MAC’s Guo Pei Makeup Collection

MAC Guo Pei CollectionI know this is coming late, but I have to mention MAC’s Guo Pei makeup collection! Guo Pei is a fashion designer in China who made dresses for both Rhianna and Zoe Saldana for the 2015 and 2016 Met Galas, respectively.

I really appreciated Guo Pei sharing that she had been influenced by American Westerns, especially the petticoat designs. No one was there to teach her how to make them, so she learned how to make them herself through trial and error. Hearing that story made me feel better about the 1,200 inch and a half hexagon pieces I went through trying to learn how to make grandmother’s flower garden quilts.

MAC’s Guo Pei makeup collection is stunning! With the packaging being in silk fabric, I had to support someone who was making textiles as art!

Fashion as Art

Finally! The discussion I have been waiting for! Is fashion art? Or more specifically, can textiles be classified as art? If you’ve been reading this blog, I’m sure you know what my answer is to this question. I am glad that the New York Times took on this topic. I know when I was growing up, textiles, particularly those having to do with fashion, was HUGE!!! People respected their seamstresses and their beauticians.

When I was growing up, I saw women who did not make it to the covers of Vogue, but Vogue was the one missing out on seeing some truly beautiful women. They could be seen walking through a store, immediately look at something on a rack, say, “I can do better than that.” And within less than a week they had either sewed, knitted, crocheted a piece that was better than what the local department store had on display.

Sometimes they used a pattern and sometimes they didn’t. They walked with their heads held high and they did not let themselves be defined by other people’s standards of beauty and art. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be just like them.

When I was in graduate school, however, I was continually bombarded with standards of “high art versus low art” when I told people I was a textile artist. Eventually, I learned that quilts and clothing were major exhibits in art museums around the world, which made me wonder about the people I met in graduate school who sought to demean textiles.

I must admit not everyone in my graduate school experience created these lines of demarcation. I had a professor named Michael McColly who encouraged me to enter my quilts into community art exhibits. I am very grateful. One opportunity led to another. I picked up with my love of textiles right where I’d left off after graduate school. Eventually, I exhibited a quilt at Macy’s on State Street in Chicago.

I was SO EXCITED to hear that Guo Pei made Rhianna’s dress last year for the Met Gala! I related to her when she said that she had a hard time learning how to sew petticoats. She was highly influenced by the clothing she saw in American Westerns, but she had no one there with her in China when she was in design school to teach her how to make them. So, she did it by trial and error as we all do. I went through 1,200 pieces of a grandmother’s flower garden quilt before I learned how to make them correctly. I especially loved her makeup collaboration with MAC Cosmetics last year!

To the outside world, this type of attention to fashion, makeup and hairstyles may look like low self esteem. However, from the point of view of textiles and textile artists, I believe that a redefinition of both art and self esteem is in order. If nothing else, I am also grateful that most major museums across the country have a textiles section and they decide what to put on display:

Chelsea’s Shawl Yarn for Chelsea’s Law

A lot of people asked me over the years, “How do art and activism come together?”
Let me explain.
Chelsea King was a San Diego high school student who was murdered by a convicted sex offender named John Albert Gardner in 2010:

Chelsea’s Light Foundation was established by the family to create laws to protect children. Dream in Color, a yarn manufacturer, created skeins of yarn to make shawls (or whatever you want really). A portion of the proceeds from the yarn sales go to Chelsea’s Light Foundation:

Further, Chelsea King’s brother was 13 years old when his sister was murdered. He created a documentary about his experience stating that creating a documentary was actually better than therapy. I also heard that same sentiment expressed by Mariel Hemingway about her own family challenges and how she became an advocate:

This is how art, albeit making documentaries or textile arts, and activism come together. I buy my Chelsea’s Shawl yarn at Gentler Times Knit Shop in Naperville, Illinois, just a block away from where I meet my writing group. 100% super wash merino is one of the better textures for me to work with. Needless to say, my next bohemian strippy scarf will be made using Chelsea’s Shawl Yarn.

Chelsea's Shawl Yarn 1Chelsea's Shawl Yarn 2

That’s Better!

Once I knew what was going on, I was able to knit my scarf very quickly.

I generally do not work with worsted yarn. I am a yarn snob. I know my great grandmother who used to crochet did not spend this much on a skein of yarn, but there has to be more of a sensual feel to the yarn for me to handle it for a long period of time. And I LOVED the look of this worsted yarn! The stripe quality is phenomenal! There are TOO MANY cute bohemian patterns out there for me to pass up, so making this scarf helped me to restructure my wardrobe.

I am a total fan of 1960s and 1970s vintage clothes. I love eras before then, but I notice with myself, that I tend to look best within that era. Maxi dresses sing to me. Blue jeans with flare in the leg are the only jeans I will allow in my possession. A scarf with a blouse reminds me of the stylishness I saw out of the women around me. When I was little and my parents were gladly getting rid of their 1970s clothes and carting them off to the Goodwill, I begged them to place them in a box for me until I grew up. I KNEW I wanted them for myself.

Off to Goodwill they went.

And I grew up and I had to start over, looking around for what I wanted. Luckily for me, the textiles in knitting and crochet gave me what I was looking for: Unique bohemian chic.  One frogging on the way to completion of this project isn’t bad, now is it? From what I understand, it is not at all unusual to see people doing more than that.

The scarf measures 40 inches long. I will need to get knit more scarfs before the winter comes. I forgot how to bind off, so I will have to ask my fiber arts group about that. There are worse things to indulge in. There are worse activities to bond with people over. Either people do not ask why I do this or they make assumptions. But it really very simple for me: There really are worse things to do besides knit a scarf and I simply do not want to be involved with any of them.  That's Better!