Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Featured article in the CDDC post

The CDDC blogmeister just wrote an article featuring me as the winner of the challenge #3. I was blushing so hard with all the praise as I was reading it I was sure I'd just compulsively combust! I'm really honoured and flattered and everything, but for the first time in my life I feel like a proper Finn and Finns mainly get embarrassed if complimented. I know it must sound pretty ridiculous, but it's a culture thing. For us small talk means complaining about the little things in life just as the British talk about weather. Praise is easy to take in Asian cultures: in Japan you simply deny it and apologise; in China you say "nalinali" which literally translates as "Where? Where?". Maybe that's why I've always felt at home in Asia. If you compliment a Finn about their outfit, they are taught from childhood that the proper reaction is to say "Thanks. Oh, this old thing? I've had it for years! Its so dirty and all..." and so forth. We find the benauty in modesty. So in short, I really don't know what to say, but thank you. Thank you so much. *blush*

I bet I'm going to bore and disappoint everyone with my next entry, as I did have my own doubts about it and finished it in a rush hoping to work on my thesis. Well, it was good that I finished early this time around as otherwise I wouldn't have finished at all with Neru's severe illness. But for what its worth the horrible ordeal with my baby cat seems to be taking a positive turn - I hope it lasts. And the thesis will have to wait.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

CDDC Challenge Three - The Epitome of Perfect Embellishments

Challenge 3
Embellished - Our guest judge this week is known for her fabulous embellishments. Use your creative skills to create an outfit that is the epitome of perfect embellishment.  

Guest Judge:  Magalie Dawson 

Embellishments. This seems like a change to go all out Haute Couture. It’s the intricate detailing that has always captivated me in fashion and costume design. I think it was seeing the Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Eiko Ishioka’s unbelievable costumes that awoke the passion in me in first place. I wan to make something very couture as a tribute to her strange and inspiring work, but I don’t know if have the minerals for it – if you what I mean. Anyway, now I need to go and buy some groceries and bake a cake as thanks to my cat babysitter. Let’s see what my mind can conjure and if my hands can keep up!

Sunday 4th of October - Preparations

When I think of embroidery, beading, sequins, draping, ruching and other embellishments the first thing in my mind is that 6th scale is a big handicap. It’s time to make my first fashion for a 16” doll and luckily I have the freshly resculpted and repainted Tonner's Antoinette waiting. This will be a good test of my style’s recognisability as no one really knows I have an Antoinette. Normally, I get several emails from my friends and acquaintances writing “I know which one is yours!” which is always loads of fun but I do want to know if  it's my dolls or fashion design they recognise. 

Luckily, I had ordered a pile of sequins when I first heard I got accepted to this competition which is crucial as the time will be real tight with this challenge and there’d be no way I could place an order now and wait until they’d arrive. Embellishment is all work made by hand and will take ages to do – especially the megalomaniac flashes that keep brandishing my head with ideas and you can’t buy anything in this scale from Finland.

Monday 5thof October - Design Work

Since I have a limited supply of sequins – and I really want to test them out for the first time – and this small size cannot be bought anywhere in Finland I need to work with what I got. I have two sets of sequins: 2mm satin tones of light and dark ecru, chocolate brown and black; 3mm iridescent tones of dark brown and chocolate – or that’s what it says on the package – I’d call these gold and burgundy with weird brown and purple tones. I also have some beads to match the later. I spend the day trying to find fabrics to inspire me and end up rearranging and cleaning up my whole fabrics stash. Finally the inspiration comes, but I don't have the fabrics to fulfil my vision of intermixed flowing colours. I find yellow and red and brown silk dubioni that might work, but I feel more like silk chiffons and I don’t have any nice colours (only black, white, grey, green, dark blue and brown - LOL). No choice. I have to go to a fabric store tomorrow. 

 I make drawings of an evening gown inspired by the legend of the fierce Amazon warrior women who cut off one breast to improve their archery. I wanted to contrast draped silk chiffon with armoury like sequin embellishments playing with the contrast of soft sheer and hard scaly texture. I also need to make the shoes as I've promised myself when I bought Antoinette that I'll never buy anything for her and will sell all I'll make for her too. I can't afford to start collecting 16" dolls as well! So, I design a pair of high heel gladiator sandals matched with an ornamental bow instead of a purse and a selection of exotic golden jewellery. I have one piece of broken golden coloured jewellery that I use for making a half mask to cover the dolls lower face. I think it gives a nice feeling of mystery and sort bondage flavour too. Its like she is an wild animal ready to jump and that muzzle is the only thing holding her down.  

Tuesday 6th of October – Fabric Hunting
I rummage every fabric store and boutique in town – in vain. They have nothing. Nothing what so ever. I’m thinking of dying the fabric myself, but then again that will always take trial and error and I simply don’t have the time. Two weeks is a short time to work with sequins and my inspiration is yet to come. This feels like the hardest challenge for me so far, but first things first: my friend has a birthday on 10th and I need to make her a present. I gather up a cute little travelling set with theme colours for her Momoko using my newly arrived re-ments and some OOAK fashions I’ve made earlier. She just came back from her anniversary honeymoon so now her Momoko can do the same!

Wednesday 7th of October – Sewing
My day off. Off anything else. I spend the whole day from 9a.m. until midnight working on the challenge and all I have to show for it is a base for bodice and the jewellery. As for the Amazon warrior women of course I wouldn’t go mutilating my dolls and cutting one of her breasts of, but I make the cut symbolic – the armouryjewellery like corset bodice leaves the right breast unprotected. I decide to censor the nipple with golden hoping no one will get any Janet Jackson associations. Took me whole day just to make the bodice as I had to make real boning to support the sheer fabric. My cat Neru was "helping" me whole day too trying to confiscate my arm and by being awfully interested in all my fabrics and yarns all the time. He's being a real bother but love him like his my baby. Now all I need is the skirt, shoes and embellishment. Piece of cake, right – I’m in deep trouble with this one... Tomorrow I really need to go to the library and work on my neglected thesis.

Next Days

The following days are a nightmarish pool of back pains, sequins and draping. I did make it in time – I heard that some of us didn’t. I neglected this diary working with the challenge with all I got. Well, not all as I was too worried about my little boy Neru who has fallen ill. One day spend in the vets office, x-rays and ultra sound shows he has urinary infection and bladder stones are beginning to form. This means new and expensive veterinary diet, weekly urine sample (that he luckily allows me to take – there’d be no change with my traumatized little girls as they are from a homeless animal shelter and are yet to trust people) and a twice a day medication of antibiotics and painkillers that Neru swallows, but is growing impatient to take. I’m so worried. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

I’m sorry I didn’t keep a project diary this time, but I did take photos of the making of the gown so please see the set in my flickr instead. I will try and add some descriptions there later on.

Thursday 15th of October - Photos
I submit my photos hoping the risk will pay off and that judges won’t find my design too costumey. I’m rather happy with the result although I have very little recollection of the days that brought me here. I completed the gown I made with very weird and constraining jewellery that on my opinion creates an air of harnessing the raw power it gown bears. I made a pair of high heel gladiator sandals and matched them with a golden ornamental bow instead of a purse. The left shoulder covered with a removable piece of beaded and sequinned netting in a form of a plate mail. I want to give the future buyer the choice of seeing the design either as a daring evening gown or all out couture so all the armoury pieces can be stripped down from it – the shoulder plate can actually be used as hat instead, hopefully with some other outfit, though. Now we just wait for the results and the 4th challenge.

25th of October – Victory and Late Night Medical Emergency
It’ s 3 a.m. and I wake up to Neru’s panicky cries. He’s vomiting white and scentless foam in the living room. I stay with him all night, not sleeping, worried sick. The veterinarian emergency clinic in my town isn’t responding to my calls. The vomiting and coughing continues and I give Neru some paraffin oil. He vomits a huge hairball, more like a plug, the size of my thumb. I think it’s over, cat’s have hairballs even if my cats have never had them. Must be the new diet they have because of Neru’s urinary infection. I nap with Neru a little on the living room floor before the sunrise.
Morning. Well, its 6 a.m. anyway. I give the cats their morning food and go to bed hoping to get some real sleep – its Sunday after all. I have just closed my eyes when I hear the coughing sound again. I rush to the kitchen and Neru is vomiting the milky stuff again.  I call the animal ER again – no reply.  The recording says they answer phone 24 hours a day.  Obviously they don’t since the recording is on. What a stupid message to play in your machine. I spend hours reading chat pages and veterinarian magazines about the symptoms, but I’m interrupted by a rustling sound. Neru is eating a plastic bag and there is more vomit. I study the stuff and find fine shreds of plastic in it. Has he eaten a foreign object?  Hairballs shouldn’t be life threatening but piece of plastic stuck in your gut is. Another thought creeps to my head. Neru has been under severe medication for the past week, could his liver or kidneys be failing? Vomiting milky stuff is one of the symptoms and my friend’s cat died like that few years ago. Time to panic. I call again. No reply. I find the animal ER in next town and call them and finally there is an answer. Embarrassed I call my neighbour if her husband could drive us there. It’s a long ride but he will me and promises to pick me up too. I’m in tears with worry, apologise for ruining their Sunday morning and thank him. There should be a word for both apology and thanks combined in Finnish language but there isn’t. Japanese know better: Sumimasen.
It’s 2 p.m. We are back home and Neru is still alive. Not sure if I am after the vet’s bill with Sunday rates, but what would you not do for your kids, right. The bloodworks found nothing so it isn’t organ failure, most likely its digestive but I can’t tell what yet. I’ll go to my own vet on Monday. The diet he’s on is making it worse – the poor thing has lost 600g within one week and that’s quite concerning pace for a cat. Anyhow, he’s ok for now and that’s most important. 
My hubby’s in Paris with his school right now and I cannot call him, so I go to my computer to write him and email. And what I find? The “We Have a Winner” email declaring I’ve won the challenge 3! I’m stunned. I cannot believe it. Sure I was happy with my design but a winner. Wow. And I’m ranking the first in the whole competition as well - with only a half a point away from brilliant Lori, but it does feel amazing. For the first time I’m thinking maybe I could win the competition, but that’s not what this is about al all. This challenge has taught me so much about sewing (it was my first time using sequins), design and myself, that first of all I must be thankful for that, though I cannot deny how good it feels to win and get recognition for my work. It really made my day and it truly needed making. Thanks you so much!

And here are my scores and judge comments:                                                                                  
Shane: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
Wow!  Gorgeous work.  Your fashion is beautiful and disturbing at the same time.  Your interpretation of an Amazon warrior is fantastic!  I believe I am jealous of the ruching and gathering work that you have done on the back of the dress.
Diana and Janet: Theme: 4.5 Originality: 4 Creativity: 3.5 Construction: 4
Diana: High fantasy is well presented.  The mask is an artistic touch that took me by surprise.
Janet: I can see the difficult challenge in the sheer corset.  The embellishments are effective.

Judith:  Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
Amazing design showing wonderful originality and workmanship. Beautiful color palette. Definitely an Amazonian flavor very cleverly constructed as elegant and flowing.

Magalie Dawson: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
You should make a print of the first photograph and frame it!  One of the most skillful way to embellish is to be able to "sculpt" the fabric, and you mastered it with the chiffon.  It is also very skillful to be able to create a costume that allows the breast to be revealed and still be viewed as an expression of art, such as you did.  The construction is impeccable, I love the sheer bustier with the "boning", the fit is perfect, and the draping falls perfectly. I love the necklace and the face mask is a dramatic addition that works well with the rest.  You have created a museum quality piece, Bravo!
Total: 76/80 Ranking 1st  

You'll find the process pictures in my flickr set!


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

CDDC Challenge Two - Put Your Best Foot Forward

Challenge Two - 20th of September 2009

Our Guest Judge is: Joe Tai

CDDC Challenge Two: “Put your best Foot Forward - Joe Tai is our guest judge this week. As you may or may not know, Joe is the "king of shoes". This week take a pair of shoes/boots (they do not have to be shoes made by our wonderful judge) and design an outfit around it. Please include a pic of just the shoes as well in your entry (so you will send 7 pics this time).”

This feels like a hard challenge. I’d rather make the shoes myself, but I think the idea is to make an outfit based on existing shoes and the biggest risk is to make the clothes too matchy matchy. I’m wondering should I wait for the huge order of shoes (most Joe Tai) I made a week ago to arrive or play safe and pick an existing pair of footwear. After some consideration I pick the later. One can never know how long it takes for a package to arrive and using the judges own shoes would feel kind of like brown nosing.

I ended up browsing all my collection for my favourite shoes. I don’t know is it the autumn chill or the recent trends, but most of my current favourites are rather bulky. Maybe it is just that I’ve always had a thing for those thick burlesque style soles and have preferred smart casual over evening gowns. The shoes I picked for closer inspection were: the strappy boots from Bewitching Hour Luchia, the short black and white boots from Ayumi the Miracle Child, the bulky pink shoes from the Hopelessly Captivating Luchia and the short black boots from Lost Angel Colette.

The next stage of the brainstorming was to write down all the things that came to mind from each pair of shoes. This is always a good method of checking which one inspires most thoughts - though I usually use it for picking an essay topic in exams. For example the Miracle Child boots brought up nostalgia, Mary Poppins, Victorian home schooling and so forth – so they might work in a business context. Then again they are not really fashionable right now and I want to keep on the nerve of things. The Bewitching Hour boots made me think of gladiators, bondage, Pretty Woman and prostitution – maybe not the best scene in mind for the couture challenge - besides someone else is bound use them as they were the most talked about pair of shoes on the doll boards this year. The Lost Angel boots were also too S/M fetish stuff, so I discarded those too. And the last but not the least were the shock pink laced shoes from Hopelessly Captivating Luchia. For these my associations were: Barbie, Dorothy (Oz), burlesque and Dita von Teese.

Of all the shoes I found the HC ones most inspiring, but their Barbie pink colour offered another challenge. I absolutely hate barbie pink. It’s not really my cup of tea and the best colour to tone it down is grey, but that was already used in the original Hopelessly Captivating Luchia outfit. I browsed my fabrics and found some nice black and white patterns that might do the trick and take my mind of Barbie with these shoes. I want to make something Dita von Teese would wear to as her “casual wear” (the gorgeous Dita seems to wear couture even when grocery shopping) and just like Dorothy’s, these loud shoes would take her anywhere with one tap of the heels.

 At this point I’m coming up with a cold and continue the design process in bed. I took the pile of fabris and my mini dress form to bed and pinned different combinations of fabric on it and photographer the ones that felt like they had some potential. Of those, I sketched out 4 similar outfits. It was a hard choice to pick just one, but I felt one of them popped out more, so I went with that. I also got an idea of making a small ready-to-wear collection based on each challenge entry I make, but that will have to wait until the whole competition is over. Besides, the 60’s line needs to be done for Poppy Parker and I don’t have one yet.

Some discarded ideas:

I spend a week in bed doing nothing but being ill. It’s a common cold but as a severe asthmatic they always wipe me out completely. Meanwhile the scores from challenge 1 arrived and there was some drama on the yahoo group and I’m afraid I was the cause of it as the topic was the judge comment saying my pattern appeared to be a commercial one. Linda defended my honour on the board and decided to walk out of the competition in protest. I feel responsible and pretty sad about the whole mess. The matter was solved and I got an apology from the judge, but Linda isn’t coming back and I'm feeling low.

I have less than a week to go until the deadline and I struggle with time and start to feel the pressure pushing down on me. I’m getting a huge pile of research literature from library for my final thesis, make baby clothes for my godson who’s having his name giving ceremony next weekend and trying to finish the challenge 2 before Friday when I leave for the weekend. The OOAK doll I’m working on is taking too much of my time and I need to make a compromise with her. I wanted to make a Dita von Teese doll, which mean body swapping, rerooting and styling the hair plus doing a celebrity repaint, but the face isn’t coming up right. I just have to settle for the face I got and concentrate on the fashion now.

The outfit is a corsetry inspired hybrid between a business suit and a dress. It’s made of luxurious black and white Armani wool/ silk mix that I could only afford to buy 20cm. The material is very fraying, but rather thin and works nicely in scale. I have to use fraying glue on all the seams. The edges are trimmed with black faux leather to prevent fraying further and the jacket part closed with 4 corset snaps on the front. In the back there is a sexy shock pink ribbon lacing snaking down from the high collar all the way down to the hem line. I lined the outfit with pink satin, put only after doing a staining test* on a Barbie first – I’ve done a OOAK couture gown once only to realise the black netting stained and the hours of labour wasted. Never again.

 *To do a staining test on a fabric, take a expendable Barbie with soft legs (those are material most easily stained), dip the fabric in hot water and then tie it tightly on the Barbie’s leg. Leave for couple of days and check. If there is no staining, you should be fine. Many fabrics that don’t seem to stain still might if they are kept in a box where moisture may condensate. 

For the accessories I made a real fur fox stole, fishnet stockings and a Costume National Butterfly bag. I’m totally against fur trade, but I did get a huge pile of old fur clothing and scraps from my grandma when I was younger, so it would be a waste to just throw them away. You might think me as a hypocrite, but I think the use of vintage fur can be fine when you sure of your sources. Anyway, I made a head for the fox from 2-component epoxy putty and flocked it with KatSilk flock and added beads for eyes. It became almost too real and it feels so limb and dead in my hands it makes me sad. I just want to pet it and tell it everything is going to be alright.

