Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My comments on the topic of "cutting".....

Whilst perusing the blogs I follow this morning, I came across one whose work I truly admire. I don't know it this person follows mine, I doubt it, but I do comment on hers in a complimentary fashion on a frequent basis. This blogger is a fabulous artist, makes things that I can never in my wildest dreams emulate. I have only the greatest respect for her work as an artist and a textile curator.
That said, there seem to be growing concerns about a populace referred to as "cutters". A 'cutter' by definition is one who cuts into antique garments to either sell piecemeal for what would be (probably incorrectly) assumed to make a higher profit...or me, the dollmaker/doll dresser.
Not certain if this person was singling me out, though it surely felt like it.
It is her general opinion that all should boycott someone like myself, who uses pieces of antique garments to repurpose into doll clothes for antique dolls, or doll making.
We are all entitled to our passions and feelings, and I do not want to make any waves or discredit anyone's opinion.
Making a generalization against anyone or anything is a trepidatious thing.
I do wish to publicize my opinion on the subject of 'cutters' and take this opportunity to defend myself and those who are included in this persons request to boycott the work of anyone who uses antique fabrics/garments in the creation of a new item.
Not all of us are disrespectfully taking an 1850 silk gown in displayable condition and cutting it up needlessly for our own profit. I'd say there are very FEW persons who would consider cutting up a truly historical garment, and these are the people who sell the fabric piecemeal. They are not doing anything constructive with the item, and these are the same folks who would take a Peterson's Magazine or Godey's and pull out all the colored fashion plates to sell individually, destroying the historical integrity of the magazine.
It's a crazy world we live in, and some people are out for merely profit...and some are persons of integrity who have worked hard to learn a nearly lost craft.
I am a CUTTER. I proudly admit that.
I am a Living Historian.
I am a craftsperson.
I cut up old nasty petticoats that are bloodstained in many places, are ripped, have torn and shredded lace and hems. These petticoats are from the late 19th/early 20th century. They are not displayable. They are not wearable. The work required to make them such is so costly and time consuming as to be a deterrent, which is why so many of these common articles wind up stashed in a trunk rotting and disintegrating.
I buy lots of clothing from sellers who don't even know what they've got. Just a trunk full of pieces of clothing. These items are most often falling apart at the seams and everywhere else.
Do I plunder such useless textiles for my work? YES. Where else are you going to find real brass hooks and eyes? Jet buttons. Beaded trims. A world of treasure that somebody initially threw away. There's no integrity left as a complete garment, so why waste the precious gems left behind?
There are people like myself, who see a treasure in someone else's 'trash', and make a new treasure out of it.
Being 'green'.
Historically accurate .
Most clothing from any century other than our own spoiled, throwaway 21st was re-used in some fashion. It was re-styled as fashions changed...and the remaining fabric not used, stored away for some purpose in the future (and often forgotton till someone like me comes along). The useable garments were then repurposed into childrens clothing. Then doll clothes. Crazy quilts. Pillows. Then lastly, cut into rags for homekeeping.
To call for an outright boycott of anyone using antique fabrics in their work is unfair.
I have pieces of collars, bodices, skirts and skirt linings, sleeves....they came that way, straight out of the trunk and they WEREN'T cut apart by the seller. There is no way to restore them to their original condition.
Should I throw these items away or let them continue to hide away for another century till there's nothing left of them?
I will continue to use what's left of salvageable parts of late 19th century garments. I am recycling them into a smaller version of their former selves for others to enjoy. And lets face it, there's not too much profit in that...the hours of tedious handsewing are never 'paid' for. I make far less than minimum wage on most projects. It's a labor of love and a desire to keep the past alive that keeps me doing what I do.
There are plenty of people who want their antique french fashion doll to wear a dress that looks like it actually belongs to the doll! A discarded, torn apart bodice will make a dress for this doll.
There are NOT many options for modern fabrics that replicate antique fabrics.
Yes, there are cotton reproductions aplenty. BUT, many textile blends from early times are no longer manufactured nor is it even known how many were made.
I would sincerely appreciate buyers take my statements into consideration that not all craftspersons are "ignorantly" plundering historical garments.
If in doubt, ask questions before committing to an all-out boycott.
Thanks for letting me express my humble opinion.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Been a lazy bum on Spring Break!

The World Famous (or infamous?) Madonna Inn
Well, I've been off on a fabulous Spring Break up
the coast of California...being somewhat lazy, but not totally! I did sew a nice doll dress while in the car for hours on end. We stayed at the Madonna Inn up in San Luis Obispo and I just have to say....WOW.
I've seen some tacky places, but this place takes tacky to a whole new level. On first glance, it looks a bit Disney-esque. Disney Swiss Chateau. On Acid.
But then you get inside. If you are in California, you have got to at least stop in and peek around. Our room was "Misty Rock". Four walls made of boulders and rocks. The one 'true' wall covered in bordello worthy wallpaper of metallic gold with rusty-red leaves. The extremely low slung ceiling, made of railroad ties stained green. Teal carpet. Dark green brocade drapes. Faux-alligator vinyl swivel chairs. Heavy 'victorian' furniture. The bedcovering was a huge floral print. No headboard to speak of, just lots of boulders jutting out where you would normally rest your back against. Ouch. But there was a very cool rock waterfall shower!

