wearable sculpture + unique fashion


So What’s Block Printing, Anyway?

My one and only workshop this year at Craftcation indie biz and DIY conference, as you may have seen in the previous Craftcation post, is Block Printing. So… what is that? And why would it be good to know?

Let’s back up a little and talk about printmaking as a whole. Printmaking is basically anything you do that creates something with a repeated image (a textbook definition would be much longer and include all kinds of other cool things, like the word “matrix”, but I’m boiling it down here).


So block printing is using a “block” of something (more on that later) to create a relief print. That means you as the printer would carve pieces out of the block and what’s left (after you carve) will hold color and print onto a surface. The best surfaces to print on are fabric and paper, since they are both porous enough to hold ink well and regular enough that the ink prints uniformly.

Blocks can be made of anything from wood (difficult to carve, requiring special tools- these prints are known as wood-block prints) to linoleum (a specific kind of linoleum, also requiring special tools- these prints are known as lino-cut prints) to rubber (yes, rubber stamps are block prints!) to… potatoes. Yes, I have used potatoes in classes for printing! Potatoes are much less expensive than lino blocks or wood blocks, therefore allowing more experimentation and discards as people learn the process. Potatoes are obviously the most eco-friendly block printing solution, as they can be composted and do not need to be processed. I’d only recommend them for very basic shapes, though, as their consistency can make it difficult to carve intricate details. At Craftcation, we’ll have several printing options, none of which require a fancy press, and all of which can be easily done at home or at a small studio.


Why can block printing be useful for you? Well, most people still use paper business cards. What if each of your cards was hand-printed with a cool design or your logo? If you print your own business cards or letterheads at home, you could add the block print before or after adding your information. If you order your cards, you could add this design to the back or an empty area of your cards. Do you work in fabric or wrap your finished items in fabric? A beautiful touch would be to have unique hand-printed fabric that you know won’t be duplicated anywhere. Most items are delivered to customers in paper bags or even shipping envelopes- you could customize those as well. Basically any piece of paper or fabric that your customer sees can help further your brand and message, so you have opportunities to add a personalized touch to all of them with this skill.

And of course block printing has personal uses. What about wallpaper for your home? You can purchase some cheap, plain wallpaper and add your own pattern to it. And then there’s your clothing…. That old jacket could be updated and ever-so-chic with a new pattern added to it.

The Morgan Culture block printing workshop will be on Sunday at 12:30 at Craftcation 2013 in Ventura CA!

(photos above from Craftcation 2012)



Craftcation 2013: Indie Business and DIY Conference

Last year, I spoke at, taught a hands-on class at, and danced my booty off (see below) at a conference called Craftcation.

Craftcation is an Indie Business and DIY conference in Ventura, California. What does that mean?? Basically for me, it meant learning a bunch of stuff about how to run a small business, plus some cool hands-on creative workshops. Actually, Craftcation is what pushed me to start blogging (i.e. the thing you’re reading now) and doing more social media stuff. I still have a few things in the works from last year, so stay tuned as they develop! Also, Craftcation is where I met the people who run CRAFTED at the Port of Los Angeles- you know, the place with the Morgan Culture store that sells LAYGS leggings? Yeah, that marketplace gave us tons of swag and, well, now I’m there!

I HIGHLY recommend this event for anyone with a small creative business- even if it’s not crafty. The speakers are from tons of diverse backgrounds in things like SEO, web design, marketing, accounting, journalism (LA Times, people!!), manufacturing, franchising, and so much more. And they’re awesome.

Last year, I taught one business workshop, entitled “Breaking into the Art World”, showing people more on the craft side of art how to enter the fine art world, and one hands-on workshop, entitled “Textile Surface Design”, where I tried to teach WAY too many things at once. I had everything from the basics of screenprinting, block printing, Simply Spray fabric spray paint, and discharge- all in one 1.5 hour block! I was racing for time and barely got to answer questions. Here are some images of me teaching!

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Morgan Culture teaching screenprinting at Craftcation

Morgan Culture teaching screenprinting at Craftcation

One amazing thing I experienced at last year’s Craftcation was the amount of people who came to my workshops with questions already formed. One woman came from Washington state and brought fabric for me to look at to see if her printing technique was ok. Another woman completely inspired me with her desire to start an art gallery and shelter for underprivileged children in Compton and Inglewood, and she came to me for advice and support.

This year, I’m teaching only one workshop since I’m actually one of the event managers. I’m in charge of all the craft workshops/speakers! Hooray! However, this new role means I’m less able to teach while being accountable for the rest of the workshops. I’ll be teaching a Block Printing demo on Sunday in the very last presenter spot. For more info, go to http://www.craftcationconference.com and search for Morgan Culture under the “presenters” tab. This year, I’ll also have some LAYGS in the pop-up shop available for purchase!

Oh, and did I mention the 80s dance party at Craftcation?? Epic. That’s returning this year.IMG6537-M

If you’re considering attending this amazing conference but the price tag seems a little high, I have some news for you as well. Since I’m in charge of a bunch of volunteers working with me, I pretty much get to choose them. If you volunteer 2 days, you get to attend the other 2 for free. And you’ll be in the workshops the 2 days you volunteer, too! Contact me for details.

Craftcation is March 24-28, 2013.

Craftcation 2012 from Letter Box Films on Vimeo.

WOW 2012 Collaborative Entry: Full Pictures Gallery !

2012 has been a great year so far for Morgan Culture stuff ! One of the main things that’s kept me busy is the Brancott Estates World of Wearable Art show in Wellington, New Zealand. WOW doesn’t allow any photos to be released before the final judging takes place the night of the show, so I’ve been sitting on these pictures since we first entered, agonizing about not being able to release them! But now they are available for public consumption 🙂

You might remember this piece as my finalist piece in last year’s show…

This year, the WOW factor was taken to a whole new level when I collaborated with costumer Laura Brody. Laura has years of experience in the professional costume and fashion industries and is someone I admire greatly- so I was ecstatic for good reason when she agreed to work with me for WOW 2012! After reviewing the show’s entry sections for the year, we started our collaboration with some reference material from authors and artists we liked,



and then created the following sketches together.

These sketches were used through every step of the process!

We then went shopping. Yes, shopping! We scoured our own fabric collections for appropriate fabric, then ventured into the thrift stores and a military-surplus-slash-hardware-store place.
Next, we draped the piece using two mannequins to simulate our models. Laura used her famous staple draping technique, which she later taught as a workshop in Wellington while we were there for the show!

We completed this piece’s actual construction in just 3 days. Originally, we created the piece for the “musical symphony” section of the show, in which each piece needs to also be a musical instrument. The design of the piece includes a rudimentary “guitar”, made from giant rubber bands and a plastic tote, which the models can play from the inside. However, the piece “wasn’t loud enough” according to WOW judges, so we competed in the American Express Open section instead. Also, our use of all recycled fabrics and items qualified us to compete for the Shell Sustainability Award (though we did not ultimately win it).

The two inner garments were made with a stencil made from hot glue on a mirror, plus some added texture on the garments with 3-D textile paint.

Assembly involved two sewing machines at the same time, lots of coffee, and fun. Lots of fun.

And of course, final surface decoration with Simply Spray fabric paint.

We nailed this piece in just a few weeks from original concept to final submission photo shoot (thanks, Relentless Cinematography, for the images)! It got in, so we stuck it in a box and sent it to the end of the Earth, where we then got to spend two weeks exploring after the epic show.

Working together was a breeze. Sometimes, collaborations can get icky and people compete for control. Laura and I have the perfect balance of skills the other doesn’t- not to mention our compatible design aesthetics, eye for final output (even when seeing scarves at the thrift store and deciding which would make the best tendrils when washed), and our equitable division of labor. We had literally ZERO disagreements during this whole process, and the entire experience was healthy and fun!

For those who don’t know, I’d describe WOW as Cirque du Soleil on steroids. Singers, children, ballet dancers, projection, live music, and crazy costumes.

So looking forward to next year! Laura and I will each be submitting separate garments, plus another collaboration. And we expect to come back to the US with some serious WOW awards in 2013, so get ready!

Oh, and in case you didn’t get enough… our hilarious dressing instructions for this piece!

Announcing Morgan Culture RETAIL space!

Starting November 2, Morgan Culture will have a real-life retail location at CRAFTED at the Port of Los Angeles!! From CRAFTED’s website: “CRAFTED AT THE PORT OF LOS ANGELES is a new concept for Southern California; a large-scale permanent craft marketplace. Our classic World War II-era waterside warehouses will grow to be home to hundreds of individual craft-artists, designers, and artisanal food makers. Each artist presents their unique handcrafted goods in a vibrant patchwork of market stalls. Visitors will be treated to a huge variety of one-of-a kind treasures and have the chance to meet the makers every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – that’s 52 weekends a year of handmade happiness! The marketplace will also be showcasing daily demonstrations, live music, special events, and of course delicious food from our fabulous food trucks.” The hours my shop will be open are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11AM-6PM. I’ll be offering sweet in-store discounts, doing demonstrations, and generally meeting cool peeps. The store contains my newest product, LAYGS by Morgan Culture (hand-painted leggings), headpieces, and – wait for it – a WHEEL OF LEGS. Yes, you read that right. A WHEEL OF LEGS! I’ll also be featuring work from a few other artists and designers here and there, including some amazing T-shirts from AffirmaTees, in the first few months! Stay tuned, and please come visit me 🙂 See you at CRAFTED!

IMAGES of Morgan Culture at May Star’s Diamond Dust Show: San Diego, CA!

As promised, here are the photos from May Star’s Diamond Dust Show at Kitty Diamond in San Diego. This was the first time I’d mixed my wearable sculpture with my couture and wedding gowns all in one show. I found it quite challenging to conceive of a stage presentation that would make sense for this combination, and I really despise having my models just walk around and pose in my stuff.

My work, particularly the wearable sculpture, is meant to be really moved in. It’s meant to create characters and visceral reactions. I can’t just have girls stomping up and down a runway and posing! In the past at fashion shows, I’ve had multiple pieces on stage simultaneously, interacting with each other, in order to make a splash. I love standing back and watching the audience react to my unexpected stage presentation and even more unexpected sculpture at fashion shows. Morgan Culture segments at these shows tend to end up closer to the world of performance art as I ask my models to “do something they’ve always wanted to do on stage but have never had the opportunity to.” Even at more conservative bridal shows, I’ve had my models doing fun and different things like throwing fake flowers at the audience or dancing around. This show could be no different.

Since I had even numbers of sculpture/couture and wedding gowns, I decided to have the girls in gowns “marry” the weird sculptur-ey creatures. I chose one costume (the one displayed at last year’s Inglewood Open Studios exhibition at the Beacon Arts Center) as a shaman type who would marry the two together. I know it’s ridiculous that I didn’t think of this beforehand, but this show occurred during San Diego’s Gay Pride weekend. It didn’t even cross my mind that my show idea would be related to gay marriage- what a happy accident! I had oodles of compliments coming from all types of audience members (some of whom had outfits to rival the ones on stage)!

The only problem with this unique performance-style arrangement on stage (rather than the typical walk and pose) was the logistics. I didn’t realize I’d planned to have the models leaving off the wrong end of the stage- the opposite end of where the other designers’ models were going to end up. I had to quickly shift the plans, which made the whole program much more confusing for the models, who weren’t used to this type of thing in the first place.

Also, since several models didn’t show, our HAIRSTYLIST actually volunteered to walk in the show! I had her in one of my outfits, but when the show didn’t start early enough (she had a wedding to style super-early in the morning), she ended up leaving, which put a kink in the lineup of the show. I’d paired her to “marry” someone, and then had to change on the fly right before my lovely ladies walked onstage! Overall the experience was a blast and I wish I could attend more Diamond Dust events! The models enjoyed the freedom they had and each model had a completely different personality shining through during the performance.

