Saturday, January 09, 2010
Shaking the shadows out of my hair, I stepped into the atelier early this morning and didn’t come out until nine at night. My first action was to sweep my desk clean. It had become a barnacled humpback of mementos, bad ideas, half-drawn sketches, wistful clippings, half-crossed out to-do lists, empty promises, last year’s ideas, coffee ringed notepads, and every other type of misguided thought heavy with the microscopic dust of the old. Now is not the time for mildew and yearning, now is the time for the new.
It was thrilling to see my bare desk again - a blank piece of ancient driftwood - waxed, sanded and planed flat enough for detailed drawing, but warped enough to always set you on edge. Never too comfortable with a completely even surface, I can rest easy on this desk; its hollows and hillsides hold my pencil and cradle my forearms as I stretch across it to draw.
I draw two ways. The first is on paper like everyone else, except that I don’t technically use a pencil. Instead I use a Caran d’Ache “lead holder” which looks like a mechanical pencil, but doesn’t click in the same way, and holds a thick fat tube of graphite. The second way I draw is on the body: pinning, cutting, and whip-stitching fabric on a dress-form (or even on the client herself) composing a new shape or new secret volume right there in the moment. It takes a nimble hand to stitch while the garment is still being worn - careful fingers and fast thinking won't make up for a pricked client if I miss. Like a surgeon, every stitch counts when working this way. It is my favorite way to compose a cover-up or beach-wrap that could double as a dress. I think it is thrilling for the client too, as they can see the volume take shape in front of their eyes, on their own body, rather than through the abstraction of a pattern or a fit model.
I spent the day carving up paper with new ideas and pinning muslin to the sounds of my own spinning thoughts. When I was done, I was soaking with sweat. I had forgotten to turn down the heat and the atelier climbed in temperature as the day turned to night. I took off my shirt to cool off and just stood there for a minute looking at the shirt in my hand, turning it over and thinking about its simple, yet iconic architecture - then I got an idea. I pinned my shirt inside out on the dress form, and studied the yoke and shoulders and collar. I could construct a woman's garment from the pieces of my shirt that would be retain the vocabulary of menswear, without any of the utility. Does this make sense? I could capture the utterance, but eliminate the language. I grabbed my shears and picked out the stitching, pinning and whip-stitching the pieces that held the most clearly designed "nouns" of menswear: the cuffs, the collar, the yoke, and the placket.
Three hours later I had a new design. It was a skeleton, a ghost. It was the burnt rubber left on the road after a drag race, it was the tracks in the snow left by a rabbit, hunted by a fox. It was the echo of a consequent, without the antecedent.
I'll post a photo of the finished design soon, I want to see it on an actual body before I share it with the world. Until then, here is a shot of me in the heat of the moment.
Posted by Serg Riva at 9:23 PM