RESEARCH
Book in Process: Dyeing for Entertainment: Painting and Dyeing for the Entertainment Industry.
Figure 9.15 Ombre.jpg

In the interest of preserving valuable knowledge related to painting and dyeing for the entertainment industry, I am on contract with Focal Press/Routledge to publish my book Dyeing for Entertainment: A guide to painting and dyeing for the entertainment Industry, Spring 2024. Above is an illustration I created for the chapter 9 Dyeing to Customize Fabric: Painting with Dye about the process of ombre dyeing. 

My hope in creating this book is to craft a technical manual detailing the techniques, tools, mediums, and tips from professionals across the entertainment spectrum that is also a narrative of the practical industry of storytelling and artistic process. I would like this book to be used by future generations of professional artists and academics and also by the home dyer or cosplayer. I would like to capture the concept that painting/dyeing/aging and distressing costumes is an art and that each artist brings their own perspective, experiences, and knowledge to each project they encounter. I hope to impress on new artisans that this subjective art requires a rich knowledge base in addition to practical experience that can only be gained from taking bold risks. My goal is to compile a book that has contributions by the best in the industry of both theatre and film (Opera, themed entertainment, special effects, and TV are contained in this arena as well), and to capture our art form while it is still traceable to the artisans whose shoulders we stand on. From how-to pages with recipes and supplies to vignettes on artisans and designers in the entertainment industry, I hope to capture the collaborative art that is imperative in creating character for the entertainment industry.

Medium and Materials Exploration: Flexible Iron

Another area I enjoy researching is near and dear to theatrical tradition:  unconventional uses of materials and repurposed materials. This research also focuses on keeping costume technology as “healthy” as possible by exploring technology that is mostly water-based or low toxicity. This piece has been featured in three art shows: Wearable Expressions, Palos Verdes Art Center, Corset as Art: Past and Present, Southern Utah Museum of Art, and The Big Squeeze: Corset as Art, Times Square New York. 

This piece is an Elizabethan-style corset made from a felted sweater. I have always been intrigued by iron corsets and I find the Elizabethan examples to be most impressive in their scale and intimidating silhouette. The piece I made was based on the amalgamation of two corsets: the silhouette of an Elizabethan iron corset from the collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence (ca.1590, n.14147), combined with the pierce-work from an orthopedic corset of the Musée Galliera collection (ca. 18th C.). I thought the combination of rounded shapes on the base (or peplum area) and back sections of the Galleria corset were an interesting juxtaposition to the geometric criss cross on the front, all contained  in the  more formal silhouette of the Elizabethan corset. This is the original “business in the front, party in the back” decoration which would seem a popular motif to be later exploited by fetishists. As I considered the uses of iron corsets, I found that there is limited knowledge on the subject: most costume historians agree these corsets were worn for orthopedic reasons to correct spinal deformities and most extant iron corsets were actually Victorian fetish reproduction of Elizabethan corsets. In my piece I used a busk as my front closure which was not invented until the 19th century. The busk’s presence in my piece conveys the addition of the  Victorian fetish reproductions to the primary use orthopedic requirement and support. 

As I considered how the woman wearing an iron corset must have felt, especially for reasons of spinal deformity, the imagery from the beetle in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis came to mind: both woman and insect with extreme limitations in movement and mobility. I felt that the supportive and constricting iron corset linked quite well with the exoskeleton of a scarab beetle: without neither corset nor exoskeleton, the person or insect in question has no form. My color inspiration was born of this connection between woman and insect, using the colors of a green Scarab Beetle.