presentation. 

I walked into the room with a panel of three judges, one camera, five camera and microphone operators, and three other technical assistants sitting there looking fifteen years old and way too cool.  I handed my samples and portfolio to the table of judges and stood on the taped “X” on the floor.  I surveyed the situation and attempted to figure out who these women were on the three-person panel.  One was obviously a sit-in for the model host as there is no way anyone with a television personality would be caught dead on camera with messy hair knotted on top of her head and no makeup.  The other two looked like they could be familiar but I couldn’t quite put my finger on their identities. 

FoundryM earrings.  Not as cool looking in a ball.
They might as well have said, “Go” or shot a gun in the air.  From the second I hit the taped “X” time seemed to be on fast-forward.  I gave a thirty-second intro and description of my concept.  They barely looked up.  They asked one question, “How much time would you say you dedicate to making your jewelry?”  I responded honestly and modestly that I on average get to spend several hours a week.  This was a significant mistake.  I then watched as they balled up and then pulled my samples into funny shapes, apparently baffled by how an earring may hang down from the hook or how a necklace may hang down from the clasp. I was expecting a conversation similar to what occurred with the casting director.  I paused for some kind of question or response to propel the conversation.  This was my second significant mistake.  My pause was taken as a conclusion, like a defendant resting their case. Each of the women launched, in turn, into a brief monologue.  The first one (that was still twisting the items into different shapes as she was speaking) suggested that the construction could be better and that the designs were too literal.  Fair enough, they are very literal and these were the initial samples, my first attempts at soldering.  The second one told me I needed to take a few years and find my voice.  Clearly a canned response, not only because it didn’t make any sense but because I heard a girl leaving earlier report the same comment.  The third woman on the panel indicated they were looking for someone with more passion and suggested I quit my day job and come back when I needed it more.  What!?!  Quitting the day job may increase my hunger (literally) and give me more time to dedicate to FoundryM but not good general life advice.  I left the room dizzy from the three-minute experience running through all the things I should have done differently.

The mic was removed as I attempted to get my bearings.  My new friend suggested I wait for her and we go get a drink after she had her time in front of the panel.  While she waited her turn I shared my experience.  She took note of the things I felt I should have done differently.  We introduced ourselves to the two new people in line.  One guy walked in with a distinct look about him.  Jeans, loafers, thick rimmed glasses, collared shirt, a fitted blazer with a pinafore, and well manicured face and nails, he looked very put together.  He was attractive and had an appearance that was interesting and made you want to learn more.  He presented a printed portfolio from a previous collection he sold, and a box of more experimental samples.  I immediately fell in love with his earring samples made out of razor blades.  Up close they were glued together but from a distance they were brilliant, sparkling, and a little dangerous.  He talked about his previous experience as a designer on the reality show “Nothing to wear,” his experiences in design school, and his newly born son.  Shoot, if I were casting a show, he would be hired on the spot (for the record, as would my new handbag designer friend).  I then had an opportunity to see my new friend, the handbag designer, work the merchandising magic I was counting on.  She looked at his samples, pointed out the strongest pieces, suggested things to highlight, and most importantly, stressed he should not hand them his samples but to hold them, describe their makeup and feature them to the judges, only handing them over if they specifically requested.  In hindsight, the approach I should have taken was clear.

How would the results of my audition been different if I had an experience like this in the past?  I don’t know but I know what I would have done differently.  First, I would have had a printed portfolio instead of taping my photos in the portfolio on the plane.  I would have changed after getting off of the plane. I would have come in the final interview guns blazing, fire in my eyes, killing them with boastful enthusiasm.  I would have had a clear two-minute monologue to present my concept.  I would have been more self promoting and dramatic in my description of my commitment, “Did I say several hours a week?  I meant I slave over a solder iron every available moment after my slaving day job until I pass out. (Not a lie coming from a narcoleptic.)”  Most importantly, I would have held onto my samples featuring just a few of the strongest pieces’ inspiration, construction, and intended buyer.  These are things to remember for next time.

