Material Witness will focus on extreme textile process. Images will be posted here showing the history of my work, new work, developing projects and inspiration.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers and Strawberries and Movies.

Every year we go to the Strawberry Social for Father's Day. I am not feeling up to it today.

I went for my walk and it is Car Free Festival on the Drive. My coffee place was lined up down the block. Came home and made my own.

Vivian was going to come for a visit but cars aren't allowed around here. She is making me a little wardrobe and has come up with some drawings. I love her work. She is a costumer, a builder and a designer who has done years of work for the movie industry. She has an incredible sense of the human body and creating proportion. Her designs are delicious. Her sewing and hand work incredible.

I worked as a precision dyer and break down artist in the film industry. The most demanding work I have ever done in my life. Besides parenting. I still see some of the stuff I worked on in films. I was so far down the pecking line that I never got a credit. I was contract staff and working on my union status when I got sick with breast cancer. The money was great but the hours worked as a contractor were a killer. The urgency existed with almost everything touched. Impossible demands were made by people who had no understanding of textiles. Impossible demands by people who had a day to solve problems when everything around them was costing tens of thousands of dollars an hour. The impossible happens every day when making movies!

I dyed for Jeff Goldbloom, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sylvestor Stallone and others. Lots of local productions like X-files. My favourite, by far, was Jean-Claude Van Damme. He had been a dyer at another time in his life and could talk colour and fabric and could describe colour range.

Dyeing for film is different than spontaneous or artistic dyeing . Precision is required. So is perfection. Each costume that is seen is usually produced in multiples. Sometimes with graduating breakdown. Almost every garment has the colour knocked down in it and is teched. There is a soft colour shift on every white that you see on the screen. The mood, actor's colouring, set and other costumes have to be considered. Techs are warm, cold or neutral. I had a really good sense of colour then. It is pretty good now but has been altered just enough to be a bit unreliable since the lens implant. No longer perfect.

Once a director called me from Italy and described the stone wall in front of him. No photograph. Just an amazing conversation to see if our understanding of Tuscan stone melded. He came to Vancouver and I had dyed him yardage that was 1/2 shade off his desire. He was thrilled and I only had to knock the colour back very little.

The last show I dyed for was far too much for me. I had started chemo and was determined. I barely made it through the job and my Doctor told me to quit.
I have done a couple of small contracts since then and have done consultation with designers but that part of my life is definitely finished.

My son wouldn't watch a movie with me for years. I sat there and evaluated the dyeing and techs constantly. They laugh at me now and say "Good movie huh...it must be the tech!" or "Warm tech in a cold tech world."

Funniest job I ever had was dyeing modesty cloths and foreskins for a film requiring an uncircumcised male. Bobbling away in the dye pot. The actor called and said, "A perfect match... how did you know?" I completely cracked up! Good guess based on hair colour, eye colour, the colour of the lips, eye lids and the lining of the nose. What can I say?

I also did a breakdown and tech for another well known actor on a dozen blue jeans. He was very short but proportioned perfectly. My instructions were to make him look like he had a great butt and was masculinely "ample". He must have been happy because he bought every pair of jeans at the end of the movie. He looked packed!

My secret is that paying attention some things pays off! And some things are fun to pay attention to!

The scariest job I had was being handed a collection of incredibly expensive Versace dresses and skirts. Delicious hand beaded garments. My instructions were to dunk them in dye. Just throw 'em in the dye. So I did. Not before the air left my lungs and my stomach turned over and I checked my bank account. The result was perfect! Only by some kind of divine intervention!

The next time you look at the smallest detail on a film understand that there is incredible effort put into the simplest looking object. That the smallest things have been considered carefully by an incredible number of hard working people. That love is in the details.

I have been offered some amazing jobs since then but this is not meant to be my direction.
It was an incredible experience while it lasted.


Deb said...

This is perfectly fascinating..and here we were thinking all this movie stuff came straight off a rack somewhere! I recently turned down a job (tie)dyeing a white linen suit for a rock singer to take on tour. There was only one suit and the person couldn't even tell me if it was washable!

material witness said...

I always love when they don't tell you that the suit is a museum quality vintage piece that is one of a kind and has had the sweat of each wearer for years. They'd say...it has been cleaned. I used to keep a botched garment to show them that the dyes were attracted to alum from deodorant and loved the tiniest remnant of splashed liquid from tea to gravy. All sucks the dye. Creates a mordant without any effort.