Sunday, March 27, 2011

Costume Diary I

      Last month at the Academy Awards, the Oscar for Best Costume Design went to Colleen Atwood for Tim Burton’s “ Alice in Wonderland”. I was very happy about it not just because the costumes were amazing, but also because couple of years ago I had the opportunity to work on some of them.
     Every time I finish a beautiful, but difficult costume it feels like I leave in it something from myself, so like a proud mother I like to follow the progress of my babies and it makes me immensely proud when they do well.
     We see hundreds and thousands of movies and stage shows come to life every year. I wonder how many people have even the slightest idea how much work is involved in each one of them.
     Some times when I tell someone that I’ve been working for few weeks on the same costume they have a hard time to comprehend why it would take so long. But it does. Contemporary costume takes usually no more than a week to be build, but period costumes with all the different layers, trim and decorations takes three to four weeks, if not even more.
      For “Alice in Wonderland” I made two pieces – a doublet and a cape made of gray cotton velvet heavily embellished with gold trim. When I began working on them, I had the idea that it might be interesting to document the whole process, so I began taking pictures of different stages or details while working on them. Unfortunately, I missed lots of them, because when you get engrossed in the work it’s easy to forget all of the secondary plans. For the same movie I also did a whimsical multi-coloured embroidery for the pants of the Mad Hatter, which in the hurry of the last minute order, regrettably also went unrecorded.
      In the future I’m planning to do more of these visual diaries and share them on this blog with everyone who might be interested. For now I hope you can satisfy at least a little bit of your curiosity about costume building with these pictures.

Sections for the peplum 

Embellished parts of the bodice /Back, Side and Front/.

Sleeve caps and collar.

Finishing the front trim and attaching the peplum.

The bodice is almost ready for fitting.

Center front closure.

Close up of details.

Finished Doublet /Front and Back view/.

Working the trim on the cape.

Finished details of the neck and bottom corner of the cape.

Finished Cape.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recreating a Tutu's Splendor

      In the early days of ballet, when dance was a social court pastime, dancers wore their own clothes when dancing rather than specially designed costumes. For us today those everyday outfits resemble costumes. The men wore very elaborate, stiff brocaded coats, knee breeches, wigs and swords belted to their waists. The women were tightly laced in long-sleeved bodices and panniered skirts. These cumbersome, heavy outfits allowed for little body movement and the steps executed by the dancers had to be simple and dignified.
      Marie Camargo was the first dancer to shorten her skirts. This enabled her audience to appreciate her intricate footwork. Her rival, Marie Salle, dared even further by discarding her petticoats to dance in a flimsy muslin dress. The French Revolution at the end of the 18th century also brought about changes in dancewear. Simple, lightweight, clinging robes inspired by Greek models became fashionable both on and off the stage.   Also at this time, a man named Maillot, a costume maker and designer at the Paris Opera, is said to have invented tights. These new fashions and inventions caused great change in ballet practice clothes. Dancers finally found themselves in clothing that allowed for much greater freedom of movement and dance technique could develop beyond its previously limited boundaries.
      The bell-shaped Romantic dress of the mid-1800s gave way to the tutu at the end of the 19th century. Connoisseurs of ballet, the Russians wanted to see the new technical feats and fancy footwork of their ballerinas. The new long, floppy, 16 layer tutus reached to the knee and allowed the female dancers much greater mobility in such technically demanding ballets as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Paquita. The late George Balanchine's athletic choreography later led to the creation of the shorter "powder-puff" tutu that is worn in Symphony in C. These tutus allow the entire leg to be seen.
       Now a days the ballet costume we are most familiar with is the Classical Tutu. A very short, stiff skirt made with layers of netting that extends straight outwards from the hips in a flat pancake shape, and has a fitted bodice. The pancake style has more layers of net and usually uses a wire hoop and much hand tacking to keep the layers flat and stiff.
      I found this documentary short while I was working on the post “Lessons from a Tailor”, which is also made by the filmmaker Galen Summer. It’s about the recreation of tutus for George Balanchine's "Theme and Variations". New York City Ballet is fortunate to have their own costume shop, where they are able to refurbish, maintain, and even design and create new costumes from scratch. Its wonderful that this movie give us the opportunity to take a peak behind the scene and observe the work of all those talented people who keep shows like this alive for generations. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chakaia Booker

Chakaia Booker and The Fatality of Hope

      Chakaia Booker is an internationally acclaimed American sculptor whose powerful pieces are created from discarded truck, car, and bicycle tires. Booker employs these forms to comment on themes ranging from black identity to urban ecology.

Dialog With Myself                               Never Mind

      Like her sculptures, Booker is a carefully assembled and richly layered individual who sees herself as a sculpture through her tasks of dressing, sewing, cooking, and other daily activities which she considers to be art forms in their own rights. Beginning in the 1980s Booker created wearable sculptures which she could place herself inside and utilize as clothing. The wearable garment sculpture was about getting energy and feeling from a desired design. Booker continues to create a wearable sculpture in response to the materials which she uses in her current work. From her creations of wearable sculptures in the 1980’s, Booker began to create work from discarded materials which she found at construction sites. These found materials each had its own purpose, history, and use which she finds interesting. This search for discarded materials brings us to the “rubber tire” from which her most notable work is created.

Holla                                           Renegade

      Chakaia Booker began working with rubber tires in the early 1990s and presently continues to work in this medium. The various tread patterns, colors, and widths which the tires possess create a palette for Booker similar to the palette of painter. Booker’s utilization of tires was considered to be an “aesthetic response to the urban landscape of Northern New Jersey”.

Discarded Memories                               Meeting Ends 

      Booker’s work has layers and layers of meaning loaded with social concerns throughout. The sculptures which were created with the tires are said to address African American identity. The black tires symbolize the strength of African American identity while the color nuances are meant to evoke the complexities of the black humans experience. Salvaging such defiant beauty from scraps of resilient black, rubber provides a compelling metaphor of African American survival in the modern world.

Conscience Disorder                                 Conversion

      The effect of the monochromatic deep black sculptures is a powerful one; they resonate with the intensity of their opulent nature and one overlooks the ordinariness of the material.  Booker's originality comes not only from the elevation of the commonplace substance to form a work of art but also from her forging of the material to her aesthetic.  Booker makes the medium her own by bending it to her will and creating strong, personal works of art.

Double Vision                                      Predisposition

      " My work continues to rise from an amalgam of cultural and aesthetic influences and interest.  Thinking of meaning and the tire as conceptual analogy, I think in terms of mobility, texture, movement, softness, power, and strength.  My intention is to translate simple yet complex materials into imagery that stimulates people to reconsider the expressive nature of art and how broad complex cultural transformations can continue to be expressed through common materials.  My desire is to create, through whatever materials I choose, my ever changing voice."
- Chakaia Booker

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Artist Project

     Now in its fourth year, the Artist Project Toronto continues to celebrate and showcase Canadian art. It is the biggest event for contemporary fine art, in Canada.

     The event is the ultimate place to explore the renowned artists’ work from across the world. The show aims to display great contemporary artwork as well as offer a prospect for buyers to meet with industry professionals and buy their excellent creations. It offers lots of interest, intrigue and satisfaction, a great opportunity to check out a lot of different artists in one place. The exhibitors are showcasing a broad range of painting, sculptures and artwork. Visitors can view and purchase original art from over 200 carefully jurried contemporary artists and enjoy an eclectic program of talks, special features and art installations. 

     The proceeds from the opening night preview's ticket sales will go towards SKETCH - which extends opportunities to create art to at-risk and street involved youth.  Designed to bring artists and their work together with enthusiasts and collectors outside of galleries, the artists will be on hand for the duration of the event to discuss their art pieces. The Artist Project Toronto is the perfect meeting place for the buyers and sellers to meet, interact, and develop new business contacts across the region. This is a must attend event for artists, art lovers and all those related to the art industry.
     For more info see the show website:


Kyle Stewart

Mike Smalley

Janice Tayler

Lisa Borin                                                    Janny Fraser

Alice Vander Vennen

Jing Fu

Laurie Skantzos

Jane Colden                                  Soon Cho

Nick Chase

Nava Waxman

Pauline Conley

Diane Black

Samantha Sandbrook

Peter Rotter

Angelo Sorrentino and Nathalie Sanche

Paul Saari

Nasko Pelev

Laura Muir

Laura Culic

Sabine Liva

Kelly Grace

Anne Renouf

Dana Jaunzemis

Giampietro Filippetti

Carl White

Zahide Tuluoglu-Ugur

Stewart Jones

Heather Kocsis

Nina Sampaleanu