Saturday, September 21, 2013

4am...Looking back to look foward.

Its 3:01am in the morning as I write this entry to the world. Today is the very beginning of September 20th, in less then 48 hours I will be on a plane on my way to New Zealand. Time has literally flown by since I last wrote. The execration of which has quite frankly scared me a bit. It seems I have reached an age where time slips though your fingers like sand, and the more you try to hold it, the faster it moves.  
Tonight, as I attempted to go to bed I found myself restlessly thinking about my progression in fashion. How four years ago, I didn’t know who Alexander MQueen was. Four years ago I set out on a journey in the fashion program at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I thought I knew about clothing and it turns out I knew nothing. Not the construction, the fabrics, or the designers, nothing. That first year the biggest lesson I learned was that if I wanted to be in fashion, I would have to give myself to that art. I would have to take everything I thought I knew about life, work, and time, and serve it on a silver platter as an offering to the fashion gods. If I was lucky, perhaps one day, with enough sacrifice, I might just be able grasp what fashion and clothing construction was all about. 
The hours were hard, the work slow going and the whole thing was a brutal learning curve for me. I found myself daydreaming of giving it up, going to another major and changing my path in life. But if there is one defining characteristic I have in my personality, its that I don’t back down from a challenge. Through trial and error I have discovered the hardest things hold the most valuable lessons. 
This was no different, I wanted to learn everything about fashion even if it destroyed me. Right before my second semester I vowed to put every bit of energy I possessed into my work, if it was still horrible at the end of the year I could quit and would take that as a sign it was not for me. 
Around this same time I had heard about a scholarship program that would later end up changing everything. Every year all the fashion students have an opportunity to apply for the Champs Scholarship to study at the Paris Fashion Institute (PFI) in Paris France. PFI is a one month accelerated fashion program where you get to work side by side with some of the top professionals in fashion. When I discovered this opportunity I decided that I would apply. If I got the scholarship I would take it as a sign that fashion was the right path to be on, if not, I would switch into a different art major. 
I ended up getting the scholarship a few short months later, going to Paris by myself for 1 month, and finding out through my teachers that indeed, I was right where I needed to be. I learned for every sewing skill that didn’t come naturally, I have 5 hidden talents that would make me perfect for working in the field of fashion. Paris Fashion Institute showed me how I could take these skills, and go conquer that fashion world. 
That month changed my life and I came back to the states with a new found knowledge and confidence of who I was becoming as an artist. In school I still struggled, working 12-20 consecutive hours on garments for school. There were times I cried, hated, even loathed fashion. But among all of the negative was a drive to keep going, no matter how bad it got, because fashion designers don’t feel pain or misery. A true fashion designer does what they need to do to make “fabulous” happen. 
Soon after I came back to Boston and started year 2 of fashion,I met Zandra Rhodes who was visiting MassArt. I had the opportunity to talk with her, get to know her a bit, and although I didn’t talk with her long, something clicked for me. I felt instantly that Zandra was the kind of person I would like to be friends with no matter what her profession was. Sometimes people ask me what it is I love about Zandra Rhodes, and tell them all the same thing: “Zandra is the most honest, unique individual. She is not afraid of who she is, and she is not afraid of who you are either, so if your bold enough to handle her, she is one of the most genuinely fun people I have ever met.” 
After meeting Zandra I knew I wanted to go to London and intern with her. My school wasn’t abel to formally set up such an internship so I took to emailing and calling her London studio until a “yes” emerged from the unknown list of possibilities the futures always seems to hold. The rest is history. Right before I went I started this blog, and well, you all know the rest. 
But as I sit here, thinking about my fashion evolution, I can’t help remember the fear I felt right before I went to Paris. I had never gone overseas alone, I didn’t know what the world in France held for a girl on her own. The same feeling occurred right before London, except I was even more alone as there were no teachers or fellow students to hold my hand. When I went to London I felt, for the first time, truly on my own in a foreign country. Both times my life changed in the blink of an eye. 
And now, as I gear up to go to New Zealand, I find my sleepless nights are not willed with fear, but anxiousness. In less then 48 hours I am leaving the country to go see my work on stage...a real stage, a real show! That people are paying a lot to see! I am going to see my competitors work for the first time, and tonight I realized that I have no inkling what it is I’m up against. I fight to be the best, at everything I can possibly achieve perfection with in my lift, and in a few days I will find out how if I hit the mark in this competition, and if not, what I need to do to win next year. 
Further more, I know that as soon as I get on that plane my life will never be the same. Even if I win nothing, I know that this trip is going to majorly change everything. Its funny, I felt the exact same way before I left for Paris. The feeling is the same, and yet everything is different. 
There are these odd moments in life, where you step back from being inside your own life mentally, and its almost like you can see your own transformation, extrapolating into the futures potential. Tonight is one of these moments. Its nice to be abel to write to the world in this current moment and deliver a living, breathing record of myself right now. I have this very strange feeling that everything is about to take off in my life regarding my career. Its kind of like when your standing outside and you know its about to start raining really hard, and you stand there looking up, opening up your arms to feel the intense energy that is the calm before the storm. This feeling is defined as lots of small separate forces of energy coming together, and right before they all react to each other, the air becomes almost electric. 
Thats how I feel right now, sitting in bed as the clock ticks to 4 am. Surrounding me is energy, nerves, memories and thoughts that make the hairs on my arms stand on end. Some day I will look back on this moment and think of Alice looking down the rabbit hole, right before she fell in. Except the difference between me and Alice is that I’m hoping to never wake up from this beautiful dream!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Weight On My Shoulders, PART 3- “Am I in, or am I out?”

I had waited for months, trying not to think of the World of Wearable Art, and wether I would pass the final stage of judging and move on to be a finalist. One morning, however, I awoke to find that overnight a knot had formed in my stomach. Every day from then on, the knot tightened just a little bit tighter.
I have no idea when the knot finally clenched, leaving me to feel constant nausea. I couldn’t tell you when the slight nervous twinge took its home in my day to day thoughts, but what was becoming clear was that the closer July 16th got, the more on edge I felt inside. July 16th was the day! The day the judges would send out the verdict on which contestants would move on to be a finalist in the World of Wearable Art. That day might change the course of my life, and the pressure was closing in. 
A week before July 16th, my sleep started tapering off. I found myself restless at night, my mind full of wonder, too busy to be bothered with sleep. I had trouble talking about what was going on inside me with friends or family, because talking about it forced me to put into words the potential uncertainty. Three days before July 16th, I actually ducked out of a family event, knowing people would ask about the competition, and finding the knot in my stomach unbearable to deal with even without saying the words that plagued my sleepless nights out loud. 
Somehow, the day finally came. Because of the time difference in New Zealand, I knew the judging results wouldn’t come in until about 2am. I found that during the majority of that day the world moved in slow motion. Finally 9pm rolled around and I KNEW, this would not be an easy night. Thankfully I had planned for such an occasion, taking an all natural sleep aid called Melatonin so that I could fall asleep for a few hours instead of sitting up refreshing my email in a OCD manor. 
At 2:20am I awoke on my own, got my computer out and bravely logged into my email. My inbox page was open, there was an email from WOW, I clicked it, closing my eyes and holding my breath. I was still holding my breath as I opened one eye and saw the word “congratulations.” Not believing it I scanned for key words in the email to make sure it was really true. FINALLY I let out my breath, because after re-reading it 4 times there was no mistaking it, I was officially a finalist! Better yet, I was going to New Zealand to the Awards Ceremony to sit among the best of the best in the WORLD and be recognized. 
It was all a happy blur but initially I must have let out some high pitched sound, and then I was dancing on my bed in total celebration. The sensation of being rewarded after such anticipation was comparable to a 5 year old waiting for Christmas morning, and when it came opening the bright paper to find EVERYTHING they wanted. This was my Christmas morning, and I was loving every minute. 
After the dancing stopped, I looked around wildly repeating “I did it? I did it! I DID IT!” The empty apartment did not respond to this insanity, but I didn’t care. I was on top of the world. I had spent every penny I had on that costume, gone through pain, done it all on top of school. It had been a HUGE gamble really, but I had gladly taken it, only seeing one outcome. And that outcome had just become the real thing. Suddenly, I took out my phone. Only hesitating a minute, I called first my dad, then my mom, and finally my brother. It was the middle of the night, and everyone probably thought there was some emergency when they answered, but I was wide awake and I needed to share it with the world. 
That night, I didn’t sleep at all. I was too excited, too relieved, and not the least bit abel to sit down or calm my mind. There were flights the needed to be booked, a trip that needed planning, but in that current time, all I concerned myself with was turning up my music and dancing, laughing out loud, and feeling great, truly amazing for the first time in months.
Reflecting on the situation, I have come to the realization that I couldn’t fall asleep because I couldn’t close my eyes and let such a beautiful moment disappear into the past. There are a few moments in life that are SO good, SO rare, that you are afraid to close your eyes because when you open them again, it might all be over. That night, I was going to party like a 5 year old and live that moment until I literally collapsed from exhaustion. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Weight On My Shoulders, PART 2- Go Big or Go Home- International Shipping

Where the first victory ended, the second adventure started. I had passed the first round of judging in the World of Wearable Art, and now I had a week to get this costume packed and shipped to New Zealand. Oh, did I mention that it requires driving to New Jersey to ship it? Excitement was the only emotion pumping through my veins that week as I embarked on a packing extravaganza. 
The first step to this whole shipping ordeal was calling my dad in Western Massachusetts and asking him if he would like to go on a little road trip in the next Monday. Like the supportive father he is he said yes. Starting that day, I had one week to spare as I devised a tactical plan on how to get this costume shipped. My process for structuring the rest of the week goes as follows:

Step 1-Figure out a method to pack the shoes and costume into a box that would stand up to whatever potential disasters shipping overseas might have it store. After a bit of research, I found a material called triple corrugated cardboard. This cardboard can supposedly withstand up to 1300 pounds of weight if, lets say, something were to fall on this package during transit. Of corse, this cardboard only came in sheets so I would have to design and build the box myself. I immediately purchased it rush order to my dad’s house. (The cost of the cardboard combined with the shipping shall not be mentioned... Lets just leave it that it was not a good day for my bank account.)

Step 2- Get address of shipping dock, and reference number I would need to ship the box.

Step 3- Call out of work.

Step 4- Get as much homework done as physically possible before heading back to Western Mass.

Step 5- Try to keep my sanity, and take deep breaths.