The pictures are fabulous and I truly thank everyone who helped make this a reality. Oh, and a video, taken by the partner of one of my lovely ladies, is HERE !

On Showing Where You Don’t Live

Recently, I was the featured designer at May Star’s Diamond Dust event in San Diego, California. Although it’s a mere 3 hours away from LA, I’d never been to San Diego. That also meant I didn’t know anyone who lived there (i.e. models, hair/makeup, lodging).

Morgan Culture with the other designers at May Star’s Diamond Dust show!

May asked me to show 15 looks, which is quite a lot! The last few runway shows I’ve done were around 8-10 looks. The difference between 10 and 15 may not seem like much, but for a designer is quite significant. Many designers do not like to show the same work more than once; they create new lines or looks for each show.

I started searching for models by sending out a model call to my usual Los Angeles model crew. Since I wasn’t paid for this show, I couldn’t offer any pay or even gas money for my models, but the opportunity was available should they want to join me. I also asked for recommendations for their model friends in San Diego. Although one of my models chose to come with me, this approach was mostly a dead end.

Next, I pursued friends. I messaged people in the fashion industry, other designers, and people I knew who’d lived in or near San Diego previously. I received a few referrals, but most of those models were busy and a few were already modeling for other designers in the show (we try to avoid having models double up for designers, since we keep makeup and hair consistent for each designer’s looks and since the logistics of having models switching outfits can be quite difficult to manage successfully).

I posted a model call on Model Mayhem and immediately received quite a bit of interest. However, I was informed that no models under 21 could participate in the show, and all the messages I’d received were from under-21 models. Boo.

I then checked in with the organizer of the show, May Star, who had offered her help finding models if I had any trouble (which I clearly was). She posted a model call for me on her facebook- just one simple post- and within an hour had around 20 responses from models or from people referring models to her. This was wonderful and landed me some solid models as well as a few cool connections who are now friends. However, I didn’t have nearly enough models. You see, due to the pandemic of Model Flake Factor, most designers overbook models by at least 1.5 times the amount we need (though I personally always bring enough garments for everyone, in the near-impossible event that all models show up). I didn’t even have enough for my line yet, not to mention the overbooks!

The Discerning Designer’s Last Resort: Craigslist. I posted an ad on craigslist and had dozens of emails roll in. I realized I hadn’t specified whether I was seeking male or female models, so I had to clarify the ad. I actually ended up having to pull down my ad because my overbook quota was complete as well!
Out of the 20 models I booked, 12 showed up. Though I got a little antsy about lacking a few models, our very cute and very adventurous HAIRSTYLIST happened to fit one of my gowns perfectly and decided to walk in the show!
All the images and the video, with a full description of the show, will be included in the next post, so stay tuned!

MorganCulture Partners with Headbands of Hope !

Jessica Ekstrom, a rising senior at North Carolina State University, recently visited my Los Angeles studio to discuss her new company, Headbands of Hope. She started Headbands of Hope after she found herself inspired by her Make a Wish Foundation internship. Headbands of Hope is an incredibly inspiring organization that provides cute headbands to girls with cancer. For each headband purchased, Headbands of Hope provides one headband to a girl with cancer, AND donates $1 to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds life-saving childhood cancer research.

I will soon be releasing a line of fashionable headbands specifically for Headbands of Hope! In the meantime, however, any purchase of a Morgan Culture headpiece will result as follows: 40% of the purchase price will be donated to Headbands of Hope, and one little girl with cancer will receive a headband!

I’m honored to be a part of something so moving and I look forward to your partnership as well. If you’re not the headpiece type, please pass this on to someone who is- or better yet, buy one for her!

My current headpieces and headbands include birdcage veils, colorful headbands, hand-painted fabric, and quirky additions of all kinds. They’re great for many types of events- not just weddings and formal affairs.

For more about Headbands of Hope, click HERE. To purchase a Morgan Culture headpiece and add some beauty to the life of a little girl with cancer, click HERE.