Inspiration?

 

There’s always a pause, that breathless pause before a storm, or the pause of a windless summer day…
That question:   will inspiration strike when I need it? What will my mind and heart fix on…when will that moment of clarity blaze?

And it does.

And it always feels like such a surprise…such a gift.

Without the waiting, without the trust, without the uncertaintly, and without the hope, the moment of inspiration wouldn’t be as bright, as satisfying, as filled with excitement.

It is the breathing out, the breathing in of designing.

And then crashes the onrushing storm of ideas;  of possibilities to make manifest;
the Cacophany of Collection. My mind switches from seeking inspiration,  to pulling together the many bright threads of the Big Inspiration, and distilling it down to actual garments, to individual pieces.

And then the collateral jobs begin, photos, samples, making, promoting. They all become clearer when the inspiration is there. They have a Place, a Reason to Be.

SHADOWLIGHT and MIDNIGHT SUN.

With all the darkness in this world, my entire year has been a focus on the inspiration of Light. Illumination…whether in the form of a tiny spark, or shield-the-eyes brightness.

For Spring/Summer/ Resort/Holiday, my collection focuses on Spring and Summer Light.

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Shadowlight:
‘The trembling layers of ever-moving whites and blacks, the white-gold of sun overhead at midday, sifting through the blinding green of layered leaves… descending to greyness, to myriad shifting shapes of living black and white upon the earth. The sound of breeze-swayed leaves. The reflection of Growing, the shadows of tendriled vine, and leafy-dressed trunks. Everything in its finery. Everything alive. Even the shadowlight cannot be still.
Looking up, through green to gold, we see the Source for the living shadows that lie before our feet’.

I love dappled leaf shadows, shadowlight. 
It is partially the leaves above that produce the beautiful dappled shadows on Summer’s floor, but in reality, it is the Light above them that brings them into being…golden, Life-giving light. 
The same can be said of us, our thoughts in the every day are black and white, shifting, trembling from place to place, above them are knowledge of things, the background and belief-shapes of our minds…and above those, the Source that illuminates and reflects those shapes into our daily actions. There they lie, as dappled, graphic, ever-moving thoughts.

 

Midnight Sun:
‘In winter-strong Northern climes, Summer’s sun is not content to set…to waste the all-too brief warmth and bask of sun in Sleep.
Dipping, swaying, barely kissing the horizon the golden disc of sun dances. Dances to summer’s golden song… an arabesque of living light against the pale of day… the black of night.’

I was thinking how amazing it is that in Northern countries, (those places I often find so inspiring for Fall/Winter designs), the sun hardly, sometimes never,  rises in the deep winter, yet in the summer, the sun never sets, making amends for the darkness. A balance of seasons.

the_midnight_sun_by_isilmetriel

This image of the dance of the Midnight Sun is by the talented Isilmetriel on deviantart.com. Click on it to see other works by the artist.

Teaser:

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Inspiration Boards:

Shadowlight and midnight sun inspiration board4                      Shadowlight and midnight sun inspiration board2-3

All photos on these boards can be viewed on Pinterest, see individual pins for any credits to the artists available online.

Skjöldr Jacket

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Inna Race Photography

I’ve often noticed how a winter landscape looks simple at first glance, buried under snow and barren without foliage.
Barren, until we teach our gaze to see the interlacing of tree branches braced to hold the bowl of sky, or notice the myriad subtle tones of the deadened grass poking through the blanket of white.

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I enjoy the way winter’s starkness highlights the subtle textures of life, how looking more deeply reveals levels in the seemingly-simple landscape. In this tone-on-tone world, varied textures become the focus; Light becomes its own entity, shadows highlight. The tiniest fragment of life or motion is magnified by the blank-er canvas.  Click here for snowscapes

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I find Norse design to be similarly satisfying with its curved, organic minimalism. In a past rife with cold, harsh environments and experiences, ancient Norse people still took the time to create beauty within function. That idea that function can be beauty, and beauty can enhance function resonates through the centuries to me. Simple, functional, and strong, yet alive with homages to nature’s forms…   Click for Norse design
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editorialThe Skjöldr jacket and skirt brings textural detail and clean silhouette together into one. At first the structured silhouette and cutaway hem of the Skjöldr jacket with its bold shoulders greets the eye with simplicity of a winter landscape.

When drawing closer to the wearer, the seams and tone-on-tone panels burst upon the viewer, especially the unexpected back view with its rounded paneling…

and finally, when standing up close to the wearer, the hidden subtle textures of the fabrics delight; brocade with floral motifs, subtle leafy jaquard, herringbones, and even the texture on the shoulder buttons.
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Jim Cottingham Photography

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This jacket with its modified raglan shoulder line, deep wrist openings, and cutaway angled hemline is flattering to many figure types, it moves the eye instead of visually cutting the wearer in half.