My friend the handbag designer, and the shoe designer were also not invited past the interview for the show, although for different reasons.  They too received the canned, “Find your voice” comment but their dismissal was due to not being “hands on” enough for the judges liking.  Could they construct a shoe or a purse?  Yes, maybe, but apparently they were not enthusiastic enough in expressing their construction confidence to make the cut.  Ironically, one of the shoe designer’s biggest clients was judge number one and the judge pointed out during the interview that she had ordered but not received one of the samples the designer brought.  I feel like we all could have saved much time if the show had specified, “Applicants must be able to construct 100% of what they design, must be dramatic, and must be a little desperate and hungry, formal design experience preferred.”

No one really told us to stay, no one really told us to leave.  My new friend then wanted to wait for the guy with the razor blade earrings to complete his audition.  I had nowhere to be for several hours and was curious about how his audition went as well.  Like the woman in the stripped shirt and flat top hat, we hung out and took it all in for a while, the not so fun woman running line number three shooting concerned looks in our direction as we sat.  The wait was worth it because razor blade earring guy made the interview cut and was given an assignment to construct something for one more round of evaluation.  The Kabbalah maven also received this assignment.  I attempt to scan for these two people on the preview and can never quite tell in the two second shots if they made it onto the show.  Eventually my new friend and I made our way back out of the mod alter-reality world in Yotel to the streets of NYC and shared a much-awaited cocktail. 

the Met
I had the rest of the weekend to enjoy all things New York.  I may not have made it to reality TV this season but I did make it to the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met, to a fantastic dinner in Little Italy, and to Central Park in the early summer.  Not having to wait in line all weekend freed me up to catch up with one of my extremely focused young friends, on an internship in the city for the summer.  I may not be meeting Molly Sims but I met a new friend that provided valuable insight into the world of merchandising and shared wisdom from her ten years as an accessory designer over much anticipated drinks.  I consider the weekend a success. 

Me lovin life and "rockin" in Central Park
 For me the debut of Project Accessory this Thursday is a must-watch item.  I know that the competition will be fierce and I am interested to see if the show is truly as dramatic as the previews suggest.  I want to learn if the interesting designer with the razor blade earrings made it, and if the designer with the bronze etched Kabbalah inspired items actually does her own metal work.  I want to learn more about who the otherwise unknown judges are and what they do.  Most of all I am interested to see if it is going to make it to another season as my experience auditioning the first time would be invaluable in trying again.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fall and its cool breeze

