wearable sculpture + unique fashion

Archive for June, 2012

Hosting the International


Last year, one of my personal AND professional goals was to have more contacts and friends outside the USA. An incredibly quick and easy means of achieving this goal was presented to me through CouchSurfing.org. Through CouchSurfing, we’ve now hosted people in our homes from over 10 different countries, whether their time with us be a few hours or a week. We also extended our time in New Zealand (where we’d traveled for the World of Wearable Art show I was a designer in) and stayed with CouchSurfing hosts there.

This month, we’ve expanded our international hosting capacity to include being a “host family” for a high school student from Spain for three weeks. The program he’s studying with is called Yep! Youth Educational Programs

One of the things I love about having international travelers stay with us is their outside perspective on the US art and craft market. I enjoy hearing opinions on my work, particularly from those who are not involved in any art industry anywhere, because sometimes I forget that most of the people I know are involved with art somehow. Hosting other people reminds me that my work in the art world is still part of the OTHER WORLD- you know, the world. Critical opinion of my work is always helpful for me, but I often put my work (including my sculpture) in more publically-accessed locations (such as fashion shows- remember the Sugar Goes Steampunk Fashion Show?) and I need to remember that non-critics have opinions as well!

Alberte is with us until July 15!


An AMAZING Poem Appropriate for MY Kind of Couple!

You know my new tagline is “Eco-Friendly Fashion for the Bad-Ass Bride”… well, THIS is a poem that would be appropriate for any couple involving a Bad-Ass Bride !

The poem is from Tinsel Tokyo Magazine V 6.0.

Don’t you wish your couch was AWESOME like me ?

Alright, this is a semi-tutorial, Morgan Culture style.

SimplySpray, the fabric spray paint company I often rave about, recently stopped hiding from me its line of fabric upholstery paint. Or I just can’t believe I didn’t already know about it. Naturally, I had to give it a try.

My couch was bought quickly and cheaply on Craigslist. Whoever designed it should have all his/her design credentials completely stripped. The couch structure is fine, and it’s got a good little hide-a-bed inside: perfect for Couch Surfers, and for that time the ceiling in the bedroom randomly collapsed. But the aesthetics… eesh. When we got it, the couch came with a red slipcover for obvious reasons.

 The beige main part of the couch had stains all over it, and the CUSHIONS. Oh, the cushions. The cushions are, for some unfathomable reason, a red-green flowery pattern on the top and bottom AND a yellow-green plaid on the sides. What’s that, you say? I get both floral AND plaid in one? Yes, indeed.

The back of the couch was originally large horrid pillows that matched those I-hope-they’re-fabric-remnant cushions. We threw those away after politely bringing them home from the seller, and replaced those pillows with backing pillows from another beige couch. We at least had SOME continuity. We got a new slipcover, then another, as our dogs* tore through them with their sharp chew-bones… and we thought we’d continue surviving on slipcover after slipcover until we finally had the cash to buy grown-up furniture.

Well, grown-up furniture came sooner than expected. I used a fancy paper cutout from the scrapbooking section of the craft store as my stencil (no offense, scrapbookers). I used both a forest green and an olive color on the beige part of the couch, leaving some of the beige showing through, and layering the two colors over each other. I started with the olive, added the forest, and went back with a bit more olive. I just sprayed one or two touches of my pattern over the back pillows.

The CUSHIONS. Should I leave them in all their glory, I thought to myself? No- then we’d have three mismatched patterns and the couch would become a Magic Eye. I initially tried to use the gray upholstery paint, but it would have taken several more cans than I had to cover that contrast with the flowers. Then I tried the dark green. Same story- lost over the gray, just turned all the flowers green. The two layers together DID fade out the flowers and contrast enough that they were subtle and looked way more intentional. The plaid, since it entered the world a lighter color, was more easily covered up. After racking my brain for ideas on how to pull the design together, I decided on another SimplySpray product- the Stencil Spray. I used the white texture paint very VERY lightly and from far away with the same stencil to bring some lightness back into the cushions. The cushions, still wet with the most recent layer of upholstery paint, absorbed some of the white instead of leaving it all on top, which is exactly what I wanted. The white-ish layer now brings the beige in, and because it was done over a wet layer, feels soft and not “crunchy”.

