seARTS Wearable Art Group is a collaboration of like-minded artists from Cape Ann and beyond.
As creatives, our shows inspire all of us to stretch and experiment. We are sending the message that “wearable art” is for everyone to own and enjoy.
The Celebrate Wearable Art Runway Show exhibits diverse works of hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry, clothing, and accessories. On our runway, we show this and MUCH more - providing an opportunity for any CREATIVE to participate in their own genre or a new medium.
We welcome lovers of wearable art here for a world class experience on Cape Ann! Congratulations to our "makers" who were a part of the Celebrate Wearable Art Marketplace!
Discovering the Artistry in Fiber| An Author’s Journey By Anne Lee
in today’s art world, traditional methods, processes, and materials are evolving in fascinating, dynamic, and sometimes challenging directions—and the resurgence of fiber art beautifully illustrates these trends. Fiber artists today explore a multitude of materials, natural and synthetic, traditional and unexpected. They combine different fiber techniques together in a single piece, push technical processes, and cross-pollinate mediums. They explore social, political, economic, and environmental issues. They are today’s storytellers.
Excited by these trends, Ashley Rooney and I suggested to Schiffer Publishing that we compile a book on contemporary fiber art; published in 2017, the resulting Artistry in Fiber series—Wall Art, Sculpture, and Wearable Art—showcases the amazing creative energy of over 300 fiber artists captured in 1,500 images and enlivened by their own words. It was thrilling to bring this project to fruition and equally gratifying to participate in the October 4th seARTS Wearable Art Panel to discuss how these artists are pushing the boundaries of this ever-evolving art.
Wearable Art explores the materials, methods, and messages in an art form created for, and enlivened by, the body. Artists frequently reclaim and recycle materials, creating beauty from waste:
Korean-born Yong Joo Kim focuses primarily on “unattractive and mundane” hook-and-loop Velcro to create sumptuous jewelry resembling pleated felt. Others expand the narrative use of natural materials, such as the plant stalks Sharon Kallis grows from seed to final knit piece over the course of three years. Some explore unexpected synthetics—strands of acrylic paint, artificial hair, plastic, fiberglass, tape, and in the case of Kathryn Stanko, strands of thin wire. And, they combine different fiber techniques together in a single piece, braiding, tacking, weaving, and knitting in seemingly endless variations: Rebecca Wendlandt’s exuberant surfaces are a delightful example.
Technically, wearable art soars with the artists’ imagination, experimentation, and expertise. Both Polish-born Ania Gilmore and Argentine-Dutch Luis Acosta manipulate paper into jewelry, but with
strikingly different results: she molds mulberry fibers into malleable pieces that can be further manipulated by the wearer, while he stitches together repeated paper forms. Other artists cross-pollinate mediums, incorporating paint, metal, and all manner of found or repurposed objects. Myung Urso, for instance, often observes “how different elements play out in their own way, helping to define the destiny of each work.”
The artists’ messages are as diverse as they are themselves, influenced by anything from personal tragedy to political awakening. As one of the softer veins of art, the luscious and palpable nature of wearable art—such as in Ana Lisa Hedstrom’s Aphrodite of the Sea—attracts us by its beauty and expression. However, there is sometimes an undercurrent that can be uncomfortable: the piece is made from recycled plastic bottles, and Aphrodite is in fact crying tears of oil in her beleaguered ocean.
Susan Taber Avila’s Vascular Expression, meanwhile, is part of a
series focusing on women’s health issues and in particular cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of women. And, Tina Lazzarine’s collars demonstrate the complex identity of women as both oppressed and empowered, using contrasting hard and soft materials to express these dichotomies.
The creative possibilities in the area of wearable art are endless and bound only by what is personally beautiful and expressive. A wearer can find a means of individual expression unavailable in our mainstream world of mass production. More than pure adornment, the intimate interaction between wearer and art is both physical and emotional; the body literally breathes life and movement into a piece, while also adding meaning and context.
These are works of art akin to a painting or piece of sculpture, and as such should be treated the same way: collected and curated, purchased and preserved, studied and shown.
Published in 2017, the three volumes of Artistry in Fiber (Wall Art, Sculpture, and Wearable Art) are available at Schiffer Publishing (www.schifferbooks.com), Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other stores. THROUGHOUT THE MONTH OF OCTOBER, THE BOOK CAN BE PURCHASED IN GLOUCESTER AT THE CAPE ANN MUSEUM GIFT SHOP Anne Lee can be contacted via email: AnJamLee [at] aol.com
PHOTOS ARE IN ORDER WITH THE TEXT. [Scroll over photos to see artist information]
Back to the Future| Fiber, Future, & Fusion hits Fashion in Boston| Observations from the seARTS Wearable Art Salon 2018 & Mass Fashion Symposium, by Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco
For those of us hanging out in the fashion and wearable art space, it’s been a mashup of happenings along the north shore “Fashion Trail.” It began with our seARTS Wearable Art Salon on Thursday evening at the Cape Ann Museum, followed closely the next day by the Mass Fashion Symposium at the MFA and then wrapping up with three days of visitors in my own studio for the Cape Ann Artisans fall tour. Since I only have time to write one blog post, I will try to cover my impressions and observations broadly.
Our seARTS Salon 2018 showcased a powerhouse panel that addressed wearable art from the perspectives of the wearer, the maker, the curator, the writer, and the educator. The Salon kicked off softly with each artist describing their own backgrounds and arrival at the wearable art doorstep and ended with a call to action to Museums and collectors to treat wearable art as works to be curated, showcased, and purchased in the same way we collect “fine art.” Suzanne expressed that “wearables” were completely left out of her training as an Art Historian. This was her “call to action” to catalogue jewelry collections including the contemporary collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She describes jewelry as her “gateway” to the world of wearable art but see jewelry as performing many roles from “protecting” the wearer to making them feel confident and empowered. Other perspectives included reshaping, contouring, and making other impacts on the body of the wearer and the viewer. Christine Kelley describes the connection of the “maker” and “wearer” as “soul to soul.”
Another important theme for the weekend’s events- artists making wearable art use a diverse set of materials and methods – often pushing the envelope. Certainly we have seen that at our Celebrate Wearable Art events and several key pieces were on exhibit at the event. Donna Caselden’s piece made from pennies “Obselence” an example of unusual materials. Panelist, Barbara Broudo discussed her array of interests from pottery to weaving, to macramé to arrive at her current works. Anne Lee spoke about the artists she met writing the book – in particular the male creators who had to pick up a needle for the first time to create the piece they wanted.
At the Mass Fashion Symposium, I was simply astonished by the textile Renaissance under way in Boston. Tricia Wilson Nguyen from Thistle, Threads, and Fabric Works and Tosha Hays from Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) are leading a new chapter in the “best of” New England’s history and love of textiles and its immense technology resources. They are effectively deconstructing and reconstituting old techniques using new technologies that will create new generations of fabrics that are sustainable, functional, and strategically critical for key industries such as professional sports and the military. They are balancing the functionality with style and color and illumination in completely innovative ways – spawning an entirely new generation of fashion possibilities. “Fabric-as-a-service” “eTextiles,” “smart textiles,” and the reinvention of the production of metal threads among the many exciting developments in this movement. Among the most powerful visuals was the Ecosystem that is providing fuel for this movement. The map encompassed these critical components: History (textiles in particular), the Crafts movement (which had strong roots in Boston – see Boston Made Exhibit at MFA), Museums (to house works), Technologists/Inventors, Industries and Marketing, and Collaborative opportunities/symposia – fostered by the educational community. I had to miss Day 2 of the Symposium to do my participation as an artist in the Cape Ann Artisan’s Tour, but I know we will be hearing more from this powerful collaborative.
From my perspective as a founder of the seARTS Wearable Art Group, this is all incredible news. Wearable Art is a natural outcome of the melding of the old and the new – materials, techniques, and functions. Wearable Art also attracts a wide range of creative types and makers and challenges them to mold their work to the human form. Each piece tells a powerful story, connects to maker to the wearer, and makes every human being a potential “collector” of art in their everyday life. I look forward to connecting the dots between these phenomenal entrepreneurs and our Wearable Art community. Many thanks to our hosts at the Cape Ann Museum and panelists – Petra Slinkard, Anne Lee, Barbara Broudo, Suzanne Ramjlak, and Christine Kelley for leading us in Salon|2018.
Since 2011 the seARTS has embarked on a fabulous journey, challenging the larger arts community to design and raise the bar for wearable art. Through the Celebrate Wearable Art program, we have enjoyed runway looks from seasoned fashion designers, sculptors, fiber artists, floral designers, interior designers, jewelers, painters, photographers, and woodworkers, among others. The wearable works created by CWA artists have served to inspire numerous viewers and fellow artists.
Our annual “Salon” panel discussions present an opportunity to explore various aspects of wearable art from the perspective of makers, curators, educators, and wearers. Past Salon themes include “Exploring Expressions on the Human Form,” and “From the Understated to the Outrageous.” The 2018 Salon will focus on the “Transformative Power of Wearable Art,” and will probe wearable art’s impact in relation to education, fashion, exhibitions, and the artist’s own creative experience. We have asked artists in the community to send us stories about their journey, challenges, and inspirational moments in the process of making wearable art. Along with these stories of creative transformation, there will be a discussion about the power of wearable art works for wearers, and within the broader cultural arena.
This panel will be hosted on the evening of October 4th at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, MA. It has been timed to coincide with Mass Fashion Symposium. The keynote moderator will Petra Slinkard, The Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Peabody-Essex Museum. Petra will be joined by Barbara Broudo, former Director Archives & Museum at Endicott College;
Suzanne Ramljak, longtime editor of Metalsmith magazine and curator of the Fuller Craft Museum’s exhibition, Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in
Contemporary Adornment opening October 6th; and Anne Lee, author of Artistry in Fiber, Wearable Art. According to the book description, “We have always decorated our bodies – both permanently and temporarily. Art to wear explores the intersection of fashion and art, in a creative space in which the wearer interacts with art, breathing life, shape, and individual expression into it. In our mass-produced world, wearable art offers a place for individuality. The third volume in this acclaimed series exhibits the work of over 50 international artists who create unusual wearable art with both traditional and uncommon materials combined with modern technology.” The book will be available for sale and to be signed by the author at the Salon.
Anne Lee co-authored Encaustic Art in the Twenty-First Century (2016) and a three-volume series, Artistry in Fiber (July 2017) covering Wall Art, Sculpture, and Wearable Art (all from Schiffer Publishing). In addition, Anne has written articles for Fiber Arts Now, Art Quilt Collector, and the NBO Quarterly Review. Prior to her writing career, she researched, curated, and wrote about exhibitions at Vose Galleries in Boston.
Our final panelist is Christine Gauthier-Kelley, a silk painter and wearable artist who was an early member of the seARTS Wearable Art group and participant in Celebrate Wearable Art starting in 2011. Christine creates her works at Ten Pound Studio in Gloucester and has recently presented a solo show at the Manchester Historical Museum. The event will also include select looks from Celebrate Wearable Art IV.
Wearable Art Journey | An Interview with Donna Caselden by Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco
Donna Caselden moved to Cape Ann from Andover and in five short years has exploded in her artistic endeavors. We now see her works on the runway, on the walls, and on tables. Enjoy a deep-dive with Donna on her exciting journey.
What was your artistic/creative journey before doing wearable art?
I’ve always been interested in art and design. Growing up, my most memorable project in middle school was my science fair animation project. In college, though my major was Economics, what I really loved was my animation class. In hindsight, I should have majored in art! After my formal education, I took many design and art classes at local universities and schools. When my kids were older, I started a home staging business, where I could use my design skills.
How did you first learn about the opportunity to create and show wearable art?
I first read about the 2011 Celebrate Wearable Art runway show and thought it looked amazing. Then, when I saw the article a few years later asking for submissions, I thought it sounded challenging but would be fun and was also encouraged by my neighbors in Annisquam who had been involved.
What did you make for the show and what challenges did you encounter?
My first design, the Metal Mermaid, went through a ton of transformations (as does all of my artwork – whether it be wearable art, paintings, or decorating). I had to figure out a way to cut soda cans into uniform pieces. Researching the web, I found a punch that worked perfectly. While making the dress, my biggest disasters were getting cut, getting burned (adhering the metal with the hot glue gun!), and figuring out a way for the model to be able to move in the dress!
How did your art pieces evolve and lead you into other artistic directions or opportunities?
Since my first wearable art piece, I’ve made three other dresses (Biker Chic I and II, out of bicycle gears, chains and tires and The Penny Dress, out of hundreds of pennies), many pieces of jewelry, some sculpture and many paintings. I’ve joined a few art organizations (Cape Ann’s Experimental Art Group
at Rockport Art Association, Society for Encouragement of Arts (seARTS), the Rocky Neck Art Colony, and the National Association of Women Artists (NAWA), been accepted into art shows, and was even invited to help decorate the White House for Christmas. I’ve also submitted my wearable art pieces to other runway events (ManneqArt, a show
incorporating sculpture on the human form, and The Day Art Met Fashion at Newburyport Art Association, where the image of one of my paintings was selected to be transferred onto clothing and is available
for purchase at a Newburyport boutique, The Elephant’s trunk.
Looking ahead, one of my paintings, Psychosis, was selected to be a part of Artcetera 2018, an art auction to benefit AIDS Action Committee, this October at The Castle at Park Plaza in Boston.
“The House Dress Project” by Kimberly Becker
Women have stories. We can each site examples of how we have been diminished, held down or overlooked in our lives simply because of our gender. With “The House Dress Project”, I am providing a way to tell those stories.
I have chosen to make wearable art pieces in the form of dresses to convey the stories because we use our clothing to show the world who we are. We get dressed each day and choose how to present the person we are on the inside, on the outside. What better way to tell our stories than with dresses. In past work, I have referenced clothing- bustles on painted panels, images of ball gowns, references to brides. This is the first series where I embraced the garment, learned how to sew clothing, and took it all the way to “wearable art”. Along with the House Dresses, I am currently creating delicate vests inspired by an antique lace vest that I found in the bottom of a pile of handkerchiefs in a junk shop in Paris. The vest was hand sewn with delicate stitches by someone over 100 years ago. I am also creating collars (a nod to RBG). The collars tell stories too. They have words embroidered on them and are made of fake fur, velvet and organdy.
To prepare to make the House Dresses, I collect stories along with the address of the house the storyteller lived in when the story occurred. I sew each dress using cotton organdy and silk organza, paint an image of her house on the front, and then embroider the story on the back.
The stories are sometimes painful, sometimes maddening, and often times shifted a person’s whole life. One woman told me about her grandmother, and how she wanted to be a scientist, but once married, was expected to “keep house and throw cocktail parties”. Another woman tells of her inability to attend law school because her father would only pay for the boys to go. Another explains how she always felt more like an object than a person in her family.
The dresses have a diaphanous quality. They are lovely and draw you in, only to confront you with the uncomfortable stories they carry. The delicate quality of the fabric mimics lingerie and discusses the exploitation of our women’s by society.
I started this project months before the #metoo movement. I honestly believe that it is being received by the public with more open minds. People want to understand. Many visitors to the galleries they have been shown in have told me that they had to step away for a moment because the dresses stirred up many emotions for them. Several have come away in tears. The stories are personal, but in a way, universal. The overwhelming comments I receive are appreciation for giving voice to these women, and in doing so, beginning to write our full history, including women.
The next phase of the “House Dress Project” is called “Roe House Dresses”. These stories discuss both the difficult decision to have an abortion, and also the great benefit that having access to a legal abortion provides. Planned Parenthood is one such example. Many of us received our first OBGYN care at a Planned Parenthood and those stories matter. Women’s rights are slowly disappearing under the current administration and we must keep sharing our experiences.
Wearable Art provides me with a vehicle for giving women a voice. I have always believed we can be feminists and still enjoy high heels or a gorgeous cocktail dress. By creating art that is carried by the body, we are delivering a message that we are powerful, we have stories to tell and we are women.
All of my dresses are for sale. However, often people commission me to create a dress for their personal story.
Kimberly kindly wrote and contributed this piece to WearableArt.org as part of our annual theme “The Tranformative Power of Wearable Art.” seARTS and the Wearable Art Group are most grateful for this contribution. Kimberly is a Waltham resident and a 1990 graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. She was recently featured in the RISD alumni magazine and also in the Boston Globe. She is a painter and embroiderer with a rich educational background complemented by innovative exhibitions throughout New England. Follow her on Instagram.