A few days later, I found myself on a bus, rush ordering myself from Boston to Western Mass. All weekend my dad and I worked designing this box, and packing everything up. It turns out that along with sending the costume, I needed to write comprehensive dressing instructions, attach fabric tags for each garment piece, and get my shipping documentation in order. All of these last minute to-do’s were discovered on the last day before the big drive to New Jersey. Sleep was exchanged for work, as RedBull unofficially sponsored yet another night of urgent productivity.
All too soon Monday morning had arrived, and everything was go...down! We were finally off and driving to New Jersey. The packing list had been triple checked, my costume was snuggly packed in a custom created box and it was HAPPENING! Little did I know, getting this thing to the shipping dock was an adventure in and of itself. 
  For those of you who have driven the route between New York and Atlantic City you might have noticed the industrial parks, shipping docks, and building size oil storage barrels featured on the side of the NJ highway. For those who do not know what this looks like, I found a picture on google images to illustrate it for you. The international shipping dock we had to drive to is in the mist of all of that. Words like sketchy, shady, and unsure come to mind when remembering the drive through the desolate road. I just remember being surrounded by sky high, cylindrical oil storage units and thinking “Really?...REALLY?!...this HAS to be wrong, no building could possibly have been built here.” It was one of those classic moments when you start to wonder if the GPS is trying to kill you. Fortunately, this was not one of those times.
    Eventually we get to this big warehouse, in front of which there was a line of semi-trucks waiting to pick up shipments. Armed with a measly reference number the sponsored shipping company gave me, I gathered my courage and walked into the warehouse to get the necessary paperwork to drop off my package. 
Inside, the warehouse turned out to be one GIANT room. Its size is comparable to about 4 football fields worth of space composing a large square. Trying my hardest to look like I have been there before, and that I wasn’t utterly nervous, I got in the line to turn in paperwork. Standing there, I suddenly became very aware that other then the woman at the help desk situation behind a dirty glass window, I was the only female in sight. Looking down at my hands I assessed what I was wearing, and thought to myself that I could have definitely dressed down a bit more for this occasion. I was wearing a flower-pattern chiffon blouse, sharp looking low-rise jeans, and high heeled close-toed shoes. Fortunately, my makeup was definitely not in any state of glamour, as I had put just enough on to cover up the bags forming under my eyes, but I still couldn’t help feeling like perhaps I could have chosen a t-shirt over a chiffon blouse. Looking around me at these big men with dirt under their fingernails, facial hair left overgrown, wearing plaid shirts with ripped off sleeves, I couldn’t help feeling like a stripper in church. Maybe stripper is the wrong analogy, perhaps “a diva working on a construction site” would be more a appropriate one. No matter how it is described, the point became clear, there would be no camouflaging in this crowd.
As me and my new burly-trucker friends were standing in line I began noticing the stares. The mens facial expressions looked at me as if torn between checking me out, and asking me if I was in the right place. Awkward does not even begin to describe the feeling that hung in the air. I felt like Alice, who had accidentally stepped into the wrong wonderland. Instead of magical trees, these burly men stood triple my size on either side. Instead of smelling sweet flowers, I smelled dusty cardboard, sweat, and stale air. All I kept thinking is “thank god my dad came with me,” although at this time he was little help for comfort. As I stood in line, he stood on the side, “discreetly” taking photos of the whole scene unfolding with his phone. This went on until a sharp voice from the woman behind the desk, cut through the air as she asked what it was he was doing, and did he know that there was no photography allowed inside the facility. My dad acted confused and there were no more photos after that. 
Finally, It was my turn to be helped. I cautiously approached the window, and said bluntly, “I have a package to ship and a reference number the shipping company gave me, they told me to give it to you and you would take care of it.” The woman then asked me something about the tracking number. In response, I attempted to explain what It was that I was doing. It was at this point I realized how confusing and crazy the World of Wearable Art competition sounds to someone who works in a shipping dock. Realizing I was in over my head, I immediately switched to a safer tactic: confusion. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what your asking. The shipping company just gave me this reference number and told me to come here.” I said, being sure to emphasize the lost demeanor I had been attempting to cover up earlier. Eventually the woman gave up on trying to ask me anything, typed in the reference number, and handed me back some papers. She then pointed to two men at a desk 20 feet away and told me to bring it to them, they would take care of the rest. I asked her if there was some sort of receipt I could have for a reference. The answer was “No, we don’t give receipts.” I don’t know if it was the panicked look on my face, or the fact that I probably looked a bit like a lost puppy, but after a long pointed look at me, she sighed and said, “let me print out of copy of the paper you are giving to the shippers.” 
Taking a breath of relief, I said a gracious “thank you” and proceeded to walk over and turn in my paperwork to the ship desk. They stamped the papers, handed one back, and told me to drive the package around the back of the warehouse and give the guy who met me there this. As they spoke they handed me another paper. I asked if there was any sort of receipt I would get in exchange and they shoot their heads no. 
On my way out I saw a sign near the first window that said no receipts. Inside I reflected how amazing it is I got any copy of anything for my records. Soon, we were outside, at the back of the warehouse. A man came out to meet us, he took the package, I handed him the piece of paper, and then he looked at me as if there was supposed to be more. I tried to ask him if that was correct but soon discovered he could not speak or understand a word of english. We drove away with no receipt, and unsure of wether what we did was correct. 
A few days later after emails were exchanged I was notified the package was shipped. A few months later I got notified World of Wearable Art had my costume in their possession. HOWEVER, I would not find out if I passed the second round of judging until July 16th. It was months away, so I blocked it out of my mind. But in the time following graduation, the anticipation would build bearing a question-mark for what might come in the future. I would eventually find out how heavy the weight of that question-mark was, but as this day concluded and I started thing about school and getting back to Boston, all I could feel was relief. 

NOTE: there is one final part to this adventure, for those of you wondering how many parts there would be in all.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Weight On My Shoulders, PART 1- Welcome to the World of Wearable Art!

What weighed on my mind at the end of my last post is a competition known as the World of Wearable Art, or WOW for short. Last winter I constructed a costume and entered this competition. But first, before we continue my story will have to rewind and go back to the beginning, which starts with a explanation of what WOW is, and why its a huge deal. 
The World of Wearable Art is the largest costume competition in the world and it takes place in Wellington New Zealand. It has quoted as being the “Olympics of fashion” because designers from all over the world apply. The competitors are comprised of people possessing all different levels of design ability; working professionals, students, and even gifted individuals who just love making costumes. The prizes and recognition for the winning designer is phenomenal. One designer or design team can realistically walk away with $40,000 or more in prizes. In addition to the prizes, the winner will be featured in multiple media platforms and be recognized by various international design companies. Because there are designers from all over the world, only a handful of Americans will make it into the finalists and have a shot at winning the top spot. But before I go into the prizes, I am going to give you a rundown of the rules and procedures every designer must go though to become a finalist.

The rules are simple: 
-There are 7 categories, they all have a different theme, the designer must pick one or more to submit to. 
-You can have 1-3 people per design team  
-A designer or design team can submit as many costumes as they would like, to as many categories as they would like, there is no limit.
-No organic or food materials may be used to create your costume
-All deadlines to pass in work at different phases of judging must be met
-There are a few width, height, and size requirements regarding the actual construction of the garment
-Conceptually your garment must have a backstory or concept statement. They judges want to know the inspiration and reason why you created it, as well as how it reflects your personal skills as a designer.
 -NO photos may be released of your costume until after the competition is over. This is for 2 reasons, 1- to keep the judging blind. The judges can’t know who made what costume until after the winners have been announced. 2- the costumes are featured in a show people pay to see, and opening night is the big reveal for all the costumes. If the designer does release a photo of their garment, they will be disqualified. In other words, I can’t show you what I submitted. 

After observing the rules and submitting, the designer will go through 3 rounds of judging.

1- Preselection. Judged on a front, side, and back photo of your costume combined with your concept statement. If you pass this round of judging, you must mail out your costume to New Zealand AND it must arrive there before the deadline they give you. If you fail to mail out your costume, or it isn’t received in New Zealand by the deadline, you are out. If it gets damaged in transit, you are out.

2- The second round of judging decides finalists. In other words, round 2 determines what garments will be competing for actual prizes. This round takes place in New Zealand where, by that time, they have received everyones costumes that passed phase one. The costumes are then put on live models and sent into a room with the panel of judges. They are also inspected for quality construction. If the costume is in any way falling apart, you are out. Again, the judging process is blind. Your costume is presented with concept statement. There is no other information about the designer given. The judges then determine wether your in or out. If they decide your in, they proceed to officially decide what section you will be competing in during the awards show. Through this process your garment can be moved to whatever section the judges think it should compete in. If you make it past this round of judging, you are a finalist and are invited to go to New Zealand to the awards show. Recap- round 2 decides the finalists whose garments will be in the WOW show and therefor eligible to win prizes.

3- Round 3‘s judging happens right before the World of Wearable Art show, and determines who is getting what awards. 

After the third round of judging there is an opening night of the show which doubles as an awards show for the winners of the competition. The actual show itself looks as if someone took the Cirque Du Soleil show, and added a runway of CRAZY costumes that come through the choreographed performances. In other words, this definitely NOT your typical runway show. After the debut, the show will run every day for about 2 weeks, and the costumes in the show will be seen by 5,000 people or more. This year The World of Wearable Art is the biggest its ever been as WOW it celebrates is 25th anniversary. 
Naturally, with big anniversary celebration comes big prizes! There are a lot of different ways to win. To explain them all I am going to repeat some tid-bits of information from earlier. To start off, there are 7 different categories in this competition. Each category has about 20 costumes in it. In each category there is 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes. There is also prizes for student entries, first time entries, best costume per country (for example best American designer) and a sustainability award (if you made your costume out of recycled materials.) The most coveted prizes of the entire competition is the Supreme Award winner, and the Supreme Runner Up. Both awards are reserved for the best costumes in the entire competition, therefor to be eligible to win Supreme or Runner Up, you normally must win 1st in your category. One designer or design team can win multiple categories and prizes in addition to Supreme or Runner Up to Supreme. I have seen past designers win more then 3 titles with one costume. The prizes can get a big confusing, so if you would like to see a breakdown here is a link to The World of Wearable Art Website: 
Some of you may still be asking yourselves why this thing is such a HUGE deal to me. For a designer, winning a competition like this can change a their life. To even make it to the round finalists is a huge honor in and of itself. It is recognition that your design work is up to par with the best of the best world wide! Design companies come to these events and look for talent, and people from all over the world will see you work and be inspired. Also, because its word wide, the winning designer’s country will embrace and show off the designer as its World of Wearable Art design champion. This gives that individually unparalleled exposure. Of corse I have given you all of the honorable reasons, the potential for winning $40,000 in cash is always a huge deal to a broke student! And with that, I am finally done explaining what the World of Wearable Art competition is, now back to my story.
In the beginning of March 2013 I submitted photos and a concept statement of my garment to the World of Wearable Art. Keep in mind, I did this competition in ADDITION to my full-time school curriculum, AND a part time job. That means that while I was a taking 4 classes, already creating my final senior collection that consisted of 5 garments, and working a part time job to support myself, I created a costume for this competition that had to be on the work level of some of the best creators in the world. I put my blood sweat and yes, even a few tears into creating this thing. I can still remember having to wrap all of my fingers in band-aids every day for weeks, because the method of construction I was using combined with the deadline was creating blisters on all my fingers. But even with my fingers blistering I knew I needed to keep working to meet that deadline, and I absolutely refused to give up. It was a crazy time in my life, but all I could see was getting into circle of finalists. Every time I wanted to stop I just pictured myself winning, what it would look like, what it would feel like, even what it would sound like. It was this vision that kept me working when everything in my body screamed to give up. 
All too soon, the beginning of March was here, and the moment of truth was arriving. I hired a photographer and model, did a professional photo-shoot, edited the photos, finished my concept statement and submitted. A few days later I got an email letting me know “Congratulations, you passed the first round of judging!” 
The excitement was short and sweet as I realized I needed to mail this costume out ASAP. Initially I was thinking, “I am mailing a package, its going to be simple right?” WRONG! To mail this costume out I had to drive out to New Jersey to the Mainfreight shipping dock, who would then put my box on a ship and sail to New Zealand. Mind you, I don’t have a car, and I had a little over a week to get this thing packed and ready to go. Oh yea, and I had classes to attend because it was the middle of the school year!

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Confessions Since We Last Spoke

It was a grey day as I boarded the Peter Pan bus from Amherst to Springfield MA. Inside I knew, this was the day I was to start writing my blog again. As the wheels begun to turn, so did the gears in my brain. I knew inside what I wanted to write, but getting it all out in a well crafted piece of literature had been intimidating me for weeks.
So there I sat, typing and retyping sentences, unconvinced the words were coming out right. Determined to expel all the feelings I have been carrying on my shoulders for so long, I persisted until I found a foothold in the reality of what transpired. This is to be the fist blog entry that will be known as my confessions. 
As I looked out the window of the bus, sheets of rain poured down from thy sky, skewing the world outside while I typed on my computer. I sat silently, headphones in my ears and yet there was no music playing. It turns out I didn’t need music, the only sound I needing to hear was the gentle clicking of fingers on keyboard. Slowly, I started to translate the truth as it flowed out of my mind in steady pulses, bleeding its way onto the screen.
This particular truth of my life starts on the morning of May 24th 2013. I awoke that day, hoping to feel the excitement I had been anticipating for 4 years. Today marked graduation, a day that millions of students celebrated the completion of school and the start of real life. That day I awoke and got ready as I always did, spending extra time to look presentable on such a special day. I put on my pretty face, did my hair, and put my best foot forward. However, when I was done getting ready I found myself staring into the mirror in wonder. For a day that marks such a big change I didn’t feel any different. Then I realized I had more anxiety then excitement brewing deep in my mind.
All day I tried to find my excitement. I so badly wanted to feel the way everyone around me looked. The feelings never came the way I was expecting. The only time I felt inspired and really excited was when Zandra Rhodes gave her speech. She had been brought in to be our guest speaker and guest of honor. When she got up to give her speech, she did not tell some inspiring fluffy story about ugly ducklings getting beautiful, or past students unlikely triumphs. Her speech was about hard work, the realistic potential for failure, and the road ahead not always being a pretty one. The honesty of her speech was the only one in the whole lot that made me smile. Zandra and I have always been on the same page when it comes to success. Everyone wants to be famous, but few are willing to do what it takes to get there. Reflecting back on that day months later, I think the reason I never felt elated was because accomplishing school was never a goal for me. I went to school to accomplish other life goals like living in London and studying under Zandra, or the month I spent at the Paris Fashion Institute studying fashion with some of the best of the best in the industry. THOSE accomplishments I felt excited to celebrate. But finishing school always felt like something I had to do to be able to accomplish things worth celebrating, not something worth celebrating itself. To some of you I must sound insane right now, and perhaps I am, but never the less graduation day was overall depressing because I felt left out of the excitement emotionally.
After graduation I took some time off to regroup. Regrouping turned out to be doing nothing but sitting in my apartment watching TV, telling myself I was regrouping. I stopped creating, and did little work. As the days passed, there began to evolve a hollow feeling inside me. Oddly my brain simultaneously felt fried and overworked. 
  I “regrouped” for about a month, maybe a bit more, living in various states of emptiness. Finally the day came where I picked myself up and said “enough!” I needed to be working towards the next thing in my life, I needed to be creating again! You see I am what normal people call a creator, an artist, and occasionally a crazy person. I am the special type of person that can be internally destroyed if I am not constantly growing and making something within my life. For example: the moment I stop working and growing I feel as if I am dyeing, slowly watching the clock tick down to the next day. 
It was at this time that everything changed for the better. Within a week I was heading back to Western Massachusetts to work painting houses, cleaning rentals, and mowing lawns (my usual summer routine to earn money.) This summer, the work was grueling, the temperatures soared passed 100 degrees, and the heat and humidity were unbearable, but I pushed through it. I found the work was as much for my mental state as my financial standing. Each time I put in 7 hours of literally sweating buckets, my mind felt lighter and more focused. 
Two weeks later I returned to my gym routine, allowing all my negative energy, doubts, and feelings of emptiness to be worked off on the treadmill. I started thinking to the future, about what I wanted to do, and how I was going to do it. But still, there was one thing holding me back. One thing that I still waited for a response from, the uncertainty holding me back from truly moving forward. That thing loomed in the recess of my mind, still unsettled by the current times. This one thing would determine what the next few months were for me, and possibly alter the rest of my life. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

To Be an Artist

To be an artist, any kind of successful artist, you must live, eat and breath the creativity around you. But to be truly successful is so much more then that. My work as a fashion designer/artist is only comparable that of a long term relationship. At first, you have puppy love with your subject matter. This regards the first stages of a project, when your excited about the idea, you see the end result, your visualize your finished product and can not wait to make it happen. 
Stage two is problem solving. In this stage your beginning the hard work it takes to really make an idea come alive. This stage will test wether you really want to finish what you set out to do. Some days you will wake up and hate the sight of your project, the fact that its unfinished looming in your mind. Unlike a 9-5 job there is no escape from your work because most of your work lives in your mind up until completion, and the fact that its not done tugs at you from the inside out. If working on a particularly hard project you will run into issues, problem solving that needs to be done. Thinking of how to make it work takes up your spare time, turning your brain into a 24/7 work studio. 
The stress can be unbearable if you don’t know what your doing, because there is nothing from stopping it from waking you in the middle of the night with a solution, or sometimes the question you should have been asking all along. I have seen many people, one look at their face and I can see that they are fighting the battle against time while attempting to create their own masterpiece. But deadlines rule in the world of creativity, and most of us have a short window to make our work count. 
Then, there is the times where everything clicks. You feel like a magician as you conjure up ideas from your head, into reality as if it was nothing. These are the days I live for, because I feel like some crazy fashion super hero, who can make the world into whatever I see it to be inside my mind. As if the world and I are doing a dance in tandem, flawlessly feeling the others next move, and allowing the transformation of the project a runway to take off on. 
There is no doubt that this process is rewarding, but you have to love it. There is no faking the love because it will be tested. You will be pushed to the edge of your sanity, just to see if you can handle being the best. And even after you have completed said work of art you are left with the question: is it your best work. 99% of the time the answer is no, and replacing the creative process in your mind is a hunger to create again, this time better, this time bigger. This time you will undoubtedly be the best.
I personally love what I do, although I sometimes feel like the mad hatter slipping slowly into insanity. My work courses through my veins as I breath in the inspiration, and exhale the possibility of failure. The human brain can be a very lonely place if you let it, so music, books on tape, or anything else you can play in the background of your workspace helps to distract it from the reality or working for 10 hours in the same tiny room. 
If your brave enough, bold enough to finish what you have set out to do, you might one day be in a playing field center stage to the world. And you have managed to be the 1% who is showing their vision, exactly the way it was seen in your mind, the feeling is unparalleled. It is the most honest form of expression that can be mustered. No amount of words can replace a true vision of the mind that has been physically created so that others can share in the impact of your thoughts. And you know inside that this seemly small output of information could impact many to change how they think about the world. 
Why do we do it though? If a process can drive you mad, why would you even walk that tightrope? Because without color, the world would be grey, and without imagination, there would be nothing left to live for in the turning tides of responsibility. Without the artist, dreams would fail to be real, and the illusion of anything with be diminished to nothing. We do it because we have to, for the true artist is born crazy in their own right, practicing art is our form of admitting we are indeed off-our-rocker, and showing the world how beautiful a place crazy is. Today, crazy is the place of wild dreams where anything is possible if your sane enough to handle it. 

Valentines Day

Valentines day came after the great snowstorm with the cute name we now know as Nemo. Nemo has successfully deserted Boston of its commuters, closed down all of Newbury Street for almost the entire weekend, and by doing so, caused the poor men of the world to fit in all their valentines day shopping at the last possible moment wether they were going to procrastinate or not. My part time job resides in a small chocolate shop on Newbury street where this story unfolds. 
I have worked in various chocolate stores during Valentines day for 5 years plus at this point in my life. Call it a hobby, but I know my chocolate, and if your looking for advice on what to get to make your lover happy in regards to chocolate, I am the gal to come to. 
Every time Valentines Day rolls around, and it becomes T minus 3 days until the day arrives, all chocolate stores encounter 3 types of men. The first is a classic sweetheart, he is calm, happy, and enjoys the process of buying gifts putting his own thoughtful touch into what he buys. The second is a man who comes in, picks up a box carelessly and says, “this looks expensive and pretty, good enough!” Then there is the third kind of man, you can spot the third kind by the look of terror and impending doom on his face. This man talks with an edge of emergency, as if the world is coming to and end and he is preparing what could be, his last day on earth. He normally wants to choose the chocolates that go in his box, wanting to control every aspect of the purchase. When picking out the chocolates, his demeanor reflects that of a person who has just been handed a bomb, and is trying to figure out which wire to cut to disable it. He will never shed this look of terror in his eyes, even after the purchase as the whole thing is one big terrifying experience. 
Fortunately, I know these three men and act accordingly to each. The first man you take your time getting everything to reflect a thoughtful touch, for the second man you should potentially do some extra ribboning of the box to give it flair, but do it fast he does not care enough about this gift to wait around twiddling his thumbs. The third needs constant reassurance of how beautiful a gift he is getting, how his significant other will love it, and how well everything will go for him after this purchase. 
I find the concept of Valentines day funny being in a relationship. Its almost as if we celebrate it to keep up with the rest of the world instead of keeping up with our individual relationships. If your significant other forgets the day, or you choose not to celebrate it, it doesn’t mean that your relationships not full of love, and yet the fact remains that you feel left out of a bigger picture. Its the one day where most people look to their neighbors outward display of happiness to see if the grass is greener on the other side. When really those who are constantly looking at everyone else's happiness to compare to their own, are not going to be made happy by a box of chocolates anyway. It’s a holiday where only the most secure people will be truly happy, as the rest of us squabble to find a reassurance in one of the most delicate dynamics in life, love. 

Storm Nemo Comes To Boston

Since I last wrote, Boston Massachusetts has survived a massive snowstorm followed by Valentines Day- the one day out of the year where the lovers of the world all put tremendous pressure on their significant others to sum up a loving relationship with symbolic acts that “defines” the way they feel about each other. 
The beginning of this adventure starts the two days before the snowstorm Nemo. My boyfriend was just getting out of work from the Prudential Tower as I met him to go buy some groceries for that night. One of the joys of living in the middle of Boston is the 24 hour super markets always located a hop and a skip away from your apartment. The supermarket we were headed to on this lovely Thursday evening is called Shaws, and is located next the the Prudential Tower right smack in the middle of the city. 
When we entered through the sliding doors the store was a buzz with people doing their pre-snowstorm grocery shopping. “This is normal,” I thought as we walked through the store, observing people who had carts that would lead one to believe the end of the world might be tomorrow. Back home in Amherst Massachusetts, I find that people stock their cabinets with the slightest warning of an impending storm, so my mindset was that Bostonians must do the same therefor making this normal.
It was not until we were halfway down an aisle that was set in the far back of the store that we noticed a unsetting amount of people just standing around with full carts. At first, I experienced immediate irritation. I couldn’t understand why people were literally standing in middle of the aisle doing nothing. Perhaps, for some reason, there was a large number of clueless people out and about, that all decided to go food shopping at the same time? I wasn’t sure.
It wasn’t until I was blocked by three different people in the cereal aisle that I peered down to the front of the store. It was then I saw it, the line of never-ending lines. For you to understand how ridiculous this whole situation is its important to know that this Shaws supermarket is HUGE. In fact, it might just be the largest supermarket in Boston. The lines were so long, each spanned at lease half the length of the store, which is insanity because there is a plentiful amount registers at the front of the store. 
This site would annoy most people, but my mood instantly changed to that of excitement. I began passing each aisle, peering down at the people in it as if I was observing some National Geographic special on television. 
After my excitement began to calm down, and I started turning from a 5 year-old back to a 23 year-old, I took notice of the dominating item in everyones carts: alcohol. One man, about the age of 35 had a handle of vodka, a bottle of Patron tequila, two bottles of wine and some snack food that one would hardly call a well balanced meal. The man ahead of him had two bottles of wine, and so on. If I had to guess, I would say 85% of shoppers had $30+ each of alcohol in their carts. 
Out of curiosity I looked into the liquor section of Shaws. Lets just say, If you were coming into that store without knowing what those aisles held, you might assume, judging by the amount of people grabbing bottles off the shelf, that those bottles held something that was a necessity for staying alive during a snowstorm. 
Once I was done running around the store, observing people as Mark rolled his eyes and tried to distance the fact that we knew each other, we put our meager three items each back on the shelf, and got out of there. We substituted CVS as our supermarket that night as we stopped by a whole foods briefly only to find the same shopping frenzy of people in a mad dash for groceries.
The next day was Friday, and Nemo had officially begun. I was released from work early as the snow fell and the parking ban turned into a driving ban. It was strange walking home seeing streets on Boylston naked of the cars that were always parked on both sides.
Mark (my boyfriend) came home from his finance job that evening with the unfortunate news that his second night job at a local bar had not let him off work. In fact, the bar was so determined to stay open, they put their waitresses up in a local hotel. Not one to miss the possibility of adventure, I whimsically decided to give him some company at work with the promise of storm photos lingering in the future. Plus lets face it, I wanted to see Boston engulfed in snow to the fullest. Little did I know how interesting the actual bar part of the night would be. 
Most people in a blizzard hunker down in their home with some hot coco, and maybe watch a movie or have a drink if your in the mood. Apparently Boston people take this chance to buy alcohol like it was water and party hard. For those who could not do this in the privacy of their homes, there is the bar, if that is, your brave enough to fight the storm to get there. 
By the time Mark and I adventured outside to make the 10 minuet journey to his bar job, the winds were wicked and the snow was more like ice shards that angrily insisted on making their way into your eyes. The level of the snow had climbed to my knees, which was impressive as it was only 9pm at night. Considering we would be at the bar until about 2 am, adventure was definitely afoot and ready for us.
After a walked that seemed to be 30 minutes, we reached our destination. During I came to the conclusion that I would make a terrible arctic explorer, vying for a nice cup of hot coco rather then ice in the face. Everyone in the bar seemed to be prepared, however, as they were all dressed in snow pants and ski goggles. Throughout the night I met lots of people and has multiple interactions, but two of them specifically stood out. The first was a group of rebellious 35-40 year olds who insisted on being mischievous. Their tactic in doing this was to act out in small enough ways that they were not booted from the bar, but large enough ways to keep the bouncers busy all night with their mischievous actions. One woman, perhaps in her 40’s, actually starting hanging on a light fixture adorned to the wall above the woman's bathroom. The manner in which she did this was that of a pole dancer. For those of you who still aren't seeing this image, she was acting like a clothed stripper. The wall the light fixture was set into was made of brick, and the fact she didn’t end up with light fixture in her face still amazes me. 
The second person that stood out to me was a man that everyone refereed to as “Big Sexy.” “Big Sexy” stands at about 6’4” with dark skin, and weighs somewhere in the range 300 pound range. He was also one of the most hilarious, friendly, hard to miss people at the bar. At first, he was introduced to me by a friend who said, “ Sarah, this is  Sexy, Sexy this is Sarah.” However, we were in a bar, and I was so sure I had misheard the name, therefor assumed it was a unusual name that was hard to pronounce. Later it was explained to me that all the locals who come to the bar call him “Sexy” or “Big Sexy.” When I asked Mark what his real name was, Mark looked up quizzically for a moment before slightly frowning, then lifted his eyebrows in surprise saying “You know, I have known him for 2 years, and I have never heard anyone call him anything but Big Sexy.” 
At 3am we left the bar and ventured the barren streets of Boston. On the way home, we only encountered one lone man carrying a yellow sled under his arm. The next day was Saturday and we awoke like two kids on Christmas morning to go explore the snowscape that was not Boston. 
We traveled from Symphony down to the Boston Commons, and finally to the North End and Aquarium. Then, because the subway was closed, we headed the long way back.  During our commute we stopped to document the storms impact on the city. Bostonians were alive with the new change of scenery. There were people skiing in the streets, others letting their dogs off lease because no one was driving, kids being pulled on sleds, and finally runners who would never let a snowstorm get in the way of training for the Boston Marathon, forced by the snow to run down the center of the main streets.
At the end of the day we returned home with wind burned faces, and exhaustion in our limbs. Finally, we cozied up and did what most people do during a snowstorm, indulge in some hot coco, and a good movie. Of corse if I didn’t add my own competitive edge to the day, my name would not be Sarah Burke, so I submitted my storm photos to National Geographic’s My Shot section of their website, and it was later selected among the best of the best viewer-caught storm photos. The link to National Geographic and the photo itself are below. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Word to the Wise

Fashion design is like walking a tight rope. On one shoulder you have your sanity, on the other your physical health. In your mind you hold your creation, over your head, the threat of failure. You walk this tightrope, trying not to look down, trying to balance it all as you know it is an act that requires you to keep your eyes on the prize. You know that if you stumble and fall, the time lapse it will take to pick yourself up is time you can’t spare if you are going to make your deadlines. Your aiming to be the 1% of the population who makes it, your planning on somehow making it to the top in your own right. All the odds stare you in the eyes as you see that nothing comes by chance. So you work, you work every day as hard as you can. The work you start producing becomes your way of screaming to the world why you are the person who can make it. But is it enough? You question this and come up without an answer to put your mind at ease. The stress threatens to drown you so you better be a good swimmer of positive thought to keep your vision of making it in the front of your mind. Positive thoughts become as important as the air you breath, for as the true artist, there is no such thing as good enough. You know you will do it better next time, but right now is all the counts. You want the world in an hour when all you have is a minute. You win some awards and people congratulate you, pat you on the back. But your already on the next project because you know that your only as good as todays achievements, and those awards and already yesterdays news. What have you done today? Why should the world care? You brain allows your genius if only you would let go. The world tries to tell you the right way to be working, you block it out and do what works. You do all of this with purpose, with conviction, wondering if you will get a break to show the world what you can do. For now, you live as loud as possible, trying to make a connection unfound in the present, but maybe existing somewhere in the future. For now, you live as an ant, unnoticed, small, and by no means an impact on the field you have started to obsess over. The only solution is to continue like your life depends on it. “An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an unbalanced force acts upon it.”-Newtons first law of motion. I plan to be that object moving forward, and if an unbalanced force comes my way, I plan to bob and weave until I get around it. My friend once told me “Healthy people look at life's challenges as an adventure, not a stress.” Since then, when I am lost, or feeling defeated I smile, because on the on the cliff destruction, comes the breakthrough of success if you know how to find it. 

Designing my Collection. Concept and Sketches

Coming back to my real life in Boston was surreal. In London, living in Zandra Rhodes house, something inside my brain had clicked. I felt like Alice, who had fallen down the rabbit hole, gone on this insane journey only to return to real life with an execs of unparalleled memories that changed everything. 
           The first thing I did after the jet lag wore off was to start sketching. I sketched until my hand was sore and my eyes, heavy. When I wasn’t sketching I was thinking about what my 5 piece collection for my senior year would be. Before I left london, Zandra Rhodes had gifted me with three different hand-printed fabrics. The 5 piece collection would contain all three, but the concept was still emerging. I struggled deeply with the creation of this concept because I look at anything I create as communicating with the world. This grand spectacle would be a chance to say something to a large audience, but what was it I wanted to tell them? After days of thinking about it, I realized I wanted to illustrate my experience in London in a visual spectacular. I wanted to take the viewer down the rabbit hole I fell into, and show them the world of color, beauty, and fantasy I had seen. I aimed to illustrate the merging of Zandras train of thought and style of art with my own. The conclusion of this was that each of the 5 looks in the collection must illustrate a part of this journey. While only I know which parts of the journey they illustrate, the viewer will have the luxury of getting taste of the overall experience. 

A second inspiration to this collection came from artist Nick Cave who one of my friends introduced me to when I had gotten back from my trip. Nick Cave works a lot with costumes that contain materials that are designed to be seen in movement. The particular outfit that really inspired me was his raffia costumes. This costumes were heat to toe raffia which is a hula skirt grass that is really light and playable. After watching the outfits move I knew raffia was something I wanted to incorporate into the collection. The designs will change here and there over the corse of creation, but for the most part they are drawn the way they will look in real life. 

My Final Starting Sketches 

Print 1 from Zandra Rhodes
Print 2 from Zandra Rhodes
Print 3 from Zandra Rhodes

Part Two: My Real Life (Back to Boston)

Hello again! After returning from London and my adventure with Zandra Rhodes, I seemed to have fallen down the rabbit hole into my work and away from my blog. However, nothing could keep me away forever. Thus I’m Back, with a bag full of crazy stories, and a future full of possible success.
          To catch you up we will go back to the basics. There has been so much I have not told you about that the easiest way to get this going is to itemize what you have missed, since I last wrote. So here it is, In chronological order:

1.) Returned to MassArt to set up a Zandra Rhodes textile exhibit. (the exhibit is unfortunately over, however I will eventually show you the exhibit in my blog, and how it was set up.)
2.) Started my final year of college at Massachusetts College of Art and Design
3.) Designed a 5 piece collection for my final year, and created 3 of the 5 looks. 
4.) Met up with AndrĂ© Leon Talley and Zandra Rhodes at the VIP Zandra Rhodes exhibit tour and dinner. 
5.) Applied to the Wearable world of Art competition in New Zealand, and started creating the garments for the competition. 
6.) Started applying for jobs after graduation which is more of an adventure then you think it would be. I will eventually give you the 411 on how THATS going

This is the list my life has revolved around since I wrote last. The only thing not on that list would be that my boyfriend of 5 years has moved into my apartment immediately after I came home from London. I will tell you now, there is no better test of love for a man then moving into his girlfriends 1 bedroom, shoe box of an apartment, but we will get into that later. 
So hold tight, get cozy, and continue to tune into my blog. This is part two, my real life. I will be taking you into my home, school, and work in Boston Massachusetts. I am going to give you a view into everything, from how much work it takes to have anyone give a dam about you, to how to set up a gallery space for a big exhibit. I am going to tell you what it feels like to live a life where everything that you earn, you must work for as if you have nothing in this world that is more important. Lastly, I am going to tell you about how it feels, the sacrifices you make, and how I wouldn’t give this crazy life up for the world. So don’t call it a come back, because I really haven't gone anywhere...yet!