Success! Oh- and did I mention, these upholstery paints don’t smell bad?

Stains covered. Cushion crisis averted. Not a bad day’s work. And we’re not trying to get rid of it for “grown-up” furniture anymore.

Notes for those considering this project:

-Do one color at a time, and let each dry before you start the next.

-Spread your tarps/dropcloths WAY further than you think the spray will reach. These cans are much larger than the smaller apparel paint ones, and it’s awfully hard to get the couch outside and then back inside, so if you’re working inside remember THESE ARE AEROSOL and you WILL get paint on your floor, walls, self, dogs…. everything, unless you are incredibly careful.

-Buy several stencils. While the stencil paint for apparel will actually preserve your stencils by reinforcing them, the upholstery paint does more soaking. Remember that if you’re using the same kind I used, the stencils are PAPER-based and will fall apart when wet. I went through about 4 stencils for this couch.

-If you’re not painting your entire couch, and leaving some of the original color showing through like I did, you don’t need many cans. Two cans of olive were enough, and less than one can of forest (I used the rest, plus a second can, for the cushions).

*Note: adorable puppies are not included with the upholstery paint. We already had them. Thank you to them and Relentless Cinematography for the photos!

Am I making more fabulous Morgan Culture wedding gowns in the midst of all this couch madness, you ask? Why of course! Stay tuned….

MAKE-ROOM SALE! All Fall Morgan Culture gowns are 40% off!

I’m running out of room in my studio, so all of last season’s gowns are 40% off!

That means prices for these gowns begin at JUST $450.


I’m hard at work on several new gowns for next season, so stay tuned- and don’t forget, if you’re getting married this summer and want to have your dress Culture-fyed for a day-after photo shoot or so you can wear it as a cocktail dress, you know who to call!


HOW TO make layered fabric wedding invitations, part 3 (FINAL PART!)

This is it! The final post on how to make these awesome layered wedding invitations.

After you’ve dyed your fabric (Part 1) and printed your fabric (Part 2), print your paper pages.

We used a normal Brother desktop printer for this full load of prints, and we didn’t need to change the ink cartridge or anything. It did initially have trouble feeding the vellum, but we found out that tray feeding worked out really well. If you’re using an unusual kind of paper, make sure to test and re-test in your printer!

We chose this arrangement of paper because our wedding has three events all over North America, so we wanted our little “map” logo to show through with the information for each event in the general location it would happen in. The first two sheets were vellum (a very cheap kind, #110 technical vellum for drafting, which is sold in art stores in bound tear-out book form). If you’re using vellum, make sure it’s the opacity and thickness you want- and if you’re printing it yourself instead of bringing it to a printer, make sure it’s in a printable size! Most of the vellum packages we saw (particularly the fancy-shmancy ones) came in sizes too large for our printer, and the thought of cutting 150 sheets of it was not appealing.

We sprayed the sheets of vellum with spray fabric glitter by Tulip. We bought some paper glitter (“smooch spray” was the brand), but it ended up laying on too heavy for the number of layers we had, and the fabric stuff kept the paper from wrinkling.

Our backing sheet is a semi-glittery cardstock purchased from the craft store in the scrapbooking section. We wanted something with a bit more structure than the fabric and vellum to keep the whole thing together.

This is very IMPORTANT: After printing your paper, DO NOT CUT IT! You’ll want it to stay 8.5×11 until the very last step.

1) Print your paper. Make sure you have at least one mock-up of the final (particularly if you’re using a translucent paper) so you know how everything lines up.

2) Line up all layers of your invitation, including the top fabric layer. You may want to pin all the layers together, but we found the pins actually bent the paper enough that the final products ended up slightly off from each other. It worked better to just feed it through the sewing machine while holding it all together. 

3) Prepare your sewing machine. I highly, HIGHLY recommend hardcore quilting thread (Gutermann) for both the thread and the bobbin. Regular thread breaks often from sewing through all those layers. Also, make sure to adjust your thread tension (the little dial with the numbers on it). Check your machine’s manual for more specifics. Remember that ANY time the thread breaks and your machine sews with no thread, each dive of the needle will create a hole in your paper. Sewing over it more than once puts a lot of unsightly holes in!

4) Sew away! Use the width guides to make sure you’re going in a consistent, straight line. I recommend a wide zig zag stitch, because you won’t want to do any reverse stitches to make sure the thread stays in place. Note that the fabric may not end up perfectly aligned with the invites- that’s fine as long as none of your writing on your paper shows through. You’ll be cutting these down anyway.

5) Cut your invitations. Use an exacto and a self-healing cutting mat. Mark your mat so you know exactly which line to cut on- I marked exactly where half of 8.5×11 would be, so that I could line up the MIDDLE of the invitations. If I’d lined up only one side, most of these would end up off-center. I cut off all edges that didn’t match up- sometimes from the fabric, sometimes from the paper. Each of these is totally individual! You’ll want these slightly smaller anyway, since you’re trying to get them into envelopes!

6) Do the envelopes. Print these with easy templates in your word processing program of choice, or from Stamps.com, which offers envelope design along with the actual postage (they also, I just found out, offer photo stamps FREE- as in the stamp only costs what a normal stamp would be if you print it from your home printer!!).

7) Stuff envelopes and mail!

I’d love your comments or questions on these- please steal this idea!!

Morgan Culture Tutorial: HOW TO make layered fabric wedding invitations (Part 2: Lino-cut)

This is the second step in making these layered fabric wedding invitations! In Part 1, you learned how to prepare, paint, and tear your fabric.


This part will include how to print your fabric (the old school way). A cool video tutorial  by Blick Art Materials is Here. (just notice she does a few things I specifically say to NOT do- like laying her brayer on its face, eek!). If you already know how to do a lino-cut, you might want to read this just to get a few new tips, but it’s overall a very basic description of a lino-cut.

For printing, you’ll need:

A linoleum block (I prefer the wood-mounted type height blocks- they are type height for if you are using a letterpress- which we aren’t- but are easier to maneuver as you work. Also, beware of rubber stamp blocks, usually pink, which are completely inferior)

Set of linoleum cutting tools (Speedball’s set  is cheap, convenient, and works fine)

Mirror (for rolling out ink on- if you don’t have one available, hardware stores sell them in packs. If you purchase these, tape the mirror to a piece of cardboard to protect yourself from its sharp edges. Mirrors are best to see your ink on because any color under the ink- even white- can alter your perception of the color and how it will look on your particular fabric, whereas on a mirror the ink can only reflect itself and its own color)Block printing ink (Speedball, again, is perfectly good. One tube should print plenty- we used 2 colors on 140 invitations and 30 guest bags and still have plenty left in each tube. Use water-based ink for easy and environmentally-friendlier cleanup)

Brayer (Again, Speedball makes a few. The brayer is the most expensive part of this whole endeavor and you’ll likely want to keep it, so TAKE CARE OF IT! First criteria: make sure your brayer is not bigger than your block. This is very important, because if you’re consistently rolling the brayer over a too-small block, you’ll wear a groove into your brayer and it will never lay ink on the same way again. I got one that was almost exactly the depth of the block but slightly smaller. Also, NEVER rest your brayer on its rolly-part. Lay it on its back with the metal part holding it up so the rolly-part doesn’t touch the table/surface).

1) Plan your block. This step is IMPERATIVE- remember that anything you carve into the block will print BACKWARD. It’s a stamp. And if you mess it up, you won’t be able to fix it. So watch especially for your text !!

You can use a transfer method to put your image on your block backwards after you print it on a piece of paper, which could save you some time. The old-schoolest method of this is to just print your design, color over it in a heavy drawing pencil, lay it onto your block, and color on the design again with a pencil from behin

d.Also, make sure to use a high-contrast image (not a lot of gradient). Grays and gradients can be really hard and frustrating for beginners to try to carve.

