Frequently Asked Questions
Why did you name the collection Voices?
The rich history of women's voices is so lost to us that when Time Magazine named as their 2017 Person of the Year the voices of the #MeToo movement, they erroneously dubbed them "The Silence Breakers." Referring to a "silence" being "broken" erases the bold, courageous and inspirational history of countless women (and some men) who raised their voices, risking everything to shift the culture to finally hear the #MeToo voices. It also impedes alliances between generations who aren't aware of these powerful lineages.
Women March on Washington
"This is not about women finding their voices. We have always had our voices. This is about people's ability to hear. We've just finally found a frequency where people can hear us." - Tarana Burke, founder of #MeToo
With respect to clothing, we've not only lost the voice and values of the wearer, they have been hijacked and replaced with the values of corporate power and profit. For example, Victoria Secret has an entire line of women's clothing devoted to men's sports teams--and no clothes celebrating female athletes. When I heard that the CEO of Victoria's Secret was closely allied to serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, it all made sense. I wanted to give people an example of how clothing can celebrate the values of the community and the heart, not the values of corporations in bed with predators. I wanted to celebrate nature, learning, art and great thinkers and doers.
Why celebrate Women's Suffrage?
Because, flaws and all, it is easily the most unique and influential political revolution in history. One half of humanity was legally enfranchised without firing one shot. Its leaders consciously conceived a relentless and patient (seven decades) strategy appealing to the empathy and integrity of those in power to convince them to share power. Their peaceful persistence in the face of ruthless gaslighting and abuse was the model for Gandhi who was in turn the model for Martin Luther King, Jr.
Who are the people in the exhibit?
The people in the Voices exhibit are great thinkers and doers of diverse ages, generations, religions, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations and sexes. Each one's voice entered my life at different times in my evolution, changing my voice forever.
Some women I admire are not in the collection. Why not?
There are not enough hours in a lifetime to honor all the diverse women of history whose voices should be acclaimed. The point of this collection is to illustrate how particular voices resonate with our lives when we are ready to hear them and how their voices weave into our own. Each person has their own unique history of voices that makes them who they are.
Can I see the Voices exhibit in person?
I'm workin' on it! Stay tuned for info on a gallery exhibit in the Chicagoland area sometime in 2020.
Do you make clothes for others?
My goal is to inspire a clothing revolution empowering people to take back control over producing their own made-to-measure clothing from repurposed textiles. If you do not sew, you can either learn to or design a garment to your exact measurements in collaboration with a person near you who does and help support the makers in your area. My upcoming book Take Back Beauty includes all the instruction you need to start manifesting your own Passion Fashion. To use a food analogy, I've created a new cuisine and written a great cook book--now get cookin'!
Are these garments for everyone?
Yes! I am saddened when I hear a woman excitedly praise one of my creations in one breath and then add, "It's not in my personality to be so bold and colorful." For most of human history, clothing around the world has been a creative explosion of color, texture and pattern--for everyone in the community, male and female. That's our humanity. That's what we've lost and we don't even know it.
Why are all the garments floor length?
Because they keep me warm in the winter and in the summer shade my body from the sun, keeping me cool. Men nearly always wear floor length clothing (pants) in most professional, formal or special occasions. It's only women's legs that are exposed in all contexts. Floor length style also gives me a larger canvas to work my magic--and long, flowing garments feel amazing.
What are some of your influences as an artist?
Looking at the finished garments, I can see many influences of past voices on this project. Some of them are
Judy Chicago - The first time I saw my garments in a group on my dress forms, it reminded me of Judy Chicago's monumental, paradigm shifting work, The Dinner Party. Because of Judy Chicago, we learned that women are half of humanity's history and that women's crafts are fine art--including upcycled textiles.
Georgia O'Keeffe - O'Keeffe taught me that what the eye cannot see is the primary essence of the objects in our world. Her abstract depictions are more real than a literal representation. O'Keeffe taught me that beauty is a feeling.
Katwise - The infallible design aesthetic of the artist Katwise is well known by the tens of thousands of people across the world who have bought one of her upcycled garments or made one from her wise and witty tutorials. Her sense of fun, effortless construction and exposed seams all influenced my collection.
Frank Lloyd Wright - Many of Wright's design principles are present in my art--the ideas that "form and function are one," that design should reflect one's immediate surroundings, materials and values (rather than blindly following an irrelevant distant tradition) and that each part of a design combines to create a unified whole.
Chicago - I moved to Chicago in 2015 and immediately fell in love with the city's vibrant culture and beautiful architecture. Many of the garments in my own wardrobe were inspired by and created for events such as art exhibits and holiday celebrations.
What is your sewing training?
As a young person, I took sewing lessons with a neighborhood elder who taught me the basics of using a sewing machine and constructing simple projects. Other than that, I am self-taught. Anyone who knows how to use a sewing machine and understands basic math can make these garments. I'm amused when I hear people say that "women" in particular are not suited for or attracted to "engineering" fields. Garment construction--historically the domain of women--is textile engineering with soft materials for a moving object, the human body.
What about men's clothing?
I have an hourglass figure, and I am designing for myself, so these garments reflect that aesthetic. I hope my work inspires others to develop complimentary upcycled designs for more angular physiques. It's been exciting to watch "men's fashion" become more sensual and beautiful in the past few years, a trend I've been anticipating for decades. I know from my career in ethnic dance that much of the clothing men wear around the globe is a celebration of creativity, color and beauty. So it's delightful whenever that history is reclaimed. Men are beautiful, too.
Are there any men represented in the Voices exhibit?
Yes! I also honor the voices of diverse men who have enriched my life and character. Although women's suffrage empowered women as a class, not all women's voices challenge harmful, archaic norms. And men's voices that do also deserve to be amplified.
“We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half."
- Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragist
Have you met any of the people in your collection?
Many of these people passed from our world before I was born, however, I have had the privilege of meeting some of my icons in person during my lifetime. I bumped into Julia Butterfly Hill at the Berkeley Farmer's Market shortly after her historic tree sit. Through my work with Voice of Roma, I performed on the same stage as Esma Redzepova. I met Randy Rainbow in Chicago backstage during his first national tour, wearing the dress I made in his honor. He loved it.