Mending

Mended Underwear, 2017 

Mended Underwear, 2017 

This morning I set about mending underwear-- bloomers that are wonderful to wear with dresses and skirts. I've sewn a few pairs over the years--for winter using soft merino wool and in finely ribbed cotton jersey for summer, trimmed with lace (see photo). Good design, good material--worth mending! 

The channel that holds the elastic at the waist had come unstitched in incremental sections on two pairs. A third pair of bloomers had a couple small runs in the lightweight knit fabric, leaving horizontal lines of thread like a ladder missing the vertical threads. Usually when getting dressed in the morning, extracting one of these pairs of underwear from the drawer I'd notice the flaw and reflect, "this needs repair." Meanwhile they were wearable.

Yesterday I washed three yards of navy blue linen fabric in warm water to pre-shrink it and added the unmended bloomers to the laundry load. Hanging them to air dry overnight, the cotton jersey fabric was slightly crisp in the morning, a perfect texture for sewing. Swapping the red thread in the sewing machine to black, I alternated between a zigzag stitch to close the gaps in the elastic channel and a straight stitch to repair the runs in the material (sewing a virtually undetectable fisheye dart to encase the fray). With a few snips of thread it was done! Kind of cathartic.

Tassels

Beading Supplies and Tassel, 2017 

Beading Supplies and Tassel, 2017 

Have been making tassels. Wrapped the initial tassel with a strip of leather to secure it. On impulse I beaded the next one. It's mesmerizing to work beads round and round, threading a single bead then anchoring it to one in the row below. Tassels are meant to be touched. Beads add a delicate pebble-like texture to the watery quality of fringe.

A car's alarm is braying in the street where I have a studio. It's protesting being hitched to a municipal tow truck. There's a middle school and a high school on this block. Daytime parking is mostly limited to cars with education department permits. This rule is announced on signposts positioned next to trees that are now in full foliage. Parking regulations in leafy camouflage ensnare many a vehicle. I hardly intended to write about this; it's difficult to focus while a car alarm sounds.

Making a Tassel , 2017

Making a Tassel , 2017

Crimson Tassel with Beaded Top, 2017

Crimson Tassel with Beaded Top, 2017

Tassels are entrancing to make and soothing to hold. Good thing...  

The Burden of Marie Kondo's Joyful Crusade

Close the Door to Your Untidy Home, Our Messy World Needs Your Magic

Legions of households have taken Marie Kondo's advice prescribed in her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She prescribes evaluating all one's worldly goods by asking about each possession: “does it spark joy?” Kondo promises transformative magic will result from eliminating any possessions that elicit a “no”.

This approach has perilous consequences to the environment. If you get rid of whatever fails to give you a zing then happen upon other objects you love, acquire them and when their magic fades eighty-six them from your life you’ll still be participating in a never-ending cycle of acquisition and disposal. Over 10 million tons of textiles and 25 million tons of plastics end up in landfills according to the EPA. Our landfills are clogged with joyless refuse.

The range of prices for consumer goods has widened in recent decades. Goods are plentiful and acquisition has become easier. The pendulum’s lengthened arc swings from mass-manufacturing at rock bottom costs to luxury goods priced to add cachet to a brand by making it ”exclusive” (i.e. obtainable to very few). Today a tee shirt can be had for $3.90 at Forever 21 or $990 at Barney’s New York. Even if you can afford to spend $50 on a tee you might be tempted to buy three for $15 instead. Americans have come to regard shopping as entertainment and almost a form of patriotism.

The planet depends upon conservation. We must extend and preserve the usefulness of objects we own. If you’ve ever rewired a lamp or replaced a button you know fixing something to make it usable again is immensely satisfying. We can create beauty by transforming what is broken into something useful, in the process both personalizing it and restoring its value.

Follow Kondo’s advice and your home may achieve a minimalist chic, leaving others to sort through the bags of your charitable-minded donations to find the useful or to haul away your curbside garbage dumping much of it into a landfill. For stewards of the earth there is a hazard to seeking possessions that “spark joy” and jettisoning ones that don’t meet that ephemeral standard.

