as mentioned a couple weeks ago, there’s an article on my work
in the current ‘Witch’ issue of Enchanted Living. well, I spent days writing
answers to the questions they sent me~ I thought it was going to be printed
as an actual interview, haha.. it’s often been challenging for me to articulate
about my work process. so it feels important for me to share these
thoughts & words that I actually managed to pull out of my brain.
please do check out the magazine too, the website is here
Does your work/creating ever feel like casting a spell?
Taking elements/ingredients and using your intention to make something new?
Definitely.. there’s some really primitive, yet complex magic in sewing..
The act itself is transformative, and also the way it can translate into the larger world
through ritual, adornment, identity/glamour and the altering of reality.
I’ve made some special amulets for friends with spells sewn into them,
for protection, abundance, calmness.. and I feel like even when it’s not conscious,
a lot of what I’m thinking or working with personally gets channeled
into the creations. I try to stay aware of this and keep myself in a
constructive, positive space while sewing.
It’s also interesting when you think about the accumulated history/character
in found materials.. The process can end up feeling like a collaborative spell,
with many elements and motivations.
What is your favorite item you’ve ever made?
Oh my. This is such a difficult question!
I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to one piece. In trying to form an answer,
I made a list of some favorites.. and looking it over, there is a strong theme ~
All of the garments felt like they had already existed before I made them..
like they were complete entities that had been caught or channeled.
I didn’t feel very much of my ego or direction in the finished pieces,
more that they grew into their own identities.
here are some of my favorites:
–the Pony coat: a special coat of mine that developed over years..
it looks like fairy punk nobility, patched with roses, lady eyes, moths,
Bettie Page, rollerskates, tiny horses & unicorns.
–Yuri’s wedding gown: a custom white & lavender concoction in a silhouette
I’d never done before; a trumpet/hourglass shape. the back has leaves &
morning glories growing from hip to hem
–the shopping bag dresses: I made a few of these, corset bodices
frankensteined with old cloth shopping bags from Europe.
I really love how odd and timeless they look.
–the Magpie coat: this was a tremendous Raven collaboration
with my friend Kevin, who used to work with me. it was quilted from
collar to cuff with decadent victorian mourning silk
& stitched with tiny precious trinkets.
Do you still use Stella, or does your current machine
have another name and personality?
Sadly Stella is out of commission these days.. In Oakland there was
a magical sewing machine man who came to my house regularly to fix
my machines. It really seemed that he could fix anything! But there came a
day when he told me Stella’s motor was beyond repair. It was so sad.. I cried a lot.
Stella came to me when I was eleven & ushered me into the world of sewing.
We had a good long run together. Currently I have 6 other machines in various
states of functionality, but I stopped naming them after Stella’s retirement.
I’ve found it’s harder to let them go when I do. Same with bicycles, haha
Any notable or recognized names for whom you have created?
I’ve made quite a few pieces for Courtney Love.. and a blue velvet victorian
coat for Devendra Banhart many years ago. I also worked with the
Beautiful Creatures author Kami Garcia on many dresses for her tours.
What is a memorable story a client of yours has told you
about the magic or power of one of your creations?
Well.. this is probably not what you have in mind, but it’s definitely the most
memorable story. A lady I knew in San Francisco approached me
wild-eyed at a trunk show to tell me about her experience with one of
my creations. She had been staying at a friend’s cabin & took an
herbal tincture there, which (unbeknownst to her) turned out to have a
large amount of LSD in it. She had a very intense trip that lasted
multiple days, and one of my dresses was in the cabin with her.
I guess that all of the different antique fabrics were telling her their stories,
all the ladies who had made the lace and handkerchiefs.. she got to
know that dress incredibly well. She was crying when she told me and
it sounded very intense. It was overwhelming but made alot of sense to me..
It’s pretty rare that people are aware of the magic and energy of the
garments on that level. It’s usually more of an aesthetic appreciation.
Can you describe the process of creating a piece?
How do you take such beautiful motley scraps and turn them into magic?
In the early days I was all about chaos stitching, sewing things together wildly
without much forethought, and altering them to make a garment afterwards.
Then years of commissions trained me to be more methodical, and I
embraced planning and pinning. There are benefits and drawbacks to each
of these routes.. these days I try to do a mix of both, depending on my mood and
the project. Sometimes it feels best to be led by colors and instinct, to sew
fabrics together without having a goal in mind. It can also feel like a
reprieve to do so when I’ve been working on very defined, purpose-driven
projects- it’s quite freeing and therapeutic. I end up with a lot of oddly
beautiful stitchy pieces of fabric, which lead to some really wonderful
garments that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of making. The other end
of the spectrum is me sitting with a dress form for hours, arranging, pinning,
unpinning & rearranging different fabrics until they feel right.
I’m pretty obsessed with things fitting elegantly, so I usually build
the dresses carefully in stages, starting by making sure the foundation
layers fit & flow well, then working on the textural/sculptural layers and
ending with what I call the cake decorating stage- adding all the
frills, handwork and adornments.
Has a fabric ever seemed to tell you a story as you held it?
Not just from the shape it is in, but also the energy?
I think this has become so intrinsic with my work over the years
that it’s sort of happening constantly, but on a more subconscious level..
I literally live, work and sleep in landscapes of old clothes and fabrics,
so there’s a kind of immersion factor that can make it hard for me to
think about the exchange objectively. It seems like there’s a continuous
engagement with the energy of the materials and that this guides me
in the process of reincarnating them. There are definitely particular pieces
that have especially strong and memorable impressions, though.. Certain things
give off such an intense feeling of their past wearers that it can
be overwhelming, for better or for worse.. I have some antique dresses that
feel so full of love and a sort of gentle mother farmhouse energy, that every time
I wear them I feel really calm & safe & protected. There are also certain pieces
I find that are beautiful or useful but they feel wrong to me, so I don’t bring
them home. The clothes from the 1800’s/ early 1900’s have especially
powerful stories, and I am very careful & respectful of them.
They’re like 120 year old people!
If you could make a witch hat to encompass who you are as a person,
and magic maker, what fabrics would you use, and what accessories?
I think my inclination would lean towards a reversible witchy elf bonnet..
silk velvet in mossy green on one side and raven black on the other.
It would be embroidered with tiny silver stars & have secrets sewn into
the lining~ accessorized with a strand of lace lichen and a sprig
of red holly berries. I should probably make this now :)
thanks for reading