You never know what—or shall I say who—is going to inspire you—to push you into a creative room that you’d never willingly have crossed the threshold to on your own. I’m really not all that into fashion and I certainly haven’t had a desire to start sewing clothes or even to play around with altering clothes. Okay, that’s a lie; I have thoroughly enjoyed playing with altered T-shirts on and off for the last couple years. But that’s it. Ricë on the other hand . . . well she is an authority on the topic of cutting clothes apart, mixing them with parts of other clothes and stitching them together and dyeing them to create wonderful wearables that are as unique as she is. If you follow her blog, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Ricë was in town here a few weeks ago for Art Unraveled, and she invited me to go consignment store shopping for clothes with her and Jeanie Thorn. I’d recently learned about the incredible metalwork Jeanie does (through one of Ricë’s Creative Spark posts), so while I wasn’t incredibly enthused about the prospect of looking at clothes, I wanted to jump at the opportunity to meet Jeanie, so I agreed to tag along. Jeanie is local to the Phoenix area, too, and she knew all the cool places to take Ricë to get her excited. I was skeptical that I’d be overly excited, but off we went . . .
I’m not going to tire you with a recap of the entire day, but here are the highlights. Eureka! I actually had a ton of fun! (You knew that was coming.) Jeanie took us to some great stores and my approach to consignment shopping has forever been altered (no pun intended, I swear). I didn’t realize that it would actually be inspiring. Ricë filled me in on all the tricks she knows like what fabrics would dye well, where pieces might be cool to take apart and switch up and just basically had me seeing lots of potential and many possibilities for all kinds of stuff. And that is how this shirt came into being. I saw a designer label tank with a similar approach to it and realized that I could do something similar myself, but in a way that truly made it unique and made it mine.
I used many of my favorite techniques for this top: hand stitching, dyeing and stenciling (including three stencils of Mary Beth Shaw’s). After I had the tank sewn together, I decided I wanted to add some beading too, so I consulted my copy of Beverly Gilbert’s Beaded Colorways and used it to crank out a couple strands of an easy peyote stitch that I then hand-stitched onto the tank. While I was looking in the book, I was also inspired by Beverly’s approach to color and made my own Bead Soup for one of the strands.
Chances are I won’t be opening up my own hip boutique anytime soon, but I am so going to try my hand at several other altered clothing ideas I now have in my head. Bottom line: don’t be afraid to explore something you historically “don’t do.”
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS