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A couple years ago, I convinced a friend to help me make a dressform, using the papertape instructions on this website (there are other methods here as well). I stood still for four hours while he wrapped me in tape. That is not an estimate, I timed it. Different people work at different paces, but my friend and I are both fastidious people, and in the end, it was done right, which is what matters.

We learned:

1. Don’t over-dampen the paper-tape.

2. Triangles serve best for covering curves (use small triangles to shape the breasts).

3. If you have orthotics that will make a difference in your posture, wear them! My left leg is 1/2″ shorter than the right, and that makes for a big difference in the hips when I’m standing barefoot without my “correcting” heel lift.

You can see pictures of the process at the instructional link above, since I have none of my own. When we were done, we had a reasonably stiff shell that replicated my torso accurately. I taped it together and stuffed it with plastic bags, then decorated it with paper mache. But it was not sturdy, and I was disappointed, thinking I couldn’t make it into a functional tool.

I was afraid to overstuff it, as I thought I would push it out of shape, particularly the shoulder area. So I left it as it was, as a merely decorative thing in my studio, gathering dust.

studio

The first incarnation, in my old studio

Eventually, the poor thing started to sag.

I began worrying over how much it might cost to buy a dressform from the store, and put aside my dreams of being resourceful and making my own. I asked if anyone had one on freecycle, but to no avail.

The old sagging dressform was sitting idly at my dad’s house, and I was morosely obsessing over vintage dressforms on eBay (I couldn’t really justify spending the money), when M said to me, “don’t you have one already, the one that you made?” And suddenly it occured to me, that I (and my friend!) had put a lot of work into that thing, and with a little more, I might be able to make it functional.

So when we visited my folks for the holidays, I dragged it out and began the operation.

First, I cut it open and pulled out the stuffing; there was really not enough, hence the sagging.

First, I cut it open and pulled out the stuffing; there was really not enough, hence the sagging.

I reinforced it from the inside (so as not to add exterior bulk) with duct tape.

I reinforced it from the inside (so as not to add exterior bulk) with duct tape.

I don't know how many plastic bags I used, but it was many times over the original amount. I didn't worry about over-stuffing.

I don't know how many plastic bags I used, but it was many times over the original amount. I didn't worry about over-stuffing.

I began to re-seal the form, adding more plastic bags all the while, packing them tightly into the shoulder area and continuing down.

I began to re-seal the form, adding more plastic bags all the while, packing them tightly into the shoulder area and continuing down.

When it was all sealed up, I looked for areas that could be firmer, sliced them open, and inserted more plastic bags.

When it was all sealed up, I looked for areas that could be firmer, sliced them open, and inserted more plastic bags.

Then I patched up the wounds.

Then I patched up the wounds.

whole again

Whole again

When I was satisfied, I paper mached over the masking tape. Now I just need to spray-paint the stand a nice antique gold.

When I was satisfied, I paper mached over the masking tape. Now I just need to spray-paint the stand a nice antique gold.

frontback

The dressform is now sturdy, and my, my mom’s, and my dad’s plastic bag drawers are empty!

I don’t know whether I really compromised the accuracy of the figure by overstuffing; but I do know that it’s strong now, and won’t sag, and when it sagged it really wasn’t accurate. If it’s a little bigger than me in some areas, I don’t anticipate it being a problem, as I don’t intend to make extremely tight-fitting clothing.

Obviously, I’m not going to want to pin into this, but even if it wasn’t decorated, I wouldn’t want to pin directly into the form, as areas might weaken over time with repeated close pinpricks. I have some stretchy material, from which I plan to make a close-fitting cover that can be pinned into.

Finally I can start learning to drape… any suggested reading for a beginner?

Hello, world.

I’ve taken a long holiday break, which is only now nearing its end. As of Wednesday, I began modeling, and happily, I have regular appointments for the rest of the term. But the real sense of structure in my life will begin Tuesday, I imagine, when I start classes in Graphic Design. Going back to school is really exciting; what else to say? It’s been a long time since I had regular social contact, or strong external motivation. That can do strange and interesting things to a person’s mind; my instructors are sure to love me.

Since last I posted I’ve worked on several things, and even finished some. Necklaces for my sisters and mom, a scarf for my dad… but no pictures of those, I’m afraid. There is however, the dressmaker’s double I’ve been working on. There’ll be a post on it in the future with more details, but for now:

mannequin

Lingerie courtesy of my dear sister…mmannequinThough there are pictures somewhere of my sister and I posed similarly, M’s was the most charming.

Figure Drawing

Yesterday I attended my first figure drawing session (as an artist instead of a model) in over a year, possibly two. I felt rusty and was pretty hard on myself for a few moments, but had to bear in mind that my purpose in attending these sessions is practice, not the completion of a finished work of art. Looking at the drawings now, I’m not offended by them, and have even befriended a couple.

I’m going to try to make a habit of going every Saturday, as it is a free session.

Two-minute poses:

figure2afigure2b1figure2cfigure2d

10-minute poses:

figure10afigure10bfigure10c

figure10d

I attempted three different media before settling on the orange pencil... and by then the pose was nearly up

figure10efigure10ffigure10g

figure10h

At this point I was a little frustrated and began to play

The final pose lasted 45 minutes:

figure45

I brought a lot of different pencils with me, even some charcoal, which I started to use and then erased. My sketch pad is 11×14, which I found is really not big enough to use “fuzzy” implements on. My standard 6B, HB, and other art-type pencils were a frustration, as I have become accustomed to using regular technical pencils of the sort one writes with, with the smaller lead. The lines are so smooth and accurate… I realized this in time for the last drawing, which was a 45-minute pose.

The other pencils are great for larger paper, but 11×14 really isn’t as big as it may at first appear. Not much room to swing the arm.

If you look at these drawings, you can see how much importance I place on contours. Most have a very “outlined” feel. Particularly in the second and fourth 10-minute poses, you can see where this causes trouble for me: instead of casting lines within the drawing to determine where the contour should fall, I’ve eyed the contour, too large at first, and had to adjust the line inward, resulting in a very belabored-looking outline.

You can see a few internal lines on the second two-minute pose; even at that speed, you can establish some accuracy by throwing down some internal structure. (I also tend to draw internal lines lighter, so they are easier to erase; this is habit more than reason.)

Mirrors, oil on canvas, 24x24

Mirrors, oil on canvas, 24x24

I took the bus! All the college kids were huddled inside like little birds with feathers puffed up against the cold, and I, the cuckoo, pretended to be one of them and was welcomed in the bus-nest. They think I am young, like them. Just today it was remarked that I couldn’t be a day over 16.

I modeled for a wonderful artist today, who I am very glad to know. Her studio is painted in gorgeous colors and filled with beautiful large-scale paintings, the lighting is just right, she burns a lovely blend of incense, and all the music she plays is spot-on. I don’t know if it’s because artists are good at choosing music or because while I’m modeling, tuning out other stimuli, looking at one spot and focusing on staying still, I’m more receptive to what I hear. Probably both.

When I got home my landlord came by, and asked me if he could borrow a painting to show his wife. She aparently was a gallery owner at one time, and has a friend who is an artist selling paintings in the $5000 range (wow!), as well as other contacts. It was really nice of him to offer, and on instinct I loaned him my big red angels painting (Mirrors). I have a bare spot on my wall right now, but this is an interesting opportunity. I wonder if my work will find favor?

I’ve decided not to worry about trying to become a successful fine artist, because there are too many variables involved as the decision of what art to show is a matter of taste, and it isn’t my taste that counts. I just don’t feel like the things that I want to control are in my control- namely, a guarantee of even the opportunity (venues) to make a sustainable income.

If anything does come of today’s art loan, it will be a happy surprise indeed. However, I am still focused on my plan to go into graphic design, and get a steady and well-paid (compared to what I’ve had) job doing something I’m good at. I will just have to invest time in my own art on the side; that doesn’t sound so bad to me, as the pressure of making my own art into a full-time living is not something I have learned how to handle, despite years of trying to do just that. I always felt lucky when a painting sold; on top of my arranging to show my work, the right person had to be in the right place at the right time. It has always been a matter of doing my part and seeing what happens. Let’s stop with the musings and leave it at that, because I now need to finish a large painting to fill up the wall space.

bootstraps

"Bootstraps" about 7" not quite square, marker on bristol, copyright 2008 Georgia Papadakis

Something about seeing my family again makes everything alright. I suppose that, no matter how determined I am to be independent and make my own way, I will always view my mom as a role model, and value her practical advice. The fact that she supports me in taking the risks I am taking, instead of underlining my fears and being afraid for me, is reassuring. She isn’t worried about my chances.
And I’m doing alright, after all.
Dad is learning Russian and we were able to exchange a few words; hopefully by Christmas I can say more, as he’s currently ahead of me. He turned 70 this year.
My sister took me out to a drag show and we danced a little bit. A young man walked up and asked us both if he could dance with us and when we said yes he just stood there expectantly; I let T deal with him and continued dancing. I am lucky to have a gregarious sister who delights in meeting new people, and knows how to politely redirect them if necessary. As for myself, I don’t like interruptions in my groove.

My situation now is that I’m working from home as an editor on temporary assignment for the next month or so. I have also started modeling at a local school, and have three appointments this week; perhaps it will pick up from there. The plan was to find a way to subside until starting school for Graphic Design. This was meant to occur in January, however, I learned that residency is established at 6 months, and would cut tuition by more than half. When the semester starts, I will have lived in Ann Arbor for five and a half months, but I was told there is no flexibility in granting residency; therefore, I’ll be starting May 8th. That leaves me to come up with five months’ living expenses.

My parents have offered to pay my living expenses while I’m in school, though I agreed to look for part-time work as well. I had been counting on that when I left my full-time job and started paying bills with my credit card– I would need to borrow enough for four months’ living expenses at the very most. Happily, I did, after a month, find work of a different sort.

Before, I’ve done such things and not worried about the outcome. My plan may not be minutely detailed, but it was a plan– like when I bought the house, knowing I could sell it later because of the regentrification of the neighborhood and the sound condition of the house compared to other houses on the street, which although charming were in need of costly updates. Selling it was a nightmare, but it worked. I don’t say it wasn’t a mistake to buy the house, but it was my decision, and my experience, and I feel it was worth it for some unqualifiable reason.
The credit card loan was another such plan. I planned my expenses for four months, then took out a credit card requesting that as the limit. I received it with 0% interest for six months. I figured that if people could take out exorbitant student loans and live tens of thousands of dollars in debt, then I could live with a considerably smaller debt. I was very careful about my purchases; if it occured to me that I needed something, I asked myself whether I could not make do with something already on hand. I worked on my Etsy site and my art and jewelry, and sent out feelers for other types of work. However the editing job was pure luck, or rather, I got it the way most good jobs are got- I knew someone who knew someone in the company. It was my sister who contacted me.

The crux of this plan is that the schooling will pay off and I will be able to pay my debts, to parents and creditors both. But, what if it doesn’t? My mom thinks it’s a sound investment, regardless of whether I find a job right away. This is good because It’s one thing for me to have fleeting worries, but it’s her money after all. My mom is the standard by which I guage feasibility. If she says it can be done, I am satisfied that it can. So it means I am going to be a graphic designer after all, and I should be able to enjoy it without the traditional regrets, having already tried life as a starving artist. I am looking forward to school, and to the future; how much more enjoyable that makes the now.

pants1Pants!

Three days ago, I was desperate for some sturdy pants for winter, and feeling rebellious toward the thrift and retail stores on which I have been dependent for so long to such unsatisfactory result. Tired of being forced to choose between pants that look nice but are flimsy, or are warm and comfortable but haggishly hideous, I determined to take matters into my own hands.

On Friday night, I pulled out Vogue 7481 pants pattern (purchased on sale for $4) and some russet-colored denim, and cut out my pattern pieces. It took about an hour.

On Saturday I got up at 8:30 and proceeded to sew until 4:30. I didn’t finish, but got the basic form of the pants put together. I took my time reading the instructions, worked carefully, and did not skip any steps.

[I did, however, have trouble when attaching the waistband, as it was too short to cover the fly by about 1/2″. I do not think this was intentional (it required a creative adjustment on my part) and upon reviewing the instructions and pattern pieces cannot figure out what, if anything, I was meant to do differently. Also, the right waistband pattern piece is missing the center back markings for size 14 and 16. Had I not noticed this, the waistband would have been even smaller.]

Today I finished, spending about another five hours, for a total of 14 hours. I had to re-work part of the waistband and hem the legs, and taking care to knot and tuck in all those loose threads can be time-consuming. I had fun overturning my button jar and selecting just the right button:

pantsbutton

I’m happy with the pattern, despite the waistband issue. It produced a pair of sturdy, nicely-fitting pants.  These were my test pants, and for the next pair, I’m going to be sure to finish all the interior raw edges; I know that leaving those raw can result in unraveling in the wash depending on your fabric type. My next step will be to  make a test pair of the fitted style (b) that comes with this pattern; I made the straight-leg style (c).

Then I can decide which one to use for my lovely honey-brown corduroy fabric. Maybe a combination of the two, since I tend to like straight-leg pants, but want pockets, too.

corduroy

It’s been a week, and once again I feel like talking.  I have been busy with editing, painting, a little sewing, and cooking. Also, thanks to an early birthday gift from M, I have been organizing:

workspace2See my last entry if you want to see the before shot. The table, which we got at Michael’s for $75 after using a 50% off coupon, has made a wonder of a difference. It has all the right organizational components, and I’m able to keep it fairly uncluttered as a result. When my workspace is uncluttered, I am more enthusiastic about painting. So you see, this is a very good thing for me. I try very hard to be resourceful and make the best of what’s available while avoiding unnecessary purchases; I see this as money well-spent.

When I moved to Ann Arbor, I went through a bit of moving-shock, and part of it involved insecurities about making a living in this new (and expensive) place. All of my modeling contacts were in Ohio, and while I sent out countless applications, resumes, and job-specific cover letters, I could not find regular employment in any field. Finally I was offered a job that I applied for out of desparation, but I found the environment unsuitable to my gentle disposition and left after a month. (No, it was nothing seedy, sorry!) I came up with a plan for budgeting over the next few months, and put my energy into renewing my etsy store, painting, and looking into ways to make my creativity profitable… I confess, I’m still at a loss. But thanks to my sister, I got a temporary editing job that I can do from home, and it pays well. Some of the anxiety has drained away, as I know there is money coming in, at least for this month and the next. I’ve also made some more contacts here for figure modeling, which has always been at the least a good source of side income, and at best, a modest living for a person with modest requirements.

I accept that I don’t know what the future will bring, and am trying to be happy despite the uncertainty. I look at the beautiful apartment that I live in with my beautiful and supportive lover, and I see that I might do well to simply enjoy this, instead of feeling restless whenever I’m doing something not related to my goal. I have to give myself this reminder on occasion, then I calm down for a while.