wearable sculpture + unique fashion

Wearable Sculpture

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 ūüôā

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!


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 !

“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.”



The Ins and Outs of Sending Art Out

… out of the country, that is.¬†

Yesterday, two of my pieces (one of them a collaboration with Dreams by Machine) shipped off to New Zealand! Before participating in the World of Wearable Art show, I’d never sent anything overseas other than for a mail art project or for showing myself in random places in China and Korea (more on that in other posts coming soon).

The whole process is quite difficult and confusing. There are weird numbers involved in shipping merchandise overseas, and forms to fill out, and people speaking a different language. 


I’ve come up with three tips so far:

1) Have as much information as you can about your shipment before contacting anyone. This includes:

-How much your shipment weighs (altogether). I did mine the rudimentary way- by standing on a scale alone, then standing on the scale with the package, and subtracting. In this case, having two packages involved a little more math, but all basic. You can handle it.

-Exact dimensions. For this year’s show, I had two packages, so I had to include dimensions of both. This will help the shippers know how to deal with what you’re dropping off. Make sure to specify INCHES if it’s small, since most of these freighting companies are used to truckloads of material showing up, not a little Hyundai Elantra with a box in the backseat and one in the trunk.¬†

-Value. Note that for the US, any shipment with a declared value of over $2500 requires some kind of customs form (AES, an acronym which was never explained to me), which costs an extra $75 to fill out and file. 

2) Work with a specific representative at a specific company. 

Last year, I worked with a woman who was able to walk me through each step of each form in person in the office. I highly recommend working with Mainfreight, one of the sponsors of WOW, and its outgoing branch, Carotrans. While I’m not sure what Mainfreight’s services normally cost, since WOW allows us to have a flat shipping rate with Mainfreight, its customer service is impeccable. The representatives are almost always at their phones, are very helpful and efficient both on the phone and in person, and despite their huge contracts with multi-dimensional shippers, they spend time helping individuals get these paperwork things sorted.¬†

This year I’m bouncing back and forth between the woman I worked with last year and another representative, and, as in all three-way communication, things are getting left out and the whole chain is becoming confusing. Choose a rep and stick with him/her!

3) Talk with people in the warehouse you’re dropping off/picking up at.

Though these people can appear a bit intimidating and unapproachable while driving forklifts at 40 mph and wearing hard hats, these are the people who will be actually touching your work. Making contact with them can be quite beneficial. Furthermore, they don’t often get to find out what’s inside the boxes they ship, so (in my experience) they love the opportunity to get to know what’s passing through the facility.¬†

When I picked up my piece from last year, the person retrieving my box (who first brought out another artist’s piece- Santa Monica’s Amy Jean Boebel’s work) talked to me for a half hour about art, the show in New Zealand, and what was next for me. He called two of his colleagues over to watch me open the box (this piece didn’t fit in my car while in the box, but fit in the backseat unpacked).¬†Image

And yesterday, while dropping off my two boxes, I found out that it’s better to have smaller, loose boxes (i.e. smaller than 3’x’3’x3′- which is pallet size) shrink-wrapped, and that this service costs extra. I became flustered looking for information on this, but the forklift driver (Donald- thanks man!) saw my worry, and, after I’d opted for sending sans shrink-wrap, told me he’d “throw some shrink wrap on it anyway; it’ll really bang around if not.” So I suppose this point may include a fourth- to make your shipment pallet-sized, but I’m not sure that’s necessary with people like Donald around.¬†

Morganculture Craftcation Workshop: Textile Surface Design

I’m still in the midst of digesting all the amazing information and people I encountered at Craftcation Conference a few weeks ago. During my textile design workshop, many participants were asking for additional information or handouts ! Well, here is exactly what I put on my handout, with a few extra bonus tips. Oh, and keep in mind that we didn’t get time to do “fabric lazing” or “collagraph”, but I’ll put a tutorial up on it soon, and it will for sure be shown live at next year’s Craftcation!

Screen Printing/ Serigraphy

Full kits available from Speedball and at Dick Blick/Michaels.




Water-soluble textile ink (OR acrylic with extender base or textile medium)- Akua recommended

High-pressure sink

Drawing medium/ screen filler

Emulsion remover (Greased Lightning recommended)

*Note- we are not discussing photo-silkscreen, so you will actually have to draw your design

We will not cover advanced topics like registration/multiple colors unless we have time and/or special requests

Fabric Lazing (A MorganCulture Original Process!)


Water-soluble paint (acrylic recommended) or dye

If using dye, outdoor salt


Lots of time!


Stenciling, overall painting, upholstery



Moveable adhesive

SimplySpray fabric, stencil, or upholstery paint (even works on synthetic satin!!)

Rit dye (for effect with SimplySpray)

Squirt bottle

*If hand-painting, acrylic paint WITH textile or floating medium

Lino Cut


Linoleum block (best if mounted to wood at type height)

Small press or baren (or wooden spoon!)

Lino cutting tools (set is best)

Block printing ink


Mirror or glass palette

Collagraph (not active in demo)

Used in an etching press (best, if you have access to one) or with your CAR + a board or with a baren/spoon like linocut


‚ÄúPlate‚ÄĚ: Sintra (sign-making material), cardboard, anything

Decorative marks, tools, etc.

Ink (traditionally etching ink with loads of modifier, Akua water-soluble also recommended for non-toxic practices and easy clean-up)


Essentially strategic bleaching


Dischargeable fabric (can be ordered, or try your fabric- recently dyed  and natural fiber work best)

Discharge paste

Application medium: block print, screen print, brush-on

Iron (let paste dry and then iron with press cloth for 10 minutes, then wash fabric)



The Complete Printmaker (unofficially the Printmaker’s Bible): Chapters on relief printing, silkscreen, collagraph.

-Hand-press and Inks: Akua

-Textile spray paints: SimplySpray

-Other at-home screen printing ideas: Seminars by Urban Craft Center here at Craftcation!

-Discharge methods and supplies: Dharma Trading

-Basics on colorways and pattern layout, as well as other techniques: Textiles, a Handbook for Designers

I adore feedback and questions!


Ok, so that’s the info on the handout. I wanted to add some stuff: Firstly, next year’s Craftcation will include FOUR surface design workshops (all taught by me, of course). I really got that 2 hours is NOT enough time to teach all of these techniques simultaneously, plus be inside and outside at the same time for the SimplySpray demos.

If you’re doing wearable sculpture, upcycled garments, or textile design, these workshops will be great. I especially find a lot of these techniques very helpful for my upcycled gowns, because it’s SO HARD to get any kind of pigment to stay on a synthetic satin blend of any kind.

As my handout says, please contact me with any questions! Oh- and enjoy these photos from my participants at Craftcation- thanks to Coco Gallery photography for getting the ones of me teaching!

WOW 2012: Going to New Zealand !

Awesome news: 2 of my wearable sculptures are going to New Zealand for the Brancott Estates World of WearableArt ! This will be my second year participating in the show, and I’m so excited.

One of these pieces is a throwback to the ol’ grad school days at Washington University in St. Louis– those of you who have seen some older Morgan Culture shows may recognize it (after the show; I unfortunately can’t show any images of it online before the judging- but I CAN send them to you if you’re on my mailing list! Join it here).

The other piece was a collaboration between me and my friend Laura Brody; you can see her amazing costumes and wearable sculpture  here.

Laura and I went all the way from concept (sketching, jumping around, and generally spazzing out while finishing all the wine available at our place) to final execution (fabulous photo shoot by Relentless Film) in just a few short weeks.

We can’t show pictures of the final garment because of competition restrictions, but here are a few pieces of our working process.