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This wonderful, wild WOW season, visitors descend on our city for the 35th year of the World of WearableArt festival. A spectacle of art, fashion, music and dance that awards prizes to the most otherworldly, outrageous and awe-inspiring creations. Artists from around the world enter their works of wearable wonder into the show and this season, we’re lucky enough to host one such work in our Gallery Lounge.
Glistening Gothic Tracery is a collaboration between Florida-based Colleen Muscha and her design assistant, Christina Marullo. We chatted to Colleen about the work and how it came to be. Read on for a peek into their process and the logistics of transporting a work inspired by Gothic architecture all the way to Wellington.
Colleen, tell us about yourselves – how did you and Christina come to work together?
I was an art major who also loved to sew. With a masters degree in costume design, I worked as a designer at professional theatres throughout the US. I then spent thirty-four years as the Director and Professor of the MFA Costume Design Program at Florida State University — School of Theatre. There, I met Christina Marullo as a graduate student. She later became the Costume Designer for the Florida State University Opera Department.
When I finally decided to enter a garment for the World of WearableArt, I thought of Christina as an excellent choice as a design assistant to help with some of the patterning, corsetry and fittings. She was a good collaborator to help with solving any technical problems that came up.
So it was a collaboration many years in the making. Where did your idea and inspiration for Glistening Gothic Tracery come about?
I took a sabbatical year off to work on this project. Looking at the various themes posed by WOW, the Architecture theme interested me the most. With my travels to Europe, I was fascinated by the shapes and proportions of the Gothic architecture of the many cathedrals I visited, including the shapes of the tall windows with their intricate tracery, the rose windows, high elaborate spires and soaring columns with acanthus leaves. The costume was to be a glorious ode to late Gothic architecture.
How fabulous, a work exhibiting in Wellington, inspired by the architecture of faraway lands and eras. Tell us about the materials you chose for the work.
I made a cardboard and cotton muslin mock-up of the garment and fitted it on a model to ensure size, scale, proportion and fit were all correct, before creating CAD files (Computer Aided Design) to laser cut sheets of acrylic. The pieces on the bodice needed to be formed slightly to a body shape, instead of being flat. So these pieces were heated and hand formed over a dress form in order to achieve the best curve for the piece.
While constructing the garment, we knew that if selected for WOW, it would have to be made in a way that it could be shipped to Wellington. That meant considering how to breakdown the components in a way that it could be reassembled easily after it arrived.
No easy feat! Tell us about your creative process to get to the final garment.
I collected visuals of Gothic architecture and sketched out various ways of incorporating those shapes around a figure. The skirt is based on Gothic windows while the hat is based on the spires of a cathedral. The wings on the shoulder are a nod to the flying buttress and the sleeves are inverted Corinthian columns with acanthus cuffs.
Being a theatrical costume designer, my role is collaborative with other production designers. I knew that using mostly gold mirror acrylic would give the garment a mirror ball quality for the lighting designer. I felt that would be a great theatrical effect of light bouncing off the garment during the WOW production, especially when the model spins. The costume interacted splendidly with stage lighting during the performance.
A triumph! Having been to Wellington for last year’s WOW show, what were some of your favourite parts of the city?
The designers were treated to several wonderful venues along the harbour, including the Designers Breakfast at Hippopotamus. It was great to see the way the city was laid out among hills.
I was able during some free time to visit WETA and their workshops. I also went to the Museum of New Zealand — Te Papa Tongarewa, where I spent a wonderful afternoon viewing the many exhibits.
Glistening Gothic Tracery won Colleen and Christina the award for First Time Entrant Winner in 2022. Read more at www.colleenmuscha.com
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