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upon a white sheet of paper and for some reason the petals reminded me of a ball gown and so I tried to draw little legs and high heeled shoes. My nine-year old friend said the shoes looked a bit like rabbits but we agreed that was okay. 🙂

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Playing around with textiles. We’ll see what the new year holds. 🙂

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illustration by zoe langosy

illustration by zoe langosy

Pencil has met paper. Lines have been drawn. Soon images will be cut and painstakingly applied to a sensuous form. An original concept has evolved with the core idea the same — figures clothed by nature. My photography as the “fabric” in the hands of fashion illustrator Zoe Langosy.  Here’s a sneak peek at her current work in progress, a rendering of a Valentino dress to be collaged with three of my photos.

creative swatch by zoe langosy

creative swatch by zoe langosy

In her own words: What has surprised me about the evolution of this work is that the initial drawing was classical in its rendering in part because Valentino is so classical, his fashion prim and romantic.

illustration by zoe langosy

illustration by zoe langosy

But after the initial drawing which echoed that romantic sentiment, I lost interest and began a new drawing, one more dynamic and sensual. The wonderful challenge for me is to use the Valentino dress in a different way, to take this beautiful classical garment by a master designer, and render it with a darker edge that’s more inline with my own artistic style.

photo courtesy of zoe langosy

The artist is at work, ladies and gentlemen. Stay tuned for future updates. New to this story of a unique collaboration?  Read more here: a new year and new collaborations and here fashion plus nature equals

http://www.zoe.langosy.net/

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fashion illustration by zoe langosy

In the Shadow of the Sun is a 2013 documentary directed and produced by Harry Freeland. I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago on PBS. As described on the film’s website, it was filmed over six years and tells the story of two albino people, one a successful older man and one a young boy, both living in Tanzania. The viewer learns of the myths that have come to be associated with these white people, the taunts endured, and in recent years the ritualized mutilations and murders. You also see people overcoming oppression, children striving to learn and to be seen as equal and indeed beautiful, and parents doing all they can to make their dreams reality.

While researching the film and trying to learn more about albinism, a condition that can affect people of all ethnicities, I came across recent articles about albino fashion models. There were a sequence of images of young people with an absence of melanin in their skin, ghostly, different and fiercely defiant in their attitude to be labeled as anything but beautiful. Fashion has been on my mind a great deal given the collaboration taking place with Zoe Langosy, so I sent her a random note asking, without really expecting an answer, how would an artist illustrate an albino. She sent a note back sharing she had done so as part of her honors thesis where she had produced a book, The Marriage of Fashion and Nature.

fashion illustration by zoe langosy

“It was a year long project. I decided to do a series of images depicting fashion made out of nature. At that stage, as a young student, my purpose was to create a perfect character and for this scene I just instinctively chose an albino and dressed him in a kimono made of pussy willows.”

With each image, including that of the albino is lyrical text.  While yet unpublished, following are a few glimpses of this beautiful handmade book.

Sources & Additional Reading

The Marriage of Fashion and Nature by Zoe Langosy (unpublished)

In the Shadow of the Sun (2012)

Zoe Langosy Website

 

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As artist Zoe Langosy and I move forward on a new collaboration, I follow her lead. And what a fabulous journey it is. I’m not the most stylish person on the block but even I know of Valentino, Alexander McQueen and a few other fashion makers out there. Zoe has introduced me to a part of the fashion world I knew little about, fashion illustration. It is amazing to me how an artist can translate the signature apparel of designers like Valentino into another medium that both promotes the original work of the designer and yet expresses the unique skills and vision of the illustrator. In this visual age there appears to be a renaissance taking place with regard to fashion illustration.  Many artists, many styles. Collage is Zoe’s medium of choice.

Creative Swatch by Zoe Langosy, pairing dress by Valentino with photographs by Cynthia Staples

I want her to write more about her creative process. How she can look at this dress by Valentino and then imagine collaging an illustration using my photos.  This is a creative swatch that she has put together to layout the pictures she intends to cut up. From top to bottom they are birch trees and grasses along the Mystic River, ice crystals on a window, and sunlight shining through an icicle.

Stay tuned for future updates!

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Kay Nielsen illustration for “The Story of a Mother” by Hans Christian Andersen

When I asked artist Zoe Langosy what she liked about this illustration by Kay Nielsen, she said, “I love the combination of nature and fashion that evokes a certain melancholy as well as beauty. A lone figure in a stark landscape, not unlike my own artwork as a fashion illustrator.  Decorative, yes, and through the decoration an emotion unveiled hinting at love, romance and most of all loss.” We weren’t sure at the time what story this work illustrated but even so “without any words embedded in the imagery is clearly a story.”  The viewing of this illustration has sparked a new collaboration — Zoe illustrating fashion collections using my nature images as part of her collage work.  Remember the Geishas? 😉

The Nielsen illustration was shared by friend, Donna Stenwall.  Donna, a former New England Regional Manager for Laura Ashley, remarked that she was drawn to the image because she has always loved winter scenes.  “This image looked so stormy, so desolate, and yet it was delicate and breathtakingly beautiful.  I was reminded of animation in the inherent motion on the page, this delicate female form, so dark in the white landscape with just a hint of caramel in her hair. Rather reminiscent of Zoe’s work.”

As we discussed collaboration, I shared with Zoe this image of evening light falling on marsh grasses. She didn’t react with her usual, “I can’t wait to cut this up!” Instead, she said, with raised eyebrow, “Can’t you imagine this as a Valentino wedding dress?” I can’t but she can and that’s the beauty of collaborating with this amazing artist. Stay tuned for updates on our progress!

LangosyArts

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Nancy Li, owner of TAO Select Image courtesy of artist.

Nancy Li of TAO Selection
Image courtesy of artist.

Believe it or not, porcelain had been on my mind just before my chance encounter with Nancy Li of TAO Selection.  I had come across a review of Edmund de Waal’s new book, The White Road.  A noted potter, the book chronicles de Waal’s “journey into an obsession” to learn more about the origins and reinvention of porcelain.  The prologue opens with de Waal in China: “I’m trying to cross a road in Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province, the city of porcelain, the fabled Ur where it all starts …” Nancy Li is quick to tell you, and rightfully so, her family is from this region of China and that she is a third generation designer of porcelain.

Image courtesy of artist.

As I later told her, what I most admired about our first brief encounter outside of a church gift shop was her determination to find venues to market her jewelry, and also to share the story of her family and cultural heritage of working with porcelain. In his book de Waal writes of working with porcelain clay to make a jar. Though his studio is in South London, he writes, “… as I make this jar I’m in China. Porcelain is China. Porcelain is the journey to China.” During an interview, Nancy Li made a similar statement.

Image courtesy of artist.

We met briefly in Cambridge during her lunch break.  Again, with great passion, she began sharing the story of her family especially of her grandfather, a porcelain master.  For three generations the family and 15-20 employees have been working with clay using a proprietary process, molding it in forms from pendants to bowls to large statuary, hand-glazing and then firing the pieces in her family’s kiln.  I’ve always thought of porcelain as fragile but porcelain can be strong as Nancy demonstrated by dropping a lovely blue and white bracelet on the floor. It made a beautiful ringing sound and remained unbroken.

On her website, Nancy describes attending the top fashion school in China, Donghua University.  In talking with her I learned that six years ago she moved to the U.S. where she also received a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering from Boston University and a Management Degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management, part of her dual efforts to better understand the science behind porcelain and to raise awareness globally about the family business and the high-quality of the artwork produced.

Image courtesy of artist.

On top of her full-time job as a Systems Engineer, Nancy makes time to interact with people around Boston, educating them about porcelain and obtaining feedback about peoples’ fashion interests.   She shares the feedback with her family, including producing sketches for alterations and new designs, inspired by what she hears and by her own artistic background.

She describes wanting to help people understand that high-quality porcelain is not only for the wealthy.  It is not only something from the past to be found in antique stores.  It is contemporary and it is art, an art that represents a culture.  “Each piece of art has a story behind it,” she says at one point, holding a necklace in her hand.  “It is art that inspires, that’s meant to be shown and shared. I think Americans have a wrong impression that everything made in China is cheap quality. What my family does in its local community, what it has been doing for so long, is of the highest quality and I want to share that work, our work, and help it evolve.”

Following are links to learn more about and connect with designer Nancy Li and to view more of her wearable porcelain art.

TAO Selection Etsy Shop

TAO Selection Website

Following are links to learn more about artist and writer Edmund de Waal and his passion for porcelain.

http://www.edmunddewaal.com/

The White Road

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