Saturday, January 30, 2010

Aboriginal Beading meets Balenciaga!

The Urban Dictionary defines "fly" as "cool, hot in style" or "fine, sexy". Inspired by this lingo and the  urban exhibition space of Fly Gallery on Queen Street West in Toronto, I created a Balenciaga styled gown made out of mosquito mesh for my upcoming installation next week. But the ensemble was not complete without a matching purse!!

With my recent success at using aboriginal beading techniques, I used one of Samuel Thomas's patterns for a small beaded bag (I think it might be called a bandolier bag). Initially I used his beading guide for the pattern on the flap but then broke away with my own design for the beading around the edges to highlight the qualities of the black jet. Aboriginal beading meets Balenciaga meets mosquito mesh!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Aboriginal Beading Meets 18th Century France

Trying a new technique takes courage and a willingness to fail!  I've wanted to incorporate more elaborate beading into my 18th century fashion pieces but was never quite satisfied with the results in the past. But after meeting with Aboriginal Beading Artist Samuel Thomas last week and taking his words of wisdom to heart, it seemed like time to do it!

Using an aboriginal beading technique incorporating seed pearls, I've intentionally shifted the focus from the foreground into the background.  In this manner, the floral pattern of the background textile merges with the embellished 18th century hat to create a playful commentary on the decadent excess of the period.

Here is a detail photo of the beading:

It is my version of aboriginal beading meets 18th Century France!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Source of Inspiration, Peace and Power

For each artist, the process of finding new inspiration is a journey. Sometimes inspiration can be found on one's doorstep and sometimes one has to travel far and wide to uncover it. For me, ideas often flood my brain like overloaded electric circuits, and I have to filter my ideas against the constraints of time, technique and consistency with my ongoing practice. But I try to stay open to what other artists can offer and with that in mind, I undertook a trip to Grimsby to visit with Samuel Thomas, aboriginal bead work artist. If you read my blog in November, I profiled Samuel Thomas and his work after attending a beading workshop at the Royal Ontario Museum. He currently has a show on called "Power of Place - Strength of Being" on at the Grimsby Museum until March 31, 2010.

The show opens with the following statement:

As the pace of life quickens and becomes more complex, we yearn for something deeper, more transformative, and more reflective. We need something to slow us down; give us pause, and allow us to collect our thoughts so that the body and mind can regenerate. Our inner spirit drives us to tap the powers, iconic symbols, and beliefs that have supported and guided people for centuries. We seek the goal of inner peace as a buffer against the complexity of modern times. Samuel Thomas

In this exhibition, Samuel Thomas highlights the art pieces he created in journeying to places of power around the world, including the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, Kenya, Temple of Kuglacan in Mexico, and Niagara Falls. He created art works at each of these sites, using materials purchased locally. Although each piece incorporates imagery and symbols from the place it was created, they are coherent in vision, representing the social connection, spiritual principles and traditional beadwork techniques of the artist. Each piece is mind-blowing in its conception and beauty, especially this one created in Egypt which is my favourite.

Sam Thomas kindly answered endless questions about his work and seemed to be quite embarrassed by the many compliments he heard that afternoon. But what I took away with me was something which I might easily have overlooked. On one of the explanatory panels, he stated:

Power places have a natural eloquence that is always beautiful and always inspirational, however, of all the sacred power places on the planet, the hardest one to reach is inside our self. (Samuel Thomas)

I think it is worth repeating the hardest [sacred power place] to reach is inside our self.  It was that statement that sent me on the journey of creating artwork based on my mother's dresses. Where that project will end up, I'm not sure but I know it is probably one of the most important art projects I'll ever undertake. And so I must offer up my thanks to Samuel Thomas.

Power of Place - Strength of Being
An Exhibition by Samuel Thomas
Grimsby Museum,
6 Murray Street, Grimsby, Ontario
Ongoing until March 31, 2010
And then traveling....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More Dresses

Gold Brocade Dress and Jacket by Ingrid Mida, copyright 2010

A dress is literally a metaphor for a woman. It is a form of second skin, sheltering the female form from the elements, and provides clues about self-image, class, profession and culture. 

Embarking on the project of cataloguing my mother's dresses has been an emotional journey for me especially as she is quite unwell. Plus I have only vague memories of her wearing these dresses. And for those reasons, I very much  appreciate the encouragement and positive response that I've received from my readers. In the past, I've listened to criticisms that my artwork lacks emotional power but this work comes from a deep place. I suspect that it will consume me for some time and perhaps result in a show at some point and possibly some note cards.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Mother's Dresses

Silver dress, copyright of Ingrid Mida 2010

After being consumed by Chanel for the past few weeks, I think it is time to go in a different direction. And my recent work, which involves photographing my mother's collection of dresses, seemed like the perfect transition.

Initially when I took the images, I was disappointed by the results. They lacked something and I just didn't know what. But with a bit of effort in Photoshop, they have taken on a whole new life and I am excited by the potential that lies at my fingertips.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.... I heard from a few of you this week who say you are loyal followers but do not leave comments. I welcome your feedback and please know that you are able to leave comments anonymously and no one will ever be the wiser....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chanel and Sailor Chic

Where does inspiration come from? That is a question that lingers in my mind, especially when I think I have come up with an original idea only to discover that someone else has beat me to it.

On January 7th, Christina Binkley wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal about the wave in sailor chic for spring fashions and linked the trend to the 2009 movie Coco before Chanel featuring Audrey Tautou. She wrote:

"A popular film and several recent books about Coco Chanel have everything to do with the mariniere revival. When the French-language film "Coco Before Chanel" debuted in April 2009, it helped ignite new interest in the designer's 60 year career and habit of adapting menswear to her own devices. The marieniere is so closely connected with Ms. Chanel that its use in fashion is often attributed to her. The actress Audrey Tautou wore a mariniere in her role as Ms. Chanel."

In art as in fashion, it is sometimes difficult to pin down the source of a movement or a trend. But I had to wonder whether it really was the movie that inspired Jean Paul Gaultier, Riccardo Tisci, Michael Bastien, Proenza Schouler to design marine-inspired looks for spring 2010. And the reason that I ask that question is because there was a show called Les Marins Font La Mode (Sailor Chic) at the Musee National de la Marine last spring in Paris. I had the good fortune to walk through with the commissaire Delphine Allannic-Costa and learned a great deal from her. 

The show began with a display of marine uniforms and ended with a spectacular display of contemporary haute couture fashions that incorporated the sailor theme(including Givenchy, Dior, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Kenzo). In between, the exhibition traced the history of sailor chic in fashion back as far as the 19th Century, years before Chanel was even born. In Victorian times,  anchor embroidery, striped designs, navy-inspired hats, and Sunday sailor outfits for rowing on the Seine were popular. As well, Queen Victoria had navy outfits made for her children, a trend which was then adopted across Europe. And while Chanel may have drawn on the marine influence in her Deauville creations, it is a myth that she alone inspired sailor chic.

Having seen the exhibition Les Marins Font La Mode in Paris last spring, I would speculate that the sailor chic trend for spring is more likely to have come from this incredible show. After all, the exhibition was three years in the making and many of the designers who lent outfits to the show would have known about it and perhaps seen the show themselves. What do you think?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Movie Review: Coco Chanel From Director Christian Duguay

Shirley MacLaine is an improbable Chanel. Granted she has the gravelly voice and is both eccentric and cantankerous, but somehow I could never really believe that she embodied the elegant Coco Chanel (especially with her heavy American accent).  Obviously, that is just my opinion because Shirley MacLaine received a Golden Globe nomination for this role but I was thankful that her role in the movie was relatively small.

Told in a series of flashbacks, this movie plays loose and fast with the story of Chanel's life. If you have read a great deal about Chanel, you may find this disconcerting, as I did. For example, there is a scene where Chanel orders a young male groom to drop his jodhpurs so that she can wear them riding instead of the long and cumbersome woman's riding habit. I also thought the costumes were somewhat weak, particularly when it came to a bland, ill-fitting sweater that the young Chanel, played by Barbora Bobulova, wears repeatedly in numerous scenes early in her adult life.

In spite of its many flaws, the movie is amusing and a must-see for die-hard Chanel fans, if only to allow comparison with the many other movies about Chanel's life. If any of my readers would like my dvd, please leave me a comment including your score on the Coco Questionnaire and I'll do another giveaway draw at the end of the week. This giveaway is limited to readers from Canada and the USA.

Coco Chanel
Directed by: Christian Duguay
Length of Movie: 139 Minutes
Rating: 14A

Friday, January 15, 2010

Winner of the Blog Giveaway: The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

Thank you to all that entered my blog giveaway for a copy of The Gospel According to Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman.

Although I wish I could give everyone who entered a copy of the book, there can only be one winner.
And the winner is Catherine of the blog A Thousand Clapping Hands. Congratulations Catherine. Please email me at to claim your prize.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Art Documentary: Chanel, A Film by Eila Herson and Roberto Gueria

I think the best gifts come as a surprise on an ordinary day, and to my utter delight and wonder, I received a Chanel themed gift which included three films about the life of Coco Chanel.  I randomly chose to view this art film documentary by Ella Hershon and Roberto Guerra called Chanel.

Although I already knew the basic factual elements of Chanel's life, this documentary included interviews with her as well as numerous photos from her archives. There are photos of her many handsome lovers, (and there were many!) In addition, the film includes extensive footage of a young Karl Lagerfeld analyzing Chanel's style using collages that he made from old magazines and newspapers. It was amusing to see him when he was still young, eager to impress and without his many affectations. 

Interspersed through the video are many quotes from Chanel. (If I've made any errors in transcription, they were unintentional.) These are the quotes from Coco Chanel which struck a chord for me:

Fashion is a reflection of the time.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.

Simplicity does not mean poverty.

Happiness is something that you sometimes find while doing something else.

Jewelery isn't made to make you look rich, it is there to adorn you.

Let them copy. My ideas belong to everyone.

Only those with no memory insist on originality.

For a woman who had no time for anything other than work and her lovers, she certainly had a lot to say!

A film by Eila Herson and Roberto Guerra
Narrated by Diana Quick
Written and Edited by Richard Howorth
RM Arts 1986

Monday, January 11, 2010

Take the Coco Questionnaire

As you may have noticed, I am now consumed by all things Chanel.  I am haunted by her elegance, her drive, and her fearless pursuit of her goals. I started to wonder - am I like her just a little? Take my questionnaire and find out for yourself.

1.  Are the dominant colours in your wardrobe black, white, beige and navy?

2.  Do you frown upon ruffles, bows, and extraneous embellishments?

3.  Do you live by the maxim elegance is refusal?

4.  Do you prefer quality over quantity?

5. Would you take apart a gift of expensive jewelery and craft it into something new, including mixing it with costume jewelery?

6. Do you wear perfume every day?

7. Are you single-minded of purpose, driven towards a goal?

8. Do you prefer to be in the company of men?

9. Are you fearless in your pursuit of your dreams?

10.  Would you agree with the statement that between your work and your lover, there is no time.

If you answered yes to ALL the questions, you are Coco Chanel incarnate!

If you answered yes to 7-9 of the questions, you could be a distant relative of Gabrielle Chanel.

If you answered yes to 4-6 of the questions, you are obviously a Chanel admirer.

If you answered yes to 1-3 of the questions, you need to read a copy of The Gospel According to Chanel. Enter my giveaway before the deadline of January 14th at midnight!

