Matched

The thing that’s been taking up most of my working hours recently is a ‘tiny’ project that I’ve dubbed “Matched”. The idea came about from comments that I get sometimes from women who have bought my children’s clothes, along the lines of “when are you going to start making these clothes for adults?” or “I want that in my size!”

I enjoy making womenswear, and I agree that some of my kids’ designs would look pretty cool on adults. But there are two reasons why I tend to stick to smaller humans. One, because I have two of them living with me as inspiration. And two, because most of the fabrics I use are just small pieces of salvaged or vintage treasures that literally can’t stretch to make anything bigger than anything pre-schooler size!

The comments did get me thinking though, I might not be able to go bigger, but why not go smaller!? Tiny clothes! Even smaller than doll size, and I can use the scraps of scraps! (I’ve got a bag full after all, parting with any fabric at all is a challenge for me). I thought about my kid’s clothes in miniature, or miniature versions of traditional dress from around the world, or even miniature fashions throughout the ages… But eventually I settled on a more personal angle. Miniature versions of favourite outfits from my very own wardrobe. Once I’d settled on that, I needed to think about how to display these tiny things. I actually think I knew the answer to that question from the start. In fact it was probably a subconscious factor in how I got the idea for the whole project in the first place…

Last year we spent six months living back in London. We were in a little flat with almost no furniture to speak of apart from a couple of Ikea bits and some stuff I’d scored from my parents. We also had no Art. And I sorely missed our walls in New Zealand that were covered in beautiful things. I needed a quick fix to my problem so went to my favourite Art supply shop in Camden Town. It’s amazing there, the kind of place you enter at 11am and somehow it’s already dark outside when you leave. It’s name is Slanchogled, Bulgarian for Sunflower, and it’s just full of bloody cool stuff. Everything they sell is displayed on the walls in Kraft paper 3D frames. They are simple and effective, making whatever they are displaying instantly look 10 times better (sounds like exactly what I need right?). Much to my delight they sold these frames in flat pack form in various sizes. I snapped some up, stuck a few photos and some plastic toy animals in them and stuck them on a shelf. Along with an amazing vintage print I found on Ebay our flat finally felt a bit more like a home.

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So when I started brainstorming for Matched, I knew I needed those exact frames for displaying my work. And when soon after life took me back to London, I grabbed the opportunity to stock up (I’d trawled the internet for days, nowhere else in the world seemed to have frames quite the same). So back at Slanchogled I bought myself a few more. 62 to be exact. I didn’t mention before that they come with a sleeve to close over the frame, just like a matchbox. It fitted with the name quite nicely.

I made myself two rules for the project:

  1. Every item I make in miniature must represent an item of my own that is special to me in some way. (There must be a story behind it, perhaps was worn at an important occasion, or was given to me by someone I love.)
  2. I can only use recycled materials. (Things I already have lying in my sewing room, scraps, or bits lying around in friend’s sewing rooms! I mustn’t buy anything new.)

Almost immediately I broke both rules. I had decided on all of the outfits, but my black velvet jumpsuit just wasn’t gonna cut it as an art piece all alone. I needed something to make a complete outfit, so I spent $30 on a vintage Levis jacket. Oops. There’s nothing very romantic about winning a trademe auction, and I definitely spent $30 more than rule#2 states. But I’m allowed one slip up right? It did come with a free used lip gloss! And everything else has been totes above board.

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The “Matched” journey has been pretty special. Creative, fun, and also much needed therapy after a really tough year. It’s been a mini adventure, full of problem solving and thinking outside the (match)box. I’ve used those little wire food ties for making my dungarees buckles, the heads of pins for the rivets on my jeans, and with one particular item I cut up the real thing to make it again in tiny! The other great bit about the whole project, is that I get to exhibit at the new and amazing Fox and Plum Studio here in New Plymouth, the brainchild of my friend Katey Pittwood. Katey is a crazy clever cookie, who harnesses creativity in a way I’ve never quite seen before. Seek her out online at foxandplum.nz, or come along to see us both and have a glass of bubbly at her opening NEXT WEEK!

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