Cut from the cloth
Updated: Jul 31
I do not often get invited to exhibit artworks in this little town, since I'm not much out there strutting my stuf,f preferring the peace of the shala, and definitely not a bro, but recently I was asked for a piece.
Of course there's a catch and some caveats. The art piece must be made from recycled materials and it is a donation to a fundraising auction for a scholarship but I'm not sure of the details. Maybe for a child from the high school...scholarships to do what? I don't know. Maybe I was told but it was hot and I wasn't paying attention when I was approached at my farmers market booth.
Though they are not Prada, I believe the person was asking me to donate one or some of my hats made from upcycled thrift store trousers. I might have made the mistake of pointing out to the recruiter of art donations, that the clothing industry especially fast fashion, is one of the worst culprits contributing to the not so slow death of Planet Earth.
Trouble is, the hats are old hat to me. Though each one is unique, depending on the fabric on hand, they are a product. I've moved beyond seeing them as creations. I produce them, for myself and the marketplace like my vegetables and fruit.
I want to do things I haven't done yet. Make new stuff. Explore without a stock inventory spreadsheet or price tag.
For quite a while now, I have been wanting to push and prod at the possibilities of recycled clothing: to play with making baskets or bowls for example.
Little Vessel #1 is taking shape.
I might or might not add embellishments: beads, cowry shells, little carved wooden animals, buttons.... The possibilities are vast and so is my stash of sparkly treasures.
The brown seam which makes the base of Little Vessel #1 is from fabric which has already had several incarnations.
The original brown dress was cut from a Da Gama Three Leopards brand South African shweshwe cotton sewn in the old country, in the days just before boarding a plane on a one way ticket to Seattle more than 20 years ago.
That dress was worn on the first day of the rest of my life, which, it seems, included meeting at least one mermaid.
In the Hawaiian years, the brown shweshwe dress was remade into a shorter one, suitable for the island lifestyle, styled here with one of forementioned hats.
Then, as it became faded, worn and torn, it found use as painting overall in the (ongoing) 6th Avenue Shala restoration project.
The next layer of Little Vessel #1 is equally storied, equally last minute in its creation.
In an excerpt from notes accompanying the photo I wrote the following: In the letter asking me to report for the naturalization oath ceremony, the final piece of becoming a US citizen, I am urged to dress with respect to honour the dignity of the solemn occasion. This translates, in my language, to "Make a new dress". Which I did, at the last minute and in just two mornings before work. From Ghanaian milled, designed and printed cotton fabric. Of which I have 12 yards...The pattern is one I have adapted over the past 20 or more years to really make it my own. Sleeveless, low waisted, 12 buttons (ah! those buttonholes!) down the front, full long skirt. The bolero was made in mid nineties from blue shweshwe to accompany me to Egypt and India...
The Oath Day dress also went through an island style remodel (it's hard to garden in a long skirt in a tropical rainforest climate zone) before reincarnating into Little Vessel #1
Whilst the wedding dress, unworn, might have lain in the corner, torn, there has certainly not been a shortage of storied dresses.
And colourful stories. Shweshwe now comes in neon bright hues.
Where once were leopards, my latest pair of yoga pants has cats on the flip side.
Of course they do. Cats have mastered this multiple lives thing after all. At least up to nine. Or so the story goes.
As for the recycled materials art exhibition: I haven't decided yet what or whether I will donate anything. In the intervening 3 months I am giving myself permission to play.