High Desert Museum Creations of Spirit Bend Oregon

Wedding gowns get second life in Creative Wearables show in Lincoln City

In an annual sewing challenge, members of the fiber arts group make wearable art. Themes in the Lincoln City Cultural Center exhibit include marriage, recycling, and women leaders.

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Deb Sorem fashioned a long white satin coat over a dress as her "Metaphor on Marriage" for the Creative Wearables show. Photo courtesy: Creative Wearables
Bev Shoger fashioned a long white satin coat over a dress as her “Metaphor on Marriage” for the Creative Wearables show. Photo by: Mark Graves, courtesy Creative Wearables

When members of the Creative Wearables group found themselves with the opportunity to buy new couture wedding gowns at a bargain-basement price, they grabbed 10. Then, so pleased with their purchases, they bought 10 more. And then, they cut, stained, soiled, and stamped the dresses to create their own statement on marriage.

The fiber works of art, dubbed Metaphor on Marriage, will be on display with other creations by the group beginning Friday in the Lincoln City Cultural Center’s Fiber Arts Studio and Gallery. The show opens with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 6. It continues through March 19.

Creative Wearables is a subgroup of the Portland-based Columbia Fiber Arts Guild. The group meets 11 times a year and each year works on one wearable project based on a theme or “sewing challenge.”

“Creative Wearables members are passionate about their craft and dedicated to the concept of making functional, wearable, artistic clothing and accessories to enjoy and share in our daily lives,” said Joyce Kelly, group chairperson.  “Our aim is to connect, inspire, and educate others about the skill, craft, and creative fun that making clothing can be.”

Metaphor on Marriage came about after Kelly read about a collection of new gowns shipped from Australia to the nonprofit Brides for a Cause. The nonprofit resells wedding dresses to raise money for women-focused charities.              

“They were a strange color, a grayish shade of mauve, and they wouldn’t be able to sell them,” Kelly said. “I picked out the gowns and put them in bags and wrote someone’s name on the outside. No one had any idea who was getting what style or shape.”

The group decided on the marriage theme and agreed that artists would have to use 90 percent of the garment for the new work.   

“Some of us dyed the fabric,” Kelly said. “Some left them as is. The gowns were so well made, it was difficult taking them apart. One gal painted hers. One gal buried hers in the compost pile for at least a month. Marriages go through a lot, and she put her dress through a lot.” Kelly textured her gown and turned it into one suitable to wear for a second-line parade, a New Orleans tradition in which guests form a line to parade behind the newlyweds.

Jane Wolfe's black, white, and red jean jacket is from Creative Wearables' "Upcycled/Reused" challenge. Photo courtesy: Creative Wearables
Jane Wolfe made this black, white, and red jean jacket in response to Creative Wearables’ “Upcycled/Reused” challenge. Photo courtesy: Creative Wearables

The exhibit also features projects from two other sewing challenges, Dare to Lead and Upcycled/Reused.  For Dare to Lead, members created projects representing groundbreaking women they admired. “One did Joan of Arc, and another, Julia Child,” Kelly said. “Somebody did a garment that looks like Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s work. She does various-size polka dots that are almost impossible to buy.” For the upcycle challenge, members took on three smaller challenges to recycle existing garments into something wearable.

“Everybody did something totally different,” Kelly said. “It was mostly garments — jackets and some dresses. One gal did a Chinese woman from a Puccini opera. It’s a long, long coat, reversible. It’s gorgeous.”

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Also happening on the central coast: Sarah Scholfield will lead a free two-hour demonstration of clay hand-building techniques beginning at 1 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Newport Visual Arts Center. This is also an opportunity to check out the center’s new clay studio.

The center’s Passport to Art program kicks off 2023 with a Stamp Carving and Clay Printing class led by Liz Fox. Students will carve their own stamp from a soft rubber block and hand stamp it on a small clay dish. The Passport to Art program is held monthly, with each class offered Tuesday evenings (adults only) and Saturday afternoons (adults and youth in sixth grade and above). The cost for each class is $35.

Lori Tobias is a journalist of many years, and was a staff writer for The Oregonian for more than a decade, and a columnist and features writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Her memoir “Storm Beat – A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast” was published in 2020 by Oregon State University press. She is also the author of the novel Wander, winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for literary fiction and a finalist for the 2017 International Book Awards for new fiction. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband Chan and rescue pups Luna and Monkey.

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