Monday, November 17, 2008

Recipe for Creation #1...the results are in!

If you are new to this project be sure to click on the first blog to see how this all manifested itself and the goals of "Recipe for Creation" collaboration.
Recipe #1: Blue Election Dream Fricassee


a smattering of election ballot or other political paraphernalia
a dash of electric blue
a hand-stitched image
a word or image from a dream


1) Begin with a dream you remember vividly. Choose some dreamy music and warm up by dancing out your memory of the dream. You can dance out the roles of the different characters, the action that took place, or just the overall feeling of it. Do this blindfolded.
2) Choose something from your dream dance that stood out to you. It can be a word, a sensation, a person, a scene… Whatever! This is your starting point.
3) Tear up some newspapers from election week. Tear for the sheer pleasure of tearing! Take a couple of scraps from your mess, or use your absentee ballot, or other political paraphernalia and add it to the mix.
4) Go wild choosing blues, wielding your needle and throwing in whatever else strikes your fancy. Don't think too much. Work quickly, freely and most importantly, have fun!

Recipe #1 was a hard exercise of abandonment. So much so I was almost paralyzed from beginning the exercise despite an obvious side of me that desperately wants to do more free-style art.

What emerged was a sinking feeling that in doing this project I would come up empty, that I am void of spontaneity due to a world where I feel compelled to constantly be calculating.

Despite my fears and armed with a sliver of hope I didn’t let my doubts stop me. I took the plunge and put on Ulrich Strauss and went into the space of dreamland.

First off let me say that I am a heavy dreamer. In fact, I feel I dream too much sometimes so I don’t feel rested. On the day I began the process I had several dreams that had left impressions on me, but I decided to go with the one I felt most strongly in my body. I had a dream where I was delving into a vagina. I feel a bit shy putting this out for the whole world to see but I hope it will resonate with other females when I say that the vagina is the core of my femininity and place of great mystery. And recently the vagina represents to me the courage I finally have found to and dive into the dark, unknown places of my soul that scare me.

The first image here is my first mangled creation. I found it to be repulsive, sloppy and meaningless. It was a struggle to enjoy what my hands were creating. After a while however, I found some joy in the motions of the work and found a fabric and a technique that resonated with the inner voice trying to be expressed. Then I moved onto a new piece as seen in the second picture titled “Worthiness of Yuck”.

Throughout the process as I tied up bits of ballots with string and sewed in dashes of electric blue I found it challenging to keep from judging myself and what I was doing.

Recipe #1 made it very clear that I am very attached to making attractive things. Most of my life has been spent creating beauty around me, and even my personality clings to the identity of being constantly optimistic and happy.

This past six months I am finally ready to explore my raw sides, the ugliness and the mess. As an artist I think I validate my path by assuring myself that I am adding beauty to the world and serves a purpose. A voice whispers to me, “if it isn’t lovely…then what purpose does it serve?”

It is clear to me now that the repression of the unproductive and ugly side has served to dampen my full range of expression. Now, upon reflecting on my scrappy-vaginal doily I feel content and pleased with it. Let it be a reminder to me of that beauty has many faces expresses itself in unknown and sometimes unattractive ways.

So that's the tale, on my end, behind the completion of Recipe #1. To read about Ahna's experience of working on this first project, please click here. Thanks for following along, and please do drop us a line if you have an idea for some ingredients to go into our next recipe, or if you have created your own version of this one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Late Bloomers. Joui's recommended reading!

Reading the New Yorker one night I came across the article "Late Bloomers: Why do we equate genius with precocity?"
by Malcolm Gladwell. It is not often that a modern writer captures the truth about faith the artist must put in herself/himself when taking the plunge to dedicate themselves fully to their craft. However, Gladwell does it amazingly.

Gladwell talks about society's obsession with early genius' and little regard to the many artists who took their whole lives to reach greatness. What I find so impressive about this article is that it really makes clear that the dangers of letting the marketplace dictate who is allowed to talented or not. And, consequently can squash many genius'-to-be because they are slower to support themselves in their craft and therefore are forced to stop before they fully bloom.

To any artist commercially successful or not I highly recommend this article. I am still contemplating how to thank Mr. Gladwell for his article that gives me added hope for myself and my own artistic development.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Recipes for Creation: A Collaborative Art Exchange

I am now undertaking the long awaited chance to experiment and really play with more free flowing forms of working with cloth. In other words, I want to play with creating clothing the way an artist plays with paint on a canvas or any other medium. Since clothing is so product focused it is hard to remove myself from the outcome and just create from pure spontaneity and inner spark.

For years my dear creative-sister-diva Ahna Fender ( and I have been wanting to collaborate on a project that would get us both working in new ways to unlock creative juices that even for us can get clogged up upon occasion!

The result, we came up with "Recipes for Creation" a project that creates guidelines with directions for both of us to translate to whatever medium we chose and inspire each other in ways we haven't done. And, most importantly, allow us to support each other as creative souls that need community to inspire us and encourage us, so we continue the work of the artist. I know for me connecting this way is exactly what I need to keep on moving!
:::::Below is the project!:::::
A sprinkle of chance, a dash of collaboration and a whole lot of play are the main ingredients in "Recipes for Creation," a new collaborative project that fellow artist-friend Ahna Fender and I schemed up over lunch at a kebab restaurant in San Francisco recently.

Here's what we've got cooking: Every few weeks one of us will devise a list of at least four random ingredients to be used in an art project of our choosing. For example:
• tinsel
• toy soldiers
• something blue
• something dug out from a dumpster
• the first sentence from a cheesy romance novel.
As you can see, the possibilities are limitless. Anything goes! The main rule is to have no rules, although it's probably also helpful to ensure that the suggested materials are available (in this dimension).

The person may also choose to include a short set of instructions, containing any particular suggestions for how to go about creating this crazy art concoction.

For instance, a suggestion might be to begin the process blindfolded, or warm up with a dance. The instructions can be anything that help shake us out of habituated ways of creating.

After sending out the recipe, each of us will set to work in our own studios to see what happens!

We will, of course, include you in the fun. Images of all the creations we cook up will be posted here for your delectation.

We also welcome you to participate by emailing images of your own interpretation of the recipes, or by making a suggestion for a future recipe that we may wish to try.

Check back soon to see what's cooking…

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Obama and Upcoming Events!

One thing that is nice is to get word out about VAGADU by participating in other people's events. It is even better when they are doing good work and helping out worthy causes.

The first event VAGADU clothing will be gracing is "Beats for Boobs" it is a fundraiser for breast cancer research.

Click here for the info on Facebook.

It is on October 9th at 111 Minna Gallery SF. Starts at 5:30pm and fashion show is at 8:30.

This next event is going to be totally fun!
And better will have an opportunity to see ME model my designs along with other designers!

I am donating 3-4 pieces for the silent auction, and all the proceeds go towards helping Obama win!

Come on out, it will be a fun way to help get us a president we can feel hopeful about!!!!
Below are the details:


An evening of fabulous fun, food, and home-grown fashion to get Barack Obama in the White House!!

Friday, October 17th, 8pm
GPZ Electric, Inc
151 10th Street
(Between Mission and Howard)
San Francisco, CA 94103















A silent auction with items donated by the designers will follow the show!!

Cost: $35 in advance
$50 at the door
$20 Students/Seniors

All Funds raised at this event will go to getting out the vote efforts in key swing states.

Tickets available online at:

At the door, via email, or at:
More Mojo Chiropractic
1347 Church St
San Francisco, CA 94114


3251 Lakeshore Ave
Oakland, CA 94610

(510) 419-0677

Erica Tanov Stores

And many other locations...

For More Information Contact:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Costumes Costumes Costumes!

Gosh it has been so long!

This doesn't mean that the VAGADU headquarters have been quite though. Yes, there has been some much needed down time, but in the meantime a lot has been going on.

I have been designing costumes for the Ragged Wing Ensemble for the upcoming production of "History of the Devil".
It is going to be an excellent production that spans over 3,000 years! This has made it an exciting challenge to create costumes that represent the various periods.

It is a very clever script that really deals with the problems of seeing the world as a dichotomy, which is so important to remember these days.

Opens Oct. 3rd and you can buy your tickets online!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reflections on Deployment in Wonderland

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Over a month has passed since the Kara Maria Collection made its big debut.
And for those who couldn't make it, it was really an incredible show that virtually turned out how I envisioned it.

From the event decor, to the dancers, clothing, and food, everything was beautifully, creatively and artfully executed. Here I will thank everyone who contributed their energy to the show-- whether you brought the love in big, bold, fashion, or just chipped in a little detail, it all was needed to make the evening gel.

First off! Kara Maria, thank you for believing in what I do and being part of this crazy dream for the last 4 months. It has been a joy to explore your art and a reason to create clothing! You totally came through on bringing out at least 30 of some of your best paintings (minus the porn work ;-). Having so much of your art in one room was a spectacular sight and made our set designer's life a lot easier!!! I hope it was as good for you as it was for all of us to were constantly inspired by your art.

Now for the food! Chefrain you really did it man! From the Wizard of OZ contraption that ejected soup if you pushed a herb infused oils hanging from the ceiling, to different fabulous creative vegetarian options that made everyones tummy sing! Furthermore you ignited their imaginations of how food could be prepared and served. We've done 3 show now, and this was the most creative work you have done thus far. You really came through to create food as art and it showed! I love you!!!

As for the fashion.... Monica Mark and all the U Dance Electra team you lit the night on fire! Having a troupe with so much energy and spunk lived up to all my dreams about having dancers replace models for the fashion show. Thank you for all the excitement and juice you added to the whole production. You've got the moves...and it shows!

John Arns you are the first musician to create an the original composition for the dance performance which furthered my vision of complete Karavision for the show. People really responded to the music and said it worked perfectly for the dance. Go John!

Alex Steinhouse your thrifty creativity was the perfect combination to dress our set! Thanks for coming in last minute and creating an atmosphere that reflected the artwork and created ambiance. I can't wait to see what you can do with a real budget and a little more out!

Joel Franquist thanks for doing the lighting and hanging all things from very high places. Most people would get dizzy but you work well from up on high!

Molly McEvoy like I said are the best producer I know! Thanks for taking a chance on this project and making it your own vision too. You helped in so many ways, from having a husband who so generously built our stages, to getting donations from Rainbow, to allowing me to keep my sanity! Can't wait to work with you again :-)

Many thanks to our DJs, Ammon Haggerty and Doug Sands. The music was awesome, and you got the real VAGADU to really boogie down!

