I am excited (and nervous) to announce the first piece of a personal project I will be working on over 2017. It is the first of 12 in a series I’m calling “Body Text” that explores our complicated relationship to our clothing. Follow along on my instagram and/or tumblr blog, hope you all enjoy!
The topic of my first piece is sashiko stitching. I felt that this was a perfect topic to kick off my project with, as there is not only a lot to work with visually, but the idea behind it resonates with me personally as well.
Sashiko was originally used by Japanese peasants to reinforce and winterize their clothing. The small running stitches would reinforce stress points, and repair worn places or tears. Seamwork.com has a good short history on it. It originated in the rural north of Japan, where it was too cold to grow cotton. Industrialized fabric production didn’t reach Japan until the 1870’s, and even then, it was very expensive. Therefore, cloth was mostly made by hand, and represented a huge amount of labor. Not wanting to waste any scraps, sashiko stitching enabled old fabric to be pieced together, and greatly extended the life of the cloth. It became a decorative thing as well as a functional one, with it’s own technique and designs.
Conceptually, what I like about sashiko is the idea of embracing the flawed or imperfect. Patches and wear are not hidden, but made their own thing, more beautiful. I think this is a good metaphor for how to live life- acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life. It’s interesting to me because clothes are often worn as a shield, or a mask- they project an image of how we would like to be seen. And this is often a good thing- you don’t wear the same thing to a job interview as you would wear around the house, because you want your potential boss to know that you will take the job seriously and be professional. If you go to a party, it helps make an exciting atmosphere if the guests dress in special outfits. However, I think that this idea can be taken too far; with clothing so cheap, it can become a substitute for real interests and personality.
I am trying to now repair my clothing rather than buy new, and embrace the wear. I think it is important to let the mask down a little, and hopefully by appearing a more vulnerable, let others know that it’s ok to as well.
The words on the back are based off of the idea that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.
Sashiko was originally done in white thread on indigo fabric, and is geometric, with the pattern based on a grid. The traditional patterns are really beautiful, and look like abstracted hills, clouds, or waves. Here is a pinboard I made of some that I liked. Looking at them, I wonder if the different designs were influenced by the nature surrounding the places they originated from? I tried to keep this in mind when figuring out my own design.
Sashiko is relatively easy, but there are a few rules. I couldn’t adhere to all of them for this project, and what I’ve made isn’t super authentic- but then, traditional sashiko didn’t incorporate lettering. I just used it as a jumping off point. Most of the rules are about what should happen when the thread lines intersect, and usually, they just shouldn’t cross. Stitches should end at the turn of a corner, and intersections should be open. Here is a good run-down of the rules. I realized while doing this why those rules are in place- leaving a little space where the threads cross really creates a nice design when the piece is finished. I mostly got that right, except for a few areas on the “clouds” in the center, especially where I had different types of patterns intersecting.
I discovered a pretty amazing product for this project- Sulky Solvy. I’ve used water soluble interfacing in the past, but never a water soluble stabilizer. This stuff worked perfectly to transfer my complicated design, as it is transparent, and I could trace my design directly on it. I tried seamstress chalk first, and it was a total failure. My usual method of drawing straight on the fabric with a chalk pencil didn’t work for this, either, as it was based on such a specific grid. The Sulky Solvy was perfect for this project, especially since denim and sashiko thread are made to stand up to washings! I was also surprised with how well it took all the drawing, stitching, and general manhandling I subjected it to. I’d highly recommend trying it.
I have a few things I would change about the lettering. After I’d already started and there was no turning back, I received 2 books I ordered about lettering: “Lettering Charts for Students and Artists” by Phyllis Brown, and “In Progress” by Jessica Hische. With my first reading of these excellent books, I realized there were some spacing and letterform things that I could have done better. In this project, it’s not such a huge deal because the letters are so tactile, but in the future, I think I can do better on the technical aspects of lettering.
This is the second piece of a personal project I am working on over 2017 entitled “Body Text” that explores our complicated relationship to our clothing. Follow along on my instagram and/or tumblr blog.
I long had in my mind that I wanted to try making a stitched infographic, so it was exciting to finally get my act together and actually do it! I chose as my subject matter our relationship to cheap clothing stores (fast fashion), and its effect on the environment. There has been quite a bit of awareness about this for the past few years, with many articles and a few books on the subject. (My sources are listed below.)
The topic of fast fashion resonates with me as it includes 2 areas I’m interested in- how to make your clothing feel like your own and express what you would like it to express; and managing money and resources. I think cheap clothing can work for or against both of these. Shopping constantly to keep up with trends can make everyone look pretty same-y. On the other hand, many of the cheap clothes are decently well-made, and can be customized, kept for a long time, and combined with more unique or handmade items. And obviously- shopping for cheap clothing can save a lot of money… as long as it isn’t done constantly. If the low cost of clothing is used to justify buying massive amounts, it becomes more expensive as you need more space to store the clothing (not to mention the time cost of all the shopping), it’s harder to move, and more expensive (especially if you look at the city-wide level) to dispose of.
One thing that really struck me while working on this project is how hidden a lot of the costs of purchasing cheap clothing are. According to what I read, the quality of much of the clothing we buy has gotten so poor that even if we donate it to charity, it’s unusable- even by very poor countries. As in, most of it is worth less than a nickel per pound, even to textile recyclers. And it costs A LOT for cities to dispose of- which we pay for via taxes.
It’s a deep topic that I admittedly haven’t fully investigated with this infographic. I can see doing full projects dedicated to exploring very narrow aspects. For example, I read about whole cities in China that are dedicated to producing one item- like neckties. And pondered whether extremely cheap clothing is worth the trade-off of not having the clothing manufactured in the US, and the associated loss of jobs (I don’t know the answer to that one, but lean towards “not worth it.”) I read some crazy statistics- for example, apparently if every man, woman, and child in China bought 2 pairs of wool socks, there would be no more wool left in the world! And wool isn’t even that expensive right now.
My take-away after doing this project and thinking about it is this: We all need to wear clothing, and that clothing needs to be manufactured somehow and somewhere. Probably buying less, but more expensive, clothing of higher quality manufactured in the US would be better, but that cat’s out of the bag, and it’s not going back in, at least not any time soon. We have to do the best we can with the reality as it stands today, though perhaps that reality will slowly change if enough people change their personal habits. I don’t think it’s terrible to shop at places like H&M, Uniqlo, Zara, etc. They carry good-looking products that are sometimes reasonably well-made and very cheap. But I think that the way to do it is to pick only what you really like and need, selecting the best quality you can from their offerings, with the mindset that you will wear it for a long time. Then, don’t treat them as disposable- take care of the clothes so that they last. Learn simple repairs, and repair them when you need to. Basically, shop for and treat cheap clothing the same that you would expensive items.
Personally, I am now thinking harder about what I really “need”. Do I already own something similar? How few pairs of something can I get away with? What do I own that I can I repair or alter to give it more life?
In the future, I may do projects on the topics of how to repair clothing, and how to tell a piece of clothing’s quality.
“Global fashion industry statistics - International apparel." FashionUnited. FashionUnited Group, 2016.
Vatz, Stephanie. “Why America Stopped Making Its Own Clothes.” KQED News. KQED Inc., May 24, 2013.
Conca, James. “Making Climate Change Fashionable - The Garment Industry Takes On Global Warming.” Forbes. Forbes Media, LLC., December 3, 2015.
Sweeny, Glynis. “Fast Fashion Is the Second Dirtiest Industry in the World, Next to Big Oil.” EcoWatch. EcoWatch, August 17, 2015.
Wicker, Alden. “Fast Fashion is Creating an Environmental Crises.” Newsweek. Newsweek, LLC., September 1, 2016.
Goldberg, Eleanor. “These African Countries Don’t Want Your Used Clothing Anymore.” Huffington Post. Oath Inc., September 19, 2016.
Final quote adapted from Jacob Lund Fisker of the Early Retirement Extreme blog, April 14, 2009
Cline, Elizabeth L. "Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion." New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin, 2013.
Photos of my Stitched Infographics project to show texture.
Stitched colorful poster inspired by Kazumasa Nagai's wonderful posters from the 1960's, and an assignment from my 8th grade art class. This was just as calming and meditative to do now as it was then (in fact more so, since this time I stitched the lines rather than drew them in ballpoint pen.) I found it interesting that although I started with the lines on the top and bottom as the same mirror images of each other, and I tried to stitch them the same, they really ended up doing their own thing as I worked outwards. I like how that came out and feel like it was important that I didn't just stitch one side and then mirror it in photoshop. To me, the differences and imperfections make it more interesting.
Colorful embroidered initials for "Stitch it Yourself" book.
A quick way to test new techniques.
I recreated Black Sabbath Master of Reality in 3ft x 3ft fabric. I like the album cover art because the letters are obviously hand drawn- for example, all of the “B”s look really different from each other. I used sewn black leather to replicate the look of the embossed bottom letters. The top purple letters are probably the most complicated thing I have ever hand-appliqued, but I think the look of them is pretty exact compared to the original artwork.
Erina Dempsey and I collaborated on 2 appliqued and embroidered suits for Jon Spencer. The first used blue and black silk, and leather piping, and blue and black embroidery thread. The second used black silk, gold leather, and black and gold embroidery thread. Photos by Veronica Ibarra.
Silk and leather hand-embroidered and appliqued patch.
Hand-embroidered ampersand self-promotional poster.
Employee Benefits Infographic illustrating the results of a survey Entertainment Benefits Group conducted. The infographic went out with their press release and up on their blogs.
EBG provides employees with benefits such as tickets to movies, plays, and theme parks, so I used ticket motifs as decorative elements in the illustration.
The threads roughly corresponded to .5pt vector lines. I counted how many threads to make 100% K, then figured out what 90%, 80%, etc would be by dividing that number.
Micro cross stitch.
Visualization exercise for Creative Pep Talk's MFBA class, 2016. What I would like for the future :)
The Molecule Project is a water cafe in the east village in New York. I worked on their marketing collateral, and designed a promotional book for them to help sell their filters.
I was invited to submit 2 pieces for "Stitch It Yourself." It featured step-by-step instructions on how to recreate the designs.
Hand-sewn alphabet based on traditional embroidery motifs.
Blackwork style butterfly featured in "Stitch it Yourself."
An infographic illustration for NewYork.com about Central Park.
I was the Art Director at American Spa, a monthly B2B magazine, from 2013-2015. I managed the Art Department, including design, production, and photo shoot art direction, as well as led a mini redesign of the magazine during my time there.
I designed a logo and branding for Ilene Godofsky, a Certified Holistic Health Coach based in New York City. Her focus is on vegan, gluten-free recipes that are colorful, not complicated.
BizBash Media is an editorial brand that covers events and meetings throughout North America. BizBash also publishes BizBash magazine, the National Venue and Supplier Guide, produces the BizBash IdeaFest expos and conferences, and publishes a series of daily and weekly newsletters. I worked with the Design Director from 2008-2014 to design and lay out all pages, retouch all photos for print, and design marketing and trade show materials. The magazines underwent three redesigns during that time, which I helped create. In addition, I did event, catering, and portrait photography for use on the website and in print. In 2013, a special issue on Building Better Meetings won the Best Subject-Related Package Award by the ABM, the Association of Business Information and Media Companies, at the 59th annual Jess H. Neal Awards.
Global Partners for Development is a non-profit based in Northern California that works directly with community leaders in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to identify and implement development projects in the areas of education and public health.
Their original logo was quite old. They felt that it looked too generic, dated, and was not the best fit for a non-profit dedicated to helping communities. In addition, they felt that the red color (though appropriate in the sense that it is the color of the Masai), was too strong. They wanted the new logo to feel established, authentic, trustworthy, and integrous. The challenge was that they also felt their donors recognized and were attached to their old logo, and so they didn’t want a complete departure, just a “soft rebrand”— basically, they wanted it to still be quickly recognizable as the same company, but with an update to make it look friendlier and more contemporary.
We went through several ideas and iterations before settling on a logo that’s a straightforward update on the old logo.
Embroidered clothing that I have created over the years (2005-2016).
Feature story design for BizBash magazine.
I made the first set of clothes for Pomade's Black Market.
I created these posters with my friend, a software engineer at Google, to help teach Lego robotics to 6th graders. He volunteers through a Google program that teaches underprivileged children in New York programming. The best thing about this project for me was getting together with my friend and having him describe how Lego Mindstorms works. It took about an hour for me to get it (not that I'm an expert or understand all the ins and outs by any means), and the differences between how my very math-centric friend would describe how it works, and the way I understood it, was super interesting.
I was surprised at how poor the user interface is on the program. Much of it is tiny and confusing, with icons that are difficult to see, look way too similar to each other, and don't make sense without a computer science background. After having it described to me, I do understand why the choices were made to do things the way they are, but it would be a little confusing to me to keep some of it straight (and I'm not an under privileged 12 year old!) I was also very surprised that there were no vector icons that I could find, and so I recreated the ones on the poster (which I actually enjoyed doing.)
I have been building out the visual language of Entertainment Benefit Group's marketing work, creating infographics to illustrate studies they've conducted about employee benefits in the workplace. Visually, I was given only their colors (orange and blue) and fonts (Din and Folio) to work with.