Art on the runway: Greenfield fashion show to feature garments by local fabric artists

  • Gabrielle Carmody-Talbot tries on an outfit for the upcoming “THREADS: A Unique Fashion Show.” Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • James Sykes of Greenfield, Fae Roberts of Northfield, john Iverson of Bernardston, Piper Pichette of Deerfield and Reba-Jean Shaw-Pichette get ready for a fashion show at the Pushkin Gallery in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Reba-Jean Shaw-Pichette works with Gabrielle Carmody-Talbot to get ready for “THREADS: A Unique Fashion Show.” Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Kathleen Nutter and Jeanne Sisson check out the fiber art and clothing at the Deerfield Valley Art Association’s Center for the Arts in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Fiber artist Margaret Stancer, left, talks about her work with Mary Field at the Deerfield Valley Art Association’s Center for the Arts in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • A soft sculpture, “Josephine,”€ by Nancy Young of Easthampton is on display at the Deerfield Valley Art Association’s Center for the Arts in Northfield as part of the exhibit “FABRICATED: Fabulous Functional & Whimsical Fiber Art.” Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Published: 8/15/2018 1:30:43 PM

Fabric has many uses. It can protect, it can warm, it can comfort, and its production can bring money to families or enjoyment to others.

But what if fabric is more than just useful? What if fabric has meaning?

A unique fashion show/art exhibit combo that’s coming to Franklin County aims to put fabric’s meaning in the spotlight. Fabric art worn by models will make its way down the runway at the Pushkin Gallery in Greenfield and pieces of fiber-based art will be on display at the Deerfield Valley Art Association’s Center for the Arts in Northfield.

The two shows are coming together to show not just what can be done with fabrics and fibers, but how the everyday materials that we take for granted can take on form and meaning much more than we give it credit for.

When clothing speaks louder than words

The fashion show, which is being called “THREADS: A Unique Fashion Show,” will feature a number of clothing items from the DVAA and the Silverthorne Theater Company, a Greenfield-based theater troupe. The event will be held Thursday, Aug. 23, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Silverthorne will present clothing from its five seasons of performances. The shows have ranged from period pieces in the Victorian period to modern times — and the clothing on the catwalk will reflect that.

Lucinda Kidder, managing director for Silverthorne, said the fashion shown will be a retrospective of fashion and textiles from various time periods in the world. These outfits help define the outlooks on life at those times, Kidder said, and will “showcase the development of fabric in history.”

One notable play that costumes will be on display from is “Tar2f!,” a piece written by Northampton-based playwright Jeff Olmsted that is a modern retelling of the 1660s French play Tartuffe by Moliere. The costumes reflect the most aristocratic styles of that era in France.

“The costumes for that particular show were built with satin and brocade,” Kidder said, adding they were worn with a lot of jewelry and glimmer.

In addition, she said the show has some fashion from the period that still influences modern men’s style heavily, with men in the play wearing several layers, including a silk shirt and a waist coat.

“That was the origin of the three-piece suit,” she said.

Kidder said the fashions come not just from the time periods though, but from the characters that wear them.

“Costumes say an awful lot about a character,” she said. “If the character is self-absorbed … you have to reflect that character. If they don’t care how they look, that casual attitude has to reflect.”

Kidder said other fashion pieces in the show could be uniforms worn by characters that convey to you what they do for a living.

The show will also feature wearable art from DVAA’s “FABRICATED: Fabulous Functional & Whimsical Fiber Art” installation at its gallery on Main Street in Northfield. The clothing from the installation draws heavily on the region in which the fashion and creation is based.

Natural fibers make up the majority of the worn art, particularly wools. Agrarian society comes through too, with a shawl made for horseback riding from sheep’s wool, and knit caps set to grace the runway.

From necessity, to fine art

An eclectic mix of techniques and styles are represented in “FABRICATED,” which is on display through Sept. 16.

The theme of the show is fiber arts, a class of art media encompassing tapestries, quilts, clothing and others.

“(Fiber) might be something that originally grows on a plant, like cotton, or on an animal, like wool or silk,” explained Amherst resident Flo Rosenstock, one of the artists with work in the show.

Rosenstock is a member of the Fiberistas, a group of eight female fiber artists from around western Massachusetts. The group’s members exchange ideas and provide their individual expertise to one another’s projects. Five members of the group have work featured in “FABRICATED.”

Several of Rosenstock’s pieces in the show use cardboard packing materials as the basis for three-dimensional collages that play on the shape of the cardboard. For one, called “,” she covered a square box with canceled Swedish postage stamps, and in the corners, added small paper cutouts in the shape of chairs.

“It’s a joke on what it’s like to fly in an airplane these days,” Rosenstock said.

Nina Compagnon of Shutesbury, another Fiberista with work in the exhibit who will also contribute clothing to the fashion show, uses felting to create clothes and other objects. Felting is a multi-step process in which hot water is used to make wool and another fabric expand and contract, letting the wool fibers pass partially through the fabric fibers so that the wool grips to the fabric.

One of Compagnon’s pieces is made of a thick wool felt framed between two wood branches. She calls it a “buffalo pelt.”

“I love this piece because it’s got some texture and depth to it,” she said.

Kimi Donohoe of Northfield has a silk kimono on display that she made 35 years ago when she was 28. The kimono is made of Oshima Tsumugi, a kind of Japanese silk that takes at least six months to make. The process involves dying the silk with tree sap, then soaking it in an iron-rich mud. The fabric is made in one large piece, then cut into the shape of a kimono.

Donohoe learned the technique from watching her mother weaving as a child, and started weaving herself when she was 20.

“This kimono will last two or three generations easily,” Donohoe said. “I can give it to my daughter.”

Most of the pieces Northfield resident Jeanne Sisson has on display at “FABRICATED” combine multiple techniques.

For one piece, she used human figures she drew in a figure drawing class, then stitched over them, following the contours of the shapes, to add texture.

“It’s a meditation, really,” Sisson said. “You stitch and you follow your lines.”

“Duality,” a large silk painting piece, has two human figures side by side, mirroring one another, with a screenprinted pattern running over them, and yin-yang symbols around them symmetrically.

“It’s about the duality of life, basically,” she said.

Sisson said that gradually, she’s noticed that perceptions of fabric are starting to change.

“I think people are starting to recognize textile and fabric as more of a fine art medium,” she said. “For years, quilts were considered utilitarian. Now they’re being respected a little more as a fine art medium.”

Tickets for “THREADS: A Unique Fashion Show” are $10 for DVAA members and Silverthorne patrons, and $15 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased in advance at, by calling 413-768-7514, or by visiting the DVAA Center for the Arts. The gallery is open Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

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