Buying everything we need deprives us of the happiness found in being resourceful and in the experience of making. Since late 2008 I’ve not bought clothing. I’ve been designing and constructing everything I wear. This might appear an austere practice. On the contrary, it has been fortifying and exuberant. Making adds value as it simultaneously slows acquisition. It presents challenges, requires developing techniques and offers the opportunity to connect with a community. It hones observation skills. If you see me staring at you, it’s not you I’m looking at per se--it’s the construction of your clothing, the seams, the fabric, curious about the elements of its design. As you learn to craft or repair something whether as a baker, woodworker or mechanic, you’ll gain greater awareness of and appreciation for quality materials and workmanship. You will attune to your surroundings in new ways.

Kondo insists in a tidy home will “allow us to clarify our ideals, and help us gain confidence in our ability to lead productive lives and develop a sense of responsibility to those around us…” (The New York Times, Dec. 2016)  The tidiest man I know has burned through countless relationships. A musician I admire whose career has extended into her 70’s, has piles of books on the floor throughout her home. Joyful possessions perhaps, but certainly untidy. A sense of responsibility for our world cannot wait for our closets to be neat.

Acquire less. Find ways to transform what you do not love into something you value. Mend and repair objects to extend their usefulness. We are makers and builders by nature. Close the door on your imperfect home. Go out into the chaotic world. The responsibility to those around us has never been more urgent. Make a difference.

To Have and to Hold: A Memory of David Antin

©SK Beaumont Cover Antin Angels LR.jpg

When I read David Antin’s obituary in The New York Times in October, 2016 I thought to share with you my memory of meeting him many years ago

I moved to New York City in the summer of 1995 after finding a tiny sublet in SoHo I could afford. One hot evening I was sitting on the floor working at my desk (a board elevated by cinder blocks on either end). I was using a computer program to balance my checkbook when I swiftly and inadvertently deleted two years of financial records. All the data I’d painstakingly entered each month was gone. There was no effective “undo” option to correct the error. As I frantically attempted to retrieve the files to no avail, the small apartment suddenly seemed smaller.

I decided to go outside for air. There was a second-hand bookstore on Mercer Street, around the corner from the Angelica Theatre. I headed there hoping to find a computer manual that would guide me through steps to retrieve the files. It was late, but the bookstore was still open. I entered the shop full, full, full of books, stacked on tables, on shelves almost floor to ceiling high, and in carts and boxes. I headed to the cart that held computer guides and looked through the titles. There was nothing relevant.

As I made my way to the exit I stopped before a bookshelf near the door. Though still alarmed about the files being deleted, I’m ever alert to books like a pigeon to breadcrumbs. The fiction stacks, my customary haunt, were in the rear of the shop. Here in the front was a Judaica section. Resting horizontally on top of wider bindings was a pocket-size book, hardly larger than a postcard folio. I lifted it from its perch. Its cover was moss green, made of a heavy, uncoated, cottony paper stock. A quiet book. It fit my hand. Tales of Angels, Spirits & Demons by Martin Buber. I like Buber’s writings and opened the book. As I began reading it was like entering a verdant forest. I stayed no longer in the bookstore. I bought the book without hesitation and headed outside with lingering panic about the technological failure on my mind, the book of Buber stories in hand.

My next stop was the Kinko’s on Astor Place to buy a backup CD before returning to the apartment to try to recover the deleted files. Along streetlamp illuminated sidewalks as a way of keeping other thoughts at bay, I read the book as I walked from Mercer Street to Great Jones then up Lafayette. I found myself reading aloud. The language was beautiful. I savored it, transported out of the momentary into the unending--Art.

At Kinko’s I found the counter where I could purchase a CD. (In those days one waited in line; it was pre-self-service.) The customer in front of me was agitated, loud and impatient. He’d experienced some sort of computer frustration too. When it was my turn I obtained a CD then went to stand in line to pay the cashier. The very vocal customer had effectively ‘broken the ice,’ so while waiting to pay I chatted with the person standing behind me. He was holding a stack of photocopies. Picking up the thread of the frustrated customer’s lament, I spoke about our growing dependence upon computers. I mentioned deleting all the files of financial records and the ensuing panic. The man in line sympathized. Then I told him about my dash to the bookstore for a computer manual where instead I’d found a book that changed my perspective and mood with its enchanting language that caused me to read it aloud as I walked from the bookstore.

“What is it?” he inquired.

I held it up.

“I wrote that!” he said.

I paused unsure how to respond. The book was written by Martin Buber, after all. (Buber was both distinctive in appearance and long deceased.)

“I’m David Antin,” he clarified, “I’m the translator.”

I opened the cover. On the title page I read, “Tales of Angels, Spirits & Demons by Martin Buber, Translated by David Antin.”

“I haven’t seen a copy of that book in years,” he said in wonder. He asked whether I would like him to sign it.

Yes, yes, I would.

I treasure the book. Through multiple moves in New York City it has remained a constant, immune to the shedding of possessions. Crossing paths with David Antin one summer evening, first through his exquisite translation of Buber’s stories and then the man himself was remarkable.

Utah

Garbo Hat, blocked wool felt. Utah, 2016

Garbo Hat, blocked wool felt. Utah, 2016

If aliens landed at the base of this ski slope and saw the goggle-wearing crowd they'd have the impression humans are creatures with grey protruding eyes almost like houseflies. When the skiers break to refuel, taking off their skis, they walk in bulky ski boots with a pronounced c-lop, c-lop, c-lop to the nearby bar or restaurant.

I wish you could see what I saw. (I wanted to take a photo but was without a phone/camera.)

I was approaching the path to the restaurant when I saw emerging from the slope a figure that stood out to an extreme. Against the snowy white background, dotted with skiers of all ages dressed in vibrant shades of magenta, pink, orange and blue and the occasional more subdued black or white ski pant, there appeared the silhouette of a man in somber grey and black, his body wide and round. He was pulling a large white plastic rectangular box twice the bulk of a full size cooler, hauling it behind him with a rope as though it were a child’s sled with heavy passengers. On the snowy terrain he was not wearing boots, but nondescript grey rubber soled work shoes. In contrast to the skiers and snowboarders gliding past, his steps were slow and deliberate. It looked as though he was wearing a black calf-length kurta over grey pants. Here was an anomaly.

He neared the bottom of the slope where I stood. The rope with which he was dragging the cooler was in fact made of clear packing tape. It had been wrapped multiple times around the belly of the container to seal it, then extended to form a long loop to use as a tow line. (How far he had been pulling it? He couldn't have walked from the top of the mountain; the evidently heavy plastic cooler would have pulled him down any steeper incline. I wondered where he had come from.)

I had rented a ski jacket in which I felt entirely conspicuous although I probably blended into the crowd better than earlier in the day when wearing a dove grey ten gallon hat, a long floral dress and overcoat. That attire, however, is more natural to me. While I love being outdoors in winter, I find Jello colored ski clothing even in muted tones disorienting to wear--unmooring me not from my surroundings but from myself. Because of this I watched him with curiosity as he descended the slope. He looked as alien on the slope as I felt in the electric raspberry ski jacket.

Up close I saw he was wearing a kitchen apron, not a kurta. It was faded from black to charcoal grey, splotched and grimy. It wasn’t a waiter’s crisply starched apron but that of a cook or dishwasher. An acrylic yarn knitted hat with a wide stripe of blue, orange and white (a sports fan’s team colors) was practically perched on the top of his head. It reached only to the top of his ears, stretched and pulled down slightly as though it were made for a child and straining to fit an adult size head.

As our paths crossed, I smiled and inquired about the load he was hauling. He explained the container held dishes he was transporting from a restaurant in which he worked, located higher up the ski slope. His name was Euro, “like the money.” He was from Venezuela where he had worked in oil fields as a supervisor. When he came to the US he worked as a laborer on oil fields and now had a position in a kitchen.

I am engaging in conversations about dress and style while working on a book. As we spoke, Euro quoted an expression I'd heard earlier that day. The first person who used it was a fellow in his twenties who, when I asked about the clothing he liked to wear, said in French, "L'habit ne fait pas le moine." Euro recited it English then repeated the phrase in Spanish: "The froth doesn’t make the monk,” he said. (I was momentarily baffled: froth? I realized he meant “frock” or “habit”.)

When he was growing up Euro’s family went to church every week. He had to dress formally for the occasion. One day, when he was about eleven years old, he determined to go to church in comfortable clothing. His father objected when he saw what Euro was wearing.

Defending his choice, Euro proudly proclaimed,  “El hábito non hace al monje!” (The frock doesn’t make the monk.)

His father’s rejoinder? “Pero lo indentifica.” (But it identifies him.)

Euro smiled telling me this story. I wanted to know more. “So what did you end up wearing to church?” I asked.

As though seeing it in his mind’s eye he said with humor and resignation, “A black tie. A white collared shirt. Black pants and dress shoes.”

I laughed. “Your father won!”

The habit doesn't make the monk. In English the expression is, "the clothing doesn’t make the man." Yet attire matters. It is a signal to the outer world and/or a reflection of one’s sense of self. It is the eighth year of making all that I wear--of not buying clothing. At this juncture many of the clothes I have [made] belong to a former expression of myself. Seven years is the point when a sabbatical is declared. What would a sabbatical from this project, Slow Style, look like?

 

How to Promote Buying a Jacket...Using Fuzzy Logic

O, The Oprah Magazine (March 2016) p64

O, The Oprah Magazine (March 2016) p64

This page from the March 2016 issue of Oprah Magazine features a leather jacket with a retail price of $995. The copy surrounding it touts the jacket as a stylish and economical purchase. The mathematics offered to support that assertion are as dubious as a budget presented as part of a presidential campaign.

First the soft sell:
"...a wardrobe staple."
"...it's a go-to piece you can wear for years." 
"...you're sure to make it your springtime standby."

 Here the effort to portray the jacket as economical gets fuzzy:

Page detail (Ibid.)

Page detail (Ibid.)

Cost per wear... $6.38 for one year, $2.13 for three years and a mere $1.28 for five years. At the bottom of the chart is the qualifier: "Assuming you wear the jacket three times per week." That's an important detail in those calculations!

Let's unravel this assertion:

  • Though described as a "springtime standby," to meet O Magazine's calculations the jacket must be worn a total of 156 days each year. Leather isn't easy to clean and that's a lot of wear for a light hued jacket. (It is also available in "iron and black" according to the description.) The March issue of the magazine is titled, "Make Room for a New You". Would you tire of the jacket before wearing it 780 times in five years? Would it continue to suit your style and look fashionable? Do you mind if there's a chance you'll be known as, "--------- who always wears that leather jacket"?
  • Unless you've a unique relationship with the vendor who has placed a cash box in your closet into which you deposit $6.38 whenever you take the jacket off the hanger, purchasing it requires paying in full or buying it on credit. Choose the later option and wear the jacket three times per week for a year, putting aside $6.38 on each of those occasions you will pay $76.56 per month to the credit card company. Assuming the interest on the credit card is 15% (the average rate in 2015 according to US News & World Report) it will take thirteen and a half months to pay for the jacket. It will have cost $1092.

There's a slight "subprime mortgage" echo here. The jacket never costs $1.28 per wear. It costs $995. Then if you wear it a lot, or if you attract the love of your life or get hired because you feel confident wearing it...that's fantastic. Those are actual benefits to dressing well. Whether it looks wonderful on you and fits your lifestyle and budget are the questions to consider.

Digital and Analog

Wool Fedora, Cotton Ribbed Tee, Stretch Wool Leggings, Fleece Scarf (Photo: Robert Lucy, 2016)

Wool Fedora, Cotton Ribbed Tee, Stretch Wool Leggings, Fleece Scarf (Photo: Robert Lucy, 2016)

Building this website to encompass the entirety of the Slow Style project took me away from sewing for awhile. To make a tee shirt I returned to the sewing machine recently. As I assembled the tee there arose such a harmonious, buoyant feeling!

The left brain/right brain dichotomy is a useful way to consider the pleasure of making. If the right hemisphere of the brain pertains to creativity and the left to logic, the process of making--sewing, carpentry, etc.--engages both hemispheres, entwining their strengths. No amount of writing, collecting and organizing photos to build a website activates the psyche as sewing does.

Making is nourishing.

Childhood Drawing to Grownup Design

Linen Blouse, Leather Corset Belt, Silk Tiered Skirt (Photo: Robert Lucy, 2016)

Linen Blouse, Leather Corset Belt, Silk Tiered Skirt (Photo: Robert Lucy, 2016)

This pearl to rose ombré silk tiered skirt evolved from a pattern drafted for a dress (seen here).

How often I wear this white linen blouse, as versatile a tee! It's lace-trimmed neckline gathers with a hidden drawstring. When it wears thin I will surely make another.

The belt is constructed in the manner of a corset. It is comprised of nineteen pieces of material individually shaped to emphasize the curve of the waist. ¼” wide metal strips are inserted into channels which are sewn parallel to each vertical seam, providing additional structure. Initially assembled the belt with leftover pieces of fabric (remnants) from other projects. Wore that model daily, noting any modifications that would enhance the fit. Then incorporating these, fabricated the belt in leather. Crisscrossing laces cinch the belt at the center front. Praise the corset, the posture enhancing embrace of snug (never tight) material about one's torso! Looking in the mirror after lacing it up the first time realized it is a belt I’d drawn in childhood.

we evolve

Linen Nightgown & Handmade Bedding Photo: Robert Lucy, 2015

Linen Nightgown & Handmade Bedding
Photo: Robert Lucy, 2015

Throughout the summer I had the dreary sensation of being dressed at odds with who I am, with an emerging, transforming self. We evolve. It was demoralizing to wear clothing of the past. As a snake grows it sheds its skin--so do we sometimes shed the familiar as we evolve.

In late August I designed a pair of wide leg pants and a sleeveless top. Rather than draft a pattern or use a dress form, I draped the top directly upon the body (a contortionist feat to do on oneself). The way the back and front of the top meet at the shoulders and the manner the pants wrap around the waist subtly break with convention. All summer long I'd thought "If you were to look at me in these clothes you'd not be seeing me." Wearing this ensemble felt authentic and reinvigorating. The reflection in the mirror was gratifyingly authentic.

A few articles of clothing are eternal in their appeal. A green camouflage jacket purchased long, long ago has softened through years of wear. As beloved as a child's teddy bear it’s as right as ever. A nightgown, one of the first garments I sewed, made out of sumptuously smooth, crisp white cotton poplin, was lovely to put on at the end of a day. Eventually it frayed at the seams, perhaps more from laundering than wear. (Drat spindle washing machines.) It was ready to be retired. One morning, looking at the nightgown in its increasingly frayed state realized: I could simply make another.

From the margins of a linen sheet only worn thin in the center, cut the front, back, sleeves and yoke pieces. Echoing the original this one may be even better. Linen almost hovers over the skin like a cocoon. It is perfectly tranquil for bedtime and very tempting to linger in this nightgown when morning comes. Wondered about throwing on a coat without changing into daytime clothing to walk to the newsstand… Let’s be honest. Have done it. Early one recent very chilly morning met a friend for tea before work. I confessed to having put a sweater on over my pajama top to meet her. She laughed. She had zipped a jacket over hers!

Made by Sunlight

When engaged in a project full of invention and discovery I continue as evening falls, until the studio darkens and neither lamplight nor overhead lighting are sufficient. (None rival daylight.) Then I put the project respectfully aside eager for sunlight's return and the opportunity it brings to return to making.

Have had to coax myself from the studio on many occasions like a parent reasoning with a child who is still romping about the playground at dusk. The child wants to linger. "We can come back tomorrow," the parent reassures her. Frequently I've tidied up the studio at night with the same promise to myself: you can come back tomorrow!

 

Multi-Tiered Dress for the 4th of July. Cotton Photo: Robert Lucy, 2015

Multi-Tiered Dress for the 4th of July. Cotton
Photo: Robert Lucy, 2015

Super Power

On a train traveling from the Hudson Valley to Grand Central station today, Superman came on board in the form of an 8 year old boy. He was wearing a red Superman cape made of silk-like material light enough to ripple behind him. It shimmered. Beneath the cape his blue tee with the Superman insignia left no doubt as to his identity. His eyeglass frames were vivid Superman-blue, his face deep brown. He looked terrific. Superman boarded the train with his mother.


Having found a seat on the train I kept thinking about Superman. I walked back to where he was seated. With upraised eyebrows I checked for his mother’s consent.  Receiving it I directed my attention to the boy, “I really like how you’re dressed. May I ask you something? Are you dressed like Superman for a special occasion? Or do you sometimes wear Superman clothes?”
 

His manner was gentle. Looking directly at me he explained, some days he dresses like Superman. Sometimes he dresses like Michael Jackson. He gave the impression there were other costumes. I wanted to know more. But since he was glancing at a game on the electronic tablet in his hands I left it at that. 
 

Turning to head back to my seat I noticed the pink tee shirt his mother was wearing. It was emblazoned with an “S” Superman insignia/shield on the front. “You’re wearing a Superman shirt too!” I observed.
 

She pointed to the baby carriage in the aisle by her side where her daughter lay sleeping. “She was too. Before she got spaghetti on it. The whole family.”
 

Today I met Superman and his family.

Have been thinking a lot about dressing as a form of empowerment. This was kismet.

Gallery Show & Upcoming Presentation

Hats I designed are in the current exhibit at Proteus Gowanus, a gallery in Brooklyn recently named one of the "10 Galleries to visit in Brooklyn and Queens" by The New York Times (16 April, 2015).

Had a conversation with show's curator, Courtney Jordan, when she made a studio visit. She had been to many artist's spaces in preparation for the exhibit. Her perspective on how artists' approach their studio practice was interesting and affirming.

The gallery's press release for the exhibit's opening is below. (It happens to feature my hats!)  Was unable to attend the opening, however, I will be giving a presentation at the gallery. The date and time will be announced soon....

I would love to see you there!


Hats by Sarah Kate Beaumont // Verysweetlife



Please join us for 

Gowanus Marketplace


May 9th - July 11th



Opening Reception: Saturday, May 9th, 6 – 9 pm
 


The final exhibition of our yearlong COMMERCE theme, Gowanus Marketplace circles back to our beloved Gowanus Canal,  highlighting the uniquely creative, collaborative commerce that has sprung up along the canal’s murky waters.  The exhibition explores the intersection of contemporary artistry and industry along the canal by presenting artist-made functional objects as objets d’art in a re-imagined Old World marketplace.


We invite you to come support these local artists and artisans. The marketplace includes ceramics, retrofitted sleds and lamps, soap, knives, furniture, hats, robots, pickles, terrariums, coffee and more!

 Gowanus Marketplace Participants include:


Amanda Moffat Pottery; Brooklyn Robot Foundry; Chris Hackett; Ehrhardt’s Tempest; Haskieville Apparel; Jake Wright // Stockpile Designs; Lite Brite Neon Studio; May Luk; Melissa Dadourian; MQuan; Pete Raho // Gowanus Furniture Co; Phuong  Nguyen; Pickle Shack // Brooklyn Brine; Sarah Kate Beaumont // Verysweetlife; Soapwalla Inc; Stone Street Coffee; Textile Arts Center // Emma Cleveland + Natalie Phillips; Tony Stanzione; Twig Terrariums

Gallery Hours
Thursday & Friday, 3–6 pm
Saturday & Sunday, 12–6 pm
  Proteus Gowanus | 543 Union Street, #1C | Brooklyn, NY 11215