GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 4, 2013

Creative couture

Artists transform found materials into garments

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — Seashells and 700 Band-Aids as well as silk and spinnaker sails became veritable works of art on a fashion runway at the second Wearable Art II event held this past Sunday at Cruiseport Gloucester.

Like a fireworks show, many of the 90 looks strutted down the runway drew “oohs and ahhs” from the audience, as when Sage florists Gina Russo and Beth Genovese entered two outfits made entirely of flowers. Russo spent more than 60 hours creating one outfit with a skirt of birch bark and, literally, a floral top, in addition to a second floral dress.

Manchester’s Christine Gauthier-Kelly created a fashion statement that was out of this world. She transformed her interpretation of the galaxy as seen by a Hubble telescope image into a hand-painted silk cape.

This second event, held every two years, is organized by the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (SeARTS) and this fall featured approximately 36 designers of runway looks accessories, of whom 26 are from Cape Ann. The event coincided with Boston Fashion Week.

Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco, chairwoman of the Wearable Arts II committee, noted that this region has a long history of visual art in its many elements.

”Creativity in all forms is part of the DNA of Cape Ann. If you come here from elsewhere and you have somehow lost it, the atmosphere here helps you find it — that certainly happened to me,” said Ganim-DeFalco, who transforms sea glass into jewelry, hair adornments and much more.

Participating artists and designers came from as far away as New York City, and as close as downtown Gloucester.

“This event provides Cape Ann with its own focus on the excitement that happens when artists and designers apply their talent and imagination to fashion,” said Candace Wheeler, who served on the event committee.

The Wearable Arts fashion show was, in part, inspired by a creative event half a world away. The World of WearableArt show, simply known as WOW, in New Zealand celebrated its 25th year a couple of weeks ago. The WOW event, which started out as a small idea by artists, become a global attraction.

Gloucester’s Lucy Glatfelter wore the work created by Nantucket artist Lorene Ireland, who made a dress specifically for this show. The dress is a sculptured plastic corset encrusted with layers of mosaic art made of seashells, fine china, and freshwater pearls. Ireland was a 2011 winner of the WOW show.

Ganim-DeFalco has been a tireless supporter of the arts as an economic engine.

“From my perspective, creativity is the most essential part of problem solving, the force that can channel positive energy into our future — not just in the arts but in many other aspects of our lives,” she said. “Essentially, this is the message of seARTS, to use our creative energies to collaborate around our cultural economy and put it center stage for the future.”

Gloucester author JoeAnn Hart was one of the more than 200 guests at the event, which also included 22 artist exhibitors who sold their wearable arts.

“The Wearable Arts show was a brilliant example of the creative life blooming on Cape Ann,” she said. “Just the centerpieces alone illustrated the creativity with each one wildly different from the other, including one that was a glass tube of living fish.”

James Caviston, president of seARTS, was thrilled at the success of the event.

“It’s a validation of the economic drive that the arts provide,” he said. “Design is in everything, from the glasses we wear to the pen in our hands.”

He noted the diverse participants, from the artists to the audience members.

“This is a really unique and powerful event that brought in artists across the spectrum, from senior established people to those just starting out, as well as an audience that included both patrons and those who have never seen anything like this before,” said Caviston.

There were students from Endicott College, Manchester Essex Regional High School, and a 14-year student from Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

Following a debriefing on the 2013 event, planning will begin anew for 2015.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.