The Madonna Inn Dining Room
If you've ever wondered what a restaurant collaboration between cosmetics queen Mary Kay, Liberace, and Barbie would look like, stop in here for the ride of your life.
Oh, my word. Hot pink naugahyde booths snaking and undulating throughout the restaurant...though a bit faded in their glory now...and irreplaceable! Pink tablecloths. Pink China. Pink crytal stemware. Pink SUGAR. Pink carpet with huge roses and posies. A gargantuan chandelier looming over the entire room covered in paper roses the size of manhole covers. With twinkle lights woven in and out...with cupids, candlabras and goodness knows what else thrown in. Not to mention, the large mannequin little girl doll up above everyone's head, standing on a rose-vine covered swing...swinging back and forth. Quite unsettling.

Mission San Antonio de Padua
Our goal this little jaunt was not to see the tackiest hotel in Ameria...but to see some more of the chain of 21 missions established by Father Junipero Serra. This trip we saw San Antonio de Padua, which is way the heck out on a military base, but so out of the way from the rest of the world that it was almost like going back in time. A lovely, lovely calm place.
Then we saw the mission Soledad, of which there's nothing left but ruins. A reproduction chapel was built over the original site, and charming it was. After that it was Mission San Miguel, which was so damaged by the Paso Robles earthquake awhile back that we couldn't enter it. And this one is the only mission to retain it's original interior painting, so we were truly disappointed not to be able to see it. The museum and surrounding outbuildings were worth the trip.
Lastly, we saw Mission San Luis Opispo. Of all the missions I have seen, this was my least favorite. It looks brand spanking new, and the interior painting, so perfectly suited for a Mexican restaurant...didn't exactly exude the aged charm of the other missions. Too modern, to pristine, it just seemed a little phony to me. Now the painting was fabulous, as far as quality of that type of work goes. The tromp l'oei (spelling?) was incredible. But too european in style, not at all like the primitive style in the other missions.
We did find a lovely creek behind the Mission grounds, an idyllic setting with water rippling over stones and larger rocks and boulders to climb upon, filled with families with small children gleefully splashing about. We found a nice bench in the shade, and had a nice picnic.
We watched a fellow giving a group of elderly folks a 'go native' type of tour through the creek bed, locating and describing for them the different edible vegetation growing there out of the all of them a nice sample of each to chew upon. Isn't that sweet?
That night, on the local news, there was a report of a raw sewage spill that had contaminated this very same idyllic creek. They didn't put any signs out, but were initially in the early hours of the morning letting some people know not to play in the water there.
I guess whoever it was that was supposed to shoo away all the little children in their bare feet out of the water took a lunch break about the same time we did.
I feel so bad for those little elderly people who were blithely eating the dandelions and whatever else that lay in the path of the raw sewage spilling out over it only hours before.
Can you spell "l-a-w-s-u-i-t"?

Mission San Luis Obispo
Don't play in the creek near this one. You might grow a third arm.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

New dress for a large China, Greiner or Covered Wagon Doll

So this is what I've been up to the last week, a new 1845-50 dress for a 25 inch China Doll. It would also be okay for a Greiner or Covered Wagon, but might be too fussy for one of them, as they are really better suited to dresses for younger girls. But hey, all adolescent girls want to dress older, don't they?

This dress is completely handsewn, in the old manner, of 100% cotton reproduction fabric. I love, love, love this print! If I was still doing living history, I'd have to have a matching dress! Unfortunately, I only found a yard and a half of this so I'd be out of luck. So I can't cry about it. I used another reproduction fabric to make the false hem. I really like how this dress turned out.

I listed this on ebay yesterday, so if anyone has a naked doll, or just one who's name is Flora McFlimsey and never has enough dresses, please visit me on username is robinseggbleu. No caps, no separations between letters, it's sometimes confusing when people try to look me up. I guess I should look myself up and see if there are any problems. Never thought of doing that before.

This dress is being sold with a lovely 'antique' petticoat. The petticoat is made from an antique petticoat, but not an antique by it's own right, as it's never been a petticoat for a doll before. I know, I know, I shouldn't cut up antique garments...that's a pretty big 'no no' . But I only cut up a garment if it's no longer useable or displayable. In some cases, I feel that one 'wrong' can become a 'right', and this is one of those cases. I only turn a petticoat into a smaller version of itself, to continue to be appreciated for the workmanship that originally went into it, and the same with dress materials. I think of it as recycling. Rather than let it rot in a drawer unseen, it can be admired in a new version of it's original self. This poor petticoat, had many 'womanly' ghosts marking it, making it sort of 'iffy' for display. You girls know what I mean, right? No one wants their DNA displayed in such a fashion. So I sort of work around it. Whatever is left after I plunder a petticoat is used for little drawers and a chemise. I like making doll's clothes in this way because they really lend themselves to smaller cuts of fabric, and I love to give the items a new life.