P.S.  My answers are (1. yes, 2. yes, 3. YES, 4. yes, 5. No way!, 6. YES!, 7. yes, 8. yes, 9. mostly, 10. no comment!).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Interview with Karen Karbo, Author of the Gospel According to Coco Chanel

Karen Karbo, the author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the Most Elegant Women wrote her first novel in the second grade called What Next? about five people who don't like each other and get stuck in an elevator. In the years that spanned those two books, she also tried her hand at physical therapy, film school, sailboat varnishing, serving customers as a counter person at Knott's Berry Farm, taking tickets and selling popcorn at an art house movie theatre, and reviewing movies for The Oregonian. She also published three novels (all of which were named New York Times Notable Books), four nonfiction books and three books for young adults. Her essays, articles and reviews have appeared such prestigious publications as the New York Times,  Elle, and Vogue. Karen's latest book, The Gospel According to Coco Chanel was so delightful that I could not resist asking her for an interview, which is presented below.

Ingrid:  Your other books are not about fashion. How and why did you chose the revered Coco Chanel as the subject for your book?

Karen: "In 2007, I published a book called How to Hepburn about the life of the great Katharine Hepburn. During the research, I came upon the 1969 musical "Coco" about the life of Coco Chanel, in which Hepburn improbably starred. That got me thinking about the life of Chanel. My own grandmother was a couturiere in Los Angeles in the 1950s and even though her work was definitely in the Dior school, she made sure I knew Chanel. It was only after I started reading about Chanel's life that I realized she'd made this extraordinary journey from the poor house - quite literally - to being one of the most celebrated women in the world."

Ingrid: What was the most surprising discovery you made about Chanel?

Karen: That she was an expert horsewoman. I knew she lived on a thoroughbred breeding farm with Etienne Balsan, her first lover, but I'd never realized she'd become such an accomplished rider herself.

Ingrid: If you were going to adopt one lesson from her life as a new year's resolution for 2010, which lesson would it be?

Karen: Learn your strengths and work them without second guessing yourself. When Chanel got started she had very little going for her. She was the second string mistress of a wealthy horse breeder. Otherwise, she had no money, no family, no other connections. But she had a few terrific ideas, in which she had absolute confidence.

Ingrid: How would you describe your own style?

Karen: Last year's J. Crew, I'm afraid to say.

Ingrid: Do you wear the mulberry, plum and rose boucle Chanel style jacket that you made?

Karen: The jacket is nearly finished. It's still awaiting its buttons.

Ingrid: Your experience at Didier Ludot's shop in Paris is something that probably all of us can relate to - being intimidated by a haughty salesperson. What did you do with the photo of le bulldog? (He died last year btw). Any chance you were contacted by Didier after your book was published?

Karen: Awwww! Le bulldog was the most adorable pup ever. Parisian sales people are a breed unto themselves; they really don't care if you buy what they are selling. And if you're a silly American in cowboy boots, they prefer that you just move along. I have the picture of the dog taped to the wall over my desk. And no, no word from Monsieur Ludot. Tant pis pour moi.

Ingrid: Chanel said "Elegance is refusal." What do you find it hardest to refuse?

Karen: The obvious answer is everything in the apple fritter food group. Chanel herself ate almost nothing. She used to say, "I eat like a race horse, standing up." But what I really have a hard time 'refusing' is throwing on a jeans and t-shirt and thinking I'm properly dressed. I live in Portland, Oregon, where you never have to own anythin gmore stylish than a pair of dark wash Levis. Plus, I've got a kid, a horse, and a career in which technically I never even have to get out of my bathrobe. There's just not that much call for me to invest in style. And yet I love it. I love beautifully made clothes and statement shoes and big jewelry. That I don't have much occasion to wear these things doesn't mean I need to look as if I'm a paycheck away from living under a bridge.

Ingrid: You have a delightfully refreshing wit and candor that seems to be rare among authors. Where does this come from?

Karen: That's nice of you to say. It's most likely a mix of genes and having spent my formative years as the wise-cracking best friend of the Homecoming queen.

Ingrid: Is there any other fashion icon that you would like to research and write about?

Karen: Although Chanel loathed her, I love Elsa Schiaparelli. Schiap, as she was known, believed clothes could be witty. She invented hot pink and added zippers to ski wear. She created buttons that looked like other things: peanuts, flowers, beetles. Chanel was rather strict. She was raised in an orphanage by nuns and when it came to clothes she shared their same sense of play.

Ingrid: In one of your author photos, I can see a huge stack of books beside your bed. What are you currently reading?

Karen: *Haha* Yes that stack keeps growing and growing. I just finished reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and I'm currently rereading Lolita.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Giveaway: The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

 Chanel Suit 1959

If you would like to win a copy of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman by Karen Karbo, please leave a comment telling me what it is that you admire most about Coco Chanel.

For two chances to win, become a follower if you are not already.
For five chances to win, post the giveaway button on your blog.

The winner will be announced on Friday, January 15th! Bonne chance mes amis.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book Review: The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

Books are among my favourite gifts and I was delighted to find The Gospel According to Coco Chanel under my Christmas tree.

Although there are many books about Coco Chanel, this one stands apart from the rest. Not just another biography, the author Karen Karbo extracts the lessons from the story of Chanel's life and frames them in a way that is useful to the modern woman. Written with a great deal of wit, I wanted to laugh out loud at times, especially when the author writes about a visit to Didier Ludot in Paris to find a vintage Chanel jacket. Karbo is charmingly cheeky and does not gush over the myth of Chanel. She writes with refreshing honesty about Chanel's many flaws including Chanel's disdain for her arch rival Elsa Schiaparelli, her ill-fated affair with a Nazi officer during the war, and her snarky temperment. And still, the book presents a witty and delightful manifesto for living life fearlessly, passionately and with elegance like the revered Coco Chanel.

Favourite Passage:

"One of the reasons we hold the magnificently imperfect Chanel up as the perfect manifestation of style is that she was never in doubt about what she liked and what suited her. Even when she was nothing more than Balsan's latest diversion, she appeared on his arm at the races with her small hat jammed on her head, her dark tailor-made suit, and a white blouse. People stared. Where was her platter hat? Her flounces, her tiered silken train, her petticoat, her boa?
To know who we are is a challenge for most of us. As dutiful consumers of media we are dogged by the feeling that we should exist in a state of eternal self-transformation. To plant our flag in the ground - right here, right now - and say "This is me!" seems to us to be settling for us, or giving up, or not being all that we can be." (page 22)

Title:  The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman
Author: Karen Karbo
Illustrated by: Chesley McLaren
Published by: skirt! An imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2009
Number of Pages: 229
Price: US$19.95, Canada $24.95 (hardcover)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

A hedgehog is a bristly creature, covered in quills, and difficult to get close to. At first, The Elegance of the Hedgehog reads somewhat like a hedgehog in that it takes a while before its charm is revealed. I had heard so many good things about the book and was initially surprised that the main characters verged on the surreal. But soon, I could not help but love the imperfections of Madame Michel, the concierge of a Paris apartment building at 7 rue de Grenelle, and her nemesis, Paloma, a 12 year old girl who lives in the building. In alternating voices, their observations about people, time, beauty and the meaning of life move the story forward and they come together in an unlikely friendship which blossoms when a new tenant moves into the building.

Within its 325 pages, this book is thought-provoking, funny and heart-wrenching. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a captivating read for those who are drawn to beauty, philosophy, art and Parisian life.

Favourite Passage:

"In the split second while I saw the stem and the bud drop to the counter I intuited the essence of Beauty. Yes, here I am, a little twelve-and-a-half-year-old brat, and I have been incredibly lucky because this morning all the conditions were ripe: an empty mind, a calm house, lovely roses, a rosebud dropping. And that is why I thought of Ronsard's poem, though I didn't really understand it at first: because he talks about time, and roses. Because beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it. It's the ephemeral configuration of things in the moment, when you can see both their beauty and their death." (page 272)

Title: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Author: Muriel Barbery
Translated from the French by: Alison Anderson
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Editions Gallimard (2006); Europa Editions  (2008)
Price: US $15, Canada $18.50 (Paperback)
Number of Pages: 325