Wearable Art


Bernina Commission

                        1.                     2.                     3.


    Above, from the left, the Left Front, the Back, and the Right Front. All are separately lined and link together with fabric-covered studs

at the shoulders and sides. It's wearable art: wear it or disassemble it and hang it on the wall, all together or separately. It's a stylistic feature of many

of my wearable-art waistcoats.

The waistcoat was commissioned by Greg Alexander, National Manager of Bernina Australia, for him to wear to the Gala Dinner at the Australasian Quilting Convention in

Melbourne in April, 2015. The theme was to be the Joker, though not Batman's Joker. Greg indicated that he didn't want the Joker to be a fool

(as in the Joker, the Jester, the Fool). He preferred the interpretation to be more sinister. I therefore tried to make the Joker "dolls" on the vest fronts

look as if they might know something to the disadvantage of the person looking at them.


The fronts feature the rattles carried by Jesters, featuring jesters' heads. The heads are on rods. They are in motley (jester's or clown's

costumes) and the faces are embroidered to look as if they are painted (with makeup), The headdress designs are the result of my research.

The one on the Left Front is based on one in a nineteenth-century painting of a jester. His head is not on fire! That represents a rooster's comb

(roosters being associated with loud, impertinent strutting and posturing). The hood on the Right Front is based on one in a mediaeval illuminated

manuscript. It features ass's ears. The symbolism is clear and unambiguous.

On the back, the jester/joker (not wearing makeup) peers mischievously from behind the painted mask on the end of the ribbon-trimmed rod

he holds.

The designs are my own original ones, adapted to the wishes of the commissioner. Below is the cartoon for the back. If you compare it

with the finished back, you can see what modifications were made during the development stages. You can also see what I have retained.

Technically, the designs are translated into a collage of painted and commercial black silk. This is then laid onto a fabric sandwich of background

silk (hand-painted) on a layer of fusible Pellon wadding, itself backed with a stabilising layer of Vilene interfacing.


The Joker's hand is developed from my own, which I photographed in a mirror while holding a paintbrush, then drew to scale on the cartoon.

The embroidery on the hand and on all three faces (and the mask) is done in layers to build up the modelling (light and shade) and to give a lively

texture. All embroidery on the piece is freemotion machine embroidery - except for a very little hand embroidery. Nothing is digitised or done with

the feed dogs up.


Some of my wearable-art garments. Those from Art to Wear are shown on exhibition in


                             1.        2.        3.       

             1, 2, and 3. My 1996 contributions to Art to Wear: Bloke I, Le Rouge et Le Noir, and Symphonic Variations


                             4.        5.        6.

            4. Torami, which, with Bloke III (the vest of which is shown in 7 below), made my 1998 contribution.

            5 and 6. Oread and Bloke IV, two of my contributions for 1999.

                    7. (a)   (b)   (c)   

                    8.        9.       10.

            Some cubist-inspired pieces.

               7 shows the vest for Bloke III (1998) with shoulder and side studs separated.

                I was making a tongue-in-cheek statement about Wearable Art: this piece took its stylistic

            inspiration from a school of art and it was in a Wearable Art exhibition. Therefore, I lined the back

            and fronts separately and assembled them with large, uncovered press studs. Studs were also used

            in the vests of Another Bloke and A Bloke in the Landscape, where I covered them with fabric.

            It means that the garments can be either worn or hung flat on the wall: Wearable Art!

                The right front shows a tabletop on which there is a comport of fruit and an aggressively

            cubist cup and saucer. On the left, a woman sits in an upholstered chair. Her gloved

            hand forms the closure and it looks as if she is reaching for the cup: "Miss Toklas Takes Tea".

              8 and 9. These appear elsewhere, but I've put them here to keep the Bloke III vest company. As

           compensation, I've included the back yoke on the crossover/double-breasted vest. The hair forms

           the front neckline and continues over the shoulder to the back, where it is tied in a cubist bow.

                           11.       12.

          11 and 12. A piece of conceptual wearable art: Necessity (Who Became the Mother of

                Invention). This was made for an exhibition in 2000 entitled Outrageous Brides, which was

            curated by Helen Lancaster and held at the Fairfield Gallery in Sydney. She is shown on exhibition

            in the gallery. I have aimed for sumptuous raggedness: her outfit is made from strips of silk, mostly

            torn. Her bodice is embroidered with them, trimmed with needle lace made from them, and laced

            up the back with them. She has also been exhibited, along with Bloke I, in the Elemental

               exhibition (November, 2003; curated by Judith Trager at the Loveland Museum and Gallery,

            Loveland, Colorado).

                13.       14.

          13 and 14 show the vest from A Bloke in the Landscape, from Art to Wear, 2004. It's my take

            on the parti-coloured garment, except that it is divided into different landscapes (including aerial

            ones) rather than different colours.



                15.        16.       17.

            Two commissions

            15 and 16.  Commission for Roz - a jacket in black charmeuse and silver lamé covered in some

           places with two layers of hand-painted georgette, in others with one. It is extensively embroidered

           and lined in a hand-painted charmeuse which matches the georgette. There is a matching bag.

           17. Vest for Bubbles. The gold "Matisse" shapes across the yoke are nylon-organza-covered gold

          lamé reverse-appliquéd behind the faced edges of the silk negative shapes on either side. The red

          fabric is corduroy which the client wished to have included.


            A lamé-taming experiment

            This vest was made as a challenge. A student had given me a piece of cheap and vulgar pink lamé

printed with magenta, royal blue and emerald green flowers and leaves. It was rather startling. She wanted

to see what I'd do with it.

            I decided to use the back - much more subdued. I further toned it down by informally pleating some

shibori-dyed georgette in a combination of smoky greys and lilacs. Then, having laid it over the lamé, I

proceeded to embroider it with a variety of threads, including heavy threads. These were mostly metallic, to

bring the sparkle of the lamé to the surface on a more refined scale. I used a multiple meander-within-

meander, which gives the effect of interlocking leaves or seaweed. To finish, I embroidered a tiny meander

filling in a mid grey in the spaces between. There is a matching bag.

            Accessories are wearables, too


            Some embroidered bracelets/bangles, featuring open-work (including some worked off the outside

            edge), reverse appliqué and off-the-edge stitching as a finish. The closures are fabric-covered press


               20. a         b         c         


                     d         e   

            Evening bags - a series of samples (though by no means the only ones!) for my workshop Sheer


    They illustrate just some of the creative things that can be done with sheer fabrics - including layering

them (cut or whole) and burning holes in them (see A and B). As these are all evening bags, I've used plenty

of glitz.  

                21. a      b

    21a shows the Left Front of my contribution to Art to Wear 2005: Bloke VII: a Man of Letters. The

freehand machine embroidery has been finished, and the piece cut back to the size of the pattern piece. It's

double-layer bonded appliqué under a sheer. The first layer (big dark , blocky capitals) is under black nylon

organza. The top layer (lower-case Jokerman font, elaborated) is under navy polyester organza.

    21b shows the Bloke as exhibited at Art to Wear along with Kirry Toose's Wild Rose


                22.  a         b         c

        This is the vest for my Art to Wear exhibition contribution, 2006: Bloke VIII: Homage to Gerard Manley

Hopkins. The inspiration was his poem Pied Beauty, and is concerned with dappling, mottling and broken

colour. It is embellished all over with freehand machine embroidery, most intensively on the back yoke. Various

techniques have been used.

 It's photographed after the red silk charmeuse facing was turned and before the navy habotai lining was

 hand-stitched in. Unfortunately, I don't have an image of the outfit on exhibition. The trousers were

mottled grey linen-look tussah. The shirt was navy habotai and featured collar and cuffs in the same fabric

as the lower front of the vest.

            23. a          b          c          d

    Bloke IX: After the Burn-off (Art to Wear, 2007; image a by courtesy of Virginia Koster). This was inspired

by seeing a stretch of countryside in the Northern Territory after it had been given its annual clearing by fire,

a practice which dates from time immemorial (from so long ago that many Australian plant species need to go

through fire before their seeds will germinate). Image b shows the back of the vest. Much of the freehand

machine-embroidery stitchery is layered , and there are areas of manipulated fabric (c and d) and hand

embroidery, notably French knots.   

           24. a          b         c   

    Art to Wear, 2009. The theme was Black and White. Image a (courtesy of Janine Hunt) shows the exhibition

(held under the auspices of the Quilters' Guild) at set-up. Images b and c (courtesy of Virginia Koster) are

front and back views respectively of Bloke XI: A Bit of a Dandy. Freehand machine embroidery covers much

of the vest's surface. There is appliqué, reverse appliqué, fabric manipulation and hand beading using semi-precious

stone beads (snowflake obsidian), glass beads and rhinestones.


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