This month I would like to introduce you to my friend, Margaret Matson, and a project she is working on.
I met Margaret in the sixties when we were both young women. I had a custom clothing shop in Sausalito, California, and Margaret lived with her husband and young child ten miles away in Tiburon, California. We appreciated each other’s artistic journey immediately, and our bond grew over the next few years. Three years later, Margaret and her daughter moved to Oregon and we have never lived near each other since, but our artistic bond has never been broken.
Before computers, we sent each other letters and pictures, sharing our current projects. Margaret’s came from Canada as she traveled with a government-funded circus, or from India, where she costumed a play on a Fulbright Scholarship. My letters came from Paris, Spain, and Mexico. Since we have computers now, we are able to share every detail of our work.
I’ll let Margaret describe her current piece:
One of Margaret’s dresses was selected to be in a traveling exhibit with artists from many countries. The exhibit was put together by the Rice Museum, a paper museum at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia. The show was a year in the International Airport in Atlanta, and then traveled to the Houston Museum of Contemporary Crafts. The green dress above was included in the Lark 500 book, a book of 500 paper objects.
INSPIRATION AND PROCESS
I was living in Chinatown in Vancouver, B.C.,working with Canadian artist Catherine Hahn. We were designing and constructing a project for the Canadian Government pavilion at the World Expo in Vancouver.
I did all of my food shopping in Chinatown, and I was fascinated with the incense and paper (Joss Papers) section in the back of the store. I would buy packages of paper and bring them home to see what I had. Some unfolded to be garments with foil buttons, paper undershirts, etc. I slowly became acquainted with the ancient tradition of burning effigies to the dead, effigies of things for the after-life.
In response to the Los Angeles rebellion in the 90’s, I made a series of three burned wood figures I called “Los Angeles”, which is Spanish for “The Angels”, and symbolized the rebellion in Los Angeles. They were dressed in paper dresses and floor length steel wings. These were my first paper dress constructions using elements extracted from the Joss papers.
Years later I am revisiting the dress form without the figures, and using mostly hand-blocked, handmade papers from Nepal and India. Often I overprint these papers using rubber stamps that I carve. I add glaze to tone, or inks to shade and stain the colored papers. I cut patterns from the papers, and I also take my own artwork (botanical paintings for instance), and isolate elements that I laser print in multiples and scales that I can cut out and use, as in the ruffle trims. I detail with foil papers and most recently, glitter. My thinking is to have many transitions of pattern, color, and sheen, in steps to move the eye in a continuous way.
These dresses are supported by an armature that I make by cutting and drilling basswood. Then I bolt a rod that is threaded and attached at the bottom end to an old floor lamp base. I wire-brush and heat the lamp base with a torch and brush on dark paste wax. The rod is covered with a copper tube that is patina’d and waxed. The bass wood is sanded, dyed, and waxed, and the neckhole curve and the bottom curve are both capped with hammered copper. I tack it along the folded edge with little copper tacks. The finished armature is 44 inches tall.
Dia de los Muertos
PREPARING THE PIECES
STAMPING THE PAPERS
LAYING THE DRESS OUT
WORKING ON THE NECKLINE
PREPARING THE ARMATURE
THE FINISHED DRESS
Also appearing in the Lark 500 book.
These shoes were made for a friend who died, and my intention was to burn them. I was so attached to them that I kept them with me for several years.
One night there was a fire in my building, damaging the entire floor where I lived. I lost most of the things in my studio, including the shoes! I concluded that they wanted to go where they were meant to be.
DISH BRUSH DOLLS