Material Girls: Ten Sarasota Talents Whose Art Adorns Our Bodies and Our Homes.
not all art is of the "don't-touch" variety. Forartists in the field of wearable art, the human body is a canvas and aroom of one's home is a frame to fill with custom color and design.Seeking objects of desire for your body or your home to wear? Meet 10designing women who have the basics covered, from dresses and jewelry tothrow pillows and soft sculpture. All of them work in studios in theSarasota area, and although they show and sell internationally, theirwork can be acquired right here in boutiques, galleries and sometimesright from the artist herself. Marilyn gross A painter for more than 30 years, Marilyn Gross began creatingjewelry just for fun as a teen in Missouri, using colored cardboard andfound objects. For the past decade it's been more than a lark.Working with layered and multi-fired art glass and metal, Grossfabricates contemporary lightweight earrings and pins with architecturalauthority. Her abstract constructions are worn as jewelry but collectedas art, and some pieces actually come framed and held in place bymagnets. When not hanging on one's body they hang on the wall. "I love the glass because it is reflective, and has almost aspiritual quality to it," says Gross, who says she wears her piecesoften. "I have people stopping me all the time on the street askingme, 'Where did you get that from? It's so neat!"' Her work is sold at L'Attitude Gallery in Sarasota (andBoston) and Venice Art Center. $30-$250. Sheryl haler At Ringling School of Art and Design, Sheryl Haler teaches about"cloth as a medium of expression," speaking with inspiringeloquence about how old buttons and fragments of vintage fabric canbundle us in family memories and lead to an understanding of culturalhistory. "It creates a layering that, to me, is much more dimensionalthan a mark on the surface; it penetrates the surface," Haler says. An old apron, a quilt, an old dress or her mother's jar of oldbuttons are inspiration and raw materials rich in evocative qualitiesfor Haler, who has loved fabric since childhood. Her great-grandmotherquilted and sewed, her grandmother sewed and ratted, and her mothertaught Haler and her sisters to sew. Haler's work is nor only a wayfor the artist to connect with her personal history and bring into herwork a level of richness and depth. It's also a process that ismeditative and appealing. Haler uses old cloth as a canvas for layers of stitching,embroidery, printing and familiar objects. Her work is exhibited at theMira Mar Gallery on Palm Avenue in Sarasota and sells in the $350 to$3,000 range. jackie cully Trained in Paris and at the Art Institute in Chicago. Jackie Cullyowned a business in New York with her husband, where she provided fabricdesigns to fashion icons Liz Claiborne, Bill Blass, Pierre Cardin andOscar de La Renta. When they retired to Sarasota three years ago, Gullyimprinted her designs onto silk, creating vivid scarves, jackets andtunics. The dazzling designs she comes up with are heavily inspired byCully's African-American heritage, and her motifs and symbolsreflect hours of research and trips to West Africa. "These are my roots and I want to express that," Gullysays. "I want it to be known." Many of her printed and batik patterns celebrate the artist's pleasure at a mind-body-spirittotality; in what she calls "the wholeness of life." Cully teaches at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts and sells herwearable art at private gatherings. $185 and up. dolores parker A self-taught artist who markets under the company name of Hula Lula, Dolores Parker designs and stitches handbags of bamboo anddesigner fabrics. With bamboo root handles, luxury trim and Swarovskicrystals, Parker's chic, sassy bags are transformed into an artshow on the move. Best known for her capricious tropical bags of monkeysand palms, her newest collection celebrates festive images taken fromNew Orleans Mardi Gras ball invitations and South Pacific images fromcruise liners in the 1940s. "They're fun and vibrant," says Parker, an avidhandbag collecter and trendspotter who notes that box bags are back invogue. "You definitely get a lot of comments when you carry one ofthese." Hula Lula bags are at The Met and Ritz-Carlton for about $180. Vikirollo A graduate of Ringling School of Art and Design, Vicki Rollo is asuccessful self-employed graphics designer who discovered jewelry making10 years ago when a friend took her to a gem show and she bought enoughbeads to craft a bracelet. She was entranced with the process and nowuses carved bone, smooth horn, Bali silver, and stones such as silverleaf jasper and serpentine jade in her jewelry. "I think people buy what's in fashion, and they all startlooking the same," says Rollo. "That's not going tohappen with my designs. They'll get a statement that'sunique." Rollo has little patience with symmetry--mismatched dangle earringsare her signature--and she says discerning Sarasotans can recognize aRollo piece dangling from friends' ears because of their boldstyle. She creates spontaneously, letting the gemstones tell their ownstory, and