Sunday, July 1, 2012

Love Is Cool

I began my sewing journey about 8 months ago, more or less. Prior to that, I'd been trying to teach myself how to sew, but soon became frustrated by the technical component of it. Still, I enjoyed the process of sewing so much that it became clearer that I'd probably benefit from taking some introductory classes to speed up the process.
And so I did... FIT, Fashion Institute of Technology (by the way, props to Linda, Lyla, and Marie... you all are incredible Professors).
... which lead me to take a Draping class, and Pattern-making class. I confess: I failed the latter. Yes, yes, I failed for excessive absences, but for the record, I wasn't playing hookie... I just spread myself too thin that's all, and I wasn't able to keep up. So I had to let something go: Pattern-making. Unfortunately, I had to suffer the consequences, and found myself biting down on an F-grade; and concurrent to all of this, I sought out an internship position with a fashion designer in Manhattan. Admittedly, I was exhausted -- it was so much work, but something that I chose to take on because I had the interest in wanting to learn much more about this discipline. Things rapidly became clearer in terms of how much of this new discipline (Fashion Design) I wanted to incorporate into my Illustration practice, and which parts of it I would allow to fall away. 
It has been a dream of mine to work within the fashion industry in some capacity. When I was ten years old, I'd swoon over a Canadian TV program called "Fashion Television". Afterwards, I would grab my pencil crayons and begin to sketch onto paper whatever designs I could think of.  As a ten year old, although experientially I lacked the knowledge that comes with life through age that typically informs an artist's work, it was the energy, and the playfulness about my process that I respected in my younger self. When I drew pictures of models in clothing, I had no one telling me if they were good or bad, if they were, or weren't relevant; joy existed purely in the craft of drawing.
A few days ago I completed some outfits which were shot by the photographer Ken Pao. It's in preparation for a modified Tshirt project that I'm working on (although now it may include, peripherally, some custom/bespoke fashion pieces... I really don't know yet). I have to be careful how I word this because it's easy to perceive that I'm trying to transition out of one profession into another, but I have to adamantly share that I am not leaving Illustration to pursue a career in Fashion. Rather, what I'm doing is trying to stay as true as I can to the artist part of me who wants to creatively express himself. For those who don't know me very well, this has been an ongoing theme of mine. I've been labelled on very rare occasions as a Jack-Of-All-Trades (although now that I know how to use a drill, and strum a simple tune on a guitar, I'd prefer the term Renaissance Man -- just kidding). I have feelings of ambivalence towards labels because people have tried to assign them onto me for years... as I have admittedly branded onto myself as well -- at times, to a fault.
The word gay and faggot come to mind (which I still hear every summer even in New York City. It must be the String-Bean tanks I wear...) Having said that, I've chosen to use the label of Artist and Illustrator when describing who I am on a professional level. I think these two carry with it meaning that most accurately aligns with what I do because there is flexibility within these labels' content. 
The project's process originally began as my illustrations silkscreened onto Tshirts that I purchased from a manufacturer; however, with some time, and much thought, as well as  conversations with others, and myself, it moved into a direction that challenged my initial way of approaching this project. Soon the questions of how and  why I wanted to do this started to surface. 
For whatever reasons... insecurity, fear, uncertainty, lack of motivation?... lock many of my ideas within the safety of my sketchbook. I understand that not all these ideas are strong enough to be lifted to a place where they can stand alone and hold the attention of a viewer, but I believe that too many ideas are left on the drafting table unresolved for those aforementioned reasons. It's too easy to give-up, to let my ideas steep in my brain as merely a concept; it's too easy to talk myself into believing that because I'm not certain about the life span, or life plan of this Tshirt project that it's not worth pursuing. What's more difficult is honouring my creative voice, and allowing him to speak even if the words that spew out don't fit into a category of conversation that I've been participating in for most of my career. 
My "Love Is Cool" series is still not flushed out entirely, but it will be; sooner or later, I'm not sure. There have been many "I don't knows" within this process. I contacted Ken, the photographer, several months ago to schedule a date to shoot this project, but then pushed the date back later and later. Six months after our initial correspondence I felt I needed to commit and work towards finishing the garments for the shoot. I wasn't absolutely ready, but then again I'm never sure if I ever am truly ready. Sometimes I think it's about taking the risk and acknowledging the consequences, for better or worse. That comes with the territory of being an Artist. You make something and put out there for people to love, or hate, or feel indifferent towards. I've chosen to put it out there, and have made a statement. I'm not certain about the kinds of dialogue or conversation that this project will inspire, if any, but I do feel as if I've created some kind of movement with it. Now the business questions are arising: how do I create these shirts in larger numbers especially because this is entirely self-funded, and made by myself, my assistant and my interns? How do I grade the patterns so that they can fit various sizes? Where can I affordably buy bolts of fabric for smallish runs? Can I do this alongside my Illustration career? 

* Photographer: Ken Pao; Shoes: Rickard Guy; Makeup: Nanae Itoi; Models": Mikee and Keiko.

No comments: