Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Wear my art is no empty slogan...




I read this a few days ago and it really resonated.

Its hard to make a living out of art and hard to make a living out of designing or manufacturing clothes. So being one who has more optimism than good sense I have combined these 3 really hard things into the one thing I'm striving to make some sort of  "living" out of.

Being 55 now I've seen the effects of globalisation on the fashion industry in Australia and New Zealand in the last 30 years. I trained as a pattern maker and sample machinist in 1984 and made an adequate living out of designing clothes, manufacturing, running a small retail outlet and wholesaling for a couple of years after that. After moving to Australia in 1986 I decided to stay home and do outwork sewing so I could be a better single parent to my 6 year old son. Initially I made good money doing patternmaking, sample making and short runs for small fashion companies in Sydney but by 1992 I was struggling to make an hourly rate of $10 because so much of the manufacturing had relocated to third world countries where the rates of pay were inconceivably low - the $10 an hour rate of pay which put me into (genteel first world version) poverty was more than most of those workers earned for a 50 hour week!!! Can you get your head around that...?!

By the turn of this century women workers in the clothing manufacturing industries in Australia/NZ were disenfranchised in droves and left the industry. Hundreds of years and knowledge and skill left with them....

In the next few decades things will gradually regain a better balance as overseas third world workers overcome in a struggle with those who exploit them to gain decent working conditions and wages....however, thats no great solace to me at this point as I'm intensely negotiating my own struggle to create some sort of sustainable "business model" which combines the things I love doing - art and clothing design. After years of inchoate longing to do this I finally started taking the risky steps late last year, when I cut back my working hours to only 10 a week. I've been really happy and satisfied these last few months going as often as I can to my design studio and making things for sale. The local Murrurundi women have been immensely supportive and buy items from my retail shop often enough that the business costs break even. THANKS!!! My wonderful husband is the one who enables all this to continue for a while longer because he is prepared to support me financially while I try to figure out and instigate a profit making business model....

That process of creating a more secure and consistent way of generating income is still unfolding. Its very tough trying to compete with a K-Mart or Millers style that sells for $20-50 when this is frequently more than the cost of the fabric for me!

The latest concept I'm working toward is to set up 3 tiers of product. I will market a range of my clothing patterns (1) offer kits that have my original textile designs sufficient to make up the design plus the pattern (2) and offer clothing made to order from either my textile design or other fabrics (3). Its taking a while to develop the patterns as they have to include detailed instructions with photos and diagrams so I think it will be about another 2-3 weeks before I'll revive my Etsy shop to market this newly conceived range of items.

These are 2 of the designs which will be the first I'll be offering...


Close up of "Domino" showing my textile prints

Domino tunic

Green Woman tunic









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If you are interested in buying an artwork or booking a commission, please email me at pearl@upstairs-art.com.au