Artists Create Couture that Astonishes

Natural shapes in tide pools inspired artist Brad Elsberry, who created a shimmering gown fit for a princess and modeled by Sierra Manos.

By Loreen Berlin – Special to the Independent

Local artists currently exhibiting their specialties in the Festival of Arts also applied their talent to other mediums and fashioned outfits from the fun and the youthful to the flirtatious and phenomenal during Saturday’s annual fashion show.

The renovated grounds provided a glimpse of the hillsides from every direction as models paraded their designs on the red carpet runway.

All of the artists’ showed creative dexterity, but in the end the audience’s People’s Choice award went to Richard Moren’s evening gown, modeled by Mary Schmidt. Made of 1,600 lottery tickets folded origami-style, a pearl-type center secured nearly $5,000 worth of the golden tickets into seemingly endless flowers. Flowers were attached to a sheet of repurposed packing material placed over a second-hand hoop skirt.

Moren’s gown also garnered the most glamorous and elegant award.

Other winning categories included the most exciting ensemble, visualized by acrylic painter Brad Elsberry and modeled by Sierra Manos.

Elsberry made great use of an everyday medium – plastic water bottles – fashioning them, as he said, “to reflect the ocean and its sea foam.” Manos wore his gown of “fluid shapes” of hundreds of transparent plastic water bottles, soda bottles and grocery store food containers cut and reshaped with heat and shrink-wrapped to assemble an evening gown that sparkled iridescently in the sunshine.

Oil painter Elizabeth McGhee won for the most creative concept, a clever and fun short dress which she designed and also modeled. “This dress is all about the playfulness of childhood and the freedom that imagination offers,” said McGhee. She sewed together more than 600 crayon wrappers to make the bodice. She added colored pencils for the collar and duct tape for a bow at the neckline. If you’re wondering where all of the scrap construction paper came from for her skirt, McGhee teaches children’s art classes for LOCA, a nonprofit serving the community.

Watercolor artist Kirsten Whalen's Pop Diva Records outfit received the most innovative use of materials award.  Her creation was modeled by her daughter, Erika Schindele.
Watercolor artist Kirsten Whalen’s Pop Diva Records outfit received the most innovative use of materials award. Her creation was modeled by her daughter, Erika Schindele.

Erika Schindele modeled the work of her mother, watercolor artist Kristen Whalen’s ensemble. She won for the most innovative use of materials, inspired by musical castoffs. The bodice was covered with cassette tapes woven on a small loom; the waist back held wedge-shaped pieces of 45 rpm records. Schindele’s handbag was even fashioned from a vinyl record album, while her bouffant skirt fluffed from stiff window screens and her shoes and hat made use of guitar strings and cassette tape.

Each category winner took home $1,000 in cash for their creative endeavors, proving trash transforms into treasure with the right imagination, insight and talent.

Saturday’s event was the ninth annual fashion show, enjoyed by an audience in the hundreds who were dazzled by the use of reclaimed, reused and recycled materials.

Finding just the right “medium” for their creations sent artists off in many directions, finding beauty in the most mundane.

For example, artist Mike Tauber’s Paint Chip Dress, modeled by Sophia Higuchi, was assembled with duct tape, hot glue and sample paint chips in blue and green to reflect the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Antje Campbell and Carla Bosch fashioned Sarah Bosch’s butterfly gown and cape of bubble wrap, scraps of vinyl and imagination to create a beautiful butter-yellow floor-length gown.

Laura Nelson wore Mariana Nelson’s creation from dry-cleaning bags somewhat like a warrior even though she describes herself as, “an all American woman.”

Actor, writer and singer Kate Flannery, of NBC’s “The Office,” served as the show host.

Judges included Marc Luc Zanola, costume designer Marie Schley and actress-entrepreneur Melissa Biggs.


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