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Jim Cottingham Photography

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The jacket’s curved seaming and tone-on-tone paneling move the eye around the body in simple, bold lines, referencing the figure while adding structure to the body.
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The linework on the matching skirt lines up with the paneling on the jacket, creating bold shapes referencing the great shields that inspired this design. (Skjöldr means Shield)

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The precise top stitching of the seams provides both visual and structural strength.

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Jim Cottingham Photography

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Inna Race Photography

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The bold button detail hearkens to the shoulder brooches in Norse costume, and to the shield designs that decorated with functional beauty the sides of the great Long Ships.
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Made of cashmere blends, textural brocade, and jaquard wools, this jacket tops a pencil skirt, trousers, or sheath dress equally well, and looks stunning worn opened or closed.

 

Available in black floral textured Wool Brocade on black/grey Herringbone, and cream Wool Jacquard with cream/beige Cashmere herringbone, both jackets have silk linings and gunmetal separating zippers.
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Skirts are available by special order in these same exclusive limited-edition fabrics.

As with many Granaté Prêt pieces, this can also be made at a custom level with fabrics sourced for the individual client.


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Flotsam and Jetsam, (day-to-day studio life).

Hello from the Granaté Prêt studio,

Sometimes I can’t believe the amount of mess the design process creates: tools, equipment, and materials, they eddy around me as I work. Sometimes the studio corners have veritable DRIFTS of fine, multi-coloured wool dust while cutting garments out, (seemingly only minutes after vacuuming or sweeping!) and it’s inevitable that I will have a small hill of scraps tossed in the far corner when I’m finished a collection of samples.

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I dislike getting rid of these small pieces of fabric, they’re so potentially valuable…to test stitches on, to make a small embellishment from, to give to nieces or send to a woman I know who creates the tiniest gorgeous fairy dolls.

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Then, too, they themselves are often gorgeous examples of negative space…

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Usually the scraps get bagged in large clear bags, and I use my own textile stratigraphy to interpret the sedimentary layers clearly visible from the side…Spring/Summer ’15, Erika’s Wedding gown, Susan’s skirt, Erin’s jacket… Fall/Winter’15… A tactile trove of textile treasures.

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textile stratigraphy

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Then there is the flock of scissors. How many pairs do I own? I don’t know.
The swooping, ever-moving murmuration of my scissor collection amuses as it exasperates me. After a big project, I find pairs tucked under every machine, balancing precipitously on the edges of tables, and usually several pairs at the bottom of each bag and handbag I carry to and from teaching and client fittings. It is lucky they migrate, as I’d never be able to keep them all in the cage they are supposed to live in next to my ironing board.

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I have a tiny regiment of size .09 lead mechanical pencils, what a sense of richness when I see them all together on parade after a teaching term or collection! Strong, dependable, always ready for action, I do love a good .09.

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And so the creative process continues. There is a scuffle, a bustle, the errant scissors get rounded up from their perches around the studio, the pencils lined up rigidly in their barracks above the precious packs of slender Lance needles, the magical colourful fabric dust swept regretfully into the dust pan, the bags of precious leftover fabric nudged back into place beneath the table. I’m ready for whatever process is next.

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The glamour of the studio. Benoît Barbé photo, Siara Johnson, model, MUA Mona el-Chebli, shoe decorations and clothing Granaté Prêt by Annina King

Snow Patterns

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Blog Snow Tracks     Blog Snow Tracks-2

The late afternoon sunlight streams into my studio windows as I stretch my back.
Slanting across the paper-covered cutting table where I’ve been making patterns, the warm rays highlight line upon line of tiny perforated holes pock-marking the white surface.   My eyes trace the arcs and straight lines of various design lines that curvette across the expanse, each flat shape defining with its contours the body it will clothe. Every outline is a trail to follow if we know how to read the signs

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Sometimes I imagine an archeologist digging up the old IKEA coffee table* I still keep as a furrowed reminder of the graduate collection I made in school. What will he think as he tries to interpret the many intersecting and overlapping scars inflicted by my tracing wheel in the wooden surface? Will he think it the result of some bizarre ritual?

Incidentally, I can still tell you which garments some of the pattern piece outlines etched into my table belong to…wedding gown, flower girl, tailored jacket, Professor McGonagall costume…the patterns have etched themselves into my  memory as well.  My brain is filled with patterns these days.

