Friday, November 27, 2009

Fashion Magazine Origami

Fashion Magazine Origami (Process Experiment) by Ingrid Mida 2009

From what I can tell, most artists seem to work in one of two ways:
1. conceive a finished piece of artwork in their mind and execute it
2. work through a process to develop an artwork

I'm one of the people that sees a completely finished artwork in my mind's eye. I've even had dreams about the finished installation in museums no less!! The problem is that sometimes my vision has inhibited the exploration of my full creative potential.

To explore the other (dark!) side, I've been playing with process-based experiments. What that really means is taking an object and doing something to it without a preconceived idea of what it will look like in the end. This is not my preferred way of working and I've had to force myself to do it. But the results have been interesting to say the least. Who would have thought that fashion magazines could be anything other than fodder for the recycling bin?

What type of artist are you?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Recollections of Leonard, Hairdresser to Queen Marie-Antoinette

I am reading the Recollections of Leonard, Hairdresser to Queen Marie-Antoinette, Translated from the French by E. Jules Meras, published by Greening and Co. Ltd., London in 1912. Leonard Autie came to Paris in 1769 his innovations in head-dresses quickly made him the favourite of Queen Marie Antoinette. With his connections to the Queen, Leonard became the "king" of society hairdressers and is credited with Le Pouff. These two little artworks (3x5 in size) are inspired by Leonard's work.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Revolutionary Fashion I

Revolutionary Fashion I by Ingrid Mida 2009  Mixed media artwork 10x10 with hand embroidery and beading

Engaging in playful explorations of my creativity and invoking my sense of humour has become an important part of my artistic practice in the past few months. This has helped me make leaps into unexplored territory (which has kind of been like jumping off a cliff!).  Revolutionary Fashion I is one such leap which is currently on display at Launch Projects Gallery. I don't want to say much about it because I hope you'll share your reactions with me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Directions in Sculpture continued

Vanitas I, Paper Sculpture by Ingrid Mida 2009

In Vanitas I, I have created a circular sculpture out of fashion magazines inspired by the shape of a crinoline or hoop skirt from 1860. Emerging from the form are the airbrushed illusions of the ideal woman - tall and thin,  dressed and coiffed to perfection  - a largely unattainable standard of beauty that fuels the big business of fashion.

The sculpture is entitled Vanitas I after the latin "vanitas vanitatum" meaning the emptiness associated with earthly life and the transient nature of vanity. This theme, which also has biblical references in the Ecclesiastes "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity", has served as inspiration and thematic premise for many artists, including 17th century Dutch still life paintings. The title seemed highly appropriate given the nature of vanity in the world of contemporary fashion magazines.

This particular sculpture is in the window of Launch Projects and if you happen to be driving or walking by 404 Adelaide Street West in Toronto, you can see it without even going inside. It looks particularly striking at night.

I know this art work is not commercially viable but it feels right! I think it is provocative and compelling.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Directions in Sculpture

The Sound of Paper by Ingrid Mida  Paper Sculpture (10 inch diameter) copyright 2009

The Sound of Paper (Detail Shot) 
Paper Sculpture by Ingrid Mida, copyright 2009

If you've been wondering why my blog posts have been somewhat irregular in the past three months, it was in part because I have been working hard to take my artwork to another level, to layer in deeper meaning and make it more contemporary.

This book work called The Sound of Paper takes inspiration from the shape of a crinoline as well as my research into the history of feminism. While it may appear to be simply the silhouettes of women dressed in 17th century clothing who are emerging from the pages of the book, it also has a deeper layer of meaning in honour of French writer Francois Poullain de la Barre who rejected the principle that a person's sex determined the capacity for learning in a paper entitled "On the Equality of the Two Sexes" in 1673.

