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A Dyeing Process

One of the most important tools, in this particular process of hand dipping - or "mottled" dyeing - is a set of gloves and liners that protect your hands (as you plunge the fabric into the boiling acid dyestuff).

Acid Dyes will be used for this process. Acid dyes are used to dye protein fibers such as woolen goods, soy protein fibers called Soy Silk, and the synthetic polyamide fiber nylon. They produce a very even, single-color solid effect. Either vinegar or diluted acetic acid can be used to set them.

Acid dyes can safely be dissolved in hot or even boiling water without making them go bad but you must be very careful to completely dissolve the dye. I often add a drop of a surfactant, such as synthrapol, to aid in the dissolution. Another method is "pasting" the dye: mix a very small amount of water with your dye and stir it until it forms a smooth paste. Gradually add more water, stirring until smooth, and only then mix in the rest of the water.

The dyestuff is brought up to a rolling boil, and I mean hot! The warm/wet fabric, in this case the woolen pants, will be bunched up and plunged into the boiling dye, held there for 12 to 16 seconds. This will be repeated over and over with different color dye-baths until the layered and mottled color effect has been achieved.

The wool pants in their pristine state. I have not slit the button holes, the back has been left open and they are unhemmed.

Halfway through the process (it is lengthy), the color is starting to build up on the pants.

I intentionally sewed these pants with a polyester thread that does not take in the dyebath. The stitching adds a contrast note to the overall effect, plus it is strong and will hold the garment together better than a natural thread would.

Pants are pressed and readied for shipping.

The idea is that they should look just like the rendering!

Designing Leotards

Designing for stretch dancewear demands a knowledge of close fitting patterning as well as an understanding of working with a fabric whose character is both loose, fluid and elastic. It is also about how one divides the human body into sections that accent a torso’s physique. The work is complex yet minimal and the seams used are very important. There are countless possibilities, therefore countless quick sketches...

My quick sketches are translated into pen and ink, then I scan those into the appropriate application for coloring and finishing the renderings. I will usually work up many more than needed, from there, it is a process of elimination but always a collaborative one.

1 of 3 Designs. Trying out an idea for color gradation, but the coloring is not set yet, most likely it will change. At this point I can start collaborating with my patternmaker Marilyn Burbank, of Entr’acte Dancewear, on the build. I will be dyeing these after the fact. If you click on the rendering above you will be taken to The Entr'acte Costumes website.

Here are the fabric prototypes for the first design. A combination of solid nylon lycra stretch with a foiled sheer mesh and metallic foil trim.

2 of 3 Designs. Variation on a theme.

Worked up in fabrics. We go back and forth to revise proportions as well as lines and curves.

The mesh unitard will be worn over the leotards. The neckline mirrors the neckline of the leotard, but 1” up, which causes headaches to the patternmaker as they are working with a fabric that has a different stretch ratio than the leotard underneath.

Third design. Yet another variation.

The third design worked up in fabric. Next step will be to vat dye them into a selected color palette.


Revisiting Cylindrical Shadows @ PNB

Adding to an already existing color palette for "Cylindrical Shadows" we have a very broad range of colors. Strong, saturated, they punctuate the dreamlike mood of the piece... adding another layer, another point of view.

The new larger cast at PNB.

Look who’s wearing the {WOG}!

Is it true that a drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts? I'd like to think so. Happy St. Patrick's Day, and please wear your {WOG}!

A Costume Designers Loose Narrative Monologue, featuring “Associative Leaps” and such.

Preserving Lemons

All lemons work in this recipe, as well as oranges and tangerines. I have used Meyer lemons. Wash them well and if you want to soften the peel, soak the citrus in lukewarm water for 3 days, changing the water frequently.

In a bowl mix together the preserving spices: natural sea salt, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Cut a cross into the flesh of the lemons, but not all the way down. Pack each cut lemon with the spiced salt.




















Place a couple tablespoons of the salt mixture in the bottom of your clean sterilized jars.

In your clean, sterilized jars, place a couple of tablespoons of the preserving salt mixture. You will pack your prepared lemons, or oranges, on top of each other in the jars.

Make sure you pack the fruit in as tightly as possible and leave some air space before sealing the jars. I have inserted bay leaves and cinnamon sticks along with the fruit. Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for a month.

To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water to remove some of the salt and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year. The peel is edible. This also works very well with limes. Preserved lemons can be used for seasoning rice and couscous -- it works like salt and makes the rice and couscous lemon scented. Put chicken/fish into a foil bag and bake with the lemon salt. Use to season lamb shanks, stews and soups.


Celebrating Poet Wislawa Szymborska

Photography by Ann Marie,

Building Renderings

Most renderings start with an idea sketched multiple times, the image pose is refined then inked.

Color development and choice goes hand in hand with the sketching. For me, it is an intrinsic part of the design process. There is nothing random about the choice, it is always based on mood, movement, and one must visualize the palette as it moves on the stage and as it is completed with the work of the lighting designer.

Once colors are defined for each dancer, I literally build them in photoshop using scans of my dyed material samples (more often than not I will be dyeing these, so this is my opportunity to figure out the dyeing process). I layer the fabric samples with vector images of weaves I have made previously, then save each image as a fabric sample to be used in a rendering.

I digitize all the different components. This is similar to the collage process, in that each part of the illustration has a built shape that can be "cut" out and layered. Each shape is turned into a vector path, one literally redraws everything that has been hand-drawn and/or painted. It is laborious, but the beauty of this is that it affords one the option to go back into a rendering and change one small part or color of it.

Here are some of the painted backgrounds and textiles I have made, which have been scanned and brought into the rendering.

The finished illustration. I can go back into this and change the color if necessary.

A colorway for one of the women. I always try to bring to life the particular fabric I will be using. In this case it is an ultra light, embarrassingly expensive Italian wool challis, that I will be hand dyeing.

Another colorway for the men. Building transparency in some fabrics, where they actually occur is also a plus as it helps to give a realistic idea of how the fabric will behave on the dancer.

There are many steps to this process, it is time well spent though as it helps to focus my attentions and hopefully prevent any costly construction or color mistakes. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Look who’s wearing the {WOG}!

Everything about Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria’s life is restricted: her freedom, her dreams, her body… and she knows that if she does not get this lamp shade off her neck, she will end up as a 16 year old with tunnel vision married to a 53 year old man.

Good thing she has her {WOG}, these interminable hours of portrait sitting will soon be over… she has her bus pass, she has her bankcard… “Adventure” is out there!

An Early Holiday Check List!

Because there is NOTHING quite as bracing as a self-evaluation, I've cleaned up Harry Bertoia's self rating chart just for you (and me), because that's how much I care.