Tuesday, 25 November 2014

St. Catherine's Day

St. Catherine of Alexandria is the patron saint of milliners. (Actually, she's quite the multi-tasker, being patron saint to a very long list of other constituencies and occupations.) Her special day is November 25. Traditionally, milliners make their unmarried female staff over the age of 25 a yellow and green hat (or fascinator) for the occasion, kind of a queen for a day thing.

I know, right?

Fortunately, modern milliners are making new traditions to celebrate millinery and each other, like hatty parties and gadabouts that have nothing to do with age or marital status, or even gender.

I have a lot to thank St. Catherine for this year. From the steady stream of clients I have had the good fortune to serve, who have found me despite minimal appearances at craft sales and St. Lawrence Market, to the astonishing outcome of the inaugural Queen's Plate millinery design competition, I am one happy and grateful milliner.

That's why I commissioned a commemorative pendant to be made by Maria Lopez , one of my erstwhile vendor neighbours at St. Lawrence Market. (I'm the "erst" one; Maria is still there.) Maria is fabulous with resin, which is why I asked her to make me a little keepsake with this lovely picture of St. Catherine by Bernardino Luini on one side.

This on the other:

A buckram tiara.

I was making a hat block with overlapping layers of wet buckram, and when I trimmed off the excess, this cool little tiara was the serendipitous result. I kept it, with no particular plan for it, just because I loved the whimsy of it, the way it accidentally turned out to be such a perfect little thing.

Winning the Queen's Plate competition gave me the idea of adopting it as my personal cipher. A buckram scrap seems a fittingly tongue-in-cheek crown for such an ephemeral moment of millinery glory. And St. Catherine's Day of this auspicious year seems like the perfect occasion to rebrand myself, with my new business name and logo:

And here is the St. Catherine pendant Maria made:

I love it. We're near inseparable.

Thank you, Maria, and thank you, St. Catherine, for your many blessings. Your devoted secular acolyte, Anne Livingston, Milliner.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

In Other News

I've been out and about a bit lately. Last weekend I was helping Joanna Furtado of Belle Boutique at the Wearable Art Show. This year it took place from Friday, October 24 through Sunday, October 26 at the Daniels Spectrum Building on Gerrard, just east of Parliament. I had passed by it often enough since it opened in 2012, with its now iconic Paintbox Bistro at the corner, but this was my first opportunity to go inside. It's a beautiful community space, with some neato little touches, like a fantastic mural of a kid on a swing, rendered entirely in keys (brass, house, lock... that kind), and a painted piano just inside the front door, inviting anyone to sit and play it, and they did and it was.

The Wearable Art Show took place in the Ada Slaight Hall, which was just perfect. Black and elegant inside, with a stage at the front for the daily fashion shows and tambour embroidery demos (read on!), yet natural light poured through the windows, so we didn't feel hermetically sealed in. Yay! Loved that part!

Over thirty vendors of wearable art displayed their work, and discerning shoppers got the jump on holiday self-adornment, beginning with an opening gala Friday night. Shopping is much more fun with a complimentary wine or beer and nibble in hand.

I didn't take many photos, but the ones I did were courtesy of Akvile Minkevicius of Art in Touch, creator of exquisite nuno felted accessories. She kindly lent me her camera, as I had forgotten mine. Akvile is lovely company and I hope you will have the opportunity of seeing her and her work at a show soon.

The view down our aisle. David Dunkley's hats are on the right. Caryl Richmond's reclaimed woollies are on the left, and behind her display is Catherine Curtis's.

Me at Belle Boutique's display. Photo by Akvile Minkevicius.

Tattoo-sleeve-inspired tambour embroidery jacket by Laurie Lemelin of Abrash Emboidery.

Akvile's Art in Touch booth. So beautiful. This is her photo, too.

And finally, this is Professor Robert Haven doing a demonstration of the tambour beading technique. It was great that he was on a stage, because a lot of the work in tambour beading takes shape upside down. His being elevated meant we could see what was going on under the frame.

A costume professor at the University of Kentucky, Robert learned at the famed Lesage embroidery house in Paris and also travels to teach this historic skill. He had just made his first appearance teaching sold-out classes at this year's Creativ Festival. Laurie Lemelin learned from him, and thanks to her heads-up, I had that opportunity myself at Ryerson University last year. I may have taken lessons from the master, but I have much to practise before I go around calling myself adept at this.

Moving on....

The day after the Wearable Art Show ended, I had a brief window of opportunity to see fashions and hats that belonged to Isabella Blow. She was a muse to emerging designers, some fresh out of fashion school, especially milliner extraordinaire Philip Treacy, and Alexander McQueen. Google her. It's quite the story and I won't be the one to tell it to you. I'm just going to show you lots of photos I took. (They let me! Nothing bad happened!)