I'm participating in a group show that opens tomorrow at the Launch Projects Gallery in Toronto and will be posting more of this new work on both my blog and my website. I look forward to hearing your reactions!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Profile of an Artist: Samuel Thomas

Samuel Thomas,  a member of the Lower Cayuga Band of the Iroquois Nation, is a self-taught artist who incorporates traditional Iroquois embossed (three-dimensional) beading and symbolism in his pieces. Over the past 27 years, he has received over 90 national and international awards for his work and has pieces in permanent collections of many museums in the United States and Canada, including the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Sam initially learned to work with leather and discovered bead work when he wanted to embellish his leather pieces. He began to research and revitalize traditional bead work techniques and found his calling in this intricate art. Sam incorporates traditional Iroquois design, symbolism and teachings into his contemporary pieces which typically include the strawberry and hummingbird as his personal identity markers. The strawberry is an important fruit to the Iroquois people, as one of the five sacred gifts that Sky Woman brought to the earth when she fell through a hole left by the uprooting of the celestial tree in the sky world as well as having medicinal properties. The hummingbird is a contemporary motif representing the balance between good and evil.

Samuel Thomas's projects have spanned the globe. In 2003, he received several grants including an Ontario Arts Council grant and a Canada Council grant to collaborate with African artists to create a six foot tall beaded tree of peace, a "visual representation of cross-cultural peace and unity". While in Africa, Thomas worked with indigenous peoples and artists to learn their almost extinct beading techniques, document their heritage and conduct collaborative workshops.  This project was based on the traditional Iroquoian teaching of peace and unity in which a white pine tree was uprooted and all weapons of war were placed into the pit with the tree re-planted on top to become the Great Tree of Peace. It was told that the roots of the Great Tree spread in all directions of Mother Earth and that anyone seeking peace and protection under the Great Tree can follow the roots back to their source to find peace. Each element of the tree was carefully considered as to its underlying meaning. For example, there are fifty branches to represent the fifty original chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy, fifty strawberries to symbolize cleansing and renewal, and an eagle perched on top to watch for danger and protect the people. Even the East Africans bead winding process called Mutilima is representative of the continuous winding symbolizing the continuity of life.  The Great Tree of Peace was unveiled at the United Nations headquarters on May 15, 2007.

More recently, Samuel Thomas traveled to places of sacred power as Stonehenge, the Temple of Delphi in Greece, the Egyptian Pyramids, Kenya, and our own Niagara Falls. While at these places of power, Samuel Thomas used them as sources of inspiration for bead work pieces created on site. The result of this work will be unveiled at the Grimsby Museum in December 2009.

This humble artist has created incredibly powerful work that celebrates the traditions of his people while furthering the cause of peace and harmony through the world. He does not have his own website and neither is he interested in publicity. Nevertheless, he is both a great artist and a great man and that is the reason I wanted to acknowledge his very important work.

To see a few more examples of Samuel Thomas' beautiful beadwork, visit Bear Paw Keepsakes on-line or visit the Grimsby Museum in Ontario (December 10, 2009 to March 2010).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Beading Workshop with Samuel Thomas

Hand-beaded Strawberry by Ingrid Mida (under direction of Samuel Thomas) 2009

To the Iroquois people, the strawberry is one of the most important fruits because it has powerful healing properties. As well, the ripening of the strawberry is symbolic of spring's defeat of winter. As I listened to artist Samuel Thomas talk about the symbolism behind his work, I felt in awe of this talented man who for the last 26 years has presented lectures, demonstrations and workshops to revive Iroquois embossed (three-dimensional) beadwork.

During a one-hour workshop (part of the Embellishment Canadian Style symposium at the Royal Ontario Museum) last Saturday, I created this beaded strawberry under Samuel Thomas's patient direction. The materials were left-overs from Samuel's latest project which involved visits to such sacred places as Stonehenge, the Egyptian pyramids, and Niagara Falls. The red wool of the strawberry came from his Stonehenge project, while the gold beads, sand (used for filler) and the thread came from his Egypt project. This is one powerful amulet!

The work from Samuel Thomas' journey to sacred places will be on display at the Grimsby Museum in Ontario from December 10, 2009 to March 2010. And even though Samuel doesn't have a website and didn't seem very interested in publicity, I plan to write up a profile of this accomplished and important artist.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dior Book Giveaway Winner Announced

Thank you to all who entered the draw to win an autographed copy of Dior: A New Look, A New Enterprise (1947-57) by Dr. Alexandra Palmer. How I wish I could offer each of my loyal followers a prize for your readership and support. If it is any consolation, the book is available on Amazon and Chapters-Indigo at a pre-publication sale price.

Congratulations goes to Allie at the blog History-Fiction Chick! Allie please email me at to claim your prize.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Author Profile: Alexandra Palmer

Alexandra Palmer, the author of Dior: A New Look, A New Enterprise 1947-1957, is the Senior Curator of Costumes and Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Her research as a costume and textile historian focuses on the history of western textiles and fashionable dress with an emphasis on the 20th and 21st centuries.

Alexandra has a BA in Art History from the University of Toronto (1979), a MA in History of Costume and Textiles from NY University (1981) and a Phd in Design History from the University of Brighton, England (1995).

Dr. Palmer is the Clio award winning author of Couture and Commerce: The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s (2001). As well, she authored Fashion: A Canadian Perspective (2004), Old Clothes, New Looks: Second Hand Fashion (2005) and contributed to numerous exhibition catalogues and books including:The Golden Age: Haute Couture 1947-1957, The Victoria & Albert Museum, London (2007), PaperClothes, Benaki Museum Athens (2007), Un Secolo di Moda (2004), Villa Medici, Rome.

This busy mother of two boys also is a professor of Fine Art History of University of Toronto, an adjunct professor for the Graduate Programme in Art History at York University and the exhibition editor for Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture.

Dr. Palmer is currently working on curating an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum planned for 2011 on Christian Dior.

I came to know Alexandra through my interest in the Patricia Harris Costume and Textiles Gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum. I was honoured that she asked me to read through the final drafts of the Dior book and called upon my previous experiences in finance, publishing and fashion to provide comments on the book. Alex agreed to be interviewed for this post and her responses are shown below in italics.

1. How does this book differ from the other books on Dior?
My book looks at the company from a global perspective and relies heavily on the Dior archives in Paris.

2. What was the biggest surprise or revelation that you uncovered during your research?
I was surprised at how smart Monsieur Dior was in terms of design and business.

3. During the book launch party, you mentioned that other fashion houses do not have archives like Dior. Why do you think Dior kept such meticulous records compared to other designers?
The records are not meticulous but are extensive. The house of Dior has never moved its location and it has always had large statistics and business offices and staffing.

4. How many years did you spend researching and writing the book?
It took four years to write the book, because of the research and my many other duties.

5. Where and when will the book be available?
It is for presently for sale in the ROM bookshop and can also be ordered from Amazon, Indigo and the Victoria and Albert Museum website.

6. What is your favourite Dior ensemble or dress?
I cannot say that I have a favourite. All of Dior's creations are interesting for different reasons.

7. You mentioned coveting a Dior record case during the book launch. If you could have one Dior item for the ROM collection, what would it be?
I would love to have a wool late day or cocktail piece with brilliant cutting.

8. Will the book be translated into any other languages?
It may be translated into Spanish. I'm not really sure at this point.

Leave a comment if you wish to be entered in the draw for a copy of Alexandra Palmer's book on Dior. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, November 10, 2009.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dior Book Giveaway

What the book is About:
In spite of having no formal training in art or fashion design, Christian Dior became a revolutionary force in fashion almost immediately after opening his salon on February 12, 1947. Time magazine said "Never in the history of fashion had a single designer made such a revolution in his first showing". During the span of only ten years 1947-1957, Christian Dior created a profitable brand that still exerts its influence today. Although there are many books covering the work of Dior, none have really addressed the reasons behind the success of this global powerhouse in fashion.

