Tag Archives: artist

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Susan

Today’s “get to know” interviewee might be best known as the ‘Ribbon Lady’. An accomplished historical costumer, she inspires everyone around her to fall in love with vintage textiles and trims and to appreciate the stories they carry. Please welcome Susan.

NSB - gtksusan header
Who are you?
My name is Susan, though I also answer to ‘Ribbon Lady’.

How long have you worked at Nancy’s?
I think it’s been 18 years.

How long have you been sewing?
Since I was a very small child. As a toddler, I started with a yarn needle (my mother would thread it for me) and I would sit and sew for hours. I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t sew.

Do you have a special focus?
Handwork and historical costuming, though to me they are one and the same. I’m interested in basically all costuming eras aside from the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s. My favorite costumes to create are from the 18th century and Edwardian eras, as both are suited to lots of handwork. Where 18th century styles have fairly simple construction, Edwardian construction is a bit more challenging, which I enjoy.

NSB - gtks yellow gown bodice

The design and color palette for this c.1755 style gown was inspired by the small piece of antique fly fringe at the top of the stomacher.

My costuming process begins with my collection of textiles and trims. It is a slow process; I collect items and create kits of fabric and trims. I use mostly antique and vintage trims, as antique yardage is more difficult to find and more fragile. The starting point for a given costume is usually a single item, like a button or a trim; sometimes it is a tiny piece of 18th century fly fringe, sometimes it is a piece of fabric from the 1920s.

NSB - gtks harlequin detail

A black-and-cream checkerboard fabric from the 1920s and vintage cherry motifs inspired this 18th century costume with harlequin details.

What was your first sewing project?
The first true project was sewing doll clothes. I had very well dressed dolls, in many eras of historical costume. Sewing and historical costume go hand-in-hand for me; the clothing of other eras has always been of more interest to me than the clothing I could see on the street.

What is your most recently completed project?
An Edwardian ball gown skirt, made in silk brocade with antique butterflies and antique Art Nouveau trim. The silk brocade is a very deep navy blue, the butterflies are black backed in gold metallic fabric with a slight pleat; it is a moody and mysterious color palette. I’m still working on the bodice that goes with it.

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One of Susan’s completed Edwardian ball gowns, a true 1901 shape. Her recently completed skirt and soon-to-be finished bodice have a similar silhouette.

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
The most memorable project would be my daughter’s wedding dress. When I started making it, I believed I had six months to complete it. Then she was awarded an overseas scholarship that had to be used immediately, so the wedding was moved up five months. I completed it in three and a half weeks.

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The bride, Susan’s daughter, and her groom on their wedding day.

It is an 18th century style gown made in a color palette best described as ‘triple cream French vanilla’. The dress is vanilla-colored silk dupioni, with monochromatic embellishment, including embroidery, ribbon embroidery, beading, and dimensional ribbonwork. Most of this dress was made with modern materials, but I did use a gorgeous antique woven tubular silk ribbon. Though the tube is flattened, it still has a lovely dimensionality.

NSB - gtks wedding stomacher detail NSB - gtks wedding skirt embroidery detail NSB - gtks wedding skirt detail NSB - gtks wedding skirt side detail

My favorite project is one of the two things that I made without a deadline: an 18th century ensemble.The skirt was made of cream-colored wool challis, which I embroidered using antique thread. Some of the embroidery – a double wave of pearls winding around the skirt – was inspired by something I saw on an 18th century skirt. The floral motifs were informed by the availability of colors in the antique thread. My mother was a florist and I spent lots of time in her shop when I was young; I used my memories of different flowers to create the motifs, which include lilies of the valley, pansies, forget-me-nots, sweet peas, tiger lilies, anemones, and morning glories. Because I didn’t have a deadline, I was able to spend time experimenting with the flowers. It was lovely.

NSB - gtks favorite 18th c ensemble

Susan in her favorite 18th century ensemble

NSB - gtks favorite 18th c ensemble

To coordinate, I made a Pierrot jacket using an incredible antique 18th century silk fabric in brown with a woven stripe. I trimmed the jacket with white silk organza ruffles, two 18th century metallic trims (one ruffled, the other serpentine), and ribbon and thread buttons from the Victorian era. It wasn’t the most ornate or structurally complex costume I have made, but I felt totally at home in it and it remains a favorite.

NSB - gtks favorite pierrot front NSB - gtks favorite pierrot back NSB - gtks peplum detail

What project is next?
At present, I am preparing for an exhibition of my costumes, which will take place November 11th through 15th at the Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theater at the University of Washington. The show will feature more than 50 costumes, ranging in date from the late 17th century (Cavalier era) through the 1920s.