My poor scarred coffee table, now retired from pattern making

My poor scarred coffee table, now retired from pattern making

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These flat outlined shapes are a vital step along the way to a new creation. They are a map, the vital link between the dream of a garment, and the actual making of it. To some people, patterns can seem so…boring..so dry. Yet they hold the secret to all we are trying to do; their flat outlines come together to make a covering for a 3-dimensional body. It is in these flat shapes that I see Power. Potential. Holding a well-fitting, completed pattern in my hands is like clutching a compass; NOW I can reach my destination.

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I glance again at the arcing lines across my cutting table… the tell-tale foot tracks in the snowy covering remind me of what I’m about to make as I brush my fingers across the Braille surface. I pull out a length of paper to re-cover the table top, obliterating the origins of the new pattern I’ve just completed; I am finally ready to cut fabric.

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It is time to continue the next step of the garment making ritual;
Dream…design…pattern…cut…sew…wear.

~Annina

10334266_296296100551919_7479323866797420650_nProw Jacket in two tone black, Pathways Skirt in Merino, Layers top in silk and cotton knit…..photo Inna Race

*(My fold-out coffee table was the biggest table surface I owned, it was my sewing, pattern making, eating, and ‘everything table’ while in school)

Pathways Skirt

blog pathwaysI love how so many things in life are tiny pictures of something bigger. The Fractal display of muscle fibers flows in harmony with river deltas or the veins in a leaf. A forest of neurons echoes the interlacing I see when gazing up at a web of tree branches, their roots an inversion of the same. Topographical maps show an aerial concentricity we know like the palm of our own hands, (or our fingerprints).

I like to think of these patterns as pathways through history, threads connecting us with humans who have sought to craft Meaning into a communicative form since the earliest days.

 (Click for my inspiration board, beautiful imagery!)

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Inna Race photography

Inna Race photography

These musings on Pattern and Microcosm inspired my Pathways skirt design… it is a study in how to make flat panels fit the three-dimensional human form while referencing the shapes found in nature. It follows the ancient near-concentric lines I love so much, creating a topographical map of the body.

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editorialblog pathways-3This skirt’s swirling seams reflect the juxtaposition of knowing JUST where I should go (a pathway where others have been before) and knowing there are many pathways to choose from that converge at any given point (the design pathway I’m choosing).

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In creating garments, we designers walk the edge of knowing that we are making a covering for something that has been the same for thousands of years (ie, the human form) knowing we will reference many things that have been seen or appreciated before about humans…but also having the conviction to try to do this in a way that is unique. We are trying to communicate to others how we see the world, and what we believe about the people we design for. It is a circuitous path we follow.
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Continue reading

Atticus: behind the Seams

blog handsI love looking at people’s hands.

From the Fibonacci perfection of an infant’s curled tiny fingers to the age-gnarled hands of a grandparent, so much is done by our hands. They say so much about us.

One of the strongest pairs of supporting hands in my life are my Daddy’s.

As a child I suspected he could fix just about anything, make just about anything, and make everything all right that wasn’t, with his big, kind, strong hands. As I’ve grown older I have found this is even more the case than I could have known then!

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My Dad’s job was Prosthetics; re-making hands, arms and other limbs for those who had lost them, bringing back mobility and ability into their lives. That’s been a theme for every other area of his existence; he figures out ways to help people, so they be can more useful (and therefore happier).
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He has assisted with my creations since I was small,
from taking a leather bag I designed when I was 12  to sew the final seams on the leather machines at work when my home machine wasn’t up to the task,
to helping me fit the sleeves of my 1830’s gown I made for a high-school history project, because I couldn’t pin them on myself. (I suppose his job gave him a lot of experience fitting on limbs!)
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In my house and studio, it is impossible for me to look anywhere without seeing the work of my Dad’s hands;

When I explained I wanted a rack to hang all my small-yardage fabrics,  he built it floor-to-ceiling (and tested it by doing pull ups on the top rung)

He modified a cart with welded add-ons, so it folds easily into my car, and extends to let me unload, carry, and set up my show booth and inventory, as well as turning into a hanging rack for garment bags.
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blog car and cart-2I love this cart…
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blog car and cart-3He made my booth lighting and fixtures. (Here he tests out the lights in the fitting room as we set up)

He can pack a car so perfectly for a show that there’s not an inch of wasted space.

The list extends on..
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Building, fixing, networking, CONSTANT working; that’s my Dad.  His work ethic is simple and powerful…jump in and do what needs doing so others can do their parts.
No job is too odd!
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blog earrings.
Most recently he took on the (odd) job of sitting in our hotel, finishing earrings  for my Charleston Fashion Week Runway Show with my Mom,

and painting the soles of an emergency pair of shoes for one of the models while I finalized lineup and accessories.

A Renaissance man indeed.
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I  love words…but they come up short at times. It seems woefully inadequate to say, (like trying to explain to the Air around me that I am grateful it is always there for my lungs to breathe) but I’ll say it anyway:

Happy Father’s Day to my phenomenally great Daddy, without whom I would not be…
Thank you for using your hands to support me in the work of mine.

~Annina

Panache Allstars Houdini

The earrings in action seen on the monitor during my runway show.

Tea pots and Scrub Buckets.

So, one time, my dear friend had a little child in CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) with a scary infant heart surgery. That place is AMAZING.

Walking past numerous doorways, seeing through the glass windows in the doors, beautiful Arthur Rackham illustrations framed on the walls, messages from patients, and heartbreakingly inspiring photos of little children battling things one never should have to, I just yearned to be doing something useful with my life. ‘I should work in a hospital supporting people who save babies!’ my heart cried.

Then, why am I making a Fashion Line?

I call it the ‘Tea Pot and Scrub Buckets’ epiphany…an epiphany I had a couple years ago, over the second of two full pots of gorgeously caffeinated rich British tea with my cousin and friend (She’s another creative who writes, paints, draws, and directs film pieces from original screenplays she creates). *
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I was having one of those Artistic crises where I question everything, questioning whether I should do something REALLY useful with my life, such as Baby Brain Surgery, or cleaning floors, or building houses for humanity , or, or (_younameit__) rather than ‘just making garments’.

Teapots and scrub buckets.
I was having tea and recounting to my cousin the story of a time when I had gone out shopping for a friend; she is the dearest person, and she needed a winter coat, and was too tired, too expectant with her imminently arriving new baby, and too busy to go trudge around shops or the mall to find a coat.
So I went, purchased 7 coats, brought them home, sat her cosily in front of the fireplace, and proceeded to let her ‘shop’ amongst the tailored wool coats (and then I’d return the rest).

She found two she loved. Then her face fell, because they didn’t quite fit her petite- but-blossoming figure, and she knew she’d not get around to altering them. ‘No worries’ I said. And we altered them right then and there. Easy. Fun. No stress, a simple afternoon’s task for me.
But what could I do to REALLY help her, I wondered, since she lived far away and I wanted to be there for her?

At this point in the story telling, the epiphany struck me.
OH.
Doing something for someone, giving to them from your skill set and your love for a particular area of life…can be VERY useful. Just because it feels easier than some tasks, does not lessen its value. MAYBE, it actually makes it just as valuable as anything I could have given my friend:  that I did something for her that I had competence and ease with, something she couldn’t do at that moment.

‘IN FACT’ (I gestured at the table) ‘maybe it’s silly to try to be some other thing than I am. For instance, what if I’m a TEA POT. A teapot is for making tea.
A teapot can definitely be filled with soapy water and be used as a scrub bucket… but then it becomes a scrub bucket, and can’t be used for tea. Because a scrub bucket can’t make a good pot of tea, it would absorb the soap and the tea would be soapy!

Maybe a person should focus on being the best teapot it possibly can, because that is what it DOES!’
(by this point I was mixing so many metaphors I could have been a cocktail shaker, instead of a teapot)
‘Maybe I should stop wanting to be a scrub-bucket, or a funeral urn, or an olive oil jar. Maybe I shouldn’t feel like all those other types are somehow ‘better’. Maybe I should be really excited to be a tea pot. Maybe I shouldn’t keep getting distracted from making amazing tea by thinking I OUGHT to be a scrub bucket! ’
The conversation went on amidst much laughter and tea drinking…

But it did make me think. In the end, we are all vessels, filled with whatever spirit, inspiration, and power we allow to flow through us. What we love shapes the vessel to be the type of useful container it is. And we can do many things, really, but to sigh after other types of vessels; to use their skills and special qualities to beat ourselves up for being teapots instead of focusing on making excellent tea…is just wasteful. Instead, we should be rejoicing in the many many different types of vessels there are out there. Vessels being useful, beautiful, and downright unique.

And we should feel grateful when we have moments of clarity on what type of vessel we currently are.

Watering cans.

Scrub buckets.

Water glasses.

Honey pots.

Vases.

Aren’t they fabulous! ?

And, as it turns out, pouring my energies into the areas I love means, as those endeavours succeed, I can use my brand to support other people in their amazing useful work…so in the end, I get to help with Baby Brain Surgery after all!

~Annina
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* Here I must insist that the arm waving ENERGY with which this epiphanous soliloquy was uttered had nothing to do with the caffeine consumed…at least I don’t think so.