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Image provided by Tatter.

Tatter, a Brooklyn based shop and education center for all things sewing and textiles, has put together a unique opportunity for us to help the people of Ukraine.

Join Tatter on Thursday March 17th, 11-12 (EST) for a virtual sewing circle with Ukrainian embroidery artist, Hanna Rohatynska. Attendees will learn to embroider a star, which is a traditional Ukrainian symbol of protection.

Suggested donation is $20 and all monies raised will go to selected organizations in Ukraine. Click here for more information.

What a soothing way to connect and learn and help, all at the same time. Count me in!

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I always enjoy the exhibits at Lacis Museum for the subject matter, but also their unique presentation – charming in its simplicity. Worn to Dance: 1920s Fashion and Beading opened in November 2019 and I was looking forward to seeing it and then … Covid, lockdown, variants. I nearly missed it and that would have been a shame. Don’t let that happen to you! The clock is ticking – Worn to Dance closes March 12.

Lacis Museum is located on the second floor next door to the retail shop at 2982 Adeline St. in Berkeley. Docent Julie Ann ushered us up the stairs to be greeted at the top with two elegantly clad mannequins ready and waiting for us to travel back in time. With jazz tunes playing in the background, we toured the main gallery filled with original 1920s beaded dresses, gowns, handbags, coats, hats, jewelry, even wedding dresses. Each item comes from the Lacis extensive collection. Arranged by type of clothing, every section includes posted images and pictures from magazines and sheet music. What I really appreciate is that there’s plenty of room to get a close-up look at the extraordinary workmanship (every bead is sew on by hand). But no touching!

You’ll notice that most beaded dresses are sheer and require a slip underneath. A handy way to slightly change the look of the dress is to change the slip, perhaps a contrasting color.

Julie Ann led us around the exhibit and offered interesting facts, such as, women of the era could purchase from catalogues or department stores “panels” – precut fully beaded fabric ready to be sewn. That was a less expensive option for middle class women. (See image below.)

Some women beaded their own dresses and there were beaded handbag kits for the crafty types. (See image below.)

One thinks of beaded gowns for evening wear but beading was popular for day dresses, too. Beads for evening would be cut or faceted to reflect light, whereas day dress beads would be uncut.

This day dress is perfect for a summertime garden party.

I’m so pleased I didn’t miss Worn to Dance and I encourage local ODFL readers to make their way over to Lacis before we say goodbye to this wonderful exhibit. It’s a must for anyone interested in fashion history, the Art Deco period (that’s you, ADSC members), and lovers of beading and textiles. Admission is $3 and that includes a docent led tour. And then spend time in the Lacis shop where one can find all kinds of vintage and antique goodies, books on fashion and textiles, sewing notions, ribbon, cards, silk flowers, and much more.

Worn to Dance: 1920s Fashion and Beading on now through March 12th, 2022. Call Lacis to make a reservation 510-843-7290.

Side note: Also on at Lacis is The Bird in Textile Arts: The Extraordinary in Thread. Now through July 9, 2022.

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Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in the film, Spencer.

Last month I attended a virtual talk with FIDM Museum curator Kevin Jones and Ms. Jacqueline Durran, costumer for the film Spencer. She spoke about the challenges of costuming this production during the pandemic. They had one nine hour fitting with Ms. Stewart before she flew to Germany where the film was shot. Ms. Durran stayed in London and worked from there.

The story is set vaguely in the early 1990s over three days during Christmas. The decision was made by both Ms. Durran and the film’s director Pablo Larrain, that the costuming for Diana would not be anything precise, but instead an essence of her style. They didn’t want the story to be pinned to any particular time because ultimately it’s a work of imagination.

Ms. Durran looked over photographs of Diana at official visits from 1988-1992. Most of the costumes in the main story were built for the film, except for some loans from Chanel and costumes for the flashbacks were bought or rented. For the famous wedding dress, they didn’t try to recreate it, but simply bought an 80s dress and added sleeves and a neckline.

The film opens with Diana in a wool plaid jacket and for that Ms. Durran had a hard time finding the right bold plaid, but finally she found just three yards in Cyprus.

I love this jacket! Wouldn’t it be great to see more structured fashions hit the streets?

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Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in the film, Spencer. Costumes by Jacqueline Durran.

There were much more exciting things going on in 80s fashion than the things she wore. When she first started in the early 80s, she really didn’t have a handle on what her potential was in fashion, because it was all so new and she was so young. She discovered it as she grew older.

Jacqueline Durran, British costume designer.

Ms. Durran created the costumes for the 2021 film, Spencer, staring Kristen Stewart, who is up for the Best Actress Oscar, as Princess Diana.

Come on back to ODFL tomorrow for my post on the virtual talk I attended with Ms. Durran and Kevin Jones, curator at FIDM Museum.

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Barack Obama drawing by Barbara Sandidge

Happy Presidents Day

In 2008 when Barack Obama was running for president Oakland artist, Barbara Sandidge, created printed t-shirts and tote bags with her own pen and ink drawing. I bought the tote and still proudly carry it!

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On February 6th, 1952 Princess Elizabeth, traveling in Kenya, awoke a Queen, after her father King George VI had passed away overnight in his sleep.

Queen Elizabeth II returned immediately to the UK but her coronation wasn’t until June 2nd, 1953. The lovely gown she wore that day was created by British designer Norman Hartnell, who also made Elizabeth’s wedding gown in 1947. 

For the coronation, Hartnell sketched eight potential gowns before Prince Philip pointed out that his wife was soon to become sovereign to the British Commonwealth and perhaps all her lands should be represented.

The final version was made in white satin and included embroidered emblems:

  • Tudor Rose  – England
  • Thistle –  Scotland  
  • Shamrocks  – Ireland 
  • Maple leaves – Canada
  • Wattle flowers  – Australia
  • Ferns – New Zealand
  • Proteas – South Africa
  • Lotus Flowers –  India
  • Leeks  – Wales
  • Wheat, Cotton and Jute – Pakistan

For luck Hartnell added an extra shamrock underneath the skirt. For proper balance the gown demanded a complicated construction of supporting undergarments, which was created by Hartnell’s expert cutters and fitters. He himself could not sew.

Congratulations to Queen Elizabeth who celebrates 70 years on the throne, her Platinum Jubilee.

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Peggy’s mother had insisted that she go to San Francisco’s best store, I. Magnin, for her travel suit. Upon entering, they made a beeline for the ‘moderate’ floor. It wasn’t ‘couture,’ one floor up, where they seldom ventured, but nor did it mean thumbing through the racks. The moderate floor came with a clothing advisor, who greeted Peggy’s mother by name, led them over to a damask-covered love-seat and asked Peggy to describe the purpose of her outfit. She was going to New York, she explained, for the month of June, staying at the Barbizon and working with Mademoiselle magazine offices on Madison Avenue. She would need to appear sophisticated while she mingled with editors, advertisers, and the New York literati. Peggy left I. Magnin with a navy two-piece dress in summer wool – a long tunic top that buttoned up the front and a pleated skirt underneath. There was even a detachable white collar.

From The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren (Simon & Schuster).

The Barbizon – the first women-only residential hotel – was built in 1927 on the Upper East side in Manhattan. Standing 23 stories tall, the Barbizon was meant to be a safe alternative for the new modern woman escaping her dull hometown to seek freedom and adventure in New York City.

In The Barbizon, Ms. Bren has detailed the rich and fascinating history of this landmark hotel. From the stories of some of the prominent residents, such as Molly Brown, Grace Kelly, and Sylvia Plath, to the link with Mademoiselle magazine and their Guest Editor program, Ms. Bren has done extensive research and crafted a compelling read. There’s a bit of everything: women’s history, fashion history, journalism history, mid-century glamour, the darkness of depression and loneliness, and more. The pages are packed and I had a hard time putting this book down. In fact, I think I’m going to read it again.

Oh, and Happy Hearts Day!

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On the left: Edith Heath’s family china. On the right: Edith Heath design.

“What began as a rebellion against imported white clay more than fifty years ago is now a modern-day classic,” says Jennifer Volland, guest curator of Edith Heath: A Life in Clay on now at the Oakland Museum of California. “Edith Heath has forever changed the cultural landscape of American design through Heath Ceramics.”

Edith Heath sorting her wares.

What might be considered one of the first lifestyle brands, Heath Ceramics was founded in 1948 by Edith and her husband, Brian. A distinct style of tableware made of California clay, Heath products were (and still are) simple and practical. With her no-frills design, Edith was pushing back against the ornate European dishes that her mother collected. She called the clay used in fine china “gutless.”

Edith Heath: A Life in Clay is an exploration of Edith and Heath Ceramics and the impact both continue to have on American aesthetics. Using photos, advertisements, vintage Heath pieces, various equipment, and a documentary video, this exhibit takes us through Edith’s journey from childhood to artisan to designer to successful businesswoman. (And for me Heath Ceramics are so appealing with their simple chic lines and earthy colors, to look at them is like enjoying a sweet treat.)

Edith Heath in the early 1940s.

Potter and designer Edith Heath (1911-2005) started her life (the second of eleven children) on an Iowa farm where she learned to make everything by hand, from the clothing she wore to the food she ate. She attended college in Chicago and became a teacher. When she and her husband moved to San Francisco in 1942, she attended California School of Fine Arts (known today as San Francisco Art Institute) and that’s where she learned about, and fell in love with, ceramics.

Mid-century California livin’ with Heath Ceramics. The photo in the back is of Edith entertaining outdoors. The dress on the left belonged to Edith and was designed by her friend Evelyn Royston.

Edith was all in and not only did she study how to make pottery, she studied the elements of different clay and experimented with glazes. She was asked to exhibit at the Legion of Honor Museum where a buyer from Gump’s admired her work, bought the collection for the store, and set her up in a studio Gump’s was operating in Chinatown. But it was hard for her to keep up with the demand for her handmade wares so she soon shifted to molds and machines, which her husband designed and made himself.

Edith was criticized by her fellow artisans, who claimed that art could only be handmade, but she disagreed with them saying that it’s the design that counts and “Good design doesn’t depend on whether something is made by hand.” With new capacity to fill larger orders the couple opened their own operation, Heath Ceramics, in Sausalito.

In the 60s Edith worked with local architects and began to make tiles and in 1971 Heath Ceramics contracted with a new chain of restaurants, Victoria Station, to provide their dinnerware. This lucrative deal led to more restaurant contracts, including with the famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Also in the 70s, the company began to make buttons and beads, which Edith called “kiln fillers.”

I met Interior Decorator Heather Cleveland at the exhibit press preview and she shared with me that she first learned about Heath from her stylish grandmother, who always set an impressive dinner table. Heather, who is in-the-know about what’s in vogue for the modern home, says that mid-century is still hot and Heath Ceramics is the perfect fit. Heather herself has been collecting Heath for several years, one piece at a time.

She isn’t the only one! Edith sold Heath Ceramics to husband and wife team, Robin Petravic and Cathy Bailey in 2003 and the company still thrives, making Heath tableware in the original Sausalito location. Based on the response I got from my early FB and IG posts about the exhibit, Heath Ceramics is well known and loved.

Edith Heath: A Life in Clay runs now through October 30, 2022 at the Oakland Museum of California. If you know about Heath, you will learn more, and if you’re new to the world of Heath prepare to have an overwhelming desire to reset your dining table!

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Textiles and yarn did not have enough structure and volume, but clay I found was and is just right. I like its substance, its malleability, and its color.

Edith Heath (1911-2005), American ceramicist, designer, and founder of Heath Ceramics.

Come back to ODFL tomorrow for my coverage of the new exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California, Edith Heath: A Life in Clay.

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