18 January, 2009

who are your influences?

"He says his influences are Clarence Clemons and the guy from Madness."

It's always interesting for me to learn who planted the seeds that formed one's career path. For me there are a few notable people who steered me in one direction or another. My grandma was a home-ec teacher. She taught sewing and cooking at Hermantown Jr/Sr High for decades. Now admittedly, I have no real memories of her doing either. Once off the clock, she didn't do a whole lot of it. Once retired, she happily gave it up completely. What I remember best of all was her linen closet. On the floor of the closet was a box of fabric. Nothing fancy, but scraps galore. It was heaven for me. Absolute joy whenever I got to go in there. She still gives me fabric when she finds some. Over the last few years she's given me some amazing pieces of vintage Irish wool, which I've tried to do justice once I actually got up the nerve to cut into them.

Example A
Example B

On my dad's side, my grandpa was probably the person who I most resemble. Not so much physically, but a distinct personality trait. My grandfather collected hats. He easily had hundreds displayed in nearly every room of the house. He had a few favorites that he'd wear, but for the most part they were on pegs for viewing pleasure. I have always been a hat person. Always. I can't imagine getting that from anyone but him. I was just starting to make my own hats the year he died, in 1990. To the funeral luncheon after, I wore my newest hat. Navy wool with a wide buckram brim and big honking roses in the same fabric. All handsewn. God it was awful. I really didn't have much in the way of skills then. But I couldn't think of any better way to honor him than wear a hat to his funeral.

More immediate, my dad paints and draws. He draws on scratch paper cartoons with almost a Lockhorns look to them. He's also a great mimic. He had big pieces of wood in our basement once upon a time, filled with Disney characters he had painted with oil. They were thrown out decades ago, unfortunately. I was too young to beg my parents to hang onto them, or to realize I should. My mom worked with clay when in school, and embroidery when I was younger. When I was about ten she made our Christmas stockings, the ones still used today. She also made at least half of the ornaments on their tree. Styrofoam balls with a quilt effect, gingerbread men donned in ricrac and pompoms. All handsewn. More patience than I would have, that's for certain.

There are more artists in my family, then and now. My great-grandfather was a published poet. My great-uncle was a painter. My uncle has of late become a formidable woodcarver. My dad's cousin painted in her youth, and her use of a palette knife instead of a brush definitely interested me even though the painting itself always inexplicably disturbed me.

You know, part of the reason I started to post was to list a very different influence. He planted a seed my 11 year old self didn't harvest till much later.

Mr Roarke.

Okay, bear with me. So there's this episode of Fantasy Island where a woman (Helen Reddy, if memory serves), under some influence, tries to sabotage her own fashion show. When an assistant asks her what fabric her design should be made with, she says, "How about satin- [insert evil grin here]and burlap." During the fashion show itself a model comes down the runway in a cream satin gown and a short turquoise burlap jacket. And it's a big hit. That moment has stayed with me for nearly 30 years. Perhaps it's a factor in how I choose fabric combinations now. I'd be hard-pressed to say it wasn't. I've thought about it a lot recently, but with Ricardo Montalban's passing I feel it's time to actually reveal the truth: Fantasy Island is partially responsible for who I am today.

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