Posts Tagged ‘wearable art’


Wearable Art by Kaisik Wong featuring metallic checkered fabric. Photo: Wong Family.

You need a certain confidence to carry off a major piece of clothing so that you are wearing it, instead of it wearing you. 

Melissa Leventon, curator, professor of fashion history, principal at Curatrix Group.

This quote is from an episode of the PBS show Craft in America, which features craft in California. Quite a bit of time is spent on wearable art and wearable artists based in California. Ms. Leventon spoke to this subject.

When any garment is its own thing, whether that be wearable art or a vintage piece, even something off the rack, it can be challenging to wear. What makes it its own thing might be a particular color, an unusual silhouette, or a funky fabric. I say, tailored clothing is hard work. A pencil skirt shortens your stride. A fitted jacket limits your arm mobility. How about stilettos? To pull those off you better step gracefully. Hats? I love them but often you can’t just plop on a hat and not expect to rise to the occasion. (If nothing else you’re going to have to respond to nice people commenting/complimenting you, so there’s no hiding beneath a hat.)



Ensemble designed by Louise Brown. My mother pulled it off.

My mother has a dress and coat outfit that was designed by my grandmother back in the 1960s. Oh my gosh, I can only imagine what a task it is to wear that piece. For starters the dress is made of plaid wool and has 62 buttons. Small ones up the back and along the sleeves. It’s fitted and therefore, requires foundation garments. Then there’s the burnt orange wool coat, which is large and boxy and has no shape. The combination is actually quite fantastic, but you have to be up for it, or as Ms. Leventon says, it’s going to wear you.

Even just everyday items of clothing that are comfortable, still might require some energy. I was recently reading a middle-grade novel (The First Rule of Punk, by Celia Perez) in which the 12-year-old protagonist is the new girl in school. She’s into punk music (no one her age knows anything about punk) and all things edgy so she decides to show up for her first day dressed in ripped jeans, a t-shirt with something punk on it and … heavy black eyeliner circling her eyes. OK, we know where this is going. She was immediately labeled a “weirdo.” But she made those sartorial choices and she stood up in them with confidence, like any good heroine would.

When I don my vintage clothing, I know that part of the look is going to be me and my attitude. I have to stand a little straighter, move a little more precisely, wear my ensemble with intent and confidence. Otherwise, it’s not going to have the right effect and for sure it won’t feel right.




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Handcrafted shoes by Molly Grant, booth #134. Image courtesy of the ACC.

If it’s summer it must be time for the Annual American Craft Council Show, the largest juried show in the west coming up August 8-10 at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Marking their 39th year, the ACC gathers 220 top craftspeople from around the country (25 are from the Bay Area) to exhibit and sell their wares, which includes one-of a kind jewelry, clothing, gifts, and home décor. I’ve been attending the ACC show for years and I really enjoy the uniqueness and quality of everything I see. Some of my most treasured fashions have come from the ACC show, including a lovely felted cloche hat by Wendy Allen of Miss Fitt.

How about a custom-made pair of shoes or a hand- painted silk tie? Think fall fashions and early holiday shopping.

The American Craft Council Show coming up August 8th – 10th, Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Visit the ACC website for more information: http://craftcouncil.org/event/american-craft-council-san-francisco-show.

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Image courtesy of Ava Austin.

Image courtesy of Ava Austin.

I met Ava Austin at the American Craft Council Show last August. While strolling down the aisle, at a distance I spotted a booth full of intriguing somethings … things bright and colorful. So, like a kid to candy I hopped on over. Turns out they were bracelets made of a special acrylic paint Ms. Austin developed herself. Using rich color combinations she layers the paint into strips and creates the design. Each strip can be stretched and made to fit any size wrist and each design is one-of-a-kind. The line is called FaCuff.

Ms. Austin also makes the Metal FaCuff (pictured right) – the same acrylic strips fitted into copper and molded into cuffs bracelets.

A native of Los Angeles, Ms. Austin moved to Sonoma County in 1992 to attend Sonoma State University where she studied Kinesiology, the mechanics of body movement.

How did you come up with the idea for FaCuff?  

While in college studying Kinesiology, I was painting life-size images of the human form. I then went though a an abstract phase, painting on large rectangular canvases. It was kind of an evolution.

It’s funny how many people think out-of-the-box ideas begin as ‘accidents’.  I worked very hard to develop the FaCuff concept, and there was nothing accidental about it.  I enjoy my paintings, and I think others do too – it became clear that only so many people could buy and display my large canvases. I want a large number of people to have access to my work, so I decided to create paintings people could actually wear.  My canvass became small sheets of copper, displayed on the human body; this was the Metal FaCuff.  And while I’ve had great results with this ‘wearable art’, I still wanted something that would appeal to everyone – this being light, easy to wear, and low maintenance.  So I brought the ‘wearable art’ idea to its most fundamental level.  Using my skills in chemistry I refined my own formula of paint, which is worn directly on the skin, and literally made the human body my canvass.  So when you wear the FaCuff you are truly wearing a painting, you are the painting.

When it comes to color combinations and designs where do you get your inspiration?

With the FaCuffs my mantra has always been – It’s all an experiment. I try not to think too hard about what I’m doing and go with what feels right. I love to pair and combine color. Each color can elicit different moods and feelings merely depending on what it sits next to. 

Describe your typical working day.

There’s nothing typical about it. I love working in the middle of the night. For now I’m working on getting to bed by midnight and waking up by 9AM.  

Who’s you favorite artist and why?

As a child I remember falling in love Fabergé Egg and Tiffany lamps for their spectacular color and intricate details.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Spending time in nature, I do lots of trail running and hiking in Sonoma County where I live.

Of all your FaCuff designs which one is you favorite and why?

I really don’t have a favorite. They’re all my children and I have a meaningful relationship with each piece I create… Because I have no children, someone once pulled me aside and corrected this sentiment: “Oh honey, don’t kid yourself we all have our favorites.” Maybe this is true with things that can talk back and have opinions?

As far as the FaCuffs go, some are meaningful because I’ve spent a lot of time creating them, some I love because they’re so elegant in their simplicity while others bring me joy because their intricate designs and color combinations.

Thank you, Ava Austin. I have one of your FaCuffs and oh do I enjoy wearing it. The color combination (gold, green, and cream) and the floral motif really speak to me. Love it!

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