wearable sculpture + unique fashion

Archive for May, 2012

Morgan Culture Tutorial: HOW TO make layered fabric wedding invitations (Part 1)

As a creative marrying another creative, I felt a lot of pressure to have THE most bomb invitations ever- and, of course, they had to reflect our personalities! We learned a lot about each other through the creative process and came up with the coolest idea. We did a multi-layered invitation with the top layer made of fabric- as a wearable sculptor and wedding gown designer, designing my own fabric felt so right. The top layer is machine-sewn on to two layers of semi-transparent vellum and one layer of cardstock-thickness paper. This way, you can see all three of our wedding events over the same map at the same time!

These invitations would cost a FORTUNE if done by a printer.

Ingredients and cost for 150 invitations:

Fabric: $52 (we used 5.5 yards of a cotton muslin. You’ll want a natural fiber like cotton, hemp, jute, silk, or linen because these rip really nicely and take dye better than synthetic fibers. Cotton muslin is what fashion designers and dressmakers use to try designs out, so it has a particular fondness for me, and it’s SUPER cheap.)

Fabric Paint: $12 (I only use Simply Spray fabric paint- it is the only thing I’ve found that will work on all types of fabric with the effects I want)

Linocut supplies: $60 (included 2 blocks, a set of cutting tools, a brayer, set of Exacto knives, 3 colors of Speedball ink)- more about this later

Vellum tracing paper #50: $50 (we just got the cheap drafting kind- make sure to look at this in a store if you plan to buy it online, because vellum paper comes in TONS of thicknesses and variations)

Shiny paper and paper sparkle spray: $14 (the shiny paper is just hanging out in the scrapbooking section and comes in packages, and the paper sparkle spray actually didn’t work how we wanted it to, so we stuck with a fabric glitter spray I had).

Thread and more Exacto knives: $14 (make sure to get STRONG quilting thread, such as Gutermann. Others will break continuously in your machine and drive you crazy!)

Envelopes: $25 (plain A-4 envelopes)

TOTAL COST for 150 invitations: $227


1) Obviously choose your color theme and design! Do a sketchy mock-up of one to brainstorm with your partner over- or, if you have a partner who has a hard time imagining the final product, just make a mock-up for yourself. Also choose the SIZE of your invitations- I recommend choosing a size that will fit in a ready-made envelope size so you can save $ by not ordering custom-sized envelopes. We chose A4 because that size is half a sheet of paper and made planning quite easy.

2) Prepare and paint your fabric. Your fabric as it comes from the store will likely have folds in it. If you like the folds and think they might show up nicely with the paint, leave them! Otherwise, iron them out. Paint all your fabric at once- this will save time and prevent you from ripping the fabric in the wrong place before you even start.

-Make sure to buy more fabric than you need. You may need some math help if you’re trying to figure out the best way to lay out your invitations on the material- if so, just ask the person cutting your fabric at the store. S/he will surely be experienced with yardage requirements! YOU WILL PROBABLY MESS PART OF THE FABRIC UP. Buy more than you need.

-Cover your work surface. Like, everything around your work surface. Be working outside- this stuff isn’t toxic, but it IS aerosol and aerosol stuff floats around where you’d last expect it to be.

-Spray judiciously at first, and follow the directions on the cans of Simply Spray. Mix where your different colors will be over the entire surface. I know it’s hard, but try to imagine each little piece of the fabric as being its own little work of art- because it WILL  be. Again, start with just a little, because you can always add more, but you can’t take any off.

-Use a spray bottle with water in various areas as you are spraying. It will cause different effects with the paint, like making it run and pool, or absorb more fully as it thins out. Do NOT over-water! Some areas of my fabric actually got ruined when a freak hail storm came through Los Angeles just minutes after I’d finished making the most awesome fabric ever. I was MAD!  However…

-If your fabric gets too wet (or somehow hailed on): hang it up vertically and gather bunches of it together with clothespins. That way, the pigment will drip off in a specific trajectory and make cool patterns as it gathers in those little “knots”. Make sure the clothespins are NOT colored wood- either naked wood or plastic- because the pigment in colored wood can come out and get all over your fabric, ew!

-Let fabric dry THOROUGHLY. Overnight is preferable.

3) Iron your fabric! This is VERY important. If it’s not flat, you can’t rip it into accurate sizes, which means your invitations will be all jacked. We actually had an “invitation-making party” to do steps 3 and 4 (plus some other wedding-y projects).

4) Tear your fabric. Use the most accurate measurements you can- this will save a LOT of time cutting on the back end. Cut fabric looks way less interesting than a more organically torn fabric, and tearing is cathartic! Measure each length exactly, then cut a tiny line with an Exacto if you need help starting the tear. We tore ours down to 8.5×11 in order to facilitate easy sewing to the rest of the parts, and then at the end we simply cut each one in half.

