Under the Microscope: Cell Belle

I can finally share with the world my World of Wearableart entry for 2018. The section theme is Under the Microscope. My entry is titled, Cell Belle. I didn't like to hope that I would make it through to the show this year after not making it last year. If I have learnt one thing from WOW, it is not to expect to make it. This year I didn't dare even think that it would be successful. People say to me "you're awesome, of course, it will" but I know better. I have been to a show. The entry standard raises with each year. I feel like I have fluked it to date.

In April when the pre-selection notifications arrived, it was beautiful to draw a breath and consider that I was in with a shot. The judging weekend in July proved to be a polarised set of emotions. Parts of me felt like that it was fine. There was nothing more I could do and that it will be what it is. Other parts of me were exploding with terror thinking about how poorly the fit on the model might be, and maybe I had packed her up poorly so that she didn't unpack well. It turns out the model presenting Cell Belle sold the ever-lovin' shit out of her and that her programme photo was taken that day. Now here I am tonight at the Awards Show being WOWed up the wazoo! There's no doubt a flood of tears pouring down my cheeks as this post well, posts.

The entry process beyond the creation of the garment is extensive. It pushes me to express myself to the very boundaries of my abilities. The Dressing Instructions are the most fun for me, as I love creating and formatting documents. I am not a whizz with the words, but I enjoy that element of entering. Coming up with the inspiration wording for my entry, on the other hand, is a huge challenge me. I am keenly aware of the why and the process, but due to the sheer personal nature of it, I struggle to get the words out right. Prepping for this post I re-read my entered spiel, and I can honestly say that I impressed myself. It had been a while since I'd written it, so I was pleasantly surprised by what I wrote. Go me! I'm so impressed that I feel like sharing my words with you as an accompaniment to the visuals. We are asked to supply three pieces of information:

1. Short Inspiration - which is the wording that will appear in the programme.

2. Long Inspiration - which I guess is a wordier version that the judges are provided with as the entry garment is presented for assessment.

And 3. Garment Story. The model selected to represent a designer for judging reads this. They use it to develop their understanding of the garment so that they can best present what we (the designers) are wanting to express and provide a clearer understanding of why the entry is where it is. The following are my three submitted descriptions:

Short Inspiration:

Plant cell sequins'ing.

Long Inspiration:

My inspiration came when I Googled 'single cell organism,' and saw Euglena for the first time. I wanted to create a plant-based creature/cross-section/thing, with sequins - lots of sequins. And it had to have a long, sparkly flagellum (tail). The garment is made up of 100% crochet. The many, many sequins have been individually handsewn.

Garment story: 

I knew what I wanted to create as soon as I Google Image searched for single-celled organisms. One species, Euglena caught my attention. When I read that most species of Euglena have "photosynthesising chloroplasts so that they feed like plants and can also take nourishment heterotrophically, like animals," that was it! I also enjoy a good feed. These guys must like one so much that they adapt to ensure eating no matter what. I wanted to create something that was in essence plant-based. I took the chlorophyll element as the base for the overall palette. I didn't want to make an exact representation of the cell structure. Instead, I opted for a multi-celled organism of a garment that is a bit glam, strong, feminine, and sparkly.

My creative process tends to go like this: I start with my initial sketches and concept. Once I begin the crochet part, it all becomes a whole other 'beast.' The crochet tends to guide me as to how it will work and wants to be. The original silhouette radically changed when I was working out how to structure the crochet fabric around the human form. The lower section of grid-like sequins came about when I thought I wasn't able to purchase more of the yarn that I was using (engage panic stations!). It was the backup plan, and I have fallen in love with it, and it is perhaps my favourite bit. I can happily say that sewing sequins are my meditation. Which is lucky as I kept thinking of new ideas and elements like the shoes, that needed sequins sewn on them.

In my previous designs, I have made a creature, which in my eyes, have had a very male presence. Cell Belle is female. Once I recognised her femininity, the construction of future pieces of the garment came easily. The tutu skirt came out of the fact that I'd made ten too many of the green cell motifs that form the upper section. I was fiddling with them imagining what they might be; the next thing I knew I had started on an undergarment. Crochet guided me on it the look and overall outcome 100%. It whispered that it would be a skirt and onwards I went. I know gender is not essential, particularly in a garment but I tend to feel a personality from the things I create. Perhaps it is this more than a gender that I take guidance from? Maybe I'm just a bit nutty and see a soul where there isn't one.

When I make an entry for the World of Wearableart, there is one thing that I can be sure of, and that is that I learn, and I develop my skillset as I go. I am driven by a voice in my head that encourages me to make something that will impress Suzie and Heather. I catch myself muttering "no, Suzie won't like that" if I feel I need to make a drastic change or improvement. Each year I have entered I have finished the process with new techniques and abilities. Trying to impress WOW makes me a better creative. This year my entry is beyond anything I have ever attempted before. I feel like I have made a real fashion piece. I have gone beyond my creature bodysuit costumes. I have embraced negative space over complete disguise. I am proud of the result.

If you made it through this far, thank you for reading. Here's a snapshot of the individual elements as they were being created.

Fresh Meat: Dragbots

It is well and truly time that I developed some new pieces to add to my suite of creepies who haunt my cube space. After making the Jinkx and Trixie dolls, an idea began to bubble in my head. It should have been obvious. It wasn’t. It has become a real-life thing and you can now find zombie dragbots aka drag queen dolls at in.cube8r gallery in Fitzroy.

The zombie queens developed after making several humanesque drag queen dolls. They have also made the journey south – hopefully with brains intact – and are also available to purchase. I’ll see how they are received, but really hope that it’s positive as I really enjoy making them.

*** As I was adding the product information to my online stock list, I note that the middle queen in pink (above) has been purchased. A good sign that I will get to make more!

Cube Top Up Time

It’s true. I am a naughty Cuber. I have been very slack with replenishing my cube space at in.cube8r in 2018. My creative quest has reached its conclusion, and I am back 100% on my favourite game. I am taking a parcel full to the brim with beer cosies to the mail shop this morning. This will be the first of many packages over the next few weeks. New dolls of all types are under construction. I’ll put together a group and ship them ASAP!

And now for some in.cube8ring

I am very sorry. I have have been a naughty member of the in.cube8r gallery community in 2018. As I have spent the first seven months of this year completely engrossed in my major project pieces, I have entirely neglected my cube space. I'm lucky that I had replenished it mightly and that there has been a reasonable supply to make a display. Big thank you to Elle-May and Clairebear for helping to make my cube look its best and for being so understanding with my distraction. I have time to get back into my favourite mode: making my little creepies. The first mission: beer cosys!! I'm a tad rusty and needed to refer to my pattern notes to get the ball rolling again. I will get a bunch together and ship them pronto. I'm concerned about the shipping process though. I have had such terrible luck with packages being delayed en route to Fitzroy. I'll have to pay attention to which method to use this time. Best I cease this typing business for now though. I have hooking to do!

Squink has left the building

My bestie Helen has been in charge of removing me tree jumpers on my behalf for all of the past few years. But this year I was able to be in town to take down Squink myself. Fun FAct: Installing a tree jumper may take two or three hours, but it takes about 20 minutes to uninstall.

The bestest thing about Jumpers and Jazz in July for 2018 was being tagged in photos of people with Squink. So, so, so cool. The tree jumper exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to get interactive - without damaging - the jumper. Please take note for next year patrons! I want to see all your photos!

Another first for me this year, I took Squink into my work to show my colleagues a 'live' tree jumper. They have seen and heard all about it from me for months. I'd like to think that their minds were suitably blown.

Here are few of the posts of punters with Squink and one very positive review that Someone shared with me.

Zombie Yarn: Crochet raised from the dead

Even though I get very very nervous presenting to a group of people, this workshop proved to be a tonne of fun. Karina from the Warwick Art Gallery asked if I would conduct a class as part of the Jumpers and Jazz in July event programme. I said yes straight away. As the days grew closer to D-Day, I was surprised at how low my panic meter was registering. The calm feeling remained in me even on the day of the class. 30 minutes to go the bubbles fizzed, but I still felt excellent and relaxed.

I'm fortunate to have eight of the loveliest women attend. There were even celebrities of sorts in the room. Warwick personality and prolific wearable art practitioner Helen Newton was the first to arrive. Helen has an exhibition of her wearable art in Jacqui's Cafe. Then Narelle Mercer, the back-to-back winner of the festival theme section, walked in. I experienced a significant fangirl moment and felt thrilled to meet the woman responsible for two of my all-time favourite tree jumpers.

We had a great time, and everything went fabulously well. Perhaps the focus of the class was not solely all about crochet this time. I had chosen to work through the methods that I had used to produce my work. The crochet project was a small, fun activity that introduced the possibilities of making different items from t-shirt yarn. Every attendee completed a piece; most started on a second. I call that a result!

Running workshops is something that I would really like to be involved in with greater regularity. My nerves are the only thing holding me back. This positive experience has given me the courage and zest to look to work on something in the future.

Thank you, ladies.

Squink and all that Jazz

The concept for my tree jumper in 2018 was primarily an excuse to make tentacles. An octopus was the obvious choice, so I went with a squid. The body shape suited the jumper shape, and you know what? I think that a squid has a bit more personality about it. Making the tentacles was a lot of fun...for the first two or three limbs. Perseverance paid off though. I am super happy with how they finished up looking. The most fun part of the project was the ink element. It is crochet garbage bags adorned with shiny black sequins. I have found myself a deep love sewing sequins on to crochet. There's something meditative about the process. I have probably said that on here before, but it bears repeating. While Squinky didn't place in the awards list, I have received beautiful words of praise and admiration for the little fellow.

Thank you Jumpers and Jazz for providing this fantastic space to display my craft on such a grand scale. I have such fondness for my tree which lives outside the NAB bank on Palmerin Street (opposite the Criterion Hotel). The plans have already commenced for my 2019 tree jumper. I kid you not. Stay tuned

The Jumpers and Jazz in July festival in 2018 has been splendid. I enjoyed my four days absorbing the atmosphere and buzz that exudes through the streets of Warwick. I was involved in many exciting activities which included a nice big ol' chunk of media duties. My mentor, the expert bistitchual (knit and crochet) herself Helen Gross and I have been involved with the festival from its inception in 2014. 2018 is the 15th anniversary year. We were up super early for a photo shoot with our jumpers one chilly morning. I also spoke with David Iliffe at the ABC Breakfast live broadcast from the Warwick Town Hall about my Jumperhead exhibition and tree jumpering.

The quality of tree jumpers in the open air exhibition is mind-blowingly good. I had a bunch of favourites this year. Here are just a few of my highlights:

Jumperhead Unleashed

I was incredibly nervous about the time when it came when people outside of my immediate circle get to see the pieces I have been working on for the past few months. The time came on Thursday 12th July. It was installation day. 'Jumperhead' is my second solo exhibition. This time around I was a little more organised and focussed on what I wanted to do. 'Monsters Under the Bed' in 2013 saw me with absolutely no clue as to what I was doing. I am slightly more aware of myself, my work and my artistic expression. Now that Jumperhead is open and people are seeing and reacting to it, I feel sheer relief. I can also see what a weird little world there is tucked away in my head. When I learnt to crochet, I didn't expect that I had found my calling. That it would be my creative voice. That this voice would be quirky, weird and whimsical. Perhaps I hadn't really appreciated that these are words that describe me. I wear it as a badge of honour. Weird is cool, right? While I was waiting to commence my Zombie Yarn workshop at the Warwick Art Gallery, I was among the throngs of people attending Markets at the Gallery. The joint was jumping! The vibe was buzzing, and the sun was shining. I was stationed in behind the counter of the gallery volunteer's stall. I had an excellent view of the spectacle. There was a moment where I looked through the gallery windows to see the room completely full of patrons. There were a couple of groups of people taking photos with the pieces, and there was no room to move through the exhibit. I'd be lying if I said that I was not puffed with pride or that tears of joy were welling in my eyes. It was quite a particular moment which I will think fondly on.

Oh WoW Oh WoW Oh WoW

It is with great joy that I shout out the news that I am a finalist in the 2018 World of Wearableart Awards! I was thrilled to be pre-selected for the judging round in April. The wait is long. The judging weekend took place at the start of July. To see the word 'congratulations' at the beginning of the email brought tears to my eyes. Tears of joy!

After suffering the gutting news that my entry last year was not selected, this notification has been received with utter delight and relief. While I cannot share any details about my entry just yet, as soon that 1st show kicks off on Thursday 27th September, there will be images and details galore!

Out of the OOMMC Santa sack

I certainly lucked out with the weather last week. With cooler days and hints of rain, it was easy to stay on track and keep making all the new Christmas pieces. The result? My working bee proved most bountiful. I have two full mailing boxes in the mail, destination: in.cube8r in Fitzroy.

In the mailing box, there are plenty of beer cosies, including festive Cthulhu! They are pretty adorable if I do say so myself. There are also new Zombie Santas, Angels, Elves and lots of Christmas themed critters! Ther are 3 Kringle reversi-balls which flip from a cute Christmas bauble to a Drag Queen or Zombie. Perfect for post-season decor

It was all I could do to let go of those elves. They are my fave out of all them. I have also included brand new non-Christmassy cosies in Zombie, Voodoo and Frankies.

Hopefully, they will land in the gallery by the end of the week.