2) Heat your block. Use a hairdryer or heat gun (heat gun on VERY LOW so as to not melt the block). The heat will make it cut like buttah.3) Cut your block. REMEMBER: The stuff you cut out is the part that will NOT print; i.e. you are carving out a relief of the image you will actually see. The stuff that will print is the stuff that’s left. Use your lino-cut tools appropriately- some are obviously for smaller sections, others are for larger sections, and the big knifey-thing is for cutting out large areas. At the end of each stroke you do, pull the tool UP so you aren’t ripping any extra linoleum off the block. A great lino-cutting tutorial is here. Keep in mind that one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of a lino cut is the “chatter”- those strokes that aren’t quite carved out, that pick up a little ink. You can see in our block that I purposely arranged the chatter in a cool pattern and left quite a bit of it- it would have been WAY easier to cut those empty sections out completely with the knifey-thing, but cutting them in small strokes in that pattern gave us a very cool final product. Plan your chatter, and err on the side of leaving too much. You can always cut it down more later if you’ve got too much.

3A) Proof your block. You want to test it out to see if you like how it prints before you get ready to do a million invitations! Follow the next few steps on inking and printing.

4) Roll out your ink. Take your mirror and put a blob of ink on it. If your ink is brand new or has been sitting a while (or is a metallic hue), it may have excess oil that comes out, like ketchup does. Make sure you wipe this oil up or get rid of that portion of the ink, because otherwise the ink will be very thin, or even translucent, when it prints. Using your brayer, spread the ink out. Don’t just roll back and forth- pick your brayer up at the top of each stroke so that the ink refreshes across the brayer and the mirror. Your ink should have an orange-peel texture and should make a sticky sound. If your ink has rows of marks in it instead of an orange peel texture, you have too much ink down. You can scrape off some of your ink slab and continue with thinner ink. If you don’t see a texture or part of your brayer rolls out empty on your mirror, you don’t have enough ink. Watch the tutorial here (at 1:03) for the noise and texture your ink should have.

5) Ink your block. I didn’t give information on how to do what’s called a “rainbow roll” like our invitations have (with the green fading to black), so that will come later and we’ll keep it basic for now 🙂 Roll your brayer over the block until the block has the same texture your slab had- the orange peel. You’ll need to roll it back in the ink and then back on the block a few times. If when you print the image is smeary, you may be over-inking. If your print is light, your ink may be dry or you may be under-inking. You should print a bunch of tests before you’re ready to use your actual fabric.

6) Print. Again, proof your print several times to make sure your ink is right and will lay well on the fabric before you actually start printing. And make sure you like the amount of chatter that’s showing up- if not, go back to step 3 and remove more block.  Make sure to re-ink your block before every print! Try to land the print in the same place on every piece of fabric so you have consistency.

When you print, you can either use a little press (one’s shown in the pictures here) or a wooden spoon. I prefer the spoon method, because it’s even more old-school. And it’s a SPOON. Slowly lay your fabric over the block, leaving the block facing upright. Start at one side of the block while you’re laying the fabric down. Use your spoon’s round back and rub it in a circular motion all over the block. Make sure to cover the whole thing, and make sure you’re using pressure (not TOO much pressure). You may find the ink is coming through your fabric and onto your spoon if you have thin fabric, so you may want to use a paper or another piece of cloth between the spoon and your print. I don’t usually, because I like to see the print showing up on the fabric.

7) Allow to dry. You should let these dry for at least a few hours- overnight if you’re using oil-based ink.

8) Clean up. Make sure to wash the rolling part of the brayer AND the sides. Rinse off your block with water (some say to not use water on linoleum, but I do). Use your razor to scrape off your mirror and wipe all that ink on some paper towels or shop towels. You likely won’t need any water for the mirror.

Step 3 is all the rest! I know, step 2 was long- but it’s all worth it 🙂

Me teaching this at Craftcation Conference! Thanks to the Coco Gallery for the photo.