The decision to make a Costume National Butterfly bag might be taking a risk. It’s not like it’s an exact copy as this is satin lined with leather and pink as the authentic bags are brown, green or black leather. However, the shape is quite distinct and I wanted say in my description where it came from so that it doesn’t seem like a stolen idea. Since we were supposed to design an outfit for the shoes that are not ours anyway, I think the purse can be someone else’s too. It’s the fashion I made and the accessories are another matter. I bet people don’t design all the jewellery they use either, so I hope I can be forgiven for it. I’ve just always wanted a Costume National Butterfly bag for myself but can never afford it – at least my little Dita can now. ;)

It took me until Wednesday night to get everything finished and until 3a.m. on Thursday to post my entry photos. I was so tired I saved the resized pictures over the original ones and we are supposed to keep those save just in case we win. I was too tired to do anything about it then, but spend the whole Thursday afternoon trying to save them from my computer with various recovery softwares. Finally I found the deleted but uncorrupted files from my camera. Luckily I hadn’t taken any new pictures so I was able to save them. *whew*. What an adventure. Now just one more baby overall and I can start packing for the weekend.

Some of the official submission photos:


I was so knackered in the middle of all this that I had totally forgotten the FR convention was this weekend too, until I read my email at my Mom’s and noticed the first update email. It’s such torture not to be able attend these conventions! The convention collection was utterly amazing with understated colours and designs that are pure elegance. I made a gallery to my flickr featuring the most beautiful photos of the convention dolls and gave them my commentary.

And naturally I fell in love with the most expensive one of them all – the new and severe looking Elise Jolie Blue Blood - and had to have her right away. *sigh* I suppose it was one of those temporary mental disorder things that leaves us much poorer both mentally and financially, but that’s the nature of collecting for you. What can you do? Well, I’ll be waiting for - the new doll – and my challenge 2 points to arrive and then post you this diary. Wish me good luck!

12th of November - The Winner Is...
The winner has just been announced after some delay. As I expected it was no.11 - a fabulously tailored jacket and sequin skirt by Lori Lyon. I feel no disappointment, as I really think the best design won. I was totally awestruck by the outstanding craftsmanship of the jacket - simply impeccable. Even when I was doing human clothes I couldn’t reach that sort of perfection. Lining has always been the hardest part for me and I admire anyone who can do it right. This is why I rather design and leave the sewing to someone more competent! LOL! I’m so excited to hear my scores and judge comment, but since its really late I think I need to wait until morning.

13th of November - The Scores and Comments

I wake up, rush to my computer and the scores are finally up after some technical difficulties.

Shane: Theme: 5 Originality: 4 Creativity: 3 Construction: 4

Applause for the fantastic job you did with the “leather” piping! Wow! Great fabric and colors. I think I would have left the piping off of the bottom of the skirt since it’s already plentiful on the bodice and the purse.

Diana and Janet: Theme: 4.5 Originality: 4 Creativity: 4 Construction: 4

Diana - Extra points for the fox...with head! Great attention to detail.
Janet - Interesting and kick y combination. The suit is well fitted and the details of the leather bra show good drafting skill.

Judith: Theme: 5 Originality: 4.5 Creativity: 4.5 Construction: 4.5

Sexy black, white & pink combination in a HOT outfit. Just enough pink used in the right places. I like that the ribbon was confined to the back allowing the front detail in black to shine. Wonderful silhouette.

Joe Tai: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 4 Construction: 5
Although object and accessory don't have color match, but they do connect with black, that makes the whole work even more completed, so I gave high score.

Total: 70/80 Ranking 4th in the overall competition; 5th in the challenge.

No negative comments this time nor any negative feelings. My only fault is that others are better than me and I’m happy to notice it doesn’t hurt at all. I came to this competition wanting to test and challenge myself and already the competition has pushed me further and further. Without it I would never produce this detailed and complicated pieces from week to week – especially not now as I’ve promised myself to return my Master’s thesis in Chinese before Christmas. I’ve neglected my school and work and sleep because of this and I want to prove myself I could do this for a living. I want to start my own doll fashion line after graduate and in order to do that I really need to believe in myself and that’s the greatest price this competition can offer. Sure, the magazine article might help in marketing my designs, but I’d like to think I can make it there eventually with or without the victory in this competition.

I’m already committed to the challenge 3 so hard it’s difficult to keep my mind on the scores, but there is one more comment I’d like to make. Breck took a change with a nice steam punk inspired outfit that was a little costumey but very couture and was rewarded for in the challenge 2. This gives me hope for my challenge 3 design since this time, I went all out couture and I hope the risk will pay off instead of backfiring on me. After all, this is the COUTURE Doll Design Challenge and I think it’s time to take it there and stop playing so safe and casual!

 My Dita von Teese: