Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Retro Wednesday - American Denim

My friend / former boss Annette at the Dragonfly (vintage clothing store) gave me this book years ago when I was in college and still working for her.

She knew my style well and would often set aside funky clothes or fabric she knew I'd like (she still does, actually). She picked out this book for me because she said it reminded her of the clothes I was making at the time. Like this:

That was the first thing I ever made on a sewing machine. It's composed of a pair of my jeans and a pair of jeans that belonged to my friend Jason Guthrie who died in a car accident my senior year of high school. Cutting them up and patching them together was cathartic for me and as sloppy as it was, I wore it proudly.

I also made these:

with bits of scraps from our leftover altered clothes at the store. Each piece was hand sewn on with tiny little Xs. Tiny little Xs used to be my thing. I did them here too:

and embroidered each patch while I oversaw the shop.

But enough about me, let's look in the book. . .

The author, Peter Beagle, waxes philosophic about the role of denim in society and the urge of the crafty to embellish it.

He claims (I'm paraphrasing here) that art of handmakery is a reaction against conformity, technology, and the alienation of war; that craftspeople create to add beauty and interest to objects that others take for granted. The book was published in 1975 but the movement lives on today. It may have gone underground in the 80's when acid wash was all the rage, but now it's back with a vengeance.

Enough talk. Check out the pictures!

Here's some painted denim:

That last one was painted with acrylic paint applied through a syringe. Wow.

Here are some embroidered ones:

So intricate! I love it. This one?

Not so much. I mean, I love Raggedy Ann and all, but every now and then one comes along and creeps me out. Like that one. Moving on. . .

Butts seemed to be a favorite canvas for the embroiderers:

Just like naked people were a source of inspiration for the appliquers:

Look! A sun barfing a rainbow with an elephant rollerskating on top!

Why didn't I think of that?

Now that, I want. For real. It's gorgeous.

Some people chose to embellish their denim in other ways:

Where were these pants when I attended the Glitter Rally last month?

Here's a crazy bird lady for you:

Here's another:

That one looks like a half-plucked chicken.

Check out this dude:

I imagine him walking that way wherever he goes.

I would like to encounter this lady:

just so I could tell her to "Zip it."

Check out this sparkly dude:

The caption says his name is Bill Shire from Los Angeles. Oh My God, could it be the Bill Shire, as in, owner of the coolest lowbrow art galleries in the area - Billy Shire Fine Arts gallery in Culver City and La Luz de Jesus in Los Feliz? I think it is. He looks vaguely familiar, like the Billy Shire I see in the back of Juxtapoz magazines. Ha! Who knew he was such a fan of the Bedazzler?

I want to know what that little metal container is. An ashtray? A bottle opener?

Something must be wrong with my eyes because it took me a while to figure out what this was:

That seems like a good way to end the post, wrapped up in a nice little bow (that looks like a butt). I hope you enjoyed the freakshow!


Anonymous said...

Ah! YEssss. Handmakery totally is a reaction against conformity. It's all about expression, that is what I find in it anyways. I was watching an episode of 30 rock and when Tina Fey exclaimed to her boss that her staffed had eaten food gone bad and had "blorched" all night, I lost it! I told my husband later that the reason I love when people make up words and use them seriously is thta it means they are really trying to express themselves as opposed to spouting clich├ęs.
So you're fighting the good fight! Keep on expressing, you make some neat stuff.

KB said...

Thanks chantal!

Anonymous said...

Man, I used to have a pair of jeans with a rainbow embroidered on the butt when I was 8. I LOVED those jeans and wore them until they were floods. If I could sew, that's the first thing I'd do, put a rainbow on my jeans. I love this post.

Anonymous said...

hi-- i remember that book ! glad you still have it...i have one of those bizarre collections of stuff to mail to you again. will get it on its way, annette

KB said...

Yay Annette! I'm still waiting for you to send yourself out as well.

Lela - you reminded me of my favorite jeans when I was little - they were cut-off jean shorts with about an inch of fringe that my mom meticulously made by pulling out the horizontal threads. I liked to swish it back and forth.


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