Back in July I participated in Costume Drama, an unconventional fashion show here in Asheville, NC. Participants volunteered to make a dress in one of four categories: Paper, Nature, Recycled, or Light. Each dress was modeled on the runway, and the audience voted for their favorites in each category, and from the category winners- Best in Show. The event was a fundraiser for the Asheville Community Theatre and raised over $7,000!
I decided to enter the Light category back in March when the call opened. Out of pure luck the event organizer, Sara Fields, paired me with my model- Amanda Swafford. Is the name familiar? You should google it. Then I started getting attention from the local paper and famous photographers… It was some pressure. I spent all of my free time- over 60 hours- completing this torture chamber of a garment out of soldered copper, steel, tissue paper, glue, wireless LEDs, and 38 batteries. My inspiration was architectural ironwork, Art Deco architecture, and the color palette and textures of Islamic tile work.
The reason it has taken me so long to put this post up is because of the overwhelming number of pictures I’ve accumulated! I was lucky enough to be approached by Morgan Ford for an article in the Asheville Scene (click the link! read the article!) Morgan stopped through my studio a few times during the making of the dress for process shots and put together a fantastic photo shoot at the Asheville Community theatre. Here are her shots:
Do I look terrified? I think I look terrified.
The bodice is finished here and I am half done with the skirt. There is a steel skeleton that cinches (with 12g copper of all things) around the waist. I sewed a gauze layer over the skeleton legs and glued hundreds of folded tissue paper petals onto that.
Amanda is a goddess.
Morgan worked with Amanda on some long exposures to get this effect.
I’d also love to thank Amy Day Dougherty at Pi Salon for creating Amanda’s “tree mermaid” hair, and Zach Russell of Makeup at the Grove Arcade.
The day of the show I was asked to participate in a second shoot with Parker J. Pfister. Parker is a force of nature and has a great working relationship with Amanda. I was in awe watching him set up the shoot having never actually seen the dress before. It was an inspiring experience. Here is what he has shared with me:
Did I mention this dress is made out of a substantial amount of metal and batteries and is cinched onto her body with wire?? This girl spent full minutes in poses that would have pulled my joints out of their sockets, holding perfectly still so Parker could take a long exposure, all the while maintaining the composure of a saint. I am still in awe. Modeling is an athletic endeavor.
When we got to the show, we worked out the lights with the stage manager and took it easy so Amanda could rest. There is no sitting or using the bathroom in that thing. I barely got it onto her with time to get into the audience, shouting instructions at the stage manager for switching the lights on as I left. The skirt lights are illuminated by remote control (generally used for hanging paper lanterns) and I brought no less than three remotes in case one was lost. I kept one, one went to the stage manager, and Amanda held onto the third!
I don’t have a lot of pictures from the runway, except this one by Ruslan Tumash:
I cried when Amanda walked onto the stage. I cried when I won Best in Show! I will carry this feeling of accomplishment with me for the rest of my life.
I took many, many pictures of the process and shared them on Instagram. Have a look at this slideshow if you’d like to see the whole process, one solder seam at a time.
One of the most impressive parts of this process was the experience of working with other artists who used my work as their jumping off point. I am used to working by myself and asking the opinion of only one or two trusted confidants (and yes, Matt Smith is my personal Tim Gunn.) With this, I had two photo shoots, a number of experts in hair, makeup, and styling, and most importantly- Amanda. She said a number of times that she was simply “the canvas for my painting,” but she breathed life into my stiff and unweildy garment, leaving for the night with bruises on her hips but never complaining. She wouldn’t accept the portion of my cash prize that I offered her, but I was happy to give her a trinket for her effort:
I think she earned it, don’t you?
Thank you so much, Sara Fields, for putting in some long hours on this project. I was so glad to support the Asheville Community Theatre. If you would like to see more pictures of the events, and most importantly the OTHER AMAZING DESIGNS!! Check out these galleries:
Parker J. Pfister: http://www.parkerjphoto.com/clients/2013actcd/
Tempus Fugit Design: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.275308675941839.1073741830.174574799348561&type=1
Jocelyn Mathewes Photography: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.664771476869737.1073741826.416980084982212&type=1
Hannah Combs Photography: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.613442372013337.1073741834.144913252199587&type=1
Mignon Petrini Photography: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.534606396599062.1073741841.109291892463850&type=1
I personally recommend seeking out Nature category winner Carly Robbins, as she and her model Cady Barrett are two of my favorite people!