The make up and hair was provided by the Paul Mitchell Institute of Cosmology and Thomas Klann (who did my hair, check him out at Chakra Salon on Sutter in SF). They did a terrific job and made our dancers look like white trash meets David Bowie, meets Jem Barbie! That was just what I wanted!

Many, many thanks to my interns: Milan Delveccio, Alix Hadley, Sherry Hernando, Angela Lopez, Megan Quirolo and Cindy deLuzuriaga. You were a great team and it was my pleasure to work with you, I wish you all great success in your pursuits, you certainly have what it takes!

Beautiful photos which you will find in the link above were taken by the super duo of John Martin and Son, and Rachel Ortiz.

Video was taken by Joe Seif and Rick Takes, thanks so much for capturing the moment that took four months to create! Videos can be found on the Vagadu website.

Thanks to Elena Dvorochkin for the PR and outreach.

And last but not least lets thanks the volunteers who made the night go so well:
Ahna Fender, Julie Ross, Tim Lubic, Mark Bourbonnais, Jim Flemming, Jill Kunishima, Vagadu Varda, Dave Kim, Andi Clegg, Jocelin Tran, Ashley Burnett and many more, plus my ultimate teammate Andrew Hinman!

Stay tuned, much more to come...however for the next month or so the blogs may not be as regular, because even Vagadu needs a vacation once in a while!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Get your Kara Maria Nails Done!

Sherry, one of the interns loves nails. In fact, when I first posted about her, she sent me an image of nails as something she felt really represents her creativity.

So, as one of Sherry's final contributions to the collection, she came up with some nail art in homage to Kara's artwork.Since I am not sure if the dancers for VAGADU's May 3rd show will be able to wear them, I wanted to dedicate a post just for the nails to show everyone how nails can be your canvas for wild creativity too! I hope you are impressed by these claws, I know I am!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Workshop #3: Jewelry

One of the great dilemmas of creating clothing is, "what do you do with all the scraps of fabric you produce?"

Many years ago I would have just thrown them out. But no longer.
Now, I save all my scraps and try to organize them by color and then see what fun ideas arise as to how to use them.

You can imagine after creating two collections and having a third on the way, how many scraps I have! A LOT!

So, we decided to play with them. The workshop was dedicated to creating jewelry and accessories that easily eat up those little bits of fabric.

It ended up that the way we created was very flow-of-conscious, grabbing colors that appealed to us and going with whatever fancied us. There was no set standard, so idea to emulate or copy. Whatever emerged, emerged. Sometimes it was a barrette, a neck-wrap, or a bracelet.

Because my office is so packed due to the big date coming up....we decided to work in the coffee break area of my office. And so as we are throwing around fabric, sewing, cutting with such delicious colors surrounding us all the other folks in the building would stop to watch. You could see their eyes light up and smiles grow. It probably brought back memories of the craft table at preschool (I know that is an image that came up for me). Good memories of more carefree times of silly creation. The office manager even suggested we do it every Friday! Maybe after the show....

Besides just jewelry making, we also helped Megan sandpaper the fabric for her little army jackets.

As I updated in my previous blog, we learned quickly how terrible it is to do this without a dust mask. Fibers from the fabric just fly everywhere. I got it up my nose and felt like I was suffocating.

It is a lovely effect, but as stated above, preferably do this outdoors with a mask. You'll be much happier for it.

What I personally find so rewarding about doing these workshops is the way our energy together inspires us to do things we never before imagined. A lot of the time it isn't even the product that is the most fruitful, rather the process of getting there sparks solutions for other garments that you were struggeling with. The process of relaxing the mind seems to feed the creativity tree, which allows for future bounty.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Other Upcoming Attractions

Besides the HUGE, WILD, AMAZING Kara Maria show that is coming up I am also going to be part of some other fantastic sweat-free/eco fashion events.

Rags to Righteousness: A Passover Celebration of Sweat-Free Fashion
Thursday, April 24, 7:00 - 9:00pm
at the Swedish American Hall 2174 Market Street

It looks like it will be a terrific event with fashion shows and opportunities to buy from local designers like me!

It is an ongoing show that on the closing night I will be doing a sewing demo on how to reconstruct creative clothing with Miranda Caroligne. It should be quite me go sew crazy!
June 19th 7pm-11pm

Fashion Conscious
This is part of the UC Davis Textiles Dept. (I am actually am not participating) and it is a forum on sustainability in the garment industry with an interesting line-up of presenters. I def. want to be there to support this conversation.
May 18th 1pm

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Story of Stuff

After another emotional conversation about why buying local and recycled is so important one of the ladies at Pandora's Trunk turned me on to this website: I finally took a look at it and it blew me away!

Story of Stuff with Annie Leon takes a very user friendly and in-depth look at the destructive cycle of mass production and step-by-step dissects it to show you how it all works, why we do it, and what we can do to make a change.

A lot of information she provides is stuff I already knew or suspected, but having it spelled out in economic and psychological terms really hit home. One of the most interesting parts is when Annie talks about how the U.S. became so collectively wasteful in the first place. Here is an excerpt from the film:

Shortly after the World War 2, these guys were figuring out how to ramp up the [U.S.] economy. Retailing analyst Victor Lebow articulated the solution that has become the norm for the whole system. He said: “Our enormously productive economy . . . demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption . . . we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”46

And President Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisers Chairman said that “The American economy’s ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods.”