Isabella Blow in a Philip Treacy hat.

Suffice it to say that her good friend and fellow fashionista, Daphne Guinness, bought her entire wardrobe at auction and brought it to The Room at the Bay. Everything was in as-worn condition -- heel holes in trains, fraying (from wear), cigarette burns, high heels worn hard. Signs of life. Wabi-sabi. Daphne Guinness said that Blow used to wear haute couture because she wanted to, regardless of occasion, and she wasn't wealthy. She'd do the dishes in them.

Philip Treacy and Ms. Guinness even flew in for a gala opening. For a few days, it was like a mini-museum inside the haute couture salon. So wonderful that mere mortals like moi (and my companion, Salome) could go and gawk for nothing. Thank you, Ms. Guinness and The Room!

Sorry there aren't many credits given, but you can find them elsewhere if you really want to.

The first thing we saw was very disarming.

The second thing we saw was actually in The Room, and part of the display, which was called Fashion Blows. Philip Treacy hat.

There's that tambour beading again. Amazing, isn't it? Tarun Tahiliani, 2006.

Philip Treacy butterfly mask. Rhinestones all along the central spines of the feathers.

Love this wavy hat.

Treacy and Simon Periton Black Anarchy cut foam,1999.

It only looks like python. It's stretched nylon print. Phew!

Mick Jagger's lips. Air kisses?

Black satin horns.

Black and white coat and red feather extravaganza.

Silver lace dress with built-in wave. I wonder how this moved on a walking person?

The seams on this were fascinating.

Circle of ostrich feather arrows.

More ostrich, hand-appliqued embroidery and a blowing veil.

I do hope she wore this grocery shopping or something.

Origami hat and wonderful sparkles.

Regency-ish embroidered black coat.

Embroidery detail showing signs of wear.

Love that mitred corner on the grosgrain.

I think of this one as Miss Havisham of the military. Maybe the French Lieutenant's Miss Havisham.

Miss H. from the front.

Awesome black lace and mauve moire coat.

The lace was tattered on purpose; it was sewn down around the tears.

This dress reminded Salome of stalactites.

Rows of trimmed feathers on a lapel.

Gold painted lace dress.

The gold rush continues, in satin.

Sleeve detail.

Rhinestone Manolos, clearly well loved and much worn.

Some of Daphne Guinness's own iconic fashion investments made their way into the show, too.

Like this one. Um, wow.

Close-up of the above.

Another, by Alexander McQueen, 2010.

Look at those wonderful folds at the sides.

And with these folds, we fold this post. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Juliet the First

Juliet's brother was getting married at Tower Bridge in London. The wearing of fascinators was mandated. Fortunately, the piece about my big day at the races had just been published in the Beach Metro Community News, so she now knew of a local milliner within walking distance.

Duly she emailed me photos of her dress and accessories, and the sort of fascinator she was thinking of, which was made from sinamay. Silver sinamay.

There is such a thing, but do you think I could source any? No. My suppliers were out of stock. Quel worrisome development.

You can dye sinamay, of course, but I don't know any milliner who knows how to dye it a shiny colour. If they do know, they're not sharing that secret, anyway. My only option was to paint it. Other milliners do it when necessary; I just never had before. So that's what I did.

Juliet liked the idea of a slightly scaled-down version of my Queen's Plate competition hat, slightly modified. So I created a new block for it. The new shape is more defined, and the fascinator blocked on it sits on the head better. Yay!

I made the fascinator base, and conducted paint tests with scraps of sinamay and feathers. Then I was ready to paint the blocked base and the sinamay trim elements and feathers. Nothing bad happened. Yay again!

Then the fascinator came together -- blingy with crystals, shimmery with silk charmeuse, shivery with oblong silver paillettes, spiky with feathers and loopy with, um, loops.

Juliet came to pick it up, with her mother and daughter, the day before their flight to London. Fortunately, the big reveal was a success. Quel relief! I just hoped I had packed it well enough into its hat box to survive the flight.

Juliet had kindly promised photos, and she didn't keep me waiting long for them. The piece survived the flight and did its job for Juliet with flying colours. "It got a ton of compliments" is always music to my milliner's ears!

Her Majesty was so pleased she sent me this collage of herself in flying colours. (Well, no she didn't, but I like this collage and I'm still going to use it.)

Juliet's commission did represent several firsts: my first reinterpretation of my winning hat, my first attempt at painting sinamay, my first piece for a London wedding. And my first local client post-local-news-story!

Herewith the photos:

Photo par moi.

Juliet at Tower Bridge

Juliet and her family.

Another family group. Her mother is on Juliet's left.

The End!