Back to the Future| Fiber, Future, & Fusion hits Fashion in Boston

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.

Left|Christine Kelly’s painted silk Mermaid Right|Eileen Mueller’s Garden Glow Background works on exhibit at the Cape Ann Museum

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.

Left to Right Martha Davis, MIT Museum, Elizabeth Carey, Discover Gloucester & Ronda Faloon, Director of the Cape Ann Museum

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.