Did you know that? I bet you didn't. And this excerpt is just one of many excellent points that should be well known. Another fact they talk about is how today Americans consume twice of what we did fifty years ago but our overall satisfaction has been ever decreasing since 1950s. mean my new ipod nano does not equal ever-lasting bliss? ;-)

I could go on and on, but overall
The Story of Stuff asserts my own passion and urgency for education about the perils of over consumption and purchasing "cheap" items. As you will learn in the film the real-life cost is not factored into many of the things we buy. And I know it is daunting to try and figure out if our purchases are environmentally and socially friendly. Fortunately, the website has lists of resources that can help guide you toward ideas and products that are good for you and the planet.

So watch it, and send it to everyone you know. And come by the store and tell me what you thought of it!

Pandora's Trunk
Haight St.
Wed. 2-8pm, Thursdays 11am-3pm

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Designing the Postcard

This week the final Vagadu meets Kara Maria postcard was created. During this part of the marketing process I got to use some of my other skills like photography, and Photoshop to get the exact "look" I want to express.

The concept for the card was to show the raw, the awkward, forced sexual energy that is particularly prominent in Kara's latest work. This concept is inspired by the Marc Jacobs ads (image to the right ) that have this candid, unproduced quality that is unusual for mainstream designers.

I thought the informal look would work well, because the pornographic images that Kara uses are not from Hustler or Playboy, rather from amateur pornographic magazines, so they have this affected quality that makes you wonder what kind of drugs might have been used to get these people comfortable enough to take the pictures.

So when the models were posing inside the studio space in the co-op I belong to Pandora's Trunk, as they were arranging themselves on the cutting board I told them to try a little "too hard" to be sexy, hot and irresistible (much like the women of Kara's work see above).

The garment they are wearing is a pseudo lingerie piece inspired by the painting "Unspecified Involvement xii". This piece turned out great for the marketing campaign because its features have some of the most obvious connections to Kara's work. The pink swirling smoke of the painting translated into fluffy swirls that decorate the body in a random, unspecific form ;-).

So our low production values echo the low-brow edge in Kara's amateur porn theme. We're giving a voyeuristic guilty peek in a place you maybe shouldn't look. Or you didn't know you wanted to until you did. My models were such good sports (thank you Evelina and Bella) as I asked them over and over to roll all over a cold cutting table in order to get into the more uncomfortable positions.

Fliers are coming out next week, look for them around town!

Favorite Technique of the Week!

We are having so much fun with the process of fabric manipulation for the Kara collection. It has gone beyond just the basics of painting and dying the fabric and expanded into other forms for example....

This past week Megan came up with a great concept for texture of the mini bomber jacket that I described in an earlier blog.

Megan wanted to give a sense of depth to the main body of the garment with an added ruggedness to it. To start, she took a dark green canvas fabric and sandpapered wholes throughout it and then sewed beautiful stay stitches around the holes to keep the fabric from continuously fraying. Underneath the top green layer of the fabric she placed strips of different fabric composed of bright patterns which allowed for different designs to peer out from behind each hole.

The overall effect is magnificent, a carefully crafted callousness overlaying bright beauty that out from behind. The symbolism of this piece is somewhat contrary to Kara's work whose top layer is bright and cheery, however the more you explore the art, the more the darker elements begin to shine through.

I love this rubbed out technique and could see it applied to many different projects. The only drawback of it is the labor involved. It took Megan 2 hours to sandpaper the holes into a very small amount of fabric, so this technique is not for the easily distracted. I really want to do more with this method but I think the key to doing it is a lot of this is to have a sandpapering party where each person sands for 5-10 minutes and then passes it on to the next person.

My philosophy of late is-- if something seems like too much labor find a way to still do it. One solution is to share it and make it fun. But there are many other solutions out there. Like I have stated in other blogs, Vagadu is a slow clothing movement, we don't want to cheat, we are about process and creating our vision however labor intensive if it accomplishes our goal. Because in the end it is worth it. The pride you will have for having done it, long outlast the fading memories of the struggles endured to create the piece.

(Note: We tried sandpapering the fabric technique and it is VERY advisable to use a dust mask when trying this, epecially if doing it indoors. The fibers in the fabric get into your nose and if you have asthma or allergies it could be pretty toxic.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Workshop #2: Menswear

This second workshop was so much fun. We met at Angela's house to rework some men's shirts a la Kara Maria. I was able to pick up some men's tops in fun colors along with some vests that we could add fun elements to add to its brightness and playfulness that is key to Kara's artwork and as rumor has are looking for in their clothes!

So, as is the typical format for our workshops we start off by hanging up a certain number of Kara's paintings and start playing with adding to the garments different elements of fabric paint, fabric pens, fabric swatches that we cut into special shapes, and went to town.

It reminded me of the craft table at daycare where materials were abundant and we were told to go crazy and create. I played the role of the counselor who encouraged everyone to keep going, keep adding. Like many of Kara's paintings, it is about layering and layering again. Adding to a certain aspect of excess or as I see it, abundance.

What I love about these workshops are the techniques you learn. For instance, Alix had an idea of cutting up a potato to use as a stamp. She ended up creating a very neat gun stamp from the root that worked out really nice.

Then Angela had a brilliant idea of using an eraser as a way to embellish shapes into thicker fabric like a velvet vest we had on hand. She cut out a star design of an eraser then to place the eraser design under the right side of the fabric, and press it with a hot iron for 3-5 seconds. The end result is an "imprint" of the design in the fabric. It looks great.

Overall, the things we produced were really fun and it got all our juices flowing for the next few weeks of producing before the big show. Time is ticking and we have a lot more creating to to do in the meantime which also bring me to the point of.....tixs are now on sale so get yours while they are still will be a show you won't want to miss!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Vagadu has a Store Front!

Great news! VAGADU has joined the local SF co-op Pandora's Box. What does that mean? It means that I have a public storefront where I have my own section of vagadulandia. My fabulous interior designer friend Alex Steinhouse is going to take all the important elements of VAGADU like art, recycling, playfulness to display my stuff like you've never seen. I can't wait! We've already talked wall paper, paint, texture, lights, and other recycled elements.

Being apart of Pandora's collective is allowing me to get out of my studio and meet the world. To be part of something bigger than myself where we all come together and support each other with our respective talents. In a way it is like an instant family.

What I really like about this group is the fun energy, eclectic style and artistic sensibility. There are reconstructed clothes, recycled clothes, and all all are def. locally made. We are all small designers with lots of energy who alone couldn't dream of affording our own retail shop. I had been dreaming about starting my own co-op but then this opportunity came up, I jumped for it. Why not join something that is already started?

A little background on Pandora's Trunk. It was founded by Rachel Hospodar of Medium Reality and Miranda Caroligne the author of "Reconstructing Clothes for Dummies" and seems to have her foot in every cool art and fashion event, happening or performance here in the Bay.

Today when I started working the cash register it brought back memories. I mean I haven't worked retail in years, and it feels good to finally be selling a product that I feel proud to be representing.

So come on down, and see what I have, and check out the other artists too, you will probably find something you love.

Pandora's Trunk
544 Haight St.
11am-8pm Daily
Closed Tuesdays
I will be working here most likely Weds. 11am to 5 and Thursdays 11am-3pm.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Designing Kara

While watching Vagadu's Kara Maria Line move forward to May 3rd, I have begun to enjoy watching how each member of the team brings her own creative process to the interpretation of Kara's work.

...Megan, one of the interns...

Out of all the pieces of the collection Megan jumped on the opportunity to work on jackets and dresses.

For me, it is always interesting to watch what clothing items people gravitate to work on. Fortuneatly for Vagadu, it always works out that most of the interns want to take on different projects and so it works out that everyone is happy.

With jackets, Megan took on an area where we didn't have a clear design plan in mind. The only thing we knew was that we wanted a short jacket and a longer jacket. Other than that Megan was left to her own devices.

After a few days Megan emailed me a bunch of sketches. The first picture here above was the one that we struggled with most trying to find a fabulous amalgamation of ideas and themes true to both Kara Maria and Vagadu.

I liked the the sketch of the button over jacket, but besides the military/uniform element behind the design I just didn't know how it fit into the collection.
I went back and thought about all the different design themes that we discussed for Kara like bold, strong, symmetrical shapes. And content like birds and flight, fighter jets, war, invasion, women, exposed versus covered, Middle East versus USA. With that I thought, why not lengthen the jacket and change the opening to a button down instead of a button-over jacket? As you can see in the second sketch the design then becomes amazingly similar to the look of traditional Muslim wear.

Megan took that idea and went a bit further. She decided she still wanted a short jacket. But she went more with the theme of flight versus military with the bomber jacket like Amelia Earhart wore. Then, keeping with the Middle Eastern theme she used the Muslim decorative neckline for the jacket. (I can't wait until you see it at the show!)

There was a bit of frustration and butting heads over how to make this piece come together, but I am so happy with the final design. It is the result of a creative fusion of ideas, personalities and tastes while keeping to our core ideal. This type of collaboration where unique visions come together and find expression is what makes Vagadu so fun and special.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bad Unkl Sista

What can I say but "I'm in love!"
The label is called Bad Unkl Sista and I had my first exposure to this creative venture last weekend at the External Spring Show in the SOMArts building.

It has truly been a long time since a designer, a local one at that, has deeply sparked my imagination so much that it brings tears of joy to my heart. Bad Unkl did such a thing and in honor of the week of love, this blog is dedicated to my new favorite fashion muse.

I have not personally met Anastazia Louise (the woman behind the designs) of this magical label, but her ability to passionately mix art, clothing and extravagance into a performance is very true to my own vision. Anastazia is pushing boundaries, living pure expression through her clothing and creating shared community experience through her medium.

Let me explain. Bad Unkl Sista was the last act of at least 10-12 previous designers in a runway show that lasted around an hour and a half. Amongst the other designers was a whole gamut of styles ranging from chic, wild, trendy, to just plain average. Most of the clothing line presentations followed the typical runway model; one model enters at a time, wiggles around, pouts, blows you a kiss, and retreats to the back of the stage to be followed by another model and so on. This is fine and dandy, but frankly after strutter #44 the routine feels pretty stale.

The audience reflected this, and as our attention wandered, we talked amongst each other, eyes scanned around the room people watching, we clapped but it was pretty minimal, a hoot here, a holla there, but the energy in the room was struggling to be truly engaged with the show. We needed something to move us, to captivate us all and transport us to another place.

Bad Unkl Sista knows about these things. Like a bizarre dream, when their show began out comes Anastazia (already a very dramatic woman herself) dressed in black, dancing Butoh with a gorgeous solemn-looking ballerina. Simply and slowly they moved their way towards us on the runway. And then the suddenly as if a circus let loose, all types creatures emerged, one after another until the stage was cluttered with an assortment of people dressed like Narnia-meets-The Yellow Submarine-meets tribal Africa-meets-Alice in Wonderland.

The mood of the room changed instantaneously. Trancelike, we all gazed with delight and held our breath as we took in the spectacle. Together, as a whole the entire audience was sucked into this fantastical world where bizarre is beautiful and dreams become reality.

When it was all over, you felt like you wanted to hug everyone around you, we were somehow closer, as if after having experienced a trip to the moon and making it back alive.

For me, it reinstated my own path of creating events that unify the crowds, takes them to other worlds, in a night of experiencing beauty in all forms.

Thank you Anastazia, you bring light and magic into a world that craves raw expression. You made my night, my week, my month and probably my year.

Here's to you and all the other people out there who take their craft deep into the imagination, unabashedly using talent and skill to create the un-creatable. You empower us all to live our life to the fullest and cloak ourselves as the kings and queens that we are.

Best of all, you took an ordinary night and made it extraordinary. You are a magician, you are Ix Chel the Mayan Goddess of Creativity, the dreamer, the artist who out of nothing makes something. From the malaise you awaken us; you startle us, frighten us in beauty, daring us to pinch ourselves, wondering where you came from, the tribe we strayed from, the lost city that birthed us and now is found again. Thank you.

Her blogs are great too, check them out at:

Friday, February 8, 2008

What Was I Thinking?! Part 1:

Wow, from deep winter emerges the spring in SF! Such an early entrance into the warm season, they say this week it should get up to 64 degrees! I don't know about you but it just seems strange. Anyway, this confirms why I have decided to sell my car this week, in an effort to honor our planet and take a personal stance for a sustainable future.

Beyond climate change, in the studio we delegated the fashions this week and are busy making mock-ups, drafting patterns, and getting stuff done!

Therefore, since I always get a lot of positive feedback when I explain the creative process of creating a garment, I thought I would take this opportunity to explore the making of the "Vortex Hoodie" from the Rex Floodstrom Collection.

This piece really is a labor of love and vision. Derived from the painting "Light" featured in the photo here, the swirling shape hypnotized me into the neverafter. The feeling I got from the "Light" was comforting and inviting. I wanted to make a garment that reflected that value. I decided on a hoodie, because for me they are comfortable physically and psychologically. Something about covering the head that not only leaves you feeling protected but also soothed. Much like the painting, which is beautiful and comfortable to the eyes, the hoodie is easy to wear and relaxes the body.

Next came the task of figuring out how to make the swirls that I would attach all over the hoodie vest. Instead of one big swirl (like the painting), I decided I wanted lots of little ones to give a multi-texture element to the jacket. As mentioned in earlier blogs I first hand stitched swirls into fabric, and then pulled the tail of the thread tightly, which created a rouged effect in the fabric.

Once I got the hand sewing technique down, which I thought I would only have to make about 75-100 individual swirls,.....I was way off! It actually turned out to be around 300-350 individual swirls. Each of which was hand sewn onto the vest.

Originally, it was supposed to be a jacket with sleeves. However, after swirl #245, and I hadn't even touched the sleeves, so I decided to go with the vest because there were other things I had to work on besides this garment. In the end, I am happier with it being a vest, because otherwise it might have become too bulky.

For the last step of the jacket, once all the pieces were sewn, I took fabric paint, watered it down, and painted watery swirls all over the hoodie. This part was the most fun, because I used about 3 types of white fabric for the swirls, so it was fascinating watching how the paint interacted uniquely with each swirl.

One of the conceptual added bonuses of the piece is how when worn the black lining in the hoodie creates a universe effect around the face, which allows the face itself become the swirling vortex. The wearer, not the jacket becomes the art and the clothing is just the frame for which it is displayed.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Recycling not just for Clothing but a Way of Life

This week I have been away in San Diego visiting family, so things are a little slow in the studio. One thing I am really learning about is that the fallow times are just as important for the artist as the making times. Taking time off to relax and do other things actually allows more creativity to flow through you, fresh ideas to inspire you and new energy to fuel you.

I want to take this time to talk a bit about living a conscious life outside of the studio, and resources to apply to your everyday life outside of fashion.

One of the ways I was able to revisit the fashion/clothing world was to find a context within it that I could believe in. Creating clothing just for it's own sake is fine, but in order to motivate this whole process I needed more of a sense of mission, I needed to see how through my craft I could bring positive change to the world. This way, my art can be true to my values.

Part of Vagadu's social mission is to use creative re-use to break the cycle of constantly purchasing and discarding endemic to America's consumer-driven culture.

Magazines like ReadyMade and Craft are great publications because they challenge their readers to get creative, crafty and prove that great design doesn't cost a fortune, in fact it is readily accessible from things that we already have in the home.

VAGADU really isn't just about making fabulous clothes out of next-to-new materials, it is about a way of living that responsibly and creatively deals with our excesses. And if we can't reuse our all of our stuff, how to respectfully dispose of them that is gentle with Mother Earth. Here are some thoughts:

Stop Junkmail before it gets to you! Even though I have made some great cards from terrible magazines that I never ordered, it is better for the planet not to make paper products that go directly into the recycle bin. I signed up for this service and they stop your junkmail and plant trees to offset the effect. The company is called Green Dimes

If you live in the Bay Area and you have interesting junk that you don't need, a thrift store might not want, you should give it to my favorite place for getting materials for VAGADU called SCRAP (Scroungers resource for reusable art parts).

From one of my many social networks this recycle resource guide is very helpful for those of us who want to make a difference.

21 Things You Didn't Know You Can Recycle

1. Appliances: Goodwill accepts working appliances,, or you can contact the Steel Recycling Institute to recycle them. 800/YES-1-CAN,

2. Batteries: Rechargeables and single-use: Battery Solutions, 734/467-9110,

3. Cardboard boxes: Contact local nonprofits and women's shelters to see if they can use them. Or, offer up used cardboard boxes at your local listserv or on for others who may need them for moving or storage. If your workplace collects at least 100 boxes or more each month, accepts them for resale.

4. CDs/DVDs/Game Disks: Send scratched music or computer CDs, DVDs, and PlayStation or Nintendo video game disks to AuralTech for refinishing, and they'll work like new: 888/454-3223,

5. Clothes: Wearable clothes can go to your local Goodwill outlet or shelter. Donate wearable women's business clothing to Dress for Success, which gives them to low-income women as they search for jobs, 212/532-1922, Offer unwearable clothes and towels to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them as pet bedding. Consider holding a clothes swap at your office, school, faith congregation or community center. Swap clothes with friends and colleagues, and save money on a new fall wardrobe and back-to-school clothes.

6. Compact fluorescent bulbs: Take them to your local IKEA store for recycling: .

7. Compostable bio-plastics: You probably won't be able to compost these in your home compost bin or pile. Find a municipal composter to take them to at

8. Computers and electronics: Find the most responsible recyclers, local and national, at

9. Exercise videos: Swap them with others at

10. Eyeglasses: Your local Lion's Club or eye care chain may collect these. Lenses are reground and given to people in need.

11. Foam packing: Your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept foam peanuts for reuse. Or, call the Plastic Loose Fill Producers Council to find a drop-off site: 800/828-2214. For places to drop off foam blocks for recycling, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers, 410/451-8340,

12. Ink/toner cartridges: pays $1/each.

13. Miscellaneous: Get your unwanted items into the hands of people who can use them. Offer them up on your local or listserv, or try giving them away at or giving or selling them at will also help you find a recycler, if possible, when your items have reached the end of their useful lifecycle.

14. Oil: Find Used Motor Oil Hotlines for each state: 202/682-8000,

15. Phones: Donate cell phones: Collective Good will refurbish your phone and sell it to someone in a developing country: 770/856-9021, Call to Protect reprograms cell phones to dial 911 and gives them to domestic violence victims: Recycle single-line phones: Reclamere, 814/386-2927,

16. Sports equipment: Resell or trade it at your local Play It Again Sports outlet, 800/476-9249,

17. "Technotrash": Project KOPEG offers an e-waste recycling program that can help you raise funds for your organization. Use Project KOPEG to recycle iPods, MP3 players, cell phones and chargers, digital cameras, PDAs, palm pilots, and more. Also, easily recycle all of your CDs, jewel cases, DVDs, audio and video tapes, pagers, rechargeable and single-use batteries, PDAs, and ink/toner cartridges with GreenDisk's Technotrash program. For $30, GreenDisk will send you a cardboard box in which you can ship them up to 70 pounds of any of the above. Your fee covers the box as well as shipping and recycling fees. 800/305-GREENDISK,

18. Tennis shoes: Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring. One World Running will send still-wearable shoes to athletes in need in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti.

19. Toothbrushes and razors: Buy a recycled plastic toothbrush or razor from Recycline, and the company will take it back to be recycled again into plastic lumber. Recycline products are made from used Stonyfield Farms' yogurt cups. 888/354-7296,

20. Tyvek envelopes: Quantities less than 25: Send to Shirley Cimburke, Tyvek Recycling Specialist, 5401 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Spot 197, Room 231, Richmond, VA 23234. Quantities larger than 25 , call 866/33-TYVEK.

21. Beds and Box Springs: Don't put your bed on the street! For a fee they will come and pick up your old be and boxspring and carefully break them apart to recycle all the materials.

Thanks for reading...let's not feed the landfill monster any longer! If you have any other ideas I have missed, be sure to write me and I will add it to the blog. Happy Creacycling!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dress for Kara Maria's Art Show

This latest VAGADU collection is way ahead of the game, thanks to lessons learned from Mazura last May and the Rex Flodstrom Show in Chicago. In neither of these previous collections would I have imagined having a prototype dress for the collection done this early in the process, but it's happening and it's exciting!

This dress to the left is called "Ducky". It was originally created for Kara Maria to wear at her art opening this past January 19th at the Catherine Clark Gallery. However, due to the pressures of the show she was too busy to have a fitting so I ended up wearing the dress to her event.

So far I have gotten a lot of positive feedback on "Ducky" and since it is a one-off I thought I would indulge our audiences with how this dress was conceived which will also give a good idea of similar concepts that will be going into other pieces of the collection.

First, one of the many themes Kara explores is the clash of Middle Eastern versus Western cultures. Therefore, like Kara, I would bring together symbolic design elements from both cultures to create a simple frock.

As I was researching Muslim clothing I was surprised to find that there was a whole exciting world of clothing bursting with festive colors and garnishes.

For instance, I was surprised to see the vibrancy of colors and embroidery in this Palestinian wedding garment (the red dress), and if I hadn't known it was middle-eastern I would have assumed it was Guatemalan. In the darker dress which is from Yemen, the intricacy of the embroidery is not just decorative but is used to tell a story, in this example depicting the tree of life.

As I was designing "Ducky" I knew it needed to embrace the sensibilities of Muslim simple structural design, together with the heavy textures, and ornate embellishments with a modern twist. In other words, a fusion of East meets West meets Kara Maria...and you get a dress!

The general shape of "Ducky" had to be very simple. I chose a trapeze style mini dress because of its straightforward, elementary form. Next, I chose to highlight the typical Muslim neckline ornamentation (as seen in the red garment), but I would alter the shape of it to link it to Kara. I chose to outline a falling duck because Kara's work often explores flight, either by birds or planes. In some of her works the bird no longer can fly and is falling. Like in the painting here, where the duck looks like it has been shot down.

The colors, fabrics and textures of the dress were all inspired by Kara's painting called "The Babylon Lottery" (as seen below). I loved working with this artwork because of its multi-textural exploration. The combinations of a of watery paint foundation, topped with bits of realism images, folded in with streaks and drips of thick paint, frosted with crisp tile shapes allows for endless possibilities for clothing construction.

"Babylon" is thematically purple and grey, so after choosing the initial colors I decided to work first with the Muslim inspired tiles to start the decorative process. Influenced by the shapes I made an abstract version of it that works its way around the collar of the dress. Then I used a decorative stitch around each of the "tiles" and collar to infuse the "traditional/ethnic" feel to the garment.

Lastly, for the side panels I tried to emulate the painting streaks that roughly work themselves throughout "Babylon". Using fabric paints and water, I streaked the different colors throughout the fabric. When dry, I flipped it to the wrong side and noticed that the way the paint had dried underneath was much more expressive and ended up useing the reversed side for the final product! Unintentional genius is always welcome....

I wore it to Kara's opening reception at the Catherine Clark Gallery last Saturday. It was a wonderful show with fun and interesting people. The space was beautiful and seeing lots of Kara nicely hung in one room was a real treat. It was the first time for her to see one of the clothing pieces and she loved it. The response from the other gallery goers was also very positive.

If you get a chance, check out her show which will be hanging until March 1, 2008.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Workshop 1: Dying Fabric

This week, the team and I got together to do our first group project which was to attempt to bring elements of Kara Maria to fabric. This was also our first opportunity to work together as a team and get our creative juices flowing.

We did a couple different styles of dying. The first most obvious was a technique that emulates Kara's process when she begins a painting. We wet muslin fabric (very similar to canvas used for paintings) and then started applying to it varying consistencies of silk screen paint. The wet fabric caused the paint to bleed and travel through the fabric in random ways and after applying several layers created visual "depth" to the surface. This was a fun process to experiment with because this is how Kara begins almost all of her paintings. Instead of fabric paint she uses acrylic, and once she creates the perfect "cloudiness" effect she seals the unprimed canvas and begins the figurative part of her artwork, where she applies other techniques to the canvas which results in a collagesque or mixed-medium feel to the artwork (although it is purely acrylic on canvas).

The second type of dying we played with was batik (dying fabric using special dyes and wax). Angela is a lover of this process and so under her guidance my kitchen became a lab for the night. What seemed pretty accessable, batik turned out to be more involved than seven girls in a small San Francisco kitchen could easily handle. Fortunately, despite the challenges, we were able to make some basic designs with the wax and and it also allowed us to compare the different ways each style of dying interacted with the fabric.

At the end of the evening we divided up pictures of 16 of our favorite Kara paintings that Alix and I had organized into color movements.

Then it was time for a homework assignment. We divided up pictures of 16 of our favorite Kara paintings into four groups based on color movement and each girl picked a group. The homework was make 50 sketches of clothing designs. I directed the girls to combine inspiration from the paintings and lessons learned during our dying exercise to find other techniques of fabric manipulation beyond dyes. These could include applique, or mixed media-- for example creating a collar out of old thread spools, or using embroidery, etc.

We also defined the rules of creation. One, we will focus on the beauty of Kara's work. Her angst and dark commentary is important to explore but not to wear. Vagadu brings beauty and positivity into the world and hopes that the garments bring people joy, not fear.
Two, we will avoid the obvious. Some of the bold graphics within Kara's work are easily--too easily--incorporable into clothing, we want to dig deeper and explore lesser seen themes. Three, restrain from couture dresses. Everyone wants to design the "dress" and as designers we will always be drawn to it. These days, there are very few occasions to wear mega-dresses and I want to see practical items become wearable, common-day other words, make the ordinary, extraordinary!

In a way, these applications are relevant not only to the Vagadu project but our everyday life. You set boundaries and limitations on how you go about your day. You pick and choose what to focus on and what to leave out. And if you are daring, you take big chances and you decide to stand for something beautiful, to create something that shines like your heart. And before you know it, even the mistakes and messes become precious. Take note of my sink after the dying party. As they say, life imitates art.