5) Print your fabric. This isn’t like put-in-the-laser-printer-and-press-go printing. This is OLD SCHOOL, baby. And it will be detailed in Part 2, because it’s a little technical!

Stay tuned….


“Empty and Meaningless”: A Morgan Culture Installation at Inglewood Public Library

In March 2012, I had the opportunity for a solo exhibition at the Inglewood Public Library. Inglewood definitely still has a reputation as a “bad neighborhood” from all those rap songs of the ’90s, but it is in fact a burgeoning conceptual art community. The studios at Beacon Arts Center and 1019 Manchester are full of truly talented artists, most of whom are making work that far surpasses the commercial notions now being sold in Venice and Santa Monica.

The Inglewood Library is one of the few in the Los Angeles area that offers an exhibition space to artists. Each artist has the space for one month. The library is also next to an unexpected urban park that encompasses City Hall and other municipal buildings. It’s just feet from one of the few surviving WPA murals in the country. You can learn more about the fascinating history and restoration of the “History of Transportation” mural here. 

When I walked in to the library and saw its exhibition space, I was confronted with the idea of trying to hang my work on a coarse beige pegboard surface. The artist who’d shown before me, a photographer, simply had his framed work hung by library-provided metal hooks in the pegboard. My work isn’t quite so accessibly hung.

Rather than attempting to conform my work to this totally unworkable aesthetic, I decided to simply cover up the pegboard and start with my own surface. I obviously had to leave parts of the pegboard that weren’t part of my exhibition space, but I covered most of the rest. And then I kept going. I had a velvet rope stanchion to work with, so I let the work fill the floor as well. I basically brought my studio to the library and unleashed it. Finished pieces, print roll-ups, ropes, pins, photos I tore and crumpled, old work, fabric yardage, screens, yarn, underpants… it’s all there.

I’ve never hung in a public space WITH the public in attendance during the hanging. I took 2 days to hang the show, and quite a few people stopped by and commented during that time. One elderly gentleman inquired, “What is this thing? It’s like when you cut out a bunch of pictures and put them together.”

“Yes, an installation,” I answered. “No,” he countered. “Like a bunch of photos out of a magazine.”

“Oh… you mean a collage?” “Yeah, that’s it.” He walked away.

Ten minutes later, he came back. “So what’s it about?”

“Well…” I hesitated. My artist’s statement was already hung- should I direct him to it, or was it too esoteric? “It’s like how the brain works- specifically the artist’s brain. You see all these flashes of things, ideas, colors, and sometimes you voice them and sometimes you don’t.”

“Yeah,” he nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, it’s a mess in our brains.”



Vintage Glamour Bridal Show: Images and Video

The Vintage Glamour Bridal Show in April at the Pasadena Sheraton was a HUGE success.

I didn’t find out until that day that Morgan Culture was the ONLY designer showing- so the expansive, well-lit pink and white runway you see was built just for MY designs !

As I’ve experienced with many shows, I had several last-minute stressors based on makeup artists and models cancelling. I ended up booking ten models- exactly the number I would need to show my ten looks- and four hair/makeup people. Remarkably, EVERY SINGLE one came promptly and had a great time!

With the theme of “Vintage Glamour”, the looks I chose for hair and makeup were all from the 1930s and 1940s- pin curls, bright red lipstick, high cheek blush. I asked the models to bring “cool vintage-y shoes”, and we ended up with some great looks.

The models all had headpieces in addition to gowns, and choosing the looks that matched (other than the ones that already come with a headpiece that matches the gown) was a fun process. I was flattered by the headpiece compliments I got from a millinery woman who had her cute tiny bridal top hats on display at the show!

As you know if you’ve seen any of my wearable sculpture shows, I love for the performers and the audience to have FUN! So for this show, I made little fake bouquets with 99cent store flowers and ribbon I had lying around in the studio, and I asked the models to make a big show out of throwing the bouquets into the crowd. The crowd loved it- particularly those bouquets that hit the chandelier. I gave away a cute feather and flower fascinator pin at the end of the show.

I received compliments about the eco-friendly nature of my gowns as well as the unique colors and concepts, though I did overhear a few criticisms on my way out… which means the gowns made their impression. At this show I launched my new tag line “Eco-Friendly Fashion for the Bad-Ass Bride”. I showed a new dress I’d finished at 2AM the night before- so be on the lookout for it!

A HUGE thanks to Relentless Weddings for shooting the video and photos here. Additional photos by Alicia Bravo.