In Dior, A New Look, A New Enterprise (1947-1957), Alexandra Palmer takes a detailed look at what it was "about the man, the business and the designs that made the name of Christian Dior the singularly best known of all his gifted contemporary couturiers" (page 6).

Although much has been written about Dior, Palmer's book is based on original research through the Dior archives in Paris and is richly illustrated with photographs, sketches, and fascinating tabulations, such as sales statistics by country and the best-selling Dior garments (the "Fords" of the collections).

The book consists of seven parts:
1. Introduction
2. The Early Years
3. A New House, A New Femininity
4. Couture Piracy, Protection and Litigation
5. The Christian Dior Boutique
6. Global Expansion and Licenses
7. The Celebrity Couturier, Diplomat and Artbiter of Taste

Title: Dior, A New Look, A New Enterprise (1947-57)
Author: Alexandra Palmer
Published by: V&A Publishing, 2009
Number of Pages: 128
Price: 19.99 English Pounds, $38 Canadian, US $20 prepublication sale price on Amazon

If you would like to win an autographed copy of this book, please leave a comment. If you would like two chances to win the book, please sign up as a follower and/or post a giveaway button on your blog. I will select a winner after my next post about the book which will be a brief interview with the author.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fashion Happenings in November

November 2, 2009 - It's Marie Antoinette's Birthday!!! Eat cake! And visit the blog History-Fiction Chick where my work is being featured today!

November 5, 2009 - The exhibition American Beauty opens at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

November 7, 2009 - Last day to see the Fashion & Politics exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

November 7, 2009 - Embellishment Canadian Style: Painted Skins, Beads, Cloth, Threads at the Royal Ontario Museum
9:15 am - 430 pm Learn about Fashionable Domestic Embroidery from Jennifer Salahub, Cloth in Canadian Quilts from Adrienne Hood, Storied Beadwork from Trudy Nicks, and Narrative Painting on Buffalo Robes from Arni Brownstone at the ROM's day long symposium on Canadian forms of Embellishment.

November 11, 2009 at 630 pm - Lecture on Style Alchemy with Carole Tanenbaum and Julia Grieve at the Textile Museum of Canada
Carole Tanenbaum will discuss her collection of vintage costume jewellery while Julia Grieve, founder of Preloved will speak about upcycyling, the practice of making something old new and valuable.

November 21, 2009 - Workshop on The Joy of Small Blocks (in Quilting) with Kinch & Storms in conjunction with the exhibition Kaleidoscope: Antique Quilts from the collection of Carole and Howard Tanenbaum at the Textile Museum of Canada

November 22, 2009 - The exhibition On a Pedestal: From Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels opens today at the Bata Shoe Museum and features rare examples of fashionable footwear dating from 1500-1660.

So much to do and so little time!!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dior Book Launch Party at the ROM

Terry Benoit and Dr. Alexandra Palmer at the ROM Book Launch Party on October 30, 2009
Photo by Ingrid Mida

The launch party for Dr. Alexandra Palmer's new book on Dior was a hot ticket at the Royal Ontario Museum on Friday evening. I was stationed at the door to welcome guests and check their names on the list (someone described me as "the Rottweiler by the door"!) Attended by about 100 of Toronto's fashion scholars, followers and press, Dr. Palmer gave a presentation about Dior and also autographed copies of her book.

I snapped this photo of Terry Benoit, fellow blogger and all-round nice guy, with Dr. Palmer and her book but sadly forgot to ask for a photo myself!! Terry loaned several Dior items from his vintage collection to Dr. Palmer.

Having read and commented on a draft copy of the book for Dr. Palmer in advance of publication, I won't be writing a formal book review on my blog, but will be featuring the book in the coming weeks. I also have an autographed copy of the book for a give-away! Stay tuned.

Title: Dior
Author: Dr. Alexandra Palmer
Published by: V&A Publishing, London 2009
Number of Pages: 128 (softcover)