Lisa models â€œThe Roseâ€ at a previous Project Fashion Show workshop
Photo: Nancy Kangas, Pomerene Center for the Arts, Coshocton, Ohio
Here's how Nancy Kangas introduces the idea of Project Fashion Show--a hands-on, "intergenerational" exploration of identity, shopping, dressing-up (or down), and creative making--that she's hosting at the Wexner Center on May 9 and 10.
After I finished putting together the proposal for Project Fashion Show, I thought, wait a second. Is this even legit? I mean, I know how to sew (thanks to my mother and the rigors of 4-H competitions), but I've never even watched an entire episode of Project Runway. I'm a writer, not a fashion designer.
So from the start this workshop has embodied the idea of transformation. My workshops and residencies have nearly always focused on poetry and the writing process. But the fact is, I love clothes. There, I said it. I love the thrift store. I love putting on a show, and I am thrilled to have the chance to lead this workshop.
Last month I went up to Coshocton to work with two moms, six daughters, and Anne Cornell and Kelsey Schott of The Pomerene Center for the Arts. We kicked things off with a Friday evening ten-minute power-shop at the Goodwill downtown. Over the weekend, we flew through a wild design and construction process that included making personal mannequins, finding pictures of favorite buildings, animals, and plants, as well as sketching, writing, modeling, a bit of dancing, and of course, sewing.
We tried to follow one basic rule: no shirt may stay a shirt, no skirt may stay a skirt, etc., etc. Every garment got a name. Sierra cut up a gown and the top half became â€œThe Prom Frenzy.â€ Lisa took the bottom half and named it â€œThe Rose.â€ Salem's was â€œThe Cheetah Princessâ€ and Kimberly called hers â€œRound in Circlesâ€ because of how she wanted to move in it. Annette thought she was just coming along to watch her kids, but she end up making the â€œUpside Down Tank Topâ€ out of a skirt and the scraps from Elissa's pair of jeans. And Elissa wore her â€œSilky Fringeâ€ to school on Monday.
It wasn't always easy, actually, seeing beyond the obvious, asking who (and how) else we could be--and taking scissors to what lots of people would say was a perfectly nice dress. But we did it. And I'd say what the world lost in a couple of perfectly nice dresses, it gained in a batch of just-hatched, wet-feathered art.