Trying to transition from summer to fall is always a challenge.  Not because of the change of textures, the need for layers, or difference in color palette but because I am never ready to see the foliage wilt and the temperature drop.  Fall is beautiful in a special way all its own but it is a precursor to the cold, and even more frustrating for me, the dry air and static.  
I find what often draws me into this transition and brings me the joys of fall are the new colors.  Often deeply saturated and rich, I cannot help but get interested.  Then, my attention diverted, surprise, its cooler and its fall.
I love the saturated electric cobalt and emerald hues this season.  They topped my “must have” list.  So much so that I hastily bought these Steve Madden pumps an entire size too large.  Thank you Dr Scholl’s massaging gel insoles (and your ability to stick to one another for stacking) and heel grippers.  A little ingenuity and the electric cobalt suede is cozy and in place.
With the back-to-school season I also found myself recalling the favorite days of new school supplies and new classes.  I thought of all the protractors, and rulers and geometry class.  Which then reminded me I have been eyeing the geometric trend for a while and it’s about time I bought a few pieces.  (Ok, all of this nostalgia happened in about twenty-seconds while shopping online, but it did occur.)  I picked up this Maggie London dress and thought, “What a perfect streamlined and work appropriate look!”  Thinking how striking the black and white would look with my new pop of saturated colorful pumps I was excited to dive into the newly emerging crisp air.
The outfit was a hit at the office.  I got immediate compliments from my few female coworkers, and I was productive and direct in my tasks, as I felt confident walking through the halls.... That is, until, I realized the seam that ran below the back zipper, dividing the back of the dress in two halves was quickly coming undone.  Unfortunately this realization came around noon when I noticed the cool draft of the new season on my rear, and upon examination in the restroom could see aforementioned rear through a two inch split.  When exactly this occurred was a bit of concern as I had spent my morning sauntering around confidently.  
After some searching, I was able to borrow a sewing kit.  I took the dress off in the restroom and repaired the hole.  When putting it back on I let out a frustrated and exasperated scream as a different five-inch spot of the seam came undone.  I quickly explained to the other women in the restroom that I was ok despite my scream, and repeated the process of stitching my dress together again.  Luckily the sewing kit had just enough white thread to secure the length of the dress.  Crisis averted.  However, my confidence was diminished as I spent the rest of the day hiding in my cubical attempting not to make any sudden or stretching motions.
This brings up a great lesson in sewing and wardrobe prep.  ALWAYS CHECK THE SEAMS!  Vintage and new this is often the first place a look unravels.  In this case the designer (by flaw or oversight) used a straight single seam stitched on a neoprene like stretch material.  The fabric had much give however the seam did not, and without reinforcement snapped leaving me ass-out at the office.
Not one to give up I am in the process of reinforcing all the seams in the dress.  There are several options for fabric with stretch that I will mention.  Take a look at a jersey seam in something you own.  You will notice there is a stitch that appears to form triangles and criss crosses over itself.  This is important to make sure that the edges do not unravel.  This is also an option for seaming to ensure that the fabric does not stretch beyond the hold of a single piece of thread.  Another option is to sew a separate fabric that does not stretch, or has equal elasticity to the thread, along the inside of the fabric at the seam to keep the stretch fabric from pulling the thread to its breaking point.  This later technique was used along the length of the zipper in the back of the dress but not continued along the remaining bottom portion of the dress.  I suspect this was left out in an attempt to keep the seam invisible, however, a more appropriate approach would have been to use a single back panel of fabric and not continue the seam the length of the dress, or to use a reinforcing stitch.  In any case I would rather have a slightly visible seam than a very visible rear.  
Hello fall.  May your static be minor, and your cool breezes be appropriately placed.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stylish (?) Book report: The Secrets of the FBI

Just finished the book, The Secrets of the FBI by Ronald Kessler.  As usual, I started it while on a plane.  It really didn’t match my mood while flying to South Beach and then a cruise to the Bahamas but in a bookstore full of similar fiction items and over emotional novels, the shiny black cover and large red lettering “FBI” screamed, “read me.” The last three chapters have been screaming “read me” from my coffee table for the last several months so today is a win for finishing things!  I do not have anything “stylish” to report.  I take that back, the items about the FBI dress code through the years, and ways to conceal ones identity with dress were interesting.  They were interesting but probably not going to help you get dressed on Monday.   In any case, here is my report:

The Secrets of the FBI is full of interesting items communicating the evolution of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from establishment to present day.  It gives an honest view of the changes over time.  It presents interesting secrets, and does not shy away from revealing shortcomings of the past.  It concludes with a description of the positive developments in the most recent ten years leaving the reader with confidence and a feeling of protection by capable hands.

It is rare that a book can be striking and dramatic without embellishment or emotional lament.  Ronald Kessler is speaking from experience as he reveals so much new information about the FBI.  Reading this evokes a variety of emotional responses but there is a clear dedication to truthfulness that is refreshing.  The stories cause intrigue, slight nausea at times, fear, and reassurance with straightforward presentation.  This fascinating look inside the guarded walls of the FBI is worth a read.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bossypants: always in style.

I just finished reading Bossypants by Tina Fey and I am trying to decide if, even though I do not normally have a chance to finish a book unless on a plane, I can find time to reread it.  This is not a book about fashion.   Maybe the one very short comment about shag haircuts could be considered somewhat style oriented, but even if not, this book is so hilarious I feel the need to blog about it.   

This book is so good that I laughed out loud to varying degrees of intensity on my way to and from my recent trip to Boston.  In the airport waiting to board the plane to bean town I had two people tell me my out loud laughter had cinched their decision to buy the book ASAP.  On the plane to Boston I laughed so hard I cried causing the guy next to me to pretend to sleep in fear I was having some kind of a breakdown… he did not fool me.  In the few short days I was visiting I attempted, and failed, to regale those around me with a dramatic retelling of passages on no less than six occasions.  Finally on the flight home to Cincinnati my constant smile and feminine giggles attracted the attention of a handsome man across the isle. 

In short, reading Bossypants you will laugh, you will cry, and you will be more attractive having read Tina Fey’s hilarious book!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One Night, One Craft at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center

One Night, One Craft at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center

Tonight was yet another fantastic evening at the Contemporary Art Center!  If you have not had an opportunity to check it out, let me introduce you to “One night, one craft!”  This genius summer series each Monday night at the Contemporary Art Center provides a two hour opportunity to learn a new craft from a skilled artist with an adult beverage in hand surrounded by other creative artists in training, and no judgement.  Typical of the CAC, each evening is unique and a great time.  This is not your grandma’s craft night.    
To recap: 
June 6: The kickoff was an embroidery tutorial and demonstration by Cincinnati’s own Pam Kravetz http://pamkravetz.com/Site/Welcome.html 
You may remember Pam’s exhibit at the CAC, “Beauty Queen, Superhero, Peanut,” the larger than life fabric art interactive marionette figures on the sixth floor.  This creative queen (Pam) held court on the sixth floor as well keeping the session lively with interesting details about how she got her start and her current inspirations.  She was energetic in tutu and leg brace, and had no qualms about sharing details on how she created her signature beautiful details, vibrant colors, and visible rustic stitching.  Pam is as exuberant as her art and it was an exciting start to the series.

My creation.  This guy is still a work in progress.  He is hungry. 
He is going to be eating a cupcake.  This cupcake is Pam's creation

13th: Intro to wet and needle felting with The Shiny Brights.
An Australian rock band?  No. The Cincinnati Shiny Brights are an eclectic group with similar interests that periodically gather to socialize while they create crafts.  If you thought, “felt” was a synthetic square you cut up and glued in elementary school, prepare to be shocked because wool felting is an age old craft that far precedes polyester.  Wool felt is a non-woven fabric formed when sheep’s wool or animal fur is subjected to heat, moisture and pressure or agitation.  The shiny bright crew introduced two methods of felting, needle felting that is created by stabbing different colored pieces of felt into another, and wet felting, the process of dipping loose wool into soap water and rolling it into beads to use in many other crafts.  New to many of the attendees this was one shiny adventure with beautiful ends.

My felt ball and bead bracelet.  Also still a work in progress.

June 20th: Kalamkari fabric painting with Radha Chandrashekaran www.radartist.com
In the spirit of full disclosure I regrettably had food poisoning and missed this event.  But I learned from my new friends that this is an ancient technique of painting using a hand made brush made by wrapping fabric around a wooden skewer.  By holding the brush tip with the fingers and applying different amounts of pressure varying line thicknesses can be achieved.  It was apparently messy but very fun.  Totally disappointed I cannot give you more details.
June 27th: Book making with Annie Stephens www.anniestephens.com
Sewing together pages of paper, and two cardboard covers may sound simple but producing a decorative notebook that looks good and stays together is challenging.  The knotting method was calmly introduced by the energetic and multi talented Annie, and she patiently ran from table to table to assist with different skill levels of crafters throughout the evening.  While it was a challenging start there was also a great sense of accomplishment when leaving with a completed gift-able notebook. 

My first hand bound journal.  Still intact.  You may be receiving one of these as a future gift if I can get better at it.

July 11th: Sumi-e ink painting & yoga poses with Anne Ducharme 
This week was a little different from previous evenings with a focus on meditation through art and yoga.  The evening began with Anne guiding the group in meditation.  She taught a few yoga balancing methods and poses as a great way to clear the mind for inspiration.  Sumi-e ink painting focuses on the tools and on the process rather than the finished product.  There are many brush and ink washing techniques that can produce different images.  Letting go of a predetermined image provided surprising and interesting results.  The variety of crafter images varied from very dainty to broad strokes, very literal images and more abstract pictures.  It was as if each state of mind depicted differently on paper.  Anne was a calm encouraging influence and I left with a great start to my Sumi-e painting beginnings.

A sampling of my creative process.  The fish on the bottom left are Anne's work.

My three favorite works.  My meditative state is less calm, more movement.

Admittedly each week I do not leave feeling a master of each craft but I always leave excited by a new method of artistic expression to explore.  With a variety of materials to inspire creative minds, a relaxed atmosphere, and a friendly and enthusiastic crowd of attendees I continue to be impressed by the art created in this two hour period each Monday night at the Contemporary Art Center.

Upcoming opportunities to craft at the CAC:
July 18: Seed bombs with VisuaLingual
July 25: Woodworking and image transfer with Joel Armor and Joe Civitello
August 1: Mud cloth with Judy Dominic
August 8: Personalized Magnets with Cincy Craft Cartel
August 15: Henna tattoos with Sneha Nirody
August 22: Paper-craft with Jessica Wolf
Each week One Night, One Craft goes from 6 to 8pm and participation in some crafts may require paying a $5 materials fee.  Admission to the CAC on Monday evenings is free courtesy of Macy's.  Look forward to seeing you at the Contemporary Art Center!

On exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center:
Currently the CAC is full with three ongoing exhibits to check out.  All three are impressive.
Maidens of the Cosmic Body Running: Majr Gazr
I continue to return each Monday after crafting to experience “Maidens of the Cosmic Body Running: Majr Gazr.”  It is a collective exhibit of work by Denise Burge, Lisa Sinders, and Jenny Ustick.  It incorporates expertly crafted hand made textiles, electronic and colorful video imagery, and trance like tones and repetitive relaxing whispers.  It is designed to be a multi sensory, participative exhibit dedicated to relaxing the participant.    
The relaxing effects of the combination of these influences is incredible.  All the elements of the exhibit purpose to “explore notions of utopia tied to feminism, nature, and spirituality.” Further description indicates the integration of the elements and craft, “Reference the Maidens’ notion of a female community; while the use of color, symbolism and textiles evoke the myriad of utopian communities that have emerged throughout the last century.”  Honestly, I was a little leery of that description initially.  I also was not sure how I felt about the community slippers.  My first visit, however, I had on incredibly uncomfortable heels and so while I was somewhat uncertain I quickly donned the slippers and grabbed a “map” illustrating the ways to participate in each aspect of the exhibit.  This first visit it was close to the museum closing and I was alone as I listened, watched, and became wrapped in the experience.  My stress melting away with the tones, images, and tactile influence.
Each time I visit I notice an additional element of the exhibit I did not in the past.  I later found the slippers are to protect the textiles as much as they are to add to the sensory experience.  Wearing shoes and walking on the hand made items would surely cause wear that would detract from the experience.  I find myself looking forward to visiting each week and am a little concerned how I am going to find the same stress melting effect once this exhibit has concluded.  
Hurry to experience this exhibit soon as it is only running through July 17th!
Matthew Monahan
The sculptures by Matthew Monahan are amazing to see.  His use of repurposed materials and the way he wields them into precise human form is totally impressive.  It seems his works are alive, eyes sparkling, muscles flexed, expressions expressive.  
The CAC website description so artfully describes this best, “Monahan’s sculptures seem to hover in a state of fleeting existence, projecting the illusion that the forces of nature could turn them back into unrecognizable rubble at any moment. His works succeed in engaging the viewer in a dialogue between contemporary and ancient; alien and disparate parts. His fragmented figures—with their active postures and facial expressions—convey the struggles of coming into existence in the present moment while carrying a sense of a past long gone.”  True.  Matthew Monahan’s work is worth a visit sometime before the exhibit conclusion on October 30th.  
Keith Haring: 1978-1982
This exhibit provides an exploration of Keith Haring’s work from his youth and early work through his height of popularity and some of his final works.  His efforts to make art accessible to all, and his broad quick intersecting lines helped to make him one of the “most iconic, influential and popular artists in the world.”  
This exhibit gives great insight into his artistic development, internal struggle, and immersion in the New York City Scene with rarely shown early work and some of his most notable images.  Personally I remember Keith Haring as I was first introduced to his work in first grade.  At the time his brightly colored, distinct human forms were being painted on city buildings and sidewalks in New York.  He must have been featured on Reading rainbow or something because I vividly remember sitting on the floor of Ms Ditkin’s (my first grade teacher) floor attempting to braid another girls hair and pay attention at the same time.  I remember liking the color usage the best. 
My early introduction to Keith Haring seems to have been quite flat with only an introduction to his work and a brief glazing mention of his death to AIDS.  What I did not remember being introduced to about Keith Haring in the calm afternoon of my elementary school art hour were his sexual influences, incorporated phallic symbols, and overwhelming drawings.  I was surprised to see some of his later work, sometimes violent red images of aliens and death.  It is funny how a purposely narrow sight, for a child or otherwise, can change the artistic impression of the patron.  Seeing this complete collection first hand with its large scale and detail is quite impactful.  This exhibit allows you to feel the challenges Keith felt in his shortened life, to understand his journey further, and it allows you to experience the impact of his broad brushstrokes and interconnected lines and elements.   

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Stylish Book Report: The Style Strategy by Nina Garcia

Finally a style how-to book I can fully embrace!  You may have picked up from previous posts I am somewhat of a clothing collector that loves to reinvent vintage, and embraces the cyclical nature of fashion.  You probably do not know I am lucky to act as steward to a small collection of hand-me-down duds from generations of my relatives from the 1800s to today.  Daunting, maybe, but a ton of fun!  With this in mind I always get annoyed when the first instruction in a style book is to purge anything you haven’t worn in a year.  Leave it to Nina Garcia to make me happy with her book The Style Strategy.

The Style Strategy is described as “A less-is-more approach to staying chic and shopping smart,” clearly it was written with the most recent economic downturn fresh in the mind, but it is more than a recession-ista guide to being stylish.  Nina gives great guidance on logical editing, reinvention, construction quality, and appropriate care of clothing and accessories.  She presents all of this sometimes less than sexy information with the same colorful illustrations, interesting historical fashion facts, and enthusiastic love of all that is stylish as her other fantastic guides.  The Style Strategy is a great intro for vintage shoppers, conservationists, fashion history enthusiasts, and artistic types alike.  
First in the book is a section on evaluating what you have and, yes, there may be purging involved.  Unlike other guides that direct blind purging, however, this evaluation section provides knowledge of garment quality, historical reference, and teaches an eye for how to find the treasures.  There are two types of clothing: disposable and collectible.  Many of today’s affordable clothing falls in the disposable category not because it isn’t stylish but because the construction is not finished to last longer than a few seasons.  After a few seasons unfinished edges begin to fray, colors significantly fade, hems pucker, or fabrics stretch out of shape.  Such is the case with some vintage as well.  Challenging are the fabric crazes of different eras.’  Some by necessity and scarcity of materials, others as technologies newest and greatest synthetics have fallen out of favor.  Sections one and two of this guide help you sort through them all to determine what really needs to go, and what can be reinvented and incorporated into new styling. 
When it comes to vintage, and some newer things also, a split seam, or imperfect fit is not necessarily a sign of low quality or a reason to give up hope.   Time could be the culprit in such wear and these errors may be cheated with appropriate care.  Section 3 of The Style Strategy describes the how, what, and where to get these workable imperfections addressed.  By highlighting tailoring, mending, caring for clothing and accessories it gives the option to extend the life of each item, and opens the wearer up to creating one of a kind and unique items.  It is also full of interesting info on how to tap stores off the beaten path for low cost, high quality items to incorporate into a wardrobe going forward.  Dance stores for tights, and flats; import boutiques for tunics and beaded items; and a plethora of other shopping resources.  Nina gives us her personal references on how to navigate so many shopping options for a find. 
In The Style Strategy Nina Garcia turns a frugal approach to fashion into an opportunity to feature individuality and ingenuity.  If you enjoyed reading the other style guides she penned you will also enjoy this book.  If you are looking for a light and fun introductory guide to discerning value beyond brand label you will also love this book.  The Style Strategy is a book to read for entertainment, knowledge, and is a good one to keep for reference.