selects semi-precious stones for their look andaffordability. Rollo sells her jewelry (in the $100 range) at craftfairs, private parties and trunk shows. Pamela marwede It's nothing for Pamela Marwede to be surrounded by 40 yardsof plain fabric that she will soon elevate to art with paint. The resultis window treatments, table and bed linens, throw pillows, chair pads,even lampshades and floor cloths. Trained in England and known as asuperior colorist, Marwede is equally at ease in a serene modern idiom,zany contemporary or Old World sophistication. "I grew up in Spain, and when I was a little girl, I wouldhand paint unpainted ceramics for fun," says Marwede. "I likehaving color around me. I think it's interesting to paint anddecorate something in an artistic way and then use it. It enriches theenvironment." Marwede usually works on custom projects for area interiordesigners. But examples of her work are available to a wider public atGarden Argosy on St. Armands Circle, Imagery Fine Crafts Gallery onFifth Street and at the showroom of Sally Trout Interiors on PalmAvenue. Prices from about $60. Joan McGee Joan McGee imports silk from Italy and France, and silk yarn fromSwitzerland, hand dyes it, fabricates clothes, and markets her line ofclothing--from outerwear to day ensembles to evening wear--in storesthroughout Europe and America. McGee was a painter, high school artteacher and weaver before she turned to the art-business of weaving andsilk dying to create lightweight wardrobes for international women. Buther passion for her work goes back to her grade-school days, when shebegan to make her own clothes and dreamed about becoming a fashiondesigner. She began her clothing line 25 years ago, and her comfortableclothing is inspired by the fabric she uses and marked by simple lines."Silk is wearable, long lasting and a very beautiful fabric,"says McGee. McGee teaches at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, and herwearable art separates are available at Dream Weaver on St. ArmandsCircle in prices ranging from $100 for a scarf up to $3,000 and more,depending on complexity and fabric. She's also in the process ofrenovating her new studio/store on North Tamiami Trail, Serendipity Gallery. Linda Salomon A painter and printmaker educated in New York, Paris, and London,Linda Salomon began experimenting with clay and cloth 10 years ago atthe behest of a gallery owner who challenged her artists to create witha medium they were unused to. Salomon turned to clay and loved it. Sodid clients, who bought all her creations, and Salomon's widelycollected line of Librus Animals was born. She fabricates characteranimals--bears, frogs, dogs, monkeys and lions-- which she outfits withluxurious vintage silk, leather and velvet, jewels and trim thatreinforce the expression and bearing of her charismatic creatures. "It's like making costumes," says Salomon. "Asense of illustration has always been a part of what I had to say." The artist, who loves animals and sells many pet portraits, admitsthat she sometimes gets a little too attached to her Librus animalcreations. "My friends tease me because I hate parting withthem," she says. Librus Animals are exhibited and sold at art fairs and atProvenance Gallery on Palm Avenue in Sarasota, starting at about $300. Barbara Spending less time on art and more on administration lately,Barbara Frey is the president of the Nature Printing Society, aninternational group of artisans who use botanical and natural materials(including deceased birds and fish) to print on silk and cotton fabric.The result is art to wear or to enjoy as home decor objects. From Oct.19-24 the Society convenes at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for publicwork-shops and to share techniques. Frey specializes in silk scarves,which she hand dyes and imprints with leaves and flowers ($25-$75). Theartist discovered her talent 11 years ago in classes with Renara Sawyerand Joan McGee, and now enjoys strolling in her garden in search ofinteresting leaves, vines and flowers to incorporate into her designs. "Sometimes I use the same colors as nature, and sometimes Iimprove on nature," Frey says. Driefer A native Floridian who discovered weaving in Arizona afterexperimenting with watercolor, clay, beading and silversmithing, JanDriefer has kept a standing loom in her home for nearly 30 years and atone time owned a weaving supply shop in Sebring. Last year she took atop prize for puppets she crafted entirely on her loom, and this yearshe added a soft sculpture mermaid to her collection. ("I have avery patient husband," Driefer notes.) But weaving cotton and silk clothing is her specialty, from shawlsand jackets to ruanas (a kind of sophisticated poncho) that start atabout $100. "It's creative; I'm not a productionweaver," says Driefer. "The excitement to me is in designingand dressing the loom and having it all come out the way I plannedit." Driefer's work is available at Imagery Fine Crafts Gallery,juried art shows, and through public events at Venice Art Center, SelbyGardens and the Fiber Arts Boutique (Nov. 21 and 22) at Sr. ArmandsLutheran Church.