NSB - gtks collar detail

In terms of costume, I have several works in progress: an embroidered 1920s coat and the bodice to the Edwardian ball gown skirt, among others. I plan to finish the Edwardian bodice next.

What do you love most about Nancy’s?
The quality of the staff and the quality of the merchandise. And the Ribbon Room, of course! The Ribbon Room and I were made for each other.

Thank you Susan! We are all so excited to see your costumes on display in November. To learn more about Susan’s exhibit, including glimpses into her incredible historical wardrobe, please go to the event website: Art of the Costume.

All photographs in this post courtesy of Nancy’s employee Susan and may not be used without express permission.

Meet a friend of Nancy’s: Candace Kling

Today we are thrilled to share an interview with someone who is very special to Nancy’s Sewing Basket. She is a vendor, a friend, and an artist. You may know her as author of the exquisite book The Artful Ribbon, who also teaches workshops in our store.

Please welcome ribbon goddess, Candace Kling.

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Who are you?
Candace Kling, Oakland CA

What is your business?
My tax return says artist/teacher.

How did you get started?
I studied flat pattern drafting at a local junior college, later teaching it, as well as dress-form-making, at the California College of Arts and Crafts. I made custom wedding dresses for a one-of-a-kind, handmade clothing store called Sew What in Berkeley, California. My husband and I made hand-painted clothing using Inkodye.

In the 1980s, I worked at Bizarre Bazaar, a vintage clothing store in Oakland, California. Since then, I have been researching ribbon and fabric embellishment (mainly on garments and accessories). I’ve traveled around the country exploring museum costume and textile collections, private holdings, and libraries with vintage sewing books and periodicals. I’ve coupled those travels with a busy schedule of lecturing and teaching all the techniques that I have learned and continue to learn. My book, The Artful Ribbon, seems still to be a favorite among ribbon fans.

From the onset of my discovery of this wealth of vintage knowledge, I have tried to incorporate parts of it into my own artwork. My richly detailed textile sculptures (helmets and headdresses as well as diminutive candy boxes and monumental waterfalls) have been exhibited nationally and internationally over the last 30 years and are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Arts and Design and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and The Oakland Museum of California.

‘Red Rainbow’ by Candace Kling, 1980.

‘Cobra’ by Candace Kling, 1986.

‘Love with a Bite’ by Candace Kling, 1988.

‘White’ by Candace Kling, 1980.

What is your connection with Nancy’s Sewing Basket?
In February 1994 I presented my artwork (helmets and headdresses) and taught ribbon classes at Costume Con 12 in Santa Clara, California. Agnes Gawne (costumer and most excellent instructor of fashion history at Seattle’s New York Fashion Academy) took one of my classes and liked what she learned. She returned to Seattle and convinced Nancy’s store manager Tamara to hold ribbon classes sponsored by the store in conjunction with NYFA. I’ve been coming to NSB periodically ever since. It is such a bonus for my students to have a ribbon room and a ribbon expert extraordinaire (Susan, the ‘ribbon lady’) “in house”. But the real bonus…girlfriends!

NSB - CK bunting for Oak Mus - hist document

Bunting made for a 19th century document at The Oakland Museum of California history section.

What is your most recently released product or completed project?
Victory is measured in increments. So rather than being able to report publication of my second book (focusing on fabric flowers), I can say that I have been working all this year on it. Three hundred images are mostly edited to perfection and eight chapters are pretty darn smooth.

Candace Kling fabric flowers board

Examples of fabric flowers made by Candace Kling.

Candace Kling cabochons board

Candace Kling created these cabochon style flowers from fabric and ribbon.

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
In 2005 I participated in a “wedding” themed show at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco CA. I created “Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls”, a 15-foot-tall textile sculpture. I worked on the piece for four months, pressing, stitching, gathering and tacking, 250 yards of fabric at least. Throughout, the work lived sideways on a long table in a low-ceilinged room. Only on gallery-moving day did it take its upright position.

‘Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls’ by Candace Kling, 2005. Photo by John Bagley.

It was my biggest “Tada!” moment ever. So much bigger than me, and in my mind’s eye that day, magnificent.

A true ‘Tada!’ Candace Kling at installation.

What is next?
Back to the book!

Thank you so much, Candace! It sounds like you are making excellent progress on your book! As always, we are very excited to host your upcoming classes.

If you are interested in taking a workshop with Candace in October, please head over to our website to view our class schedule.

Photographs in this post are courtesy of Candace Kling. If you would like to learn more about Candace, and see more pictures of her work, check out her website CandaceKling.com. Additional pictures of her work can also be found on Patrice Krem’s pinterest board. Photograph in header by Debbie Bone-Harris.