Mixed media, silk, rayon and cotton fabric, photographs, foam plastic, wood, mesh, beef blood, ribbon.
For more than 15 years I have been a film photographer with my primary focus on artistic pregnancy photography and intimate family portraits. I have captured more than 2,000 women and their families during the physical, emotional and mental transformation to motherhood.. With Dress, I am experimenting with a new medium but continuing to comment on the complexities of motherhood, a role I only recently experienced with the birth of my son July 2014.
For some of my clients, being a mother is like wearing a beautiful dress that they love and never want to take off. For others, motherhood is a struggle to feel good about themselves as they deal with physical and emotional changes. Still for others, the role is like a straightjacket that they can’t escape from, and they feel trapped or frustrated. And many reveal to me that being a mother can be a combination of all of these. I sought to represent these facets in Dress using the shape of a woman, construction of a dress from a pattern created in the 50s, and imagery from my own pregnancy.
Behind the scenes notes and process
How did I become a part of this show?
Talented artist, Rebecca Maxim, asked me to be a part of the show earlier this year. Rebecca is aSeattle artist who focuses on couture made from trash. I have an enormous amount of respect for her and her work. he is very forward thinking, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to try something different. Plus, I would get to work with her, which would be fun and educational. For more information on Rebecca, see the website on wearable art. http://ptwearableart.com/wearable-art-shows/2014-port-townsend-wearable-show-produced-in-collaboration-with-key-city-public-theatre/
How did I get the idea to make a dress?
Rebecca coined the title “Adornment” for the show. To get started, I looked the word up in the dictionary:
- The act or process of making someone or something attractive by decorating : the act or process of adorning someone or something.
- Something added to make a person or thing more attractive.
I began to see motherhood as something that people wear as a new identity and how, for some, it makes them feel more attractive and for others it doesn’t. I started to have this image of a beautiful dress after having many conversations with Rebecca over tea. The idea that the piece is something that you wear but can’t take off, came much later in the process as I was cutting out pattern pieces and looking at the construction of the pattern on the dress form and thinking about how this dress isn’t something you can take off – ever.
About the fabric.
After the idea of a dress came to mind, I had the challenging task of figuring out what the fabric should look like. I envisioned flowing fabric with photographs on some of it. So I spent several fruitless nights trying different methods to get photos on fabric before finding this company that prints images on fabric. After numerous test swatches, I found a weight of fabric and a scale of images that I liked. All the images are from my pregnancy.
Next I had to test sewing the fabric. I pulled my mom’s old Singer sewing machine out of storage where it had been since 2008. I used to sew as a teen-ager so it was fun to sit in front of the machine again. This machine is the same one I used 35 years ago to make dresses, and the same one my mother used to make clothes for my sister and I.
About the pattern and construction of the final piece.
After figuring out the fabric, I needed a pattern. I wanted a tight-fitting dress that had a tiny waist and a flair skirt like the dresses you see women wearing in the late 50s or on Madmen. This era of fashion was an important detail because women were struggling with their identity and role in society — either housewife and mother, or professional and career woman. During World War II, many women had begun to work in the factories while the men were at war. Once the war ended, they lost all those jobs to the returning men, as well as the freedoms that came with working. They were then forced back into the home and the role of housewife.
Red is an important color in this piece. The underlying petticoat that lifts the skirt is red, and I knew I wanted the bodice to be a rich red satin. Red represents so much in our culture, from sacrifice to love to anger to frustration.
Once I decided that this dress would be one that you can’t take off, similar to motherhood, my final frustration was how to sew the dress on the dress form. I constructed and sewed as much as I could and then I called an expert seamstress, my friend, Heidi. She came over and helped me fix some darts and close up the bodice. I couldn’t have done this without her.
The final touch is the ribbon tied around the waist. This ribbon is dyed in beef blood (photos to come). This was an unpleasant process, but a very important facet to the piece. There is so much about motherhood that is bloody and I wanted to show the sacrifice prevalent for many mothers.
Please join me at the artists’ reception for Adornment on Saturday, August 22 from 5-8 PM. The show will be up until September 27th, 2015.
Columbia City Gallery, 4